Advent 2019: Mothers of the Messiah

How a story begins shapes everything that follows. Consider A Christmas Carol: “Marley was dead, to begin with.” What better way for Charles Dickens to set the mood, shape readers’ expectations, and foreshadow the themes of his ghostly tale than with that eerie opening? How intriguing then that Matthew begins his story of Jesus with a list of names, fronted by this line: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

The point is clear: the story we’re about to read has its real beginnings elsewhere—back 1000 years to David, Israel’s greatest king, and even 1000 years before him to Abraham, Israel’s founder and patriarch. It’s the story of a family, a kingdom, an offer of divine salvation, and a promise of blessing for the world. This is the historical and theological framework essential to understanding the new story Matthew wants to tell. That line of ancestors provides the credentials for this “Jesus the Messiah.” These names define Him, the modern-day equivalent of His résumé. But, as Matthew’s story to follow will show, Jesus defines them as well, as their history reaches its climax and fulfillment in Him.

How surprising, then, to find the names of five women in Jesus’ genealogy—five “Mothers of the Messiah.” In Matthew’s day, your credentials rested on the names of your fathers and grandfathers, not your mothers. Theologians traced the mighty progress of God’s salvation through the lives of great men, not women. Moreover, when the Jews did recall the great mothers of Israel, they named Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel—certainly not Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah! Matthew’s women of choice are nobodies. Bit players. Even outcasts.

And that is exactly his point. These women foreshadow the type of Messiah Jesus came to be. Not one in a position of power, but marginalized. Not adored by the masses, but an outcast. Not with a spotless moral pedigree, but a friend of sinners.

In this year’s Advent series, beginning next Sunday and running through Christmas Eve, we will explore the stories of these five Mothers of the Messiah. We’ll learn, through their own personal stories, the type of Messiah Jesus came to be. And as we delve deeper into the story Matthew tells, we’ll see that these are the types of people He calls His followers to be as well.