Jesus’ Family had many Skeletons in the Closet
Intro: Well morning South Sydney Anglican Church. My name is Matt Johnson and this Christmas we are looking at the opening chapters of Matthews gospel that record the birth of Jesus Messiah. Particularly, we are looking at Jesus messy family.
PRAYER: Well CHRISTMAS and FAMILY usually go together. As December 25 approaches most families are organizing their Christmas catch-ups. When will we get together with the IN-LAWS and when will we get together with the OUTLAWS? Which side of the family gets the sacred Christmas Day lunch and who plays second-fiddle on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day? For many people Christmas gatherings are wonderful occasions of catching up with family, having some nice food and giving some gifts to loved ones.
But for many people the Christmas family catch-ups are also very DIFFICULT, STRESSFUL & PAINFUL TIMES. THE PROBLEM is that most families have some skeletons in the closet. Everyone has an uncle Bill somewhere in the family who always drinks too much at Christmas and does something embarrassing. Or there’s auntie Sharon who has been twice divorced and now wants to bring her new toyboy, boyfriend to the family gathering. In my own family – Joshua – has two daddys and two mummys – which no doubt will make future Christmases difficult.
Sadly, this is simply the reality of Christmas family gatherings in a fallen sinful world. Despite all the lovely pictures on TV, very few people actually have the picture-perfect family. But even, worse than the broken, slightly dysfunctional, family Christmas – is the no-family Christmas. Some families are so broken by sin – that there simply is no family to catch up with. Some families no-longer communicate. Some families are separated by distance or even death.
That’s why we run our church family Christmas on Christmas Day. Our church family is still pretty-messy. But God is forming a new family, a church family, who will one day enjoy a great family Christmas-like banquet together in heaven. Now I know many people think God would never invite a person like me to His Christmas lunch. Some people think they are too bad OR they think they have committed some unforgiveable sin. Some of you have told me – that if I come to church – the roof will cave in. But I assure you that’s not the case.
And to prove that I’ve decided to preach this Christmas on Jesus’ genealogy – because Jesus’ family – probably has more skeletons in the closet than most people. But Jesus came as a Kinsman redeemer – to redeem some truly terrible people in his family tree. Jesus is our KINSMAN REDEEMER or FAMILY REDEEMER. Jesus came to be our Kinsman Redeemer, but Jesus also had a Kinsman Redeemer…
Point 1: Jesus was the Kinsman Redeemer Promised to Abraham & David
Show: Matt.1:1 (READ)
Explain: Well Matthew gospel begins with a record of Jesus’ genealogy or family tree. So Matthew begins his record of Jesus’ birth – by tracing his family ancestry back to – King David and father Abraham. This is because God promised Abraham and David that one of their descendants would literally save the world….
The Bible says all the problems in the world can be traced back to an evil being called Satan. Satan messes up families. Shortly after Satan messed up Adam and Eves family – God said to him (Slide 2) Notice that right from the beginning God told Satan – that a descendant or offspring of Eve would one day crush his head. This spells doom for Satan. So right from the beginning Satan has had a thing against marriage, child-birth and family. He knew that one day a human child would spell his downfall. But this promise of a Satan crushing child found further detail In ABRAHAM and KING DAVID. That’s why Matthew begins with Abraham and King David.
God said the Satan crushing child would be a descendant of Abraham and a descendant of King David. In other words the Satan crushing child would be A JEW. And this child’s job – would be to redeem his Jewish family (and the world) from the evil and death inflicted by Satan. Let me show you what God promised Abraham around 1800BC.
SHOW: Gen.12:2-3, 7; (Slide 2-3)
Notice, GOD PROMISES to make Abraham into a great nation OR a great family. And we are told everyone who blesses Abrahams family will be blessed by God. But everyone who curses Abrahams family will be cursed by God. And God promises that all the nations of the world will ultimately be blessed again through Abraham’s offspring. This is the restoring of family blessing…
Now when we read “offspring” in Genesis 12:7 we often think it means the Jewish people generally. But the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:16 (Slide 5) Although, God’s promises were given to Abraham and the Jews, there is ONE PARTICULAR JEW in whom all Gods promises ultimately find fulfillment and that is Jesus. So we now know the Satan crushing child who will redeem Gods family will ultimately be a Jew. But I suspect it also didn’t take Satan long to work out HIS NEMESIS would be a Jew. Satan didn’t have to worry about every child that wea born. But he did have to worry about a Jewish child who would one day crush his head. But even as God gave the promise of offspring to Abraham – it seemed the promise was unlikely because Sarah was INFERTILE.
The next really big promise about the Messiah or Kinsman Redeemer is given to King David around 1000BC. Let me show you (Slide 4; 2 Sam.7:11-13). So God promises that one day, He will raise up an offspring or Kinsman redeemer of David who will rule over God’s household (or family) and establish Gods kingdom forever. This child (descended of David) will crush Satan’s head and restore Gods household, which means family. This is great news. Except Satan now knows – he does not need to worry about the birth of every child in the world or even every Jewish child. He just has to focus his attack on King Davids family line. So if you are Satan – where do you now need to focus your attack? Well its very simple – snuff out the line of David (and Satan wins). Destroy the family before the child is born.
Point 2: Jesus’ Genealogical Line is a Complete Sinful Mess
Show: Matt.1:2-4 (READ)
Explain: Well, just about everyone in this genealogy – has significant skeletons in the closet because Satan is wreaking havoc. If you thought your family is bad – Jesus’ family might surprize you. Shortly after God gave Abraham the promise of a special descendant; straightaway (same chapter) Abraham gives his wife to an Egyptian Pharaoh as a sexual play thing. I kid you not. He pimps her. Now I wonder where that Satanic idea came from? DO YOU REALISE that if Sarah remained Pharaoh’s wife or fell pregnant to Pharaoh – Jesus would never have been born. And if Jesus is never born there is no salvation of the world – end of story, Satan wins. Now thankfully, despite Abrahams stupidity – God gets Abraham and Sarah back together. But almost immediately Abraham has another great Satanic idea. Maybe if he sleeps with his servant girl Hagar – he can have a child with her. It may not be the child promised by God, but at least it’s a child…
So Abraham and Hagar hook up through TINDER and they have a little boy named Ishmael. THE PROBLEM is Ishmael is the great, great ancestor of the Arab Muslims. So, God intervenes AGAIN – gets Abraham and Sarah back together AGAIN and they finally give birth to Isaac (the second name in Jesus’ genealogy). But Sarah and Hagar now hate each other, their children hate each other – and that hate between the Jews & the Muslims is still playing itself out in Gaza today. Sadly, both sides believe they have a legitimate claims on God’s promise to Abraham, but one is an illegitimate child…
Now as you read through Jesus’ genealogy you see evil forces are at work over and over again trying to prevent the Messiah from ever being born. If Satan can break the genealogical line of the Messiah (at any point) he wins because the Messiah will never be born. This attack on Eve’s, Abraham and David’s seed climaxes in a fit of rage as King Herod gives an order to kill all the babies in Bethlehem under two.
Gee, I wonder where that idea came from. (PAUSE). But the attack on Jesus’ family tree – had already been raging for more than 1800 years. For instance, shortly after Abraham gives birth to Isaac we have another problem. Isaac can’t find a wife. No wife, no offspring! Satan wins. But God intervenes and miraculously supplies a wife. So Issac gives birth to Jacob and Esau (and we get another great Satanic idea). Jacob decides to swindle his older brother Esau out of the family will. It seemed like a great IDEA. More money for Jacob. But it meant Esau now wants to kill Jacob and if he had been successful – no Jesus…
But nonetheless Jacob gives birth to Judah (verse 3) who is the father – of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Now this gets really messy. At this point, Satan nearly won.
Notice the phrase – whose mother was Tamar. FOUR TIMES in Jesus’ genealogy we get told about particular mothers and each time the story is nearly game over…. At each point – Jesus’ genealogical line – nearly disappears. (Slide 10) So in verse 3 we are told about Perez whose mother was Tamar. In verse 5 we are told about Boaz whose mother was Rahab. Again in verse 5, we meet Obed whose mother was Ruth. And finally, in verse 6 we read about Solomon, whose mother was Uriah’s wife. These are all messy stories. Lots of skeletons in the closet.
Apply: So lets begin with Tamar. TAMAR was married to Judah’s FIRST SON ER. But he died before they had children. Strike one. THEN ONAN – Judah’s second son takes Tamar – as his wife. But he uses an ancient contraceptive method to make sure Tamar doesn’t fall pregnant. So God gets angry and Onan dies. Strike two. Judah now only has one more son left alive. But he doesn’t want to give this son to Tamar – in case he dies too. That’s strike three. You’re out. Tamar has no children – and the line of Judah (from which the Kinsman redeemer must come) is about to disappear. Satan wins. But God intervenes. Tamar dresses up as a prostitute and Judah in uncontrolled lust has sex with his own daughter in law – and Jesus’ line is brought back from the grave.
It’s a kind of resurrection of the Messianic line. Now I’ll admit it’s kind of gross. At the Christmas lunch – Judah is now both GRANDFATHER and FATHER of Perez and Zerah. (And you thought your family was a bit weird). But God works (even through evil) to bring about good and the Messianic line of Judah now continues…
Now I could focus on each name in this list. But let’s just focus on the women. The next woman we read about is RAHAB who marries Salmon. Rahab was a CANAANITE PROSTITUTE. She was a Gentile. After 40 years wandering in the wilderness (it appears) Salmon did not have a wife or children. Perhaps they all died in the wilderness. So again, Jesus’ line is in jeopardy. But as Israel enters the promised Land Rahab the prostitute sees Yahweh is the true God and she converts to Judaism. So God provides Salmon with a wife through Rahab the prostitute (and Jesus’ line from Abraham is preserved). But remember – Jesus’ great great grandma was a working girl.
Now we’ll come back to Boaz and Ruth in a moment – because they are HEROES IN THIS GENEALOGY. But many of you will know that David and Uriah’s wife – Bathsheba is a low point. Bathsheba is married to one of David’s friends named – Uriah. But David ends up committing adultery and he sleeps with Bathsheba. Then, when he can’t hide his sin – he arranges for Uriah to be killed on the battlefield. So not only is Jesus’ great, great grand-daddy an adulterer, he is also more or less a murderer. But nonetheless David and Bathsheba go on to have son named Solomon and Jesus’ line continues.
And welcome to Jesus’ genealogy. If I went through the whole list you’d see Jesus’ family includes murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, pimps, conmen, thieves, slave traders and people who practiced sorcery. MANASSEH in Jesus’ genealogy – even put the Messianic line at risk – by sacrificing his own children in the fire. Tell me that wasn’t Satanic. But each time Satan worked to cut off Jesus’ family tree, God’s grace and mercy kept bringing good out of bad.
I think this is a helpful reminder that no matter how bad things appear in your family – God is still Sovereign and he has the ability to bring good out of bad. In the end we have Jesus. Also, I think this is a helpful reminder that no one is too bad for God. I mean Jesus ultimately came to be the KINSMAN REDEEMER of his messy, messy family. And if Jesus can redeem people like this (with huge skeletons in the closet) who can’t Jesus redeem? But there is one more thing I want to show you. Jesu is the Kinsman redeemer. But Jesus himself was also redeemed by a Kinsman redeemer…
Point 3: Jesus’ Family Line was Saved by the Kinsman Redeemer Law
Show: Matt.1:5 (READ)
Explain: Well in the midst of Jesus’ messy genealogy there is one real high point. One faithful Jewish man named Boaz and one faithful Gentile woman named Ruth – obeyed Gods Kinsman Redeemer law – and effectively saved the world. Buried in the Jewish Old Covenant was a command called the kinsman redeemer law.
The kinsman redeemer law said that if a Jewish man and woman were married, but the man died before having children, then his brother (or a near relative) must marry the widow and have children with her. The first child born would then carry the family line of the deceased. This way Gods promises to each tribe would be preserved in each tribe. But this also preserved the Messianic line that was under attack by Satan.
Around 1200BC – the family line from Abraham, Judah and David disappeared altogether. The Messianic line was dead and buried. Ruth mentioned in verse 5 – was a Gentile who converted to Judaism and married a Jewish man named MAHLON. Jesus’ family line was meant to pass through Mahlon & Ruth. But during a big famine Mahlon died and so did his brother Kilion without leaving any offspring. So Jesus’ royal line was literally dead and buried. Game over. We all go to hell.
The only hope of Jesus being born was if a close family member of Mahlon obeyed the Kinsman Redeemer law. Then the first born child of the Kinsman Redeemer would carry Mahlon’s line and the promises given to Abraham. But very few Jews actually obeyed this law. It was an onerous law. You were marrying a widow and the firstborn child – wouldn’t even be your child or carry your name. So few Jewish men obeyed this law. What’s more – Ruth was a Gentile, a kind of second class Jewish citizen. So her mother Naomi encouraged her to return to her own people and look for a new husband in her own land. If Ruth did that – there would have been no Jesus. The moral of the story – never listen to your mother in law (JOKES). BUT THANKFULLY Ruth said no. She said – I have converted to Judaism. Yahweh is my God and even if I’m forever a widow – I must live among the Jews and worship God.
Then a man came along named Boaz – who was a distant relative of Mahlon and Kilion. But Boaz was not the nearest relative. There was another Jewish man who should have fulfilled this duty and been the Kinsman Redeemer. But he refused. (Like I said, it wasn’t a popular law). Now at this point Boaz – could have thrown up his hands and said; “Well its not really my responsibility and Ruth is a Gentile, so I’m not going to do it.” Again, if Boaz made that decision – there would have been no Jesus AND no Saviour of the world. We would have all been destined to hell. But Boaz obeyed God’s law and Ruth remained faithful to Yahweh and Obed was born – keeping the Messiah’s genealogical line alive.
I truly marvel at this story because in a way Boaz and Ruth’s faithfulness to God – effectively saved the Messianic line and thus saved the world. Of course, neither of them would have had ANY IDEA – how significant – there one small act of obedience might be in Gods eternal plan. But their obedience to a small law in the Bible actually secured the salvation of the world…
And by this act of obedience to the Kinsman Redeemer law Jesus would go on to be the Kinsman redeemer of his terrible, messy family – by dying on the cross for their sins. This reminds me – that we never really know HOW SIGNIFICANT our small acts of faith and obedience may turn out to be in God’s saving plan. Your choice to take a risk in evangelism may seem like nothing. But the person you evangelise may be the next Billy Graham. Your stand against abortion may seem like nothing. But if it secures the birth of one of the two great witnesses in the last days – it may be huge. Every day – Christians are faced with small decisions about whether we will obey God’s word or not. And while we may think the decision amounts to nothing – it may have far greater implications than you ever realise.
Thankfully Jesus was eventually born (and even as he was born) Satan rolled the dice one last time and tried to eradicate him. Satan moved King Herod to kill all the baby boys born in Bethlehem under two years of age – in the hope that he would kill Jesus before he saved the world. (We’ll read about that tomorrow). But again, thankfully Satan fails – and Jesus goes on to save the world by dying for our sins. In Jesus’ family were pimps and adulterers, murderers and sorcerors and even people who had killed their own children. All these people deserved to die and go to hell. They deserved God’s wrath and punishment. But Jesus still loved his awful family enough to die for them. And if Jesus could love his awful family enough to die for them, perhaps we could all work a little harder at loving the imperfect, skeletons in the closet families we have…
As Jesus lived a perfect life in obedience to God – he secured all God’s promises for us. His obedience was worthy of a place in heaven and worthy of a seat at God’s heavenly banquet. But then Jesus also died on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins. Jesus took the punishment for everything you have done wrong so that you can be spared. Jesus was your Kinsman Redeemer (your perfect brother) who made up for your failures.
He lived the life you should have lived and he died the death you should have died – so that you can be saved. Its Jesus’ perfect actions that secure God’s inheritance and Gods promises for us. We are just called to believe. Believe that Jesus has paid for our sins and given us a future.
And when I say Jesus paid the price for all our sins – I mean all our sins. There is nothing God can’t forgive. If Jesus could be a Kinsman redeemer for all the people in his genealogy, he can also be a kinsman redeemer for you and your family. Yes, your family might be messy. Yes, your family might push your buttons and embarrass you this Christmas. But Jesus came to love and save the very worst of families. And perhaps loving your imperfect family AND sharing Jesus with them this Christmas – may be your Boaz and Ruth moment.