Genes, health and even a pre-disposition to some diseases are just some of the ways our ancestry has a direct effect on us.
With the whole human race at His disposal, if anyone could have chosen a perfect ancestral line—a perfect family to be born into—Jesus could have done so. But if you look more closely, you’ll find that He came into this world with an ancestry that had more than a few skeletons in the cupboard.
The first chapter of the book of Matthew in the Bible records the history of Jesus’ family tree. The apostle Matthew doesn’t begin with Adam and Eve, the first parents of the human race, but with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish nation.
While Abraham is recognised for his faith in Hebrews (11:8) and is often called the “father of the faithful,” the Bible also records the times he lied about his wife, Sarah (Genesis 12:12, 13; 20:2), and was rebuked for it (Genesis 12:18; 20:9).
The family tree continues from Abraham to Isaac, the promised one (Genesis 21:2), and then on to Jacob. It is interesting and important to note that the name Jacob means “supplanter,” as he lied and deceived his father and had to flee from his brother’s hatred after stealing his birthright (Genesis 27:1–45). Years later, however, God gave Jacob a new name, Israel, meaning “one who is an overcomer.
Jacob/Israel is the husband of two wives and two concubines, with children from all of them. One of Jacob’s sons, Judah, was responsible for selling his half-brother Joseph to Egypt as a slave. But the story of Judah goes even lower. He marries the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua (Genesis 38:2). After the death of his wife, Jacob meets a woman he thinks is a prostitute and propositions her. The prostitute turns out to be his daughter-in-law and the son of their incesutous union, Perez, is enshrined in the lineage of the Messiah.
Matthew 1:5 brings us to the name of Salmon. This is interesting because as the children of Israel entered Canaan, they were hindered by the impregnable city of Jericho (Joshua 6:1). Israelite spies found shelter in the house of Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute living on the walls of Jericho. Because of her actions and her faith (Joshua 2:1–21), Rahab was spared the destruction that eventually came to the city, and later married Salmon, one of the spies she hid.
Salmon and Rahab’s son, Boaz, is the second husband of Ruth, a Moabite widow, who had chosen to profess her faith in God to her mother-in-law from her first marriage, Naomi: “Where you go I will go . . . and your God [will be] my God.” Yet again, a woman of another rae is part of the ancestry of Jesus
Kings begin to appear in Jesus’ lineage, commencing with David. David’s horrendous sin of taking Bathsheba, impregnating her and then killing her husband to cover his own misdeeds is certainly not condoned (2 Samuel 11). Yet, from this union comes Solomon, arguably one of the wisest and wealthiest Israelite kings in history. Bathsheba’s first husband, Uriah, was a Hittite, and evidences appear to point that she was one too.
A little further down the ancestry, we come to the name of King Manasseh. He led the people so far from God that the record says “they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Kings 21:9).
Finally, the list comes down to Joseph, the one betrothed to Mary, who became the mother of Jesus. Knowing full well he wasn’t the father, Joseph decides to divorce Mary quietly when she is found to be pregnant (Matthew 1:19). “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ ” (verses 20, 21).
Ministry on earth
As we can see, the ancestry of Jesus is a veritable litany of sinful acts and wilful disobedience. It was certainly not exclusive, since Jesus’ forebears came from many nations and races, and it definitely included many skeletons so to speak.
All of this, however, was deliberately done to demonstrate how God accepts everyone and embraces the whole world. Just like ours, Jesus’ family is made up of sinful people and of different races, and it beau- tifully illustrates how His kingdom will include “every nation, tribe, language and people” (Revelation 14:6). And while Jesus was on earth, His ministry was as wide-reaching to others of different nations as His ancestry shows.
The book of Mark in the Bible records that because of the crowds gathered by Galilee, Jesus had to teach from a boat (Mark 4:1). In the evening, He told His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side” (verse 35). Have you ever heard the less fortunate described as being “born on the other side of the tracks”? It’s the same principle when Jesus proposed taking His ministry to the “other side.”
When Jesus returns to the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee, He miraculously feeds 5000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:38). At the conclusion of the meal, there were 12 basketfuls of leftovers, a significant number to the Jews as there were 12 tribes of Israel, and it illustrated that what Jesus offers was sufficient for everyone in Israel.
Jesus next walks 80 kilometres to the Phoenician city of Tyre, healing and blessing the “heathen” outside of Israel, including the daughter of a Greek woman born in Syrian Phoenicia (Mark 7:24–30) and a deaf and mute man from the Decapolis (verses 31–35). Even slaves of the hated Romans were included in Jesus’ ministry. At Capernaum, Jesus, impressed and amazed by the faith exhibited by the Roman centurion, healed his slave (Luke 7:1–10). It did not seem to matter to Jesus where the people were born or who they were. They were blessed, as long as they believed.
Then as the people flock to hear from this great Teacher and Healer, Jesus again performs a miracle and provides food for 4000 people— this time outside of Israel (Mark 8:1–10).
This time, seven basketfuls of food were left over, yet another significant number: When the children of Israel were to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, they were told they would possess and drive out seven tribes (Deuteronomy 7:1). In this instance, one basketful represented each of the heathen tribes. Jesus was again showing His inclusiveness of people from every nation, tribe, language and people.
Perhaps the greatest example of Jesus reaching out to people outside the chosen race of Israel was in Samaria, a nation traditionally detested and despised by the Jews. John 4 records the story of His meeting with the woman of Samaria and how the whole city came to believe. How apt that the townsfolk would exclaim, “This man really is the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).
The ministry of Jesus, just like His ancestry, includes people from every nation, tribe and language. The colour of our skin, our gender or even our social or economical status are no barriers to the salvation that Jesus offers to all freely. As the apostle Paul says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Luke 10:13).