Would You Recognize God?
Summary: As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, makes the Triumphal Entry, and enters the Temple, one question keeps coming up: will you worship Jesus or reject Him?
This morning we continue Matthew’s description of the final week of Jesus’ life. We’re going to see healing near Jericho and then what has become known as the Triumphal entry when Jesus rides into Jerusalem to present Himself as King.
Along the way we’ll note the contrast of those who worship Jesus with those who reject Him and ask: how can two groups of people see the same events, hear the same words, and have two completely opposite reactions? We’ll explore some ideas and notice that no matter what else happens, Jesus will always receive the worship He deserves.
We begin with an account of two blind men being healed:
Matthew 20:29 Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. 30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”
31 Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”
32 So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
33 They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” 34 So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.
Now, if you were here last week, you know that while they’ve been walking Jesus told His closest disciples that He was going to Jerusalem where He will be betrayed, condemned, mocked, beaten, and crucified, and that three days later He would also rise from the dead.
That’s what is on His mind. This is what He knows He is walking into and now it’s less than 10 miles from Jericho to Jerusalem. He’s going to be there soon. He’s walking down the road with a crowd of people who are following along anxious to see what He’s going to do next, they’re talking among themselves and suddenly some guys sitting on the side of the road start calling out “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”
The other gospel writers tell us these men heard the noise of a crowd coming their way and asked what was going on, and someone told them that Jesus was coming through. They have obviously heard about Him before and recognize there is something special about Him.
So they try to get His attention and see if He will help them. They call Him Lord, which is simply a respectful title – Jesus was not the only person called Lord. It’s like calling someone Sir today. But they also called Him the Son of David and that is both interesting and important.
David was Israel’s most beloved King. He defeated the nation’s enemies, brought peace and prosperity, and emphasized the worship of God. God also made a promise to David, recorded in 2 Samuel 7, that one day a son of David would come to rescue and restore the nation in their time of need. Over the years, the prophets and the people had waited for the day when this Son of David would come and solve whatever problem they faced.
Today, many people put their hope in the next election and the politician that will make things better. Or we put our hope in the draft pick or the transfer window when we’ll finally get that star player we need to make our team better. Or we look forward to this new coach they just hired, someone we can hang all our hope on – when he or she comes, that’s when everything is finally going to get straightened out and turned around. That’s the hope Jewish people had for the son of David, only magnified even more.
Matthew opens His gospel with a genealogy that introduces Jesus, literally, as the Son of David. On both his mother’s side and his adopted father’s side you can trace His ancestry back to King David. In fact, when the angel announces Jesus’ birth to Joseph, he says:
Matt 1:20 … “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
But Jesus is also a Son of David figuratively. For example, David was a shepherd who famously became king. Jesus is a king who describes Himself as a shepherd – He refers to those of us who love Him as His flock. And just like David saved the people of Israel from the enemies that surrounded them physically, Jesus delivers us from the things that want to destroy us spiritually.
So, for these men to be calling Jesus the Son of David is a big deal. It means they’re saying – “You’re the One we’ve been waiting for. You are the One who is going to save our nation!” And they ask Him to have mercy on them.
Now take note of that. Their request is for mercy. They want that mercy to take the form of healing their blindness, but they’re asking for healing as an act of mercy.
That’s interesting to me, because when you read through the Bible, you never find anyone trying to buy a miracle from Jesus. These men aren’t seeking a transaction. They don’t say, “Hey Jesus, we’ve saved up a couple of shekels and we’d be glad to throw them Your way if You could use those fancy miracle powers of Yours to give us back our sight…” They don’t make some big promise like, “If you heal us, we’ll do this or that for you.” There’s no bargaining involved at all, just desperation, recognition, and worship in response.
Desperation, recognition and worship in response. That’s a powerful combination. They know their own desperate need – they are blind. But they also recognize Jesus’s identity. So, by faith they worship Him and ask for mercy.
But notice the first thing that happens when they do: people try to silence them.
Now, why would people do that? The Bible doesn’t tell us, so we can’t be sure, but these people all know what Jesus has said about what’s happening next – the conflict that awaits in Jerusalem, and the men closest to Him were just involved in a little conversation where Jesus rebuked them for each wanting to be seen as better than the other. So, they might feel like things are still a little tense. Like, “Jesus has important things to think about, give Him some space. Now is not the time.”
Let me ask: do the people and events around you ever try to discourage your worship? Or, are you ever discouraged from coming to God with your need?
Maybe it’s not other people, but it’s a voice in your head coming up with reasons why this isn’t time, or this isn’t necessary, or you don’t want to really bother God, or what will other people say?
The list of reasons not to come to God can grow as long as you let it. These men had all the reasons we do to just be quiet and let things go, but they didn’t. They weren’t discouraged, in fact, they shout out even louder, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”
They finally catch His attention and He grants their request.
But think about that – Jesus shows them compassion even though His own death is just days away. He knows He is walking into direct conflict and controversy with the religious and political leaders of the nation and of Rome, but He still takes time to stop and show mercy to two men on the side of the road.
In the same way, in just a few days, He’ll be hanging from the cross and showing mercy to a thief on the cross next to Him and making arrangements for John to take care of His mom. The point is: Jesus is always thinking about others, and He is always willing to hear your needs and show you compassion and mercy. He never has a bad day, never gets overwhelmed. He is always in control, and always available to you.
One last thing I want to point out here – when Jesus heals the men, they get up and follow Him. Meeting Jesus and receiving mercy from Him compelled them to know more.
You might be asking God for things, you may have something you desperately want – you may even be crying out for it, but when you receive it, will it lead you to follow Jesus or run off on your own?
There were plenty of times when that happened to Jesus and we still do it today – He made time for people, healed them, helped them, worked a miracle, and they ran off excited about what had happened, but in their excitement they ran away from Jesus, they ran off to live their own life. They didn’t follow Him or put Him at the center.
If God gives you what you’re asking for – will it lead you any closer to Jesus? It’s something to consider as you make your requests and pray – maybe something to consider as you build out your Christmas wish list too – will having thing draw me closer to Jesus or farther away?
Matthew 21:1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives [that’s like saying as He was traveling down route 50 on His way to DC, he came to Arlington – these places are very close together], then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
Matthew, writing all of this down after the fact, understands what was happening and explains it for us. He is quoting here from both the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah who foretold this exact event some 550 years before they happened. Our country, the United States, is 243 years old. That’s not even half as old as this prophecy that Jesus is finally fulfilling.
This is something that is hard for us modern people to understand. We see so much happen, and happen so quickly, that we have no appreciation for things that take a long time to develop. We think we’re the most important generation that has ever walked the earth. We forget the world is much larger than us, much older than us, and there is something much bigger than us unfolding over the course of human history – there are spiritual truths and spiritual forces at work as God unfolds His plan for humanity.
God has been weaving the events of human history together for centuries to lead up to this moment when Jesus would arrive on the scene and present Himself as the fulfillment of all that God had promised through the ages. Jesus is the Son of David, the prophet like Moses, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, the long promised Messiah who would be born of woman and crush the head of the serpent and now He is boldly and publicly making it known.
But when He makes His entry He does it riding on a humble donkey as a symbol of peace, instead of on a magnificent stallion as a sign of war.
6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [Their palm branches give us Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter each year.]
9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
Hosanna originally meant God save us, but came to be a simple expression of joy as we might say Praise God. So this is all a very loud, very public, celebration of Jesus and for the first time, He lets that happen.
Up until this point, whenever crowds of people tried to give Jesus power, or rally behind Him to make Him a King, He turned away from it and told them, “It’s not my time.” Sometimes He would do a miracle and warn the recipient not to tell anyone what He had done because, He kept saying, “My time has not yet come.”
But now, it is His time and people are loudly, cheerfully, praising Jesus – they’re full of hope, excitement and enthusiasm.
But, as always, there is also opposition. Luke tells us that people from the Pharisees, one of the Jewish religious denominations, told Jesus to have the people stop making such a scene.
But Jesus tells the Pharisees that if the people stop praising Him, the rocks on the surrounding ground would immediately begin to take their place, crying out in praise. This moment must occur. It may not be understood, it may not be appreciated, but it WILL happen.
And that’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? Because, did you notice, that for the second time on this trip, one group of people have tried to worship God, and another has tried to shut them up?
But they won’t shut up and Jesus won’t ask them to. This IS a moment for celebrating.
Now, you need to remember some of the background data here. Israel is preparing to celebrate their largest religious holiday – the Passover. So Jerusalem is flooded with visitors, and Jesus comes rolling in to town in a big way making a big scene.
At this point in history, the Roman Empire was ruling the region, including occupying Israel. For someone to come riding into town, presenting Himself as a king during a major national holiday, could seem like an act of rebellion and that wouldn’t go over too well with Caesar who could make life miserable for everyone in Israel. So, maybe, keep things down over there, OK, Jesus. Don’t rock the boat.
But, it’s too late for that.
10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
People knew there was something special about Him. They didn’t fully understand who He was or what He was doing, and they most certainly did not understand how He was going about it, but people knew there was something special about Jesus.
Matthew 21:12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
Remember, this is the week leading up to the biggest event all year on the Jewish religious calendar, and yet, when Jesus walks in, it feels like going into Costco instead of walking into church.
Previously, there were a bunch of merchants who camped out in the Kidron Valley, just outside the Temple walls. They offered sacrificial animals for sale. Here’s the sales pitch: if you were traveling from out of town to worship at the Temple, there was no need go through all the hassle of bringing your own sacrifice which might get sick or injured on the journey anyway, just buy one when you get here. Oh, and by the way, these were pre-approved by the priests; it’s all very convenient, right?
Of course, it was also kind of like buying popcorn at the movie theater. Things were marked up quite a bit. And, the only money accepted at the Temple was Temple Currency which you would need to exchange your own money for – at a small transaction cost, of course.
Well, Caiaphas, the high priest, had recently moved all of these merchants and traders from outside the city to inside the Temple, and let them set up in the Court of the Gentiles – the place where God-fearing non-Jews could worship and pray. They were turning God’s house of prayer into a house of profit.
When Jesus says “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” That’s a reference to Isaiah 56 where God is speaking through the prophet and promising that even though He is working in a special way with the Jewish people, wants to draw all people in to worship. He says in
Isaiah 56:7 I will bring [pious foreigners] to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
This is God Himself speaking. This is His plan. He wants to see Chinese, and Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans, and people from Ghana and Nigeria, and Bolivia, and South Korea, and all the states of India worshipping, He wants to adopt them, He wants to bring people from every tribe and tongue, every color of skin, every social strata, to His throne.
But of all people, the priests are actually the ones getting in the way. They’re turning the Temple into a nationalist stronghold – blocking the ability of others to worship, and in effect, stealing praise and glory from God.
Walking into the Temple was like walking into the mall the week before Christmas – it didn’t really set the mood for reverence, awe, and worship. And yet, if you were not Jewish, this outer court was your only option – you couldn’t go any farther into the Temple.
This is becoming a pattern, isn’t it? You have people that want to worship and others getting in their way. Blind men are told to be quiet, the crowd is told to stop singing Hosanna, and now the Court of Gentiles is taken over by merchants and traders.
So Jesus drives them out – He’s throwing chairs and tables and grabbing guys by the collar and kicking ‘em out – it’s like Roadhouse Bouncer Jesus. He’s clearing the place out with righteous anger.
You have to remember that for as gentle and kind and righteous as Jesus was, He was also a carpenter who spent His days swinging a hammer, working with stone and wood. He had calluses on His hands. He spent most of His time outdoors. He walked everywhere He went and at this point He’s probably around 32-33 years old. In other words, He was probably in pretty good shape.
And He’s agitated that the main place where people were supposed to be able to come and worship God had been turned into a flea market. The one opportunity that some people had to worship was being hijacked in the name of making money and making life ‘easier’ for those who could afford it – just take a simple trip to the Temple, where we’ve got everything you need for worship! Well, yeah, except actual space to worship.
We need to take a look at our churches, ministries, and even our lives at times and ask: is there anything here that would provoke Jesus to similar wrath? Is there anything in my life that interferes with worship? My own, or that of others? Is there anything standing between attempts to worship and the God who should receive it? Is there anything that needs to be driven out of the temple of my heart? Or something that needs to be removed from the real world of my daily life, anything that gets in the way of worship?
14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.
Notice this – even after Jesus just finished throwing some people out – in what might have been seen as a violent or intimidating act, the blind, the lame, and as well see in a minute, children came rushing in. Don’t get the wrong idea, Jesus IS approachable, in fact, that’s why He cleared the others out, because they were getting in the way of those who truly wanted to approach God. If He is calling you this morning, if you see that you are needy, come to Him. He will not throw you out, He will be merciful and compassionate.
15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,
‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’? ”
These guys just don’t get it. They see Jesus doing wonderful works and they become indignant. They hear Jesus praised as the promised Savior, the Son of David, and they try to shut it down. For the fourth time this morning – one group wants to praise God and another wants it to stop.
17 Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.
I said this last week and I’ll say it again – I love the defiant authority of my God. Jesus receives the praise and worship He deserves and then He leaves those who resist and oppose and walks away on His own terms – He is in absolute control at all times. He does whatever He wants, whenever He wants, however He wants.
Fortunately for us, what He wants is to show us compassion and mercy. He wants to lay down His life as a sacrifice for us. He wants to gather a family of the redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation, from every corner of the globe. He wants to be accessible. And He wants to be the hope of the weak, the weary, the needy, the vulnerable and the lost. He wants to forgive your sins, restore what is broken, heal wounds, and cleanse our souls.
So let us close our time together today by giving Him the praise that He is due. Let us be who see the need for worship, the people who choose to worship, the people whose praise will not be stopped as we worship an unstoppable God.
But here’s the problem only the person they appointed would know how much he had to collect. So, there was a minimum he had to gather for Rome, but he could adjust that number a little bit to include something for himself off the top and that is how the tax collectors got paid. So when you paid your taxes, you never knew how much was going to Rome and how much was going to this guy.
So Matthew, or Levi, makes a living by squeezing money out of people for the government and his own pocket. And he’s taking that money from his own people, the Jews, and giving it to a foreign power that is occupying their land and controlling their lives. Most of his neighbors viewed him as an opportunistic traitor, the living, breathing, expression of Roman occupation and oppression in their city. As one pastor noted: “He had better make a lot of money, because he wouldn’t have a lot of friends, except among other tax collectors and Gentiles.”
Think about what his job cost him: no one wants to say hi to him on the street, he wouldn’t be welcome at community events; he wouldn’t be welcome in the synagogue where people went to worship God each week on the Sabbath. But he would have money, position, and power. Is that an OK trade? And, do you think we have people in our region making similar trades today? Trading in their family for power, position, or money? Compromising their walk with God for the sake of making a few buck or seizing an ‘opportunity’?
Let me ask: what makes you turn your back on your family and your people and your religion, all the things that give you your identity and place in the world? What was going on inside this man? What was he trying to find? What did he feel like he needed? And why did he feel like the only way to get it was to betray everyone and everything else? No one forced him to serve as a tax collector, as far as we know he chose this on his own, in fact, he probably maneuvered and schemed for it and worked to guard his appointment. Why? And did he feel like it was worth it?
Maybe he did in the beginning. Maybe he felt the trade-off was “just the price you have to pay” to reach your goals. But I think at some point he began to feel the isolation of it all, the emptiness of it all, the disappointment of it all – the kind that settles in at night when you’re trying to fall asleep and your deepest thoughts start to bubble up in burning questions – the questions you want to shut out or run away from.
I think God was pressing him with those deeper questions – stirring his soul to ask: is this really what it’s all about? Is there anything else? Is this what life is? What should I be doing? Can I ever go back? Can I ever be forgiven? Can I really change?
I believe God was agitating Matthew’s soul, just like He might be agitating some of yours, stirring you up, troubling you with deep questions and desires for deeper things.
For Matthew, it all came to head one day when he was sitting at his desk near Capernaum. Because on that fateful day, Jesus, a poor, blue-collar carpenter just beginning His public ministry walked by, looked at Matthew and simply said, “Follow Me.” In that one moment, everything made sense – Matthew was ready for it, though he didn’t know what “it” was, and he immediately surrendered – gave up his position with Rome and became a follower of Christ.
Finally, he felt like he had found what he was really looking for. Here’s a man who had made great sacrifices for his career, and suddenly he found something he was willing to give it all up for.
Friends, that’s who Jesus is. He is the one worth giving up everything else for. He is the one worth following. He is the one who shows up as the answer to all our questions and puts everything in order. If you’re feeling unsettled today, if you’re asking those deeper questions, listen for Jesus, because He’s coming to you and saying the same thing – with authority and tenderness, He is telling you – “Follow Me.” It’s not a question, it’s a command, but it’s a gentle command and full of promise that you can discover who you really are, in Christ.
Look at what Jesus did with Matthew’s life – He took who Matthew was, what he was good at, and gave it meaning and purpose.
In order to be a tax collector you had to have some amount of education, you had to speak both Greek and Aramaic and be able to read and write, you also needed to be well-organized and keep good records. Now, don’t those also sound like great skills for someone to capture the details of the life of Jesus and pass them on? It turns out, accuracy and details matter to a tax collector AND a gospel writer.
Friends, the same skills that made Matthew a good tax-collector were redeemed, transformed, and used for God’s glory.
And I wonder how He wants to do the same for you? What skills and abilities has God given you, what qualifications and opportunities has He given you? And how might He want to use them if you surrender yourself and say, “Lord, I am available to you”?
I hope you’re asking the question. Because God does have a plan for your life, He is building His kingdom and His church, and you have opportunity to be a part of it – to have all your abilities and your gifts used for His glory and the good of those around you.
And that might mean He calls you out of the marketplace and into the ministry, like He did with Matthew, or maybe He simply opens your eyes to see how you can make the marketplace into your ministry by seeing your job, or your team, or your school as the place where you serve Jesus with the gifts and abilities He has given you.
As your pastor, this is what I want for you, I want you to see that God is with you wherever you go that He wants to use you, if you are available to Him and if you will look at your context and ask: God what are you doing here and how do You want me to join in? What will it mean for me to “Follow You” here?
But right now we need to see how it all played out for Matthew – how God used his eye for detail to record important things about Jesus and where He came from.
I want to recognize, right away, this is more detail than you might prefer – next week will be much easier as we dig into the story of Mary and Joseph – but this is the way Matthew begins his story, so let’s read through it and then talk about what can learn from it, because it’s all here for a reason.
Matt 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.
Now if you take a class on communication, public speaking, or writing, they will tell you how important it is to grab the attention of your audience. This doesn’t quite seem to hit that mark for us, does it? So why does Matthew choose to start off this way?
And the answer is: because he didn’t write it just for us. This is God’s Word, it’s what God wants all people to know – people from every tribe, and language, and county and jungle and village on the planet – people who lived in the 1800s and the 800s, all over the world and all throughout time. And those people did not, and do not, live in the same media-saturated culture as we do.
To most of them, to most of the people in the history of the world, family is important. If you meet someone new, you want to know where they fit – who is their family, where do they come from, what’s their connection? Today, we meet people in total isolation, as if their past and their lineage have nothing to do with who they are. For most of the world though, and for much of history, people were understood to have a place where they fit. Matthew is showing people where Jesus fits.
And that was very important, especially for the Jews who were the first to read what Matthew had written. They knew what God had said in the past, so they expected the Messiah to come through a particular family line, to come through the line of Abraham and also be a descendant of David. This genealogy shows that Jesus does both. It proves that God kept His promises and did what He said – Jesus is the fulfillment of what Jewish people had been hoping for centuries. That’s why it’s so important to open the book with a family tree.
And actually, if you think about it, we do still care about connection and family today. Some of the most popular stories of our time are about family. Think of Star Wars, Harry Potter, even Downton Abbey, they’re about family: who is related to whom and who is the descendent of whom, who is the father of whom? What family are you in?
And then, think of the popularity of DNA kits where you take a swab of your saliva and send it in for analysis to learn where your ancestors came from, or the popularity of sites like ancestry.com. It turns out there is something in each of us that really wants to know: where did I come from, who am I connected to, and how do I fit in? Sometimes, for all of our modern independence, like Matthew, we wonder if it’s worth the cost of being alone.
Of course, the problem with families is: they’re messy. We might have some family members and ancestors that we’re proud of and get along with, but we’ve also got some people we don’t exactly like, or aren’t exactly proud of, or that we’re disappointed about or tired of. Well, you find the same thing in the line of Jesus: heroes and harlots, victims and victors, role models and rogues.
Take a look at the ladies in this list. Now, first of all, you have to know that it was extremely rare for women to be included in a genealogy, but these ladies are, and when you get to know at a little more about them, you might be shocked that this is line of Jesus.
First you have Tamar, you meet her in Genesis 28 where she put on a disguise and sold herself as a prostitute to her father-in-law Judah because he wasn’t keeping up his responsibility to take care of her, in the process she got pregnant and gave birth to the twins Perez and Zerah. So yeah, you’ve got a bit of a mess right there.
Then you have Rahab who really was a prostitute, and she wasn’t a Jew, she was a Canaanite, a different ethnicity. We meet her in Joshua 2 where God takes extraordinary measures to save her and her family from the destruction of Jericho and bring them into His blessing and promises for Israel. And this is a common thing, to see God adopting people in, bringing people that you would not expect into His family.
It’s the same thing that happened with Ruth who we meet in the book of Ruth – she was from Moab, a nation the Jews hated. She had been married to a man who was a Jew, but he died along with all the other men of the family leaving Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi in a precarious position. But God changed her life and her destiny through the kindness of Boaz, and the woman who once felt as though she had nothing, eventually had a grandson who sat on the throne of Israel: King David, Israel’s most beloved king.
Of course, David didn’t always make the best choices. He’s famous for things like slaying the giant Goliath, but he’s also infamous for stealing the wife of another man. Bathsheba “had been the wife of Uriah” until David used his position of power to take advantage of her, which you can read about in 2 Samuel 11.
Each of these women were in a vulnerable place – Tamar couldn’t get the support she was entitled to, Rahab was a citizen of a city facing destruction, Ruth had lost her husband and all economic security along with him, and Bathsheba was the victim of a predator. Some of them brought difficulty on themselves, others were just victims of circumstance or the choices of others, but God redeemed them all and turned their stories into part of the lineage of Christ.
And then you have the kings – they’re a mixed bag as well. From King David on you have a list of rulers who had a spotty record of righteousness and debauchery. We just mentioned David’s highlights and humiliations, but then you have men like his grandson Rehoboam who was a wicked ruler – so bad in fact that it led to a split in the Kingdom. His son Abijah was wicked like dad, but then things turned around with Asa who was good, and so was his son, Jehoshaphat, but Joram his son was wicked and then he had Uzziah who had some good moments, but was also struck down with leprosy for attempting to enter the temple and burn incense, something only the priests were allowed to do (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
What’s the lesson here? It’s this: politicians will never be our saviors, it doesn’t matter what party they represent, they’re still human beings and human beings are tempted to make bad choices because of power. They don’t, and can’t know everything, do everything, or fix everything. And even if things are good for a season, they’re going to be bad again sooner or later because human beings are still involved. No political party is ever going to save us or be 100% reliable.
The flip and flop of the character of the kings also shows us that good parents can have bad kids and bad parents can have good kids because we all, every generation, need to have our own relationship with God. You can’t ride on your parent’s coattails on the one hand, but neither are you doomed by your parents on the other. We all need Jesus and we can all have Jesus.
So, what we find in the genealogy is God fulfilling His promises – doing what He said He would do: provide a savior through Abraham and David who would be a blessing to all humanity.
But we also find a sample of the kind of people Jesus came to save: Jews like Jacob, Jesse, and Josiah, Moabites like Ruth and Canaanites like Rahab, men like Solomon and women like Tamar, saints like Boaz and sinners like Uzziah, rulers like David and carpenters like Joseph. People like you, and people like me. We all need Jesus.
This genealogy shows us that no one has it together enough, no is popular enough, no one is powerful enough to create their own forgiveness and salvation.
But it also shows us that no one is too far gone, no one has too much or sinned too big to be forgiven. We all need Jesus who came to call sinners to salvation, and to give us a new identity in Christ.
This genealogy presents God’s extravagant grace on display and we see it again in the life of the man who wrote it down. There is a God who brings the outsiders in.
This morning if you will turn to Jesus He will include you in His family – where your sin abounds grace abounds much more. And if you will make yourself available to Him, He will go to work in your life like He did in Matthew and redeem and transform your skills and abilities for His glory. Will you do that?
We’re about to celebrate communion, and as the men distribute the elements, I want to encourage you to take a moment and pray. Confess your sins to God, ask for forgiveness, and offer Him your life once again – to make of it whatever He pleases. For His glory, and your satisfaction and joy.