Why does the Son of God need a Genealogy?
Every year we hear the Gospel of Matthew and the reciting of names of ancient prophets.
What is the point? Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience and wanted to present evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. Everyone expected the Messiah to be descended from David and the genealogy makes that clear. However, the message is more than that.
The birth of Jesus was the fulfilment of a prophecy and that is a major theme of the Maronite liturgy this Sunday. In the opening prayer we pray:
“Fill our hearts with the faith of those holy ones
who awaited your coming throughout all generations.”
In the prayer of forgiveness, we hear:
“By his birth, he fulfilled the revelation of the Holy Spirit, spoken by the prophets.”
Proclaiming the Gospel, the cantor sings a verse from Isaiah 45:8:
“Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the skies rain down the Righteous One.”
That verse reflects back to the earlier prophecy contained in Isaiah 9:6-7
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
But what is the message of all this for us?
The genealogy looks back to the events of the Old Testament. It reminds us that the promises of old have now been fulfilled and we are the inheritors of gifts of those promises. The genealogy establishes that Jesus is the rightful king and part of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus lives today, his throne can never be taken.
Another distinctive aspect of Matthew’s genealogy is the inclusion of five women. The women are not, as might have been expected, women of the Old Testament held in high regard like Sarah, Rebekah or Leah. The women mentioned include foreigners, women who are marginalised, scandalised or sinners. Tamar committed incest and had relations with her father-in-law which bore twin sons. Yet the sons became the ancestors of the Jewish people (Genesis 38). Rahab was a prostitute and when Jericho was destroyed, Rahab and her family were spared (Joshua 6:25). Ruth was a Moabite. Deuteronomy 23:3 explains that Moabites could not “enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation.” Boaz, a Jew, married Ruth and in fewer than 10 generations, God anointed one of her descendants as Israel’s king. The wife of Uriah the Hittite is not mentioned by name, but she is Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11. While Uriah was fighting for David, David stole Uriah’s wife and Bathsheba became pregnant and David arranged for Uriah’s death. The child died. However, David’s second child with Bathsheba was Solomon, the next king. The final women, Mary mother of Jesus. She was not a sinner, but she in the line of David, establishing Jesus as rightful King.
So why did Matthew include these women?
The entire genealogy demonstrates God’s mercy. God in all humility, took on human flesh like us and became man. Christ had relatives who were imperfect. He is not ashamed to be related to them, he came for them and for us. The genealogy is a reminder to us, that no matter how imperfect we imagine we are, Christ is not ashamed of us. Christ came for us and continues to be here for us. We are the ones who choose to distance ourselves from Him. If you have not gone to Mass in a while, come back this Sunday. Christ does not care who you are, he has seen worse, he came for you.
Theresa Simon & Emily Dib
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