"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." The Matthew's account on the life of Jesus starts with genealogical list of His ancestry. At the outset we find that behind His pedigree are two towering Jewish figures - one, the founding father of the nation and the other, the greatest Jewish king ever. They both are national heroes and looked upon with respect, reverence and a dose of romanticism and awe. Their greatness however, fully rests on two pillars. One, they were called by Someone much greater than themselves and two, they were called to accomplish great life's missions which would affect and benefit many.
Jesus' Messianic Hero Pedigree: "The book of genealogy of Jesus Christ..." The gospel writer gives us two clues. One is in His name and the other is in His title. If the name Jesus/Yeshua (common Jewish name), which means rescuer/deliverer and the title, 'Christ/Anointed One/Messiah' 'stick', they will leave David and Abraham deep in His shadow. The greatness of His identity as well as His mission, would dwarf the identities and the missions of the greatest Jewish heroes. So, painstakingly, somewhat boringly, yet historically and following carefully Jesus' genealogical lineage, male name after male name, Matthew starts to prove that Jesus is a hero of the messianic pedigree. Culturally, Matthew is spot on. Matthew's 'begats', starting with Abraham and half way through continuing with David, take us mainly through Jesus' male ancestors. Through male 'begats', Matthew is saying to his Jewish patriarchal culture, 'Here you have it, Yeshua/Jesus is our hero of heroes. He is our Messiah.' Later on, in this same chapter, Matthew would go further and claim that His greatness is in His divine identity and in His divine mission. Jesus' fame will soon burst open the national borders and rightfully make Him the Hero and the Messiah of the World.
Sinners In The Pedigree of Jesus' Ancestry: However, there is a twist. In the midst of 'male begatting' and famous Jewish ancestry, we suddenly come across Jesus' matriarchal lineage. What culturally raises the eyebrows and makes many cringe is that these mothers of Jesus were not only non-Jewish but were morally questionable (Tamar, Tiberian - she the affair with Judah; Rahab, from Jericho - the prostitute: Ruth, Moabite - lies with Boaz; Bathseba, the Hitite - she had affair with David the king). Of course, the fifth one will be Jesus' own mother Mary who will bear the stigma that Jesus was her illegitimate child, born out of wedlock. What a twist! Jesus, the messiah, the hero of heroes backed by the ancestry of Jewish famous men is 'tarnished' by 'sinner's' blood lineage of non-Jewish, morally fallen mothers. This conundrum of His greatness on one hand and His devotion for sinners will be the very hallmark of His life.
So What's the Point? Matthew, the gospel writer, and by profession the tax collector was regarded as one of the chief sinners of his time. Matthew seems to be saying to us, 'I am following Jesus because He is the promised Messiah and the blessed fulfilment of millennia cherished hope of my people and gentiles. He is my hero. This is what attracts me to Him. But there is more to Him. I am also attracted to Jesus because He came to a sinful broken hearted person like me to love me and to die for me. I give my life to this kind of hero.'
So what is the point? No generation of humanity past and present have gotten tired of looking for a hero like figure who would rescue us. And like never before we need rescuing individually and corporately. For times such as this, for COVID-19 generation of people, for divided humanity of George Floyd, we unquestionably need the hero Jesus who will heal the broken individuals and divided humanity with His divine touch. Furthermore, we need Jesus like heroes who will embrace and heal the brokenness of humanity and bridge ever so widening gap of division among us. Let's pray for both.