Sunday December 13, 2020 Jesus: The Son of Scandal
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
In God’s plan to come ‘in-person’ to rescue us from sin, death & hell, He would plan to come as one of us, fully human, the offspring of certain Bible people. St.Matthew traces the family tree, and so Jesus is referred to as the son of David = Israel’s greatest king, and the son of Abraham =the father of the faith. This is what we’ve been talking about for our Sundays in Advent.
Today’s title may seem a little unusual: Jesus = the Son of Scandal. That does not mean that someone in Jesus’ genealogy was named ‘scandal’. That word means what we normally use it for. If something is a ‘scandal’, it’s /a disgrace, /a shame, /an outrage. A marital affair is exposed, or embezzlement is uncovered. Years ago it was discovered that a family man from Brainerd, an over-the-road trucker, also had another wife & family down in Iowa = scandalous!
So, *how could it be that holy Son of God would be referred to as ‘the son of scandal’?
It means that when we look at the ancestry of Jesus’ family-line we not only find sinners,
but also some people who did particularly shameful things.
These are our verses from Matt.1: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. …Judah [was] the father of Perez & Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, … and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” (Mt 1:1,3,5–6)
Look back in your own history, and its likely you’ll find some dishonorable people. That’s what Shannon LaNier found out. In a story from July of this year, Shannon LaNier is a television news anchor in Houston, Tx, a black man. But now he is also known for being the 5th great-grandson of Madison Hemings = a son of scandal. Like so many family trees, LaNier’s family shame is connected to one of those ‘skeletons in the closet’ of one of our nation’s founding fathers.
On July 4, 1826, the author of the Declaration of Independence died; Thomas Jefferson died after months of failing health. Jefferson was a remarkable man; even tho -in our day- we have those of the ‘cancel culture’ who want to get rid of all history of people they consider ‘imperfect.’
They should take a look in the mirror. Anyway, its almost hard to measure the many accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson to our nation & good culture. He was a master of Architecture, agriculture, law, & education. He served as /a governor, /a congressman, /the secretary of state, /vice president, /& 3rd president of the U.S. The Louisiana Purchase, and Lewis & Clark’s expedition happened during his administration. While you & I would disagree with his approach to the Christian faith, still he feared God, highly valued personal liberty & responsibility, & was a firm supporter of religious freedom. We don’t know his eternal condition, but as a founding father of our nation, God certainly used him to bless us for the last 244 years.
We can also say that Thomas Jefferson was involved in scandal. After the death of his wife, Martha, Jefferson began a relationship with one of his black slaves, Sally Hemings. They had 4 children, one of those was Madison Hemings, who was Shannon LaNier’s ancestor. History says that all of Sally Hemings’s adult children were eventually freed by Jefferson, altho not right away. So, Jefferson was the author of the most famous document defending God-given freedom; and yet even some of his own children were not always treated as free-men. Thomas Jefferson’s history is one of great accomplishments, and a salacious scandal of adultery & slavery. TV anchorman Shannon LaNier can be called ‘a son of scandal’; and so Jesus can be called that, too.
*What scandal? A NT scholar says this: ‘Most Jewish genealogies did not include women. More important, the choice of these particular women, instead of such great matriarchs as Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah, proves that Matthew was giving us something more than merely biological information.’ (D.A.CarsonGod with Us: Themes from Matthew 2009).
He’s referring to Tamar, Rahab, Ruth & Bathsheba. Thru St.Matthew, the Holy Spirit purposely includes these 4 women to show us what kind of gracious God our heavenly Father truly is. God specifically chose these 4 women as part of His holy Son’s lineage to teach us that /no one is excluded from His call to repentance; /He is able to wash everyone clean;
/His forgiveness is for all; /He is able to make people new; /and He invites everyone into eternal life == no matter what kind of scandal you’ve been part of.
We are familiar with some of the imperfect males in the Bible; so, it’s interesting that Matthew includes these imperfect females. We should keep in mind that for the people of Israel, their women were not ‘shrinking violets’(as they say). Under God’s teaching, the Israelite women were among the strongest & most honorable women, beyond all other religions of the world. That didn’t make them the same as the men; but they were equal in God’s eyes, with important different roles in their godly purpose in His kingdom.
That, by the way, is still true today for God’s Christian people, IF they will understand & follow the Holy Scripture. Male & female are equal in salvation & all value; but different in their roles & duties before God & in the family.
*Who are these scandalous women? Tamar lived in the time of Judah, who was one of the 12 sons of Jacob, whose sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. Tamar’s husband died, and her father-in-law, Judah, promised her another husband, but it didn’t happen. So, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, and ‘met with’ her father-in-law and became pregnant with twins. One of those twins would be an ancestor of Christ. Scandal!
Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho; she helped hide the Israelite spies in her home,
in exchange for her family’s safety, when Joshua came to conquer & take over the Promised Land. She had a disgraceful lifestyle; but she changed, & would become an ancestor of our Savior. Ruth was from Moab & would’ve grown up obeying terrible false gods with human sacrifices; but she came to know the Lord & so was grafted into the family tree of the Messiah.
And the last scandal is that of ‘Uriah’s wife’, Bathsheba, who sinfully consented to an illicit relationship with king David. Their first child died. But the 2nd son was Solomon, who continued the genealogy from David down to Jesus. So, Jesus’ family tree involved incest, prostitution, adultery and murder = Jesus is a son of scandals! God does not approve of those things; but in order to save us from those things, and from whatever is in our past, God was willing to send our Savior into the middle of those things, and finally deliver us!
Scandals produce controversies. Thomas Jefferson’s descendants were brought into controversy over the news that Sally Hemings’s children were fathered by the former president. So, *who is really part of that family? & *are they all welcomed & treated equally; *who is legitimate, & who is illegitimate? *Who claims the heritage & legacy?
Families can struggle with those questions today: /there are ‘full’ kids & ‘step’ kids, maybe even multiple ‘steps’; /there are biological relationships vs. adopted; /there are multiple grandparents, & close friends who are called aunt & uncle; /relationships change, so in-laws become out-laws. *Does all this confusion & controversy affect our attitude when we hear that God considers us His children & His family? *What if we didn’t grow up in a Christian household? *What if we, or someone in our family, has been /a prostitute, /a worshipper of false gods, /or even a murderer? *Does our scandalous past affect our position in the family of God?
For the answer, we can observe how the Holy Spirit had St.Matthew write the genealogy of Jesus ~ a son of scandal. The fact that the names & bad reputations of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth & Bathsheba are openly included in the ancestry of Jesus is good news for all of the descendants of sinful mankind. Their names testify more to the grace & mercy of God than to the details of their own past. Their names mean that no one can accuse us of being less than full family members in the Lord’s household, when we are repentant & forgiven.
The promises in God’s Word say that you are called a child of God; that His name has been washed upon you in your baptism; and that your name is now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life = you can believe His Word. You do believe it, because God’s promise is stronger than any of our past scandals; whether those of our ancestors, or those of our own.
We know the names of these women because God wants us to know that we are no better than they are & no worse. He wants us to trust Him when He points us to the cross of Jesus, and know that the Son of Scandal has paid the full price, and redeemed us as full children of our Heavenly Father. Of these 4 women, one of our pastors writes: “They are firmly enmeshed in the history of God’s chosen people, and their presence speaks eloquently of the fact that this history is not the story of man’s glory but of God’s grace.” (Franzmann; Follow Me: 1961).
Of God’s work, Paul writes that we ‘received the Spirit of adoption as sons, so that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs = heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.’
This amazing grace of God is able to take undeserving & scandalous people, and change us completely. This means that -even tho we are not perfect, in past or present- with faith in Christ Jesus, our past is really past, & it has been put behind us. Jesus has completely renewed us in this faith to be spotless & holy, and fully children of heaven.
St.Paul writes to Titus: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of our past or present works of righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7).
With our earthly families, when we have a celebration or a reunion, we may struggle with who we invite. Who is a full part of the family, and who is just partial; who has been cut off or disowned because of some scandal == was that a fair or an unfair action toward them? Is that how you want to be treated? Who is among your family? Let’s be wise, and be forgiving.
One day we won’t have to struggle with those things; that Day when God makes everything new. Revelation 7 tells us that -by His grace- God is welcoming us all to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. At that family reunion, there will be people from every nation, from all tribes & languages. They will have ALL been sinners == liars, /cheats, /thieves, /adulterers, /murderers & meddlers; /con artists & addicts; /the arrogant & the ignorant; /the greedy & needy. Sons & daughters of scandal = every one of us.
And yet, because of Jesus-the Savior, our past scandals & skeletons have been cleaned up & put behind us. We have been brought into His new family = the family of faith. And this is our new life, with a new family tree, brought together under the tree of the cross. We have been adopted into His family, and made heirs of the eternal inheritance in heaven.
Thanks be to God! Amen.