Many of the participants on BBC One’s “Who do you think you are?” trace wonderful people among their ancestors. Like them, we can all bathe in the reflected glory of those who have provided us with some of our genes. The Jersey Syvret family can, at best, remember John and Richard Syvret who, in 1358, were cross-bowmen at Mont Orgueil Castle defending the Island against French forces.
And the Ahier family? Not very good either. Back in 1627 a boat part owned by one Abraham Ahier was apprehended between Les Minquiers and St Malo carrying Jersey knitted stockings for illegal delivery to France....
The words in bold above are therefore of more than passing interest. What will be disclosed by the genealogy of Jesus Christ? Matthew, his biographer, goes back to BC 2000 and Jesus’ ancestor Abraham.
What was Abraham like? Well, he was born in Ur of the Chaldees. The British Museum has major standing exhibitions about that city from around BC 2500. They show trade, literature, mathematics and astronomy to have been highly developed. There were 2-storey houses then and beautiful jewellery. The city worshipped the moon-God.
In the genealogy Jesus’ ancestor Judah has a son by Tamar. Tamar was, in fact, Judah’s daughter-in-law! She had married, in succession, two of Judah’s sons. But there were no children and Judah refused to allow his third son to marry her. So she pretended to be a city prostitute and, Judah being Judah, took advantage of her opportunity when away from home.... Their son Perez is an ancestor of Jesus Christ, Son of Man, Son of God.
The man named Boaz is also in the family tree. He married Ruth, a Moabitess. Her story is one of the great romances of the Bible. The short book of Ruth may well be the first love story in the world. The Mills and Boon tale is there for all to read, preserved with the rest of the “Old Testament Scriptures” by the nation of Israel in its archives. Readers will understand what was wrong. But their marriage was blessed with their son Obed.
Yet another in the family tree is David. King David had several wives. Which one would bear the son who would be included in the legal ancestry of Jesus Christ? Strangely, it’s “the wife of Uriah” (see bold above).
David committed adultery with her. When she conceived he tried to cover it but eventually had to arrange the death in battle of Uriah, her husband. That child died – but their next son was Solomon, an ancestor of Jesus.
Why did Mathew include these folk in his biography of Jesus Christ – on the first page in fact? He wanted to make it obvious to all his readers that it was into a sinful family that God sent His only son. That Son was given the name “Emmanuel” which means “God-with-us”. It was important that we should know that God knew all about the “us” of “God-with-us”.
God the Father knew that his holy son, by becoming man, was entering a dysfunctional, evil and desperately painful humanity. Jesus, although not Joseph’s biological son, was Joseph’s legal son. Because Jesus was sinless he could, as a man, be vastly different from the first man, Adam, and from all Adam’s descendants.
Here was a man (Jesus) who would, on the contrary, be obedient to his Father in everything. His desire would not be for himself. It would be to do whatever his Father desired and willed.
Then, then .... he would submit to all the evils of the first man, Adam, and of all his descendants. They would inflict on him all their evil and hatred.
He would then able, if they turned to him, to forgive them and make them sons again. These would become Jesus’ descendants. He would be their ancestor. They would share his family likeness.