Being a Jew in the first century included with it a certain amount of pride in your ancestors. Jewish families would tell stories about the patriarchs of old times: Abraham and his daring faith, Isaac and his miracle birth, Jacob and his wrestling with God. And you can’t forget the heroism and leadership of King David.
It was expected, then, that when Matthew wrote an account of Jesus’ life, he would begin with a list of Jesus’ ancestors. And he did. But what was unexpected were the ancestors that Matthew highlighted. Here are just a few names from Matthew chapter 1: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. . . . Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. . . . David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (verses 3,5,6).
What’s the point? Matthew didn’t shy away from the darker side of Jewish history. By referencing Tamar, Rahab, and Uriah’s wife (feel free to research their stories later today), Matthew made one thing abundantly clear: The kind of people Jesus came from were far from perfect. In fact, Jesus’ family history contained some embarrassing stories and questionable characters.
So why would God want Matthew to highlight these people from Jesus’ family tree? If you keep reading about Jesus’ life, the point makes itself clear: The kind of people Jesus came from are the kind of people Jesus came for.
It doesn’t matter how embarrassing or questionable your past is. Jesus came for people like you. And people like me.