God Invites the Outsiders In #LentChallenge

Mike —  March 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

I started reading the first 7 chapters of Matthew this morning for the Lent Challenge that some friends and others are doing this year. We’ll read through the New Testament in the next 40 Days, and we’d love to have you join us. You can check out my post from yesterday for the basics or check out Margaret Feinberg’s site, where you can find all the details. I hope you’ll follow along and add to the discussion. What’s God want to show us together in these next few weeks?

It only took a couple verses this morning before God reminded me of something critical to his mission. He has always invited outsiders into His story.

Rest

Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ ministry with a look into Jesus’ past. As a tax collector, Matthew essentially made his living knowing which families to pilfer, so he probably had a pretty good handle on family lineages. As he gathered taxes to send to the hated Roman occupiers, it would have paid to know where the money was in order to extract a little more than necessary for his own profit. When Matthew connected with Jesus, however, his heart was turned from self interest to the interest of sharing the news of the Messiah’s arrival (and eventually, his death and resurrection).

In establishing Jesus as a descendent of both David and Abraham, Matthew mentions 4 women in addition to His mother, Mary. In their patriarchal culture, it’s a little unusual that women’s names would appear in the list in the first place, but there’s even more to this than that. These women were outsiders.

  • Tamar set up shop as a roadside prostitute in order to get her father-in-law to have sex with her.
  • Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho who hid a couple Israeli spies and helped them escape the city in exchange for their protection when they came back to destroy it.
  • Ruth is generally regarded with great honor, but she was from Moab, not Israel.
  • Bathsheba was the wife of a Hittite. While he was off at war, she entered into an illicit sexual relationship with her neighbor, who happened to be David the king, who then had her husband killed to cover up her resulting pregnancy.

It’s not exactly a pristine gene pool that the savior was coming from, right? Why would Matthew point out these apparent flaws in Jesus’ genealogy?

Maybe he wanted to establish from the beginning that Jesus invites the outsiders to jump into the story His Father is writing. Matthew has a lot to say later about the Kingdom that Jesus was establishing. The fact that outsiders like these women shared a place in His Kingdom story would have been a reminder to the insiders (the Jews who would have been among the first readers of Matthew’s gospel) that His blessing of their nation wasn’t just about their nation. It was about a blessing that was for all nations… The story of the Christ is a story for all the outsiders…

Outsiders like Tamar and Rahab and Ruth and Bathsheba…

Outsiders like Matthew and Zaccheus and their tax collecting turncoat friends…

Outsiders like me and like you…

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