Genealogy of Jesus
How many of you are ready to kiss 2017 goodbye? Anyone? Anyone going to miss 2017?
A new year is upon us. A time for new beginnings. A time for renewal. A time for a fresh look at just who it is we are. Who are we that call ourselves Christians, as we approach the year 2018?
We’ve spent the past month studying the genealogy…the family tree of Jesus. It includes quite the cast of characters. We’ve seen how God can use the most unlikely people to bring about the most wonderous things.
We find many of our family trees have a lot in common with Jesus’. Like most of us his family tree included the good, the bad, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few ugly ones in there somewhere. We don’t have a full account of exactly who everyone is in the first chapter of Matthew.
Pastor Craig mentioned a few members of his family tree. To my knowledge the only historical figure in my family tree was a Civil War general from the South by the name General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard. One of the first members of the Confederate Army to reach the rank of General, popularly known in his day as America’s little Napoleon, and obviously as you can see his petite stature was not a trait he passed down to me.
Now we’ve reached the end of Matthew’s account. We’ve reached Jesus. So what does it mean for us when Jesus, the Son of God enters this family tree; entering the lineage of Abraham the patriarch, Isaac, Jacob, King David, who wasn’t always on his best behavior, Solomon, known for his Wisdom, and women like Tamar, who only continued the family line by pretending to be a prostitute, or Rahab who really was one? What does it mean when the Son of God enters the lineage of Ruth, who showed a steadfast devotion to her mother-in-law even when such was no longer required of her in Jewish law, Bathsheba, the woman King David just couldn’t resist, and Mary, a young girl, possibly as young as 12? Think about that? Any 12 year olds, or parents of 12 year olds out there? An angel appears to you and says, and this is extreme paraphrasing here, you are going to give birth to the Son of God, and it’s your responsibility to raise him safely to adulthood so he can complete His work, basically placing the future of salvation history in her capable young hands…NO PRESSURE! What does it mean, when the Messiah, the bringer of salvation enters this diverse picture? When God himself ENTERS the family? Or, here’s a better question. Did God ever leave the family in the first place?
Let’s take a journey back…WAY back…all the way back to the beginning. Adam and Eve. In the beginning, they had everything they needed in the Garden of Eden, and God was with them in a very real, very personal way, and really we’re only told that they had one rule. One BIG rule. According to Genesis 2:16-17, Adam and Eve had the freedom to eat from any tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they did eat of it, or even touch it, they would die. We all know how that turned out don’t we? It didn’t take much coaxing from the serpent to convince both Adam and Eve to break this rule. This one simple rule. As God himself puts it in Genesis 2, beginning in verse 17,
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
It was at this point that sin entered the world, and salvation became a necessity, not because God left our family, but because we, of our own free will turned away from Him.
Fast forward a bit to Abraham. God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis, promising to make his descendants as numerous as the stars, a reminder that, while not pleased with the initial choices the human race has made, He has not forgotten us. He’s still there, and yes, despite some harsh words for Adam and Eve, He still cares. Here the seed is planted that will sprout the family tree we’ve been reading about these past weeks.
Fire up the old flux capacitor again and lets head into the future, to where we left off. Jesus is born. Jesus enters the human family. Jesus, at once fully human, and fully God, now enters the lineage of Abraham the patriarch. God Himself makes a physical reconnection with His creation. What does this mean for us as we approach 2018?
For the answer to this we need to look to the future again, from this Christmas season, to the coming of Easter. The ultimate end-result of all of this at Calvary. After 3 years preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, Jesus makes the ultimate sacrifice of Himself, bearing our sins that had weighed us down since that fateful day in the Garden, and in doing so opening to us the gift of salvation to whoever would accept it, thus uniting those of us of the more Gentile persuasion through adoption, to the same family tree of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Ephesians 1:5, particularly in the New Living Translation this is expressed wonderfully.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Sounds good right? Since approximately 33 AD the gift of salvation has been available to anyone of any background who would call upon the name of Christ, except for one thing…that’s only about half right. To truly understand the profound gift of Salvation, we must understand that it is a gift that transcends the limitations of time and space.
About 10 years ago I was sitting in a bible study at my old church in California, and the leader of our small group asked us, as best we could, to make an illustration or doodle of how we would represent the gift of salvation brought forth from the cross of Christ. Most of us, myself included I must admit, simply drew a cross. I am definitely NOT an artist, at least, not in the visual sense. One member of the group drew an image of a person rising into heaven upon death…becoming basically a stick figure angel. At the end of this exercise all the drawings were collected, and our group leader took a look at them and looked them over. He then told us that while we were all on the right track, we weren’t quite grasping the point just yet. He then said “this is my image of salvation” and showed us a picture of a large explosion. This caught a few of us by surprise. How could something so seemingly violent represent salvation? Let me start by asking you a question? When you see an explosion, in what direction is the power of that explosion travelling? For the most part, every which way. Up, down, left right, front back, all over. Imagine now, a timeline below this explosion. In the same way the power of Christ’s saving work on Calvary, was not just a singular moment in time, directing grace and mercy forward from the time of the crucifixion on, but also backward, up, down diagonally…every which way. I have to give credit to Pastor Craig for the next image. Initially in preparing for today, I ran the image of the explosion by him, and he pointed out that explosions aren’t the only image where salvation can be seen reaching out in all directions. There is another, which I actually like better, especially as relates to this series. An image we’ve seen quite a bit this month both here at church and in the outside world. A tree! These images aren’t accidents. God knows what he’s doing!
The Apostle’s Creed states that we believe Christ descended initially into “Hell,” or more accurately translated “Sheol” The Jewish realm of the dead, prior to taking his place in the glory of Heaven. Why would He do this? 1 Peter 3:18-19 reads as follows:
“For Christ also died[a] for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison who formerly did not obey…”
Jesus did not forget those who came before Him. He went to the souls of those who had lived in ages past (visualize the older branches of the tree or the part of the explosion that would be going backwards on the timeline) He offered to them the gift of salvation as well. God became a branch on our tree, benefitting all branches past, present, and those still yet to sprout!
So what does this tell us, as we approach another new year? It tells us that in all times and in all places, and far beyond our own comprehension, God has chosen us! All of us in the human family. All we have to do is say yes Lord, and accept his adoption of us into the great family tree that had no beginning, and will know no end. On a more personal level that means God has chosen you from before the beginning of time. Pretty deep isn’t it? Each and every one of you. You aren’t on this earth by accident. You have a purpose. No matter how big or small, your story will become an everlasting and special part of God’s family tree. Let that sink in a bit. As we enter a new year let us go boldly, rejoicing in the name we hear in the popular Christmas carol, Emmanuel, God is with us.
Let us Pray:
Father as we enter a new year, I ask that you look down with favor on us who you have chosen to graft into your family tree. Help us in the coming year to take comfort in the fact that despite whatever trial or adversity might come before us, you are there, and your bond with us is inseparable, for as scripture teaches us:
“…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us…(Romans 8:38-39)” from your love.
Go with us as we depart this place oh Lord, and keep within us the knowledge that through your Son Jesus Christ we are a part of one family, a family in which each of us has meaning, purpose, value, and a place at the table when at last our time comes to be reunited with you and all others in our great family tree in the age to come. We ask this in the name that is above every name, Jesus Christ. Amen