Tamar was included in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 because of her faith and resilience. Rahab, for her faith and courage. Ruth shows us faith, loyalty and joy, while Bathsheba stands for our weakness and God’s redemption. We come now to the final, and possibly the most important, woman mentioned in Matthew’s list of Jesus’ ancestors: Mary.
We all know the story: Mary was a young, engaged woman, most likely in her mid-teens, when an angel visited her and announced that she would give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High. After asking for a (fairly reasonable) clarification, the angel told Mary that she would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Both of these announcements must have been astonishing to Mary. She is, after all, the only person in history to immaculately conceive and give birth to the Son of God!
Here we see a truly amazing moment from this young girl. She would have understood what it meant: when Joseph found out she was pregnant, he had every right to either stone her to death or divorce her, leaving her (at best) a social outcast, a disgrace. And yet, she responds with amazing faith: “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Matthew highlights Joseph’s struggle to believe Mary, that it took another angelic appearance for him to accept her virgin conception. What we are not told of is the courage that it must have taken for Mary to even tell her fiancé the news. But she was aware, before anyone else, of how important Jesus was going to be, and in the midst of an incredibly difficult time for her, full of doubt and worry, she still praised the Lord for blessing her, for doing great things for her (Luke 1:48-49).
Mary is entirely unique in the genealogy of Jesus. The verb that Matthew uses throughout the genealogy changes, makes it clear that Mary, not Joseph, is the biological parent of Jesus. And, even among the other four women, we see the difference. Unlike Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba, Mary had no history of sexual sin. Unlike Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, she was not a foreigner; in fact, she is a descendent of David (Luke’s genealogy is most likely traced through her family line). And though the other women are all part of the lineage of David, the King of promise, Mary was the vessel through which all promises were realised, since she gave birth to Jesus Emmanuel, God with us, the great prophet, priest and king over all for all time.
God’s plan was in place from the beginning, and His will was always going to be carried out. I am sure that, if Mary had said no, Jesus would still have been born into this world and carried out his incredible work of salvation, through some other woman. But Mary didn’t say no. She stood up and accepted her role with enormous courage and faith, and was blessed for it. I think this is the major lesson we can take from Mary’s story: God extends to all of us the opportunity to be involved in His great plan for humanity, to take part in His work of building the Kingdom of God. And we all have a choice. We can choose to say no, but if we step up in faith and joy, like Mary did, we too will be blessed beyond all imagining. We may not have the opportunity to give birth to the Son of God, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be part of His continuing story in amazing ways.
So, what can we say about the women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy? Why did Matthew include them? These five women stand on their own merits as shining examples of faith, resilience, courage, loyalty, redemption and joy. But they are also human, with complex, messy lives. In contrast to the tendency to idealise some of the men in the list, especially David and Abraham, the women draw attention back to the Messiah – the promised saviour, born to a family full of flawed, sinful people. The other thing that I think Matthew was doing was highlighting the fact that Jesus came to save all kinds of people: men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor; widows, prostitutes, immigrants, queens, and young girls alike. These five women, though most of them didn’t know it, got to be part of the greatest event in human history: the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord. And the best part is, thanks to Jesus’ saving work on the cross, so do we.
PRAY that you will faithfully take up the part God has for you in his great plan of salvation.
SONG: Mary Did You Know? by Pentatonix – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE