Christmas – A Celebration for Notable Sinners
Dr. John P. Davis
In preaching on Matthew’s record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:1-17, I was wonderfully reminded of the grace of God in giving us a Savior who is not deterred by our great sinfulness. One point of my message that day was on how the genealogy of Christ contains the names of notable sinners. They are notable because they stand out in the genealogy, though everyone (except Jesus) in that genealogical record is a sinner.
It was unusual in ancient genealogies to include the names of women. Their inclusion in Matthew is not necessary to establish any legal point so they must be included for a theological purpose.
Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba share something in common. They have notoriety in Scripture partly because of their moral failures. In our self-righteousness and pride we would exclude names of those with whom we do not want to be identified. Jesus doesn’t.
Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah. Her husband died and left her childless so it was the next son’s responsibility to take her as wife and continue the family name through her. He refused to do so and Judah did not demand it. Tamar sought justice but in an unrighteous way. She posed as a harlot and seduced her father-in-law and bore twins through her father-in-law. So her father-in-law is a philanderer and she is a prostitute. This is the ancestry of Jesus Christ. I know this story sounds like a Hollywood soap opera, but it is real life where sinners, even those who know better, do sordid and horrible things. Matthew doesn’t hide it. Jesus identifies with them. Jesus came as a friend of sinners, to call them to repentance, and to give his life for them.
Rahab even when spoken of in the NT is called Rahab, the harlot. Though she came to faith in the true and living God she doesn’t seemed to have outlived her prior reputation. She married one of the descendants of Judah through whom the Messiah would come. Salmon must have seen in this harlot a transformation of God’s grace that brought him to marry her or perhaps he was sordidly attracted by her reputation. She becomes the great, great grandmother of King David. She is a marvelous picture of God’s redeeming and transforming grace.
Bathsheba is noted in Scripture for being not only the mother of Solomon but the woman involved in bringing King David to the lowest point in his kingdom. Though she was seduced by David, she surrendered to his seduction, and became pregnant. David had her husband killed, then married Bathsheba and bore a child whom God did not allow to live. Nevertheless, God in his grace gave another son, Solomon, the heir to the kingdom.
Jesus’ genealogy includes notable sinners because he comes for sinners. He identifies with sinners in his incarnation and in his death. Whatever your sin may be, you are not so bad that Jesus would not identify with you. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
This is our Savior. And let me say, that until you have seen yourself as a notable sinner, you will not know the power of the grace of Jesus Christ. He came for sinners.
When you trace the genealogy of Jesus that follows Him, i.e. those who are his descendants by faith, you find the names of notable sinners. One of those names is John P. Davis – a sinner saved by grace. This is the blessing of Christmas.