Monday, December 10, 2018

I'm My Own Grandpa!

Maybe you've heard the song, sung by, to name just a few, Ray Stevens, Willie Nelson, and Guy Lombardo. It has been performed on television by some of the greats, including Hee Haw's Grandpa Jones and the all-Muppet Gogalala Jubilee Jugband. Originally written in 1947 by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, it was inspired by a book of Mark Twain's anecdotes.

And it might just be a true story.


Throughout the 1800's, U.S. newspapers published stories about men who claimed to be their own grandfather. The names, cities, and dates never matched up, but they all contained the same sequence of events, as set forth in the song's lyrics:

It's many, many years ago
When I was twenty-three
I was married to a widow
Who was pretty as can be
This widow had a grown-up daughter
Whose hair was red
My father fell in love with her
And soon these two were wed

Ultimately, through a series of births and complicated marriages, the narrator became his own step-grandfather.

Can we all agree? True or not, that is one messed-up family!

But, maybe no more so than Jesus' own family.

The New Testament begins with, of all things, a genealogy. As I recently read:

"For most Christians who read the Bible casually or devotionally, Matthew's genealogy - the very first chapter of the New Testament - is one of the dullest passages in all of Scripture."

While for years I (like most of you, I'm sure) have just skimmed through it to get to the "good stuff," over the last month, I have discovered that the first seventeen verses of Matthew are the "good stuff!"

My teaching this coming Sunday (12/16/18) is on this genealogy, but for the next couple weeks, I also want to write a blog post about what I believe are the two main lessons that this genealogy has to teach us:

1. God uses all kinds of people.
2. God keeps every one of His promises.

God uses all kinds of people. Nowhere in Scripture is this more evident than in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. I mean, just look who is included in Jesus' family tree:
  • Abraham... yes, he is called the "Father of Faith," but his wife Sarai was taken away not once, but twice into different kings' harems because Abraham lied to them that his wife was his sister (sounds like the song, doesn't it?) so that they wouldn't kill him on account of her beauty. (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18) He was also that kind of man.
  • Isaac... ditto. (Genesis 26:6-11)
  • Jacob... like father and grandfather, another liar and a deceiver, a dirty rotten scoundrel! (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-41)
  • Judah... you know, Matthew could have just said "Judah, the father of Perez, and Perez the father of Hezron," but instead, he wrote, "Judah, the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar," explicitly pointing out the incestuous relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law. (Genesis 38:1-30)
  • Rahab... she was not just non-Jewish and a woman, which would have made her appearance in any genealogy improbable, much less the Messiah's, but she was also a prostitute. (Joshua 2:1-21)
  • David... finally - somebody good and honorable. A man after God's own heart... but that's not what Matthew singles out. Instead, he turns the spotlight on David's affair with Bathsheba. "David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah." Uriah was one of David's mighty men. (2 Samuel 23:8-39) He was a man who risked his life for David repeatedly, but one day, David saw Uriah's wife bathing... and he wanted her for his own. So, he had Uriah killed and took her to be his wife. (2 Samuel 11:1-27)
Messed-up stories that Matthew intentionally highlights to let us know us know that God chose to bring the Messiah through messed-up people. It was deliberate. Matthew could have "skirted around" the sordid details, but he didn't. Rather than hide the embarrassing, God does the very opposite. 

Or, as Rodney Reeves wrote:

"Matthew didn't offer a sanitized account of Jesus' pedigree. He relates the story of Israel's hope, the royal line of David, warts and all."

In addition, Matthew's list includes women. It includes Gentiles. The very ones who, according to the Law, would have been excluded from entering into God's presence not just because of what they did but also because of who they were, are now included. In God's family, there is no wrong sex, race, or color.

When it comes to the genealogy of Jesus, God invited liars, prostitutes and adulterers. Those involved in heinous sins like incest and murder, Jesus welcomed them into His family. He doesn't excuse them, but He does include them. He owns them. He is not ashamed of them.

And He is not ashamed of us either.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:11 NLT)

God uses all kinds of people... which means, God uses even me.

To be honest, that's a lot harder for me to believe than even someone being their own grandpa.

But this one I know is true.

And I learned it from a "boring" genealogy.

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