God’s grace shines brightest where it is least expected. I caught a glimpse of grace while reading Matthew’s genealogy. You might expect Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah to be mentioned. They are not. Four unexpected women are included: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The inclusion of these women in Christ’s genealogy is a special display of grace because they were all born outside the covenant.
Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites. David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was from Moab, a hated enemy of the Jews. Bathsheba would have been regarded as a Hittite because her husband, Uriah, was a Hittite, yet she was the mother of King Solomon.
Even more astounding, all these women were either sexually immoral or the product of immorality. Rahab was a prostitute. Bathsheba was an adulteress. Ruth was from Moab, so her entire ethnic origin was the result of incest between Lot and his youngest daughter. Tamar’s story, from Genesis 38, is as seamy and perverse as any supermarket tabloid.
According to Matthew’s genealogy, Jesus is the direct descendant of these flawed women, whose stories are sordid tales of immorality, shame, and hypocrisy. Matthew preaches the gospel of grace through this genealogy. These women demonstrate that God overcomes every sin to fulfill His redemptive purposes.
These women show the mysterious grace of God’s providence in human history. He uses all people, not only the good but even the wicked, to accomplish his designs. D.A. Carson writes about this genealogy, “They were all part of Messiah’s line; for though grace does not run in the blood line, God’s providence cannot be deceived or outmaneuvered.”
These women prove that in Jesus the barriers between male and female are torn down. Men and women stand as equals before God. We have different callings and duties, but there is absolute equality of personhood.
These women prove Jesus to be a willing descendant of human shame. Most genealogies are written to show that there is no impurity in the bloodline. Herod the Great destroyed his genealogy so no one could compare his background with anyone else’s. But Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers. Jesus not only came to save sinners; He came from sinners. The inclusion of these four women preaches the gospel of grace to us. It shows us how deep and wide and high and long the love of God truly is.
Luther wrote, “It is as though God intended this genealogy to say, ‘Oh, Christ is the kind of person who is not ashamed of sinners—in fact he even puts them in his family tree.’ ” The gospel is the story of the triumph of divine grace over the sordid perversity of sin. God’s grace is greater than all our sin.