Outlaws for in-laws
“Scarlet O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” So begins Gone With the Wind, one of the great novels of our time.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four begins, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
A Tale of Two Cities starts, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…
By contrast, the New Testament begins: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers… ” (Matthew 1:1-2). Scintillating, isn’t it?
Matthew wrote his gospel to convince the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah; he had to prove that Jesus was descended from Abraham and David, or his case was lost before it began. Just as a candidate must be 35 to run for president, so a potential Messiah had to be a direct descendant of Abraham and David. Matthew made his case so well, no skeptic thought to discount Jesus’ claim to Messiahship on the basis of his genealogy.
I’ve been musing on that genealogy this Christmas week. There’s something else which fascinates me about Matthew’s record: it includes four women. Such was not done in ancient Jewish genealogies. And not just any women. Consider the first: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (v. 3). Genesis 38 tells her story. Tamar’s husband died, making her a widow. In the ancient world, a woman belonged to her father until she was married, then she belonged to their husband. A widow had no standing or way of supporting herself. So, as was their custom, Judah gave his second son to be Tamar’s husband, but he died as well. When Judah’s third son came to marrying age, he refused to give him to Tamar.
So Tamar dressed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law. She had twin sons by Judah: Perez and Zerah. And they made the genealogy of the Son of God. Jesus was the only baby to choose his ancestors, and he chose them. If they could be in his family, so can we.
What matters to God is not where you begin the race, but where you finish. Let’s continue tomorrow.