The Good News Of Jesus - Reservoir Church
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Advent | Bless Us | God Speaks

The Good News Of Jesus

Lydia Shiu

Dec 17, 2023

Matthew 1: 1-17 (New International Version)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

4 Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Well that was a mouthful. 

Would you pray with me?

God of love, 

We first give you thanks for the breath of life. We give you thanks for the force of love that sustains us. In our gratitude, we also grieve the hardships of our lives in small and big ways, the hardship of those around us near and far. We’re sometimes at odds with the joy and heartbreak that is life. And yet, Lord, we know that all are in your hands. Every hair, every life, every tear, every laughter. As we look to your word this morning together and ponder upon the ways we think about and talk about you, God, would you break through our hearts and minds with an understanding of your love, of your will, of your heart? Would you remind us of the great power of your love revealed through a little baby in a manger today we pray in Jesus’ precious and holy name Amen.

So if you ever have trouble sleeping, just pull out the Bible and start at the New Testament. the Old Testament starting with the creation story is too dramatic. Start here, with the genealogy of Jesus.

First things first. What’s up with the number 14? 

there were 14 generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and 14 from the exile to the Messiah.

I Googled it so you don’t have to. 

Seven represents completion. Thus, 7 + 7  = 14 means double completion.

And the name David, broken down into its consonants D-V-D in Hebrew has a numerical value of 4-6-4, totaling 14.) Thus, in repeating the number 14, Matthew is demonstrating that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of David

And that’s called Bible math. 

This is what I mean when I say that the Bible is, a series of texts that are far away from us culturally. And some of us might think, see? So what’s it to us? I don’t know Zerubbabel and what’s it got to do with me? 

I think the best thing about the Bible is that it is a book that persisted as a text throughout history for a span of about from 1000 B.C. to 1600’s. That’s 2600 years of history.

Reading the Bible is like, you know when you first go to therapy. They’re like, let’s talk about your mom. And you’re like, why, I have problems with my dating life right now. But then you start getting into family systems theory and actually do the family tree and you start realizing, Yo my family is MESSED up and OHHHHHH that’s why I’m having problems with dating! 

I heard from Lisa Sharon Harper’s The Freedom Road podcast, a guest of hers said,

“How you read the Bible says more about you than about God.” 

What are we to gain from this story about Jesus from the Bible? Why do they tell this story and they say I should read the Bible but like why? What’s it to me? Why do we care about baby Jesus and go all deck the halls to celebrate this story? 

Many of us know the simple answer. Jesus is God. And shows us who is God. So who is this God that we see through Jesus? And why does that God matter to me now? What does that God have to say to our world today, through Jesus? 

To get at that I’d like to zoom in on some of the tiny blips of the list, the five women included in the list and as well as a few women that are not included. 

According to the Women’s Bible Commentary, here’s the five women. 

“Tamar, taken by her father-in-law Judah to be a prostitute, Rahab the Canaanite prostitute who protects the Israelite spies; Ruth the Moabite widow, whom Boaz marries after their potentially compromising meeting on the threshing floor; the “wife of Uriah”, Bathsheba, who commits adultery with David; and Mary, pregnant before her marriage.” 

All stories of mishap and rerouting, of making do. Why are these names included, especially when it could contribute to the illegitimacy of Jesus’ lineage, and that’s clearly not the point of the list.

My takeaway is that God’s way is not your way. God’s way is not our way.

God’s way is not clean. It’s not legitimate. It’s completely unexpected and surprising. And you find hope in places where you exactly expect to find the opposite of hope. 

I’d like to reprise the quote,

“How you read the Bible says more about you than about God.”

And it is true that many Jewish and Christian scholars have used these characters to conclude in literally opposing views, where Gentiles are used by God for Israel or that Gentiles are included in the grand plan of God. And I know that can be triggering in the backdrop of what’s going on in Israel/Palestine right now, but again, every person, every theology, every national identity or whatever has a choice to use the Bible as a weapon or a lesson. And we know that people throughout history have used it for both, even now. 

Even within the feminist/womanist critiques of these texts about female characters, they’ve wrestled with, her deceit, her obedience, compliance, sin AND  righteous (sometime for the same action, i.e. bearing children, keeping secrets, having sex, refusing sex). Regardless of the disputes, there seems to be something very interesting about the reason why Matthew included some of these female characters, who are socially vulnerable, in the list of Jesus’ genealogy. Maybe Matthew’s purpose was inclusion, at his best. 

And it makes me curious about the names that are also not included. For example, we know Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What about Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah? Furthermore, have you ever heard about Bilhah and Zilpah? 

Here’s a little story about them. There were two sisters named Leah and Rachel. Leah was the older one but Jacob loved the younger Rachel. Leah and Rachel’s dad Laban tricked Jacob into working for him for seven years for Rachel but gives Leah in marriage first since Rachel’s too young and then he works seven more years to finally get Rachel. Bilhah was the slave that was given to Rachel by her father Laban. And Zilpah was the slave that Laban gave to his daughter Leah. For their wedding gifts. There’s a longer story here but Bilhah and Zilpah, as slaves of Leah and Rachel, both bore many children for Jacob,

“whose bodies were used to produce a full third of the 12 tribes of Israel.” 

When I read about Bilhah and Zilpah in the book Womanist Midrash on the Torah by Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, a womanist scholar, an Episcopal priest, I was struck by how I have never heard of them in all my years in Christianity. Gafney calls them womb-slaves, which is accurate for they were surrogates but also, not just surrogates as you might imagine, but sexual slaves. I had to gasp for air as I read this paragraph about Zilpah:

“Zilpah is presented as another pawn in the war for Jacob’s attention and affection. The battlefield for that was the bodies of Bilhah and Zilpah. Through the sexual and reproductive occupation of their bodies, people who would be known as Israel came into being. Through the wombs of Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah, Israel’s people were birthed by choice and by force. The text says nothing to suggest that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of Bilhah, and Zilpah. They are casualties of nation building. But their children, their grandchildren, and their descendants will claim and be claimed by the God of their patriarchs, and some of us who claim the God of Israel, including through the life and teaching of Mary’s child, Jesus, also claim Zilpah, Bilhah, Hagar, and all of the unnamed womb-slaves in what has become our spiritual ancestry.” 

This is the family tree of Jesus. This is the dysfunctional family dynamics we’re descendants of. And yet also, this is the inclusive legacy that we are so joyful triumphant about. To be sure, the Good News Jesus brought was a different one from the Good News of Caesar, Evangelion, which was a practice of spreading the good news after the war, which meant what it really means is now we’ve established “security” at all cost, “security” without peace or justice. I mean Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were literally relocating because of King Herod’s decree in

Matthew 2:16 “kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.”

It is in that environment that we are celebrating a homeless baby and claiming the Good News, a new kind of “security”, with baby Jesus as king, not after war but after a childbirth. Do you see the paradox of Christmas joy? Because that is what Christmas is about. Triumph from a baby in a manger. I don’t know what a manger is. I’m not a farmer. But I can imagine, yes a baby in a dumpster bin. A baby in rubble. A baby at a place where babies are not supposed to be. We see the commercialized dainty shiny nativity scene and go, “awww”! 

If we are to take the Bible not as a weapon but a lesson, I wonder if we could imagine what even a fuller list might be. What would it mean to include names, heritages, nationalities, religious backgrounds, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary, Ziplah, and Bilhah, and more, to the work, bearing, and birthing of true Good News. Not the good news of the world, and smart moves, legit, accepted, honorable.

  • But what of those we’ve casted aside and made nothing of?
  • What about the untraditional, illegitimate, those who don’t have the right credentials, could we all be a part of the story?
  • What if they were not casualties to the end product but heroes that are a part of the story, critical names that are the foundation of the faith we stand on?

I’m sorry to talk about casualties and sexual slaves amidst beautiful Christmas carols and celebration but there’s a zing to our joy. The light is so beautiful because it’s so so cold and dark here. And you know, that’s true joy. Everlasting joy. 

In our Advent devotional for this Week Three is about Blessing. In Day Two, we meditate on

Ephesians 3:14 where it says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” 

And so I’d like to end with a blessing for, “every family in heaven and on earth”, especially those who are forgotten, by calling their name. Dr. Gafney said,

“calling the names of familial and spiritual ancestors is a womanist practice with roots in a number of African societies. In ritual practice, the affirmation “Ashe!”(which means “power, authority, affirmation”)  from the Yoruba tradition, originated in the country of Nigeria, concludes the name-calling of ancestors.”

And she says,

“Mother Bilhah, Mother Zilpah, womb-slave of Israel, we call your name Ashe!”

Who and what name do you call upon to bless now? 




Let me pray for us. 

God, we bless your holy name, precious Jesus Christ. Conceived out of wedlock, born as a fugitive, born in a manger, and yet or maybe because for that very reason you call him your beloved son in whom you are well pleased. Give us the eyes to see like you see, the wonder and beauty in every being, especially those who are persecuted, rejected, on the run, that there we might find great hope beyond understanding. Life. Joy. Peace on earth we pray with faith and expectation in this season of Advent. As we wait on you Lord, come now, Amen.