December 17, 2009
(Isaiah 45:6c-8.18.21c-25; Matthew 1:1-17)
Readers of Genesis are sometimes confounded why the royal lineage of Israel passed through Judah, and not Rueben, Jacob’s first-born, or Joseph, his charismatic favorite. Judah, however, was chastened by his affair with Tamar to become a wise leader. He seems to have had good instincts as he won the argument not to murder the haughty brother, Joseph, but to sell him to merchants. Still, the unrighteous incident with Tamar taught Judah responsibility for his actions as well as the need for consummate virtue in leading a nation. Later in Genesis Judah shows his willingness to sacrifice himself for his family before Jacob chooses him as his successor.
The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew read today shows Jesus as the culmination of Abraham’s dynasty. We can assume that wisdom grew as one generation succeeded another. Certainly there were setbacks along the way, but Matthew tells us that at the appointed time God presents His Son through the lineage that includes Joseph, Mary’s husband. The stage is set. Humans have achieved about as much natural knowledge as they need. Now Jesus will give God’s supreme lesson of unmerited and unlimited love.