Sunday December 6, 2020 Jesus: The Son of Abraham
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
For our Sundays in Advent we are thinking about what it means that Jesus, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, came to visit His creation, and deliver to us forgiveness that leads to our salvation & eternal life. We’re doing that under the theme that Jesus came as ‘a son’ & the offspring of certain Bible people. Last Sunday we heard that Jesus was considered ‘the son of David’. When we think of David, we think of ‘kingship’ = Israel’s greatest king, who established the kingdom of Israel.
But that’s not what comes to mind when we think of Abraham. Abraham was not a king, and he didn’t establish any kingdom. And still, in the history of God’s people, and in the eyes of God, Abraham was great = one of the top ten great men of the Bible; & likely in the top five. *So, what is he known for? A couple of things, such as being told to leave his homeland & travel to a place called Canaan, the land God would give to his future generations.
Abraham is also known for the fact that he was childless in his old age, with no heir. But God made a promise & made him fruitful, and his 90 yr old wife Sarah gave birth to a miracle-child, Isaac. Those things make him different that David, & nothing like a king.
But, a person didn’t need to be like David to be great & blessed in the eyes of the Lord. That’s a good reminder to US: we don’t need to be like others, with their abilities or circumstances in life, in order to have the blessed life God intends for us. Live faithfully the life God assigned for you, & you will be content & fulfilled.
Anyway, today we consider that Jesus was the Son of Abraham. As Matthew begins his gospel with a family-tree, he says: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.”
So, people who research their ancestry -either openly or secretly- hope to discover that they’re related to some great historical figure. Maybe being a distant relative of someone who fought along side George Washington at the Battle of Trenton. Maybe one of the ancestors was a gifted artist, a royal person, or a pirate. Genealogies are fueled by a curiosity to see what wild stories might be discovered, and how far back one can go.
Thru St. Matthew, the Holy Spirit takes Jesus’ family-tree back 2,000 years; all the way back to Abraham, who is often called The Father of The Faith. (for us, that’s 4,000 years ago) For most of us, we’re lucky if we can trace our history back a few hundred years. The tracing of Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham would certainly be a great source of pride for any Jew of Jesus’ day. After all, Abraham was the reason the Jews had their ‘promised land’ of Israel.
You may recall that Paul -at one time- was very proud to know that his ancestry was of the tribe of Benjamin, the 12th son of Jacob, who was the grandchild of Abraham. But later, Paul considered that ancestry & a great ‘past’ to count for nothing -it was rubbish- compared to being found in Christ, under God’s mercy, with the gift of an eternal promised land.
That’s the same for US. It’s fun to learn where we ‘came from’, & maybe where our family- tree began in ‘the old country.’ But its far better to understand God’s view, which is to know that it is Jesus who connects us to an eternal country & future family.
So, Matthew traces this genealogy all the way back to Abraham so that we can see
that God promised Abraham a son & heir, so that one day, thru Abraham’s Greater Son,
ALL people might inherit the Greater Country = the eternal Promised Land.
God’s plan to make Abraham the father of many nations seemed non-sensical; his wife Sarah found it rather laughable. The Lord God called Abram from his family-land of Haran and told him to go to a new land, where God would make him into a great nation. To mark the promise, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. And even tho he was already 100 years old, God tells Abram that all families of the earth would be blessed thru him. Then, even tho Sarai was old and barren, God promised that Sarai would give birth to a son, and that their descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky.
At this point, all the evidence pointed to ‘impossible.’ But God doesn’t know that word! God spoke the promise, and Abram believed God’s Word, and the Lord counted it to him as righteousness, or ‘right faith.’ From Abraham would come Isaac, then the twins – Jacob & Esau, and so Abraham’s descendants would continue to grow in number -for 2,000 yrs- all the way to the child born to Mary = the promised Greater Son, & the fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarch Abraham.
People who end up researching their ancestry and finding a famous person are glad to talk about it; it becomes part of their own life-story. But those who find no noteworthy person are just disappointed, and their family tree is set aside & forgotten. Jesus’ family tree had a few famous people, many ordinary people, and also a few ‘infamous’ people.
Abraham himself was actually nothing special to the world. His wife Sarah must’ve been quite attractive, because she caught the attention of two different kings as they traveled from Haran to Canaan. And it’s been considered either cowardly or prudent that Abraham twice pretended that Sarah was his sister -instead of his wife-, because he was afraid that those kings would kill him in order to have her. So, Abraham wasn’t very gallant or honorable toward his wife. After God made the promise of a son, Abraham was impatient, and let Sarah talk him into producing a son – using Sarah’s maidservant Hagar. That was not honoring God’s promise nor his wife. So, Abraham involved himself in lies, deceit & dishonor.
Sometimes, when WE look back at our ancestors, we will find that they, too, were -at times- weak & sinful & dishonorable. So we don’t talk about them; pretending that our lives don’t show some of those same kinds of sins. So, Abraham was not perfect; and to the world, he was not important. Ultimately, he was just another sinner; like the original father & mother of the human race = Adam & Eve. From them we ALL have inherited a nature that is bent away from God, with a hard heart, sinful behaviors; & it condemns us.
In Jesus’ day, there were definitely those who found security in the fact that they were descendants of Abraham, and felt that was the source of special standing & favor with God. Like the pharisees, who said they were God’s ‘chosen people’ because they were the offspring of Abraham. Jesus pointed out to them their large problem: they failed to see how their human genealogy had become like ‘filthy rags’ before God; their inherited sin had them enslaved & cut them off from God. They thought their genealogy with Abraham made them special = but it didn’t. Without THE FAITH of Abraham, and without knowing Abraham’s Greater Son, they were cut off from Abraham’s eternal family tree. The pharisees hated Jesus for saying that.
That teaching of Jesus means good news for you & me. There is good news for the whole world when we learn that we don’t have to trace our blood-line back to Abraham to be blessed by God.
We are blessed when we are not depending on Abraham’s good deeds, or our own good works, to impress God, & make us worthy of His favor. We are the real children of Abraham when we hear God’s Word of our sin & His Savior, and we believe what God said. God said He would send to us the Savior we needed; the virgin would conceive, and give birth to a Son who will be called ‘Immanuel’, which means ‘God with us.’ This faith-in-Christ is what is counted to us as our righteousness, just like undeserving Abraham. As Romans 4 says, Abraham was a sinner, but he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.”
The story of Abraham is not one of being born into the right family, with the right blood-line; it’s a lesson in humility, faith & adoption. Abraham believed a promise that he never saw fulfilled = that promise took 2,000 yrs to come true. But like Abraham, we believe the promise of The Son who was born to bring us God’s blessing. God’s solution to mankind’s problem was to choose Abraham as the pathway for bringing the Son of God into the world.
So, Abram & Sarai are given a son, Isaac, which brings them joy, and points them forward to the Greater Son to come = their Savior. Jesus is that son of Abraham thru whom the whole world would be blessed with God’s mercy, by forgiveness thru the cross.
Anyone can become a blessed new-born child of Abraham when they are marked by the sign of the cross and baptized into the name of the Triune God. When that promise of water & word is proclaimed & believed, the same Spirit of God that moved Abraham to trust God’s promise moves in you & me. Recall when John-the-Baptist was preaching to those misguided Jews. In Luke 3 He said: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘we have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.! …bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” The true children of Abraham have God’s word of promise to journey from this old country into the eternal promised land; from earth to heaven, with Jesus as the Door. The humble children of Abraham base their whole life on that promise.
For those in England during the days of WWII, the most ominous sound one could hear was the air-raid siren. For 9 months, between 1940 & 1941, the Germans attacked Britain’s airfields & cities with nightly bombing raids. People daily dreaded the setting of the sun & the threat of the night.
It was during this time that Rev. Eric Milner-White was serving as dean of King’s College at Cambridge. Understanding the fear that gripped the people, he wrote a little prayer that is just as fitting for wandering Abraham as it is for US 4,000 yrs later during a world-wide pandemic. It says: “Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, thru perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go, but only that Your hand is leading us, and Your love supporting us;
thru Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Those words describe the uncertain path that Abraham walked as he moved away from his family land, and toward a promised, new land. He walked by faith, not by sight.
He walked forward, trusting that God was leading him, & God’s love supporting him.
In that trust, Abraham becomes our Father in The Faith in our Christian family tree; not because he was a great man, or a famous king, but because he was a repentant sinner, humble & trusting of God. And THAT is the key to true life. It’s good for everyone to look back at their genealogy & family history. When you do, you may find some interesting people. However, if they are great people, that doesn’t make you great; if they are terrible people, that doesn’t make you terrible.
In looking back, we can learn some important lessons. We can learn that the measure of a person’s life doesn’t consist of their blood-line, family-name, or ethnicity; what counts is their faith, and their actions before their Creator. We can learn that all people are sinners in need of God’s Savior. We can learn that some of our ancestors lived a long time, and some a short time = but none of them knew how much time, so they couldn’t waste time ignoring God, & being bad people.
Abraham’s life was uncertain; he had to move from place to place, & he felt threatened by those who wanted his stuff, pressured by kings who wanted his wife. He wasn’t sure of any earthly thing; he could only be sure that God was trustworthy & leading him according to the promise. That describes OUR lives too. A virus has been unleashed in our world; people we thought would die -have recovered, & people we thought would recover -have died. But either way, God has not been surprised; He assigned their number of days.
The only question was – were they ready in the faith?
So, this life continues to be uncertain; whether there is war, or diseases, or natural disasters. All troubles affect our economy & businesses. Those in authority can be godly & good, or they can be unbelievers who will lie, cheat & steal. We want our elections to be fair, but the wicked will do anything to get in power or stay in power. As the Psalm says, We can’t trust in rulers, or in man’s strength or wisdom to give or preserve our life.
But there IS One we can count on; He is the Greater Son & descendant promised to Abraham, the Savior thru whom the world would be blessed. Abraham lived moving forward, trusting that the Lord was leading him to a better country = the Promised Land. And that makes Abraham The Father of The Faith for all of God’s Children = like you & me.
Like Abraham, we trust that God is leading us & supporting us in the Savior Jesus, for all the days of our life, as we move toward that heavenly land.