Today’s readings include the genealogy from Matthew. A few years ago I would have likely skipped it entirely. Maybe, just maybe, I would have skimmed it. My assumption would have been something like this, “Here are some Old Testament greats to help set up why Jesus is so great.” In those few years I’ve become more familiar with Scripture and have realized how wrong that assumption would be.
While the genealogy does serve the purpose of establishing Jesus’ place in the line of David and as a son of Abraham, it is far from naïve about Jesus’ sinner speckled past. As we look at this catalog of some of Israel’s most scandalous moments we are reminded that, with Jesus, we need not fear that the sins of our ancestors’ disqualify us. Jesus’ family tree includes adulterers, murderers, and corrupt kings. They hardly seem like the recipe for a man who will be faithful to his bride (the Church), lay his life down for others, and be the just king of the universe for which all creation groans. But Jesus is the generator of new life and new beginnings. As such He can deliver on these promises, and through him we are delivered from slavery to the sins of our forefathers.
He achieves this through what some have called “the Great Exchange.” The great exchange is expressed this way: “The Son of God became the Son of Man, so that the sons and daughters of men could become the sons and daughters of God.” We are reminded of this exchange in Matthew’s genealogy. Christ adopted all of the dysfunction of humanity that is captured in this passage by choosing Joseph as his foster father. In turn, Joseph took Jesus as his own beloved son. We too have been adopted by our heavenly Father. God does not begrudgingly love us out of some sense of obligation, but loves us as beloved children for whom He willingly opened His home and heart.
When I read this genealogy I see the mystery of Christ elevating all of human history through His incarnation. I don’t see a list of unfamiliar names, I see the new beginning he offers to each and every one of us and the dignity that all of us find in Him.