1An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. 17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
This family tree which is full of unpronounceable names is one of the most frequently ignored passages in all of scripture. However, Raymond Brown, a Roman Catholic theologian, as well as Warren Carter, my New Testament Professor in seminary both agree that this is actually one of the most important parts of Matthew's gospel because it reminds us of the rich history that went into the making of Jesus.
To a certain extent this lineage reads like a Who's Who of names in the bible: Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon and so many others. However, when we really begin to remember the stories associated with these names we remember not only great people of faith, but also people who failed, and were very human. Abraham fell down laughing at the idea that his wife could become pregnant at such an advanced age (Genesis 17:15-22).
In fact, one of the most striking things about this genealogy is that there are women included in it. Every woman mentioned in this story has some sort of sordid past or was considered a foreigner and outsider (sometimes both). The genealogy that we have presented here then, is not a list of the best and the brightest (although there are some very bright faithful people listed here), but is a list of both sinners and saints.
In essence then, Jesus' background is continued throughout the rest of his ministry. Jesus reaches out to the chosen Israelites and to the outcasts, the faithful and unfaithful, always broadening the scope of his ministry. It was after all for this reason that he was born: to reconcile the world to God.
We can continue this geneology by remembering that Jesus called Peter and Paul, Paul called Timothy, Timothy called someone . .. and we were called by someone to follow Christ. Part of our ministry is to issue this call to discipleship to other saints and sinners. Thus as we approach Christmas day, we remember that we too are empowered to share the news that Christ is born.