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Generations

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How many of you have done some genealogy work to learn more about your ancestry? This last yaer my uncle on my dad’s side decided to do some digging into our own ancestry and started a private facebook group to share everything he learned with the family. The history he shared was really quite fascinating and it actually cleared up some things that I had gotten wrong as a child or just misheard. Either way it was interesting to learn how my German ancestors went from Germany to Russia and eventually to the United States. I also know stories about my mom’s side of the family and when they came to the United States. So it’s fascinating to see where my families came from and how they came to live on the West Coast and what eventually became my family. And now that we have children we continue on creating that family tree and adding to our own ancestry.
I may not know all the ins and outs of my family tree and who they may have been and what kind of people they were, but Matthew opens up his gospel with a very detailed ancestry of Jesus and we do get to see who is in his family tree. What is so fascinating is that without going into details about all these people, we can look at some of these people and get a glimpse of what Jesus’ family looks like. And since their lives are recorded in the Bible we can either remember their lives or look them up. We start with Abraham who is the patriarch of the Israelite people and was a righteous man. We see David on the list, who the messiah is foretold to come from that family tree and as we know was the greatest Israelite king. We also have king Josiah who was turned people back to God. Then we have ancestors like kings Ahaz and Manasseh who were terrible kings and led the people astray.
We also have women who are mentioned. The two incredible things about women being mentioned is that this was a patriarchal society so there wasn’t a real need to bring up women in the family tree. The other is that some of the women mentioned aren’t Israelites and they weren’t exactly the most upright and notable women, for example Rahab. What I love about Matthew including all of these people is that we can see that even though Jesus is the son of God he doesn’t come from this perfect ancestry where only the people who are good and righteous are mentioned and we just sweep all the family members we don’t like talking about under the rug. We also see that Mary and Joseph are good people and righteous. We see that Joseph is from the family of David, which continues the genealogy along, but there were a lot of people from the family of David and God chose parents from a tiny town that were probably distant relatives of David. It just blows my mind that God would choose this path and this method to bring Jesus into the world.
So we have all these generations of Jesus’ family from Abraham all the way to Jesus himself. Our last verse today shows that there are sets of fourteen generations and while we can speculate the reason for the number 14, what we seems more obvious is that each set of fourteen is marked by a very significant eras in the life of the people of Israel. The first era ends with the beginning of the reign of David. The second era ends with the devastating reminder of the exile and then the last generation ends with the coming of Jesus into the world. However, if we take a look at the final 14 generations we will see that it appears that there are actually only 13 generations since it appears that Jeconiah is listed twice; both before and after the exile to Babylon.
If that is the case then the question has to be asked, who or what is the 14th generation? If we look at it from the perspective of the Bible we could say that the final generation was not a person but the 12 disciples since they are the ones who carried on the work after Jesus rose into heaven. This would make sense since Jesus called them, taught them, and sent them out into the world. While it does seem to make sense, it would also seem odd that the final generation would be such a specific group like that and Matthew doesn’t tell us that explicitly. Which several scholars whom I agree with believe that perhaps the 14th generation is the church on earth. That the 14th generation is you and I. That the mission of the 12 and the whole church to spread the good news is the final generation.
While we are celebrating the birth of Jesus in this Christmas time, we also celebrate it because we already know the story of his life death, and resurrection and ascension. We know that Jesus completed his work here on this earth through his dying and rising for our sake, but we also know that the work is not done. That is the very reason Jesus called the twelve and why they continued his work here on earth. That is why you and I are here right now. We continue the mission of spreading the genealogy, the story of who Jesus is and where Jesus came from. Including all his ancestors and all the people of faith that came before him, both the good and the bad of it, because they are God’s people, and the story continues on to us and with us, both the good and the bad, because we too are God’s people.
If we are the 14th generation then t hat means that we have truly been adopted into Christ’s family, into the family of God. That we are a part of the family tree of God. In fact, Paul says that we are in fact adopted into God’s family through baptism. We see Paul say it in both Romans 8:15-17 as well as in Galatians 3:26. We are children of God, we are a part of the the family of God, and a part of the generations that make up the generations from Abraham to David, David to the exile, and the exile to Christ and then on to us.
I don’t know about you but when I first saw that the text to talk about today was the genealogy of Jesus, I was not excited because to be honest I tend to skip all the who was the son of who in the Bible, but now I am so grateful to have taken the time to really look at why it was so important for Matthew to share this with us. Matthew is showing us all the good, the bad, the happy and the messy parts of life, but that all those parts together brought us Jesus, and becuase of Jesus we get to be a part of that big messy family tree, we are claimed by God as one of the many generations that belong to God. I love my German and Scottish family history, but as interesting as they are they pale in comparison to being adopted into the family of God for all time. That is something to treasure and that is also something that we should share so that others may know that they too are a part of the same family of God. To know God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s acceptance of anyone who wants to be a part of this crazy family tree. Amen.
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