Matthew Chapter 1 gives the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The Jews mentioned only the names of men in their genealogies. However, here we find four women mentioned as well – teaching us that Jesus had come to raise the level of women from the low position that Jewish and heathen society had given them. Further, these four women had a sinful history, teaching us that Jesus came to save the worst of sinners.
The first woman mentioned is Tamar (Matthew 1:3). Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law through whom Judah had a son Perez, who was an ancestor of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesus was in heaven when this incest took place (Genesis 38:12–29), and decided that this sinful line would be His earthly family-line. How many of us would choose such a sinful family-line and have an incestuous relationship mentioned on the very first page of our biography?
The second woman mentioned here is Rahab (Matthew 1:5), who was a well-known prostitute, in the “red-light” district of Jericho (Joshua 2:1). A Jewish man name Salmon married this Gentile. Jesus saw this marriage, of a Jew with a Gentile prostitute, from heaven – and decided to come through that line.
The third woman is Ruth (Matthew 1:5). Ruth was a Moabitess. Her ancestor was Moab, who was born through Lot’s adultery with his daughter (Genesis 19:30–37). Once again, Jesus saw this incest from heaven, and Ruth descending from this incest, and decided to choose that line.
The fourth woman is Bathsheba – the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:6). She was the woman with whom David committed adultery and whom he later married. Once again, we have a woman whose history is one of sin. She was not the ancestor of Mary as the first three women were. She was the ancestor of Joseph. (We can see that when we compare this genealogy with the genealogy of Mary in Luke 3). Joseph was of the royal line of David, and Matthew was proving through this genealogy that Jesus was rightfully the true king of Israel.
Why did Jesus choose such a sinful family-line? To show His identification with the race of sinful men and to make it manifest that He had come, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
So we see that no-one needs to be ashamed of his/her family line. In India, people boast about their family-tree. When a Christian does that, he shows thereby that he has not understood the Spirit of Christ at all. When Joseph heard about Mary being pregnant, and not knowing that this was a supernatural work of God in her womb, it says that since he was a righteous man, he did not want to disgrace her but wanted to cover what he thought was her sin (Matthew 1:19).
There is something we can all learn here about righteousness. The message of the gospel is essentially how an unrighteous man can become righteous. The first person to be called a righteous man in the New Testament is Joseph. And his righteousness is mentioned in connection with wanting to cover another person’s sin and not shame that person. This is the spirit of a truly righteous man.
When you hear that somebody has sinned, what is your immediate reaction? If you are a righteous man, you will want to cover it. If you are an unrighteous man, you will talk about it to others. There we see that Joseph, who did not have the Holy Spirit and was not under the new covenant, was far more righteous than millions of believers who claim to be born again. With the standards of the old covenant, Joseph decided to cover what he thought was sin. Thank God he never scandalised Mary. For if he had, can you imagine the regret and remorse he would have had, when he discovered the truth – that she was 100% pure and innocent!! These things are written for our instruction.
How can you take back stories that you have circulated about others if you later discover them to be false? For the one you told them to would have circulated it further to perhaps ten other people who in turn would have spread it even further. So here is a warning and an example for us from the very first chapter of the New Testament. Cover the sins of others. Learn from Joseph’s example. Love covers a multitude of sins.
In Matthew 1:21, we read the very first promise in the New Testament: “He shall save His people from their sins”. This is the meaning of the name, “Jesus”. This is not a promise that Jesus would forgive our sins, but that He would save us from our sins. Forgiveness is merely the removal of the guilt of our past sins. To be saved from sin is to be saved from anger, the lust of the eyes, covetousness, bitterness, jealousy, etc. It means that He will save us from being enslaved to sin.
The second promise in the New Testament is found in Matthew 3:11: “He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire.”
These are the first two promises in the New Testament – and in these, the message of the gospel is summed up. We need to experience the fulfilment of both these promises. We need to be saved from our sins and we need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and fire.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon