The Gnarled Family Tree of Jesus

Denise M. Kohlmeyer

Liar. Deceiver. Schemer. Faithful followers. Murderers. Adulterer. Kinsmen redeemer. Idol worshippers. Child sacrificers. Reformers. Polygamists. Prostitute. Jesus' genealogy reads like a Who's Who of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

This is what I recently shared with my brother, a new believer in Christ who was trying to wade through all the "begats" in the first chapter of the Book of Matthew. Frustrated by the laborious list of names he didn't know (much less pronounce), he eventually gave up and did what many well-meaning Christians before him have done: he skipped over it.

"I just don't get it," he told me over the phone. "Why do I need to know all those people? I just want to read about Jesus."

But that's just it, genealogies — "all those people" — are about Jesus! And we miss something profoundly beautiful and wonderfully redeeming when we bypass them. Yes, at first glance, genealogies seem tedious and irrelevant, but truly "they hold an important place in Scripture," cites in "What is the relevance of genealogies in the Bible?" "Genealogies bolster the historicity of Scripture, confirm prophecy, and provide insight into the character of God and the lives of His people."

But theological, historical, and prophetic explanations aside, if there is anything — anything! — that can give us comfort, strength and encouragement from the genealogy of Jesus, it is this: Jesus' earthly lineage is filled with dysfunction.

It is this fact that genealogies provide unique insights into the lives of God's people that I have found particularly beneficial, which is what I shared with my brother. Providentially, I had just finished researching every single name in that long, illustrious list of 42 generations just weeks before our conversation. God knew — as only God can know — that it was going to take place, and He knew that what I would discover first for myself would also be a blessing to my newly born-again brother. Love when that happens!

The gist of my discovery, as I already mentioned, is that Jesus' earthly Family Tree is gnarled, twisted, and grossly misshapen with all sorts of sordid and sorry characters. In today's terms, we call that dysfunctional. The prefix "dys" means "ill, bad." Used in conjunction with the word function (excuse the rhyme &263A; ), it simply means "badly functioning," which aptly describes every single person's Family Tree due to our inherited sin nature. Every family since Adam and Eve has functioned badly. Some more than others. Mine included.

Going back only two generations, I find relatives who were abusive alcoholics, one of which is currently serving a life sentence in prison for child molestation, which tragically contributed to the death of that child. And that's just one side of my Family Tree. I'm somewhat hesitant to trace the other side, which hails from Germany, afraid that I might find a Nazi or Nazi collaborator.

But, blessedly, I also find at least one close relative (ironically, the brother of the one who is in prison) who faithfully followed the Lord and — although his life was cut short — was apparently an out-spoken witness, which earned him the title of "the religious one."

My brother now finds Jesus' genealogy a source of encouragement and comfort. And I hope others do too, because, the bottom line is, we don't have to come from blue-blooded, pedigreed lines in order for God to adopt us into His Family...because Jesus Himself — God incarnate — didn't either!

Take a look. It's a tad long, but DON'T skip over it. Lol!

Abraham — faithfully followed God to a foreign land; became the father of all nations, but was prone to lying to save his own skin and subsequently put his wife in some compromising situations; unfairly banished his Egyptian concubine, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael, to wander in the wilderness;

Isaac — dutifully honored and trusted his father, even allowing Abraham to potentially sacrifice him on an altar;

Jacob — lived a life of habitual deceit and scheming; stole his twin brother's birthright; had two wives and two concubines; unwisely played favorites among his 12 sons;

Judah — collaborated with his half-brothers who sold their baby brother into slavery, married a Canaanite woman ;

Tamar — married to Judah's son Er, who, after Er's death, seduced Judah in order to conceive a son and preserve the family line;

Perez — one of a twin born to Judah and Tamar;

Hezron, Ram — no information;

Amminadab — his daughter, Elisheba, married Aaron, Moses' brother;

Nahshon — appointed by Moses as prince and military commander of the Tribe of Judah;

Salmon — married Rahab;

Rahab — practicing prostitute who graciously hid two Israelite spies at Jericho; mother of Boaz;

Boaz — kinsman redeemer of the Moabite woman, Ruth;

Ruth — followed her mother-in-law to a new country; married Boaz; gave birth to Obed;

Obed — father of Jesse ;

Jesse — had eight sons, the youngest of which was David who was anointed king of Israel;

David — a warrior-king for God; considered "a man after [God's] own heart," (1 Samuel 13:14); had his commander, Uriah, killed to cover up his adulterous affair with Uriah's wife who became pregnant; was a negligent parent; had at least eight wives; wrote many poems and songs which we know today as the Book of Psalms;

Solomon — considered the wisest man that ever lived; built the glorious first Temple; penned more than 3,000 proverbs, only a fraction of which are included in the Bible; kept 300 concubines; married 700 women in political alliances, who, in his later years, "turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God" (1 Kings 11:4);

Rehoboam — reigned over the united kingdom of Israel until it split, then reigned over the southern kingdom of Judah; had 18 wives, 60 concubines; "did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord" (2 Chronicles 12:14);

Abijah — in his three-year reign, he "committed all the sins of his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God" (1 Kings 15:3);

Asaph — (also Asa) "he did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment" (2 Chronicles 14:2-4);

Jehoshaphat — "He walked in all the ways of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Yet the high places were not taken away and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places…he exterminated the remnant of the male cult prostitutes who remained in the days of his father Asa" (1 Kings 22:43, 46); also "the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel" (2 Chronicles 17:3);

Jehoram — (also Joram) "When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was established, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and also some of the princes of Israel…he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 21:4, 6b);

Uzziah — (also Azariah) "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…nevertheless, the high places were not taken away" (2 Kings 15:3-4);

Jotham — "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord...nevertheless, the high places were not removed" (2 Kings 34-35);

Ahaziah — (also Ahaz) "He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God…he even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations…he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree;" furthermore, "he led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom and made Judah go astray" (2 Kings 16:2b-4, 11);

Hezekiah — "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…he trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him…he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered" (2 Kings 18:3, 5-7; 2 Chronicles 31:20-21);

Manasseh — "he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel…he built high places…he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah…he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger…Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 21:2-6, 16) ;

Amos — (also Amon) "he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…he walked in all the ways in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them. He abandoned the Lord, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the Lord" (2 Kings 21:20-21);

Josiah — "he did what was right in the sight of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left;" he repaired the Temple, reformed Judah through the rediscovery the Law and restored the Passover (2 Kings 22:2);

Jechoniah — (also Jehoahaz) "he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 23:32);

Shealtiel — taken into captivity in Babylon (1 Chronicles 3:17);

Zerubbabel — first commander to lead a group back to Israel to begin repopulating the area and rebuild the Temple after being in Babylonian captivity 70 years ;

Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob — no information;

Joseph — earthly step-father of Jesus who honorably married Mary after she had immaculately conceived the Messiah.

Whew! And that's just the genealogy that goes back to Abraham. The one in the Book of Luke goes all the way back to Adam. So now you see for yourself that Jesus' lineage includes every kind of character imaginable. And here's the blessing: if God wasn't ashamed to include them in His Son's earthly ancestry — and even record them for everyone to see — nor should we be ashamed of our own ancestors, many of whom were just as sordid and sorry as our Savior's. Keep in mind too that we are not responsible nor accountable for them. They will give an account for themselves when they stand before God Almighty. Just as we will.

I love Biblical scholar Raymond Brown's explanation of Jesus' genealogy in comparison to ours:
The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and some of those lines are our own lives and witness. A God who did not hesitate to use the scheming as well as the noble, the impure as well as the pure, men to whom the world harkened and women upon whom the world frowned — this God continues to work through the same mélange.

And here is another amazing thought: despite the despicable and dishonorable actions and behavior of some of Jesus' ancestors, God remained true to His promise to bring the Messiah through the line of David. Listen:
Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant that He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. 2 Chronicles 21:7
While many forsook and broke their promises to follow wholly after God, HE never once forsook them, but remained wholly faithful to them and to His Davidic promise until it consummated in the righteous reign of Jesus Christ. Indeed, our God is the perfect Promise Keeper.

Yes, dear readers, our Family Trees have broken and twisted branches (some more than others), but our Sovereign God can — and does — graciously and gloriously make them straight by His forgiveness and redemption! It is all part of the wonderful story He has written in the past through our twisted lineages and continues to write in the present in our own broken lives. And for reasons my infinitesimal mind can't comprehend, it all brings Him glory, honor and praise!

So, am I afraid now of what I might find in my ancestral line, even if it is a Nazi collaborator? No! My ancestors' actions and behavior don't define me. Nor do they define you!

So,, here I come!

Published 8-16-16