"Dirt and Dust and Deity"
The New Testament starts with four gospels, the good news story of Jesus, written by four different authors. Matthew starts his record of the life of Jesus with a genealogy. This looks a lot like the genealogy at the end of an Old Testament book called Ruth.
Ruth was the great grandmother of the celebrated Jewish king, David. The book of Ruth points towards the goodness of Ruth and her husband, Boaz. The story of Ruth seems to be pointing towards the legitimacy of David as a good king. It elevates David’s story. It shows that even though his great grandmother wasn’t a Jew, she was still a righteous follower of God. It also shows that Boaz, David’s great grandfather and also the son of a foreigner, was a good and righteous follower of God. It feels like a story written to defend David’s lineage.
Matthew starts his gospel story of Jesus by borrowing the same form as the author of Ruth’s story but subverts it completely. Ruth’s story elevates king David. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus shows all of the dirt in Jesus’ story. Matthew opens all the closet doors and shows all the skeletons in there. Instead of making everything sparkle, he covers it with dirt. Matthew is about to tell the story of the great King Jesus. He is about to show his divinity…but first he shows us that he is human.
It is one of the beautiful tensions in the story of Jesus. He is 100% God and yet also 100% human. Matthew is pointing to the fact that Jesus is one of us. That like Adam, at the very beginning of the Bible, when God forms him out of the dust of the ground, Jesus is made of the same dust.
Dusty Springfield (yeah that’s who that woman in the image is) sang the famous line, “The only boy who could ever teach me was the son of a preacher man.” Matthew, points to Jesus being more than a preacher man. He leaves references throughout this genealogy to the broken and brilliant humans that make up Jesus’ family tree. He sets the scene and says everything you’re about to hear, every miraculous thing, every divine thing, in the middle of all that this Jesus was one of us.
Matthew talks about Tamar (a woman who dressed as a prostitute and seduced her father in law), David (a great king but also the rapist of Uriah’s wife), Rahab (another prostitute but one who helped the Hebrew people), Manasseh (a terrible king), Solomon (a wise king), Uzziah (a good king but who ended up with leprosy), and many other very human humans. These humans, good and bad, point towards the Christ’s humanity. As we read the stories of his deity we read them through the lens of his dirt, his dust, and his humanity.