29 October 2009

Stump of Jesse

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.-Isaiah 11:1

Recently, I purchased an audio version of the New Testament and tonight I was listening to Matthew 1. Often, when I am reading Matthew 1, my eyes gloss over when I read "The Genealogy of Jesus Christ." I mean, it is a list of names. How engaging could it be? But tonight, I was excited about this lineage. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was not even Jewish. David was a voyeur and worse. Matthew walked through this colorful family tree beginning with Abraham and concluding with "Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ" (Matthew 1:16).

As I listened to verse 16, something tripped in my mind. The promised Messiah was to be from the Davidic line--a branch from the stump of Jesse. But Mary was not from David's line as far as we know--Joseph was. I thought "that cannot be right." Then I realized that Joseph adopted Jesus into his family, into David's heritage--just as the Father had planned all along. Joseph not only named Jesus according to the direction of the angel of the Lord (v. 21), he also raised him as his own child not as an interloper in his family.

God was intentional in doing this. God could have given Jesus a pristine genealogy, replete with a strong Jewish lineage and no black sheep, but He didn't. A straightforward genealogy could have been useful to the exclusionary Pharisees. They could have used it as yet one more reason to keep the undesirables out of the kingdom.

Instead, Jesus' family history--full of undesirables--demonstrates clearly that all can have a place in His family. What is more, Jesus who was himself adopted, in turn offers all of us--voyeurs, prostitutes, Gentiles, and sinners--the chance for adoption as sons.

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.--Galatians 4:4-7

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