Levi's Genes

I am speaking this Sunday from the genealogy of Matthew. I guess I could call it Levi's Genes (see what I did there). I love the story behind the Christmas story that Matthew provides.  The genealogy Matthew offers is more than space filler or a list of names we tend to ignore. It is a narrative comprised of some of the most sordid and shocking tales in Scripture - outrageous, immoral, reprehensible stories of scandal and depravity.

Why does Matthew chose to highlight what most historians attempting to prove the Messiahship of Jesus to a Jewish audience would want to omit?  We get a hint in 1:21 where Matthew records the angel's instruction to Mary to name the child Jesus "for he will save his people from their sins."

God the Son entered the messiness of our world in order to save sinners. Matthew's scandalous inclusions in the genealogy of Jesus are just another reminder of this grace-filled truth. He highlights what we would hide so that we are reminded that the Christmas story is about God sending a Savior into the world.  Sinners need a Savior.  They don't need a program, plan, or step. They need a Savior.

We tend to sanitize the Christmas story with traditional nativity scenes, greeting cards, and carols. But Matthew reminds us that before we get to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi there is an R-rated back story that would make most of us blush. And these stories serve as a tapestry of grace and redemption.

Not only did Jesus enter our world through a barn and feeding trough, but He was born into a family tree filled with perverse sexual sin, murder, incest, deceit, horrible decisions, and all sorts of sinful misconduct.  Matthew wants us to know from the beginning the type of people Jesus came to save - people with hidden secrets, shady pasts, and open sins. People who are sinners.

In a sense, God stacks the deck against Himself to make sure we understand the gospel is not about what we do or do not do.  Our self-proclaimed goodness is pointless. Jesus came to save people with no religious platform. 

If you know Matthew's story, you recognize he himself is a bad-boy-turned-disciple. He was a thief and traitor.  His friends were party people. He had no platform upon which to stand. And then Jesus entered his space with those two simple words "follow me" and everything changed.

Matthew intentionally reminds us from the start that this story is different. It is not about how good we are. It is about how good He is.  And when you explore the stories in Matthew's list, you learn the gospel is for outcasts, immigrants, and paupers. It is for perverts, adulterers, murderers, renegades, seducers, liars and thieves. Bottom line: the gospel is for sinners. And that list includes me. 

God sent a Savior because that is exactly who we need. 

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