Sometimes life beats us up. The circumstances of the world turn against us and just knock us down to our knees. Other times, our own choices have the same effect. We embrace sin and stray from the path Jesus laid out for us and it feels like we have been physically assaulted. The pain that comes upon us can feel paralyzing. It can feel like we have no hope of ever turning things around. The hurt and sin feel like too much for God ever to want us again.
This is the point that Satan does His best work. He comes along and starts to whisper in our ears. We have gone too far this time. Everyone is against us. It is impossible to get back what was lost we are told. God’s patience, love and mercy have run out. Stay down Satan implores us. Who would hear about Jesus through us anyway?
From the earliest moment in the story of Jesus’s birth in Matthew, we can see just how filled with lies these thoughts are really. The Gospel of Matthew starts with a genealogy. We can be tempted to skip over this listing of names. But if we take our time and linger on the names listed in the genealogy, it is more than worth it.
The genealogy of Jesus is a listing of his blood line. It is a family tree like we may have made back in grade school. Grandma Jane was married to Grandpa Frank who was the son of Great Grandma Petunia, we get the point, right?
When people do their family genealogies now they all seem to come up as related to the famous and the powerful. Everyone seems to be related to William the Conqueror and George Washington not Billy the Chimney Sweep.
Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who is saved from Jericho by the skin of her teeth. Can you imagine what a Canaanite prostitute’s life was like? Tamar’s first two husbands are killed by God because of their wickedness. She has to trick her father in law to have a child with her and is almost burned to death in the process. Ruth is a Godly woman for much of the Book of Ruth, but she is a foreigner being from Moab. The Israelites had very little respect for Moab and its people. These gals are no William the Conqueror!
Even the big guys listed, the kings, are far from stellar examples. Would we want them in our family trees? David is a murderer and adulterer. His son through whom Jesus’ line travels is a child he had with Bathsheeba, the woman with whom he committed the adultery. Solomon builds temples to false gods all over Israel. Manasseh is a wicked king who traditionally had Isaiah sawn in half before repenting later in life.
The men and women of Jesus’ line are a mixed lot of sinners, prostitutes, murderers and idolaters. In other words, they are just messy people like us. God brings Jesus into the world through this group of imperfect men and women. Not because they deserve it but because He is just that amazing. His mercy is that great. His love knows no bounds.
If we continue forward to the New Testament, the pillars of the church age include a murderer (Paul), a doubter (Thomas) and a thief (Matthew). All of the apostles flee from Jesus in His greatest time of need. Yet, God brings the Gospel of Jesus to the entire world through their foundation. It is His power that is at work not theirs so we should not be surprised.
As much as we should pursue perfection and holiness in our lives, our imperfection does not prevent God from using us. Our failures and our sins do not stop Jesus from working through us. We are never too far away from God to be used to bring Jesus to people. His power is made perfect in our weakness after all.
Seek holiness, righteous and Jesus in all we do. Make no mistake that life is just better when we are running our Christian race to win. But when we are knocked down while running and feel close to be knocked out, take heart. Jesus conquered the world using worse wretches than most of us.
It is Jesus and His power that is perfect, not the very flawed messengers.