A fellow writer once told me of a friend who had been hired by a distinguished woman to research and write her genealogy. The work was proceeding well and she was happy with the results until it was discovered she was the prodigy of some horse thieves. She adamantly insisted these particular branches of her family tree be pruned away by pen and ink.
God is far more honest with us about Christ’s genealogy. There is plenty of the expected there- a nice long line of Jewish men of the tribe of Judah leading straight back from his adoptive father, Joseph, to King David himself but sprinkled in between are a few entries that the average respectable 1st century Jewish family might have been tempted to omit.
The first unheard of and outrageous aspect of Christ’s genealogy is the inclusion of four women. This deviation from the norm is reflective of Christ’s revolutionary attitude toward women during his ministry. He deliberately adapted his teaching to include a female audience (Luke 5:36-39) choosing illustrations which would apply directly to their lives. Women featured prominently in his ministry, providing for him out of their own resources (Luke 8:1-3). They were allowed to sit at his fee in the posture of a disciple (Luke 10:39). Jesus treated women as equals to men, a radical elevation of their position which is reflected in their inclusion in his genealogy.
The genealogy also uses this group of women to demonstrate an expanded view of the Kingdom of God which included both Jews and Gentiles. Tamar was a Gentile who though voiceless and powerless secured her rights through courage and cunning. Rahab was a Gentile who came to faith in the one true God and then lived out her convictions with extraordinary bravery. Ruth, another Gentile, chose to leave everything she had ever known to follow the one true God. She cared for, and provided for her mother-in-law at great personal cost and eventually took her place in the genealogy of the Messiah with grace, nobility, and courage.
These four women also represent the full spectrum of sinfulness and righteousness. Tamar committed prostitution and incest. Rahab was a prostitute as well. Bathsheba was a shameless seductress who took a bath in front of a window to catch a king. Ruth’s conduct is stellar from beginning to end.
The genealogy of Christ is as radical in its honesty as its inclusivity. Men and women. Jew and Gentile. Saint and sinner. It is almost as if God was deliberately representing us all.