As a Bible reader all my life, inevitably my daily reading found its way to the perplexingly boring section in the New Testament with a lot of weird sounding names and a bunch of begats.
I could never understand why The New Testament, the story of Jesus Christ—God coming to earth in the flesh—begins with a boring list of names. If the Bible is really the living breathing Word of God, as Christians believe, then why hide the good stuff behind a seemingly insignificant genealogy?
So I always skipped Matthew 1 and then when I got to the part of Luke three that mentions more names, I usually skipped that.
Well, as I got into college and began studying the Bible in earnest, I couldn't exactly skip those names jotted down earnestly by Matthew and Luke. I learned that Matthew's list of names actually proves that Mary, Jesus mother, was in the family of Abraham and the family of David, which was necessary for the Messiah.
Then I learned that Luke's list of names proved Joseph to be in the right family as well. Okay, but I still didn't find much inspiration in the story and I still wondered why Mathew put that list of names in the beginning of his story of Jesus' life.
But a few years ago I was reading the book of Matthew and I did a double-take on few of the names in the list. Judah. Rahab. Ruth. Bathsheba. These names rang a bell.
I flipped back into the Old Testament. I began to read their stories. Sordid stories they were.
There's Judah, the brother-selling, family-neglecting, immoral, adulterous, hypocritical father-in-law.
There's Bathsheba, the mistress of David, who killed Bathsheba's husband, Uriah in cold blood.
There's Ruth, good girl, but not Jewish. She was a Gentile.
There is Rahab, not only not Jewish, but not even a good girl. She's known mostly by her label in the Old Testament. Rahab the harlot.
Yikes. Now that dusty list of names is a bit more interesting. If you're God and you decided to send your Son into the world as a man, why pick this cast of characters as your family?
And if you're Matthew and you're writing about Jesus' family, why include the names of these infamous people? Especially when historians typically left out the unflattering branches of their family tree. Especially when historians typically didn't mention women. Matthew mentioned four women.
Then it dawned on me. Why put Jesus' family tree up front and center? Why include in this genealogy such a sordid group of people?
Because this is the story of Jesus. Jesus didn't come for the put-together, everything-is-okay, self-righteous religious people. He said so himself. "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
God chose some of the worst sinners in the Bible as part of the family tree of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because the story of the Bible, the story of Christianity, the story of God is summed up in one wonderful word: grace.
And so it is that you and I—sinners like Judah and Bathsheba, outcasts like Rahab and Ruth—we too are invited to be a part of the family of God. You see, the way to relate to God, the way it has always been, is not through our goodness. Jesus said He didn't come for the self-righteous, but for those who realize they are sick and need a doctor. Sinners who need a Savior.
Accept God's radical offer of grace and you too can have your name added to a list, the list of those once were lost and now are found, who have no business knowing God, but do, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
There's nothing boring about that story. Which is why Matthew 1 is now one of my favorite passages in the Bible.
Daniel Darling is an author and pastor with a passion for young people. He is the author of Teen People of the Bible, a 100-day devotional for teens. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, follow on him on Twitter at twitter.com/dandarling, or check out his website: danieldarling.com.