A Long List of Funny Names

At the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel is a long list of baby names for religious fanatics.

Just kidding.

Matthew looked at Mark’s story of Jesus, and said, “This needs the story of Jesus’ birth. And that story begins not with Mary and Joseph, but with the whole story of Israel, good and bad. It begins with the geneology.”

So Matthew begins with the history of Israel in the form of a stylized family tree. Remember, this is a Jewish culture with great respect for “roots” and family history. Unlike our adventures in finding ancestors, however, this geneology is full of the good, the bad, and the highly un-spiritual, to say the least.

Judah and Tamar (What a story!) David and “the wife of Uriah.” (Ouch!) Ruth, that Moabite. Manassah. Oh my. This is the family tree of the SAVIOR?

Yes, it is. The history of Israel is the history of broken, sinful humanity; their dreams, disappointments and debacles. Matthew arranges his geneology into three parts: One dreamer, two disappointments.

Abraham dreamed the dream of a holy nation that would be a blessing to the world; a covenant people who would bring light and life to the world ruined in the Garden. Then David seemed to embody that dream: the perfect king, the long-awaited Kingdom.

But David was a disappointment. A man after God’s own heart who broke God’s heart. The nation of Israel descends into slavery, obscurity and idolatry.

The third section is about exile. Not the exile to Babylon, but the exile that had never come to an end. Israel’s exile from her God because of her sin. N.T. Wright has made it so very clear to us: the people who first heard Jesus were a people caught in the mindset and heartset of exile that would not end. Political exile in the form of Roman oppression. Spiritual exile in the form of forgotten promises and a God who was far away. (Listen to Jesus demolish this exile in his ministry. It is exciting!)

It is to these people, these broken dreamers, that Christ is born. The road to Bethlehem is the road of these names, these lives, these dreams and disappointments. The road to the manger is the road crowded with such pilgrims, failures and sinners.

There is another list of names. It is the list of those who are now descedents of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ. It is much like the previous list of names, because it is also made up of broken people with dreams dying and exiles that will not end.

My name is on that geneology. Is yours?

(Michael Spencer)


~ by Michael on December 4, 2005.

2 Responses to “A Long List of Funny Names”

  1. I love the genealogy. It’s all brokeness but with the coming of the Saviour it’s all grace. I’m there!

    Thanks, Michael


  2. Joshua fought the battle of jericho and became a great baby name!

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