Keepers of memories
Almost every family has one. You know… the person who remembers the family history, the stories of Uncle… and Aunt…, the in-laws and the outlaws. They are often the ones with boxes of family photos and letters.
Most are not trained archivists. They never read “The Unofficial Family Archivist: A Guide to Creating and Maintaining Family Papers, Photographs, and Memorabilia” or visited https://familyarchivists.com/.
They just know the stories. They stand in the “griot” traditions of Africa. “The griot knows everything that is going on… The griot is a living archive of the people’s traditions.”
Jesus’ family archivist
In a sense, we can think of Matthew as one of the archivists of Jesus’ Family. There was also Luke. Matthew speaks to a predominantly Jewish audience in contrast to Luke’s more Gentile audience. They highlight points that he thinks are important for this audience to know.
Personally, I do not think this is much different from the kinds of questions we have about our own lineage. Sometimes we are more interested in our father’s side. At other times we may be more interested in our mother’s side.
Unlikely women in Jesus’ genealogy
Matthew has some very unlikely women in Jesus’ genealogy. Why?
It seems like he was trying to get his Jewish audience to think about the very unlikely people who played a part in salvation history. After all, it wouldn’t have been normal for a woman’s name to be listed in a genealogy. Sure, he lists the distinguished members of Jesus’ line. But he seems to want us to reflect on the ordinary and less distinguished part of Jesus’ heritage also.
Jesus came from a family filled with unlikely people, including outcasts and harlots. Through this, Jesus tells us that he celebrates, loves, and uses unlikely people.
- Tamar is described as a prostitute and thus as a blot on the family record.
- Rahab was a prostitute and a Gentile living in Jericho. Yet she is listed in the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11 as “Rahab, the prostitute”.
- Ruth was outside the normal lineage but became a part of the lineage of Jesus because of her faith.
- Bathsheba committed adultery with David, who then arranged for her husband to be killed in battle to cover up their shame.
They are all part of his family!
Paul’s “big picture” genealogy
I think this is what Paul was trying to get at when he wrote
Consider your own calling. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast* before God.
Vincent often reminds us how God uses the lowly.
The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and some of those lines are our own unlikely lives and inconsistent witness.
We are living archives of Jesus
- Should we be surprised that God calls us to continue to reveal his story and be his storytellers?
- Can we recognize some very unlikely people who, with the twists and turns of their lives, may be telling his story more effectively than we are?