I don’t think scandalousness is a word, but I like it.
Anywho, in anticipation for Christmas—a time when people generally spend time with their relatives in merriment and tinsle—I’ve been reflecting a lot on Jesus’ relatives, those starring in the birth narratives and those who are barely mentioned. The thing about those stories is that there is so much more to them than what cutesy nativity sets can portray. They read more like action thrillers, complete with drama and mystery. There’s teen pregnancy. Scandal. Big government trying to squash the small people. It’s got it all, baby.
My friend Josh Shepherd tweeted this a few weeks ago. I thought it was wonderfully worded and wanted to quote him. (Josh, don’t get a big head.)
- Jesus’ bloodline reflects the whole scope of humanity, from a murderous monarch to a heroic whore. #Advent
Josh is referring to the geneology that both Matthew and Luke include in their books about Jesus. Specifically, he’s references King David and Rahab the prostitute. King David set up some dude to get killed in battle (where David was supposed to be as well) so that David could call dibs on this guy’s wife he had impregnated. Rahab the prostitute was–wait for it–a prostitute when the Israelite spies convinced her to protect them in exchange for her safety. Once the Jews sacked Jericho, she became part of the nation and eventually married a guy who was unfortunately named Salmon. She ended up being King David’s great-great grandmother.
Crazy relatives for the Savior of the world, huh?
Who ever really talks about their dirt under the rug? Why would the ones who deemed it so important for the world to know about Jesus of Nazareth decide to include potentially embarrassing stuff like Rahab in Jesus’ geneology list?
The “embarrassment” doesn’t stop there, by the way. Jesus is related to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob’s kid, Judah, had children with this chick named Tamar…who was already his daughter-in-law.
Here’s how that freakish family dysfunction went down. Tamar’s original husband (Judah’s son, Er) died. He gave her his next son, but he died, too. And instead of giving his baby boy to Tamar (because he thought it was her fault that his other sons died), Judah shipped Tamar back to her family. Later down the road, Judah kinda missed the…benefits…of marriage. He sees a religious prostitute near a pagan shrine and sleeps with her. (It’s Tamar!) She gets pregnant—by her father-in-law, mind you. When Tamar starts to show, everyone assumes she’s sleeping around. They go to kill her for her indiscretions; she reveals that it’s her father-in-law’s baby. That kid ends up being one of Jesus’ ancestors, too. Sounds like an episode of Days of Our Lives, right?!
The Christmas story just gets more and more scandalous the deeper you dig into it. Our Rabbi Jesus has ancestors who were sex workers (or posed as them) and conniving murderers. His family tree was far from perfect. And, I didn’t even make room to talk about all the crap Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob pulled—not to mention how many wives and concubines Solomon had!
I love that Jesus comes from such a sordid background. His ancestry reads like a trashy novel. His parents had to deal with their own drama surrounding Jesus’ birth. Still, out of scandal comes hope. Jesus gets us. He understands us. He was born into a dirty world with the purpose of cleaning it up. The best present a dysfunctional family tree could bear.