His name was John Allen, and he was born on January 3, 1746 in Edinburg Castle. His parents were Major William and Isabelle Allen, and they had sought refuge in the Castle during the Jacobite rising of 1745.

In 1749, John’s father accepted a position in Nova Scotia and moved his family to Halifax. When he was older, John was sent to New England for his education and eventually became fluent in French and some of the First Nation Dialects.

After his schooling, he returned to Halifax, where he became a merchant. Eventually, he became a Justice of the Peace in Halifax, Clerk of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, and went on to become a member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.

Things were going well for John until he was sentenced to hang for treason. The reason? John had become convinced that Nova Scotia’s best interest lay with George Washington and the revolutionary army south of the border.

In 1776, Allen fled Nova Scotia along with his wife and five children. He became a Colonel of Infantry in the Revolutionary Army and was subsequently appointed Superintendent of the Eastern Indians.

After the war, Colonel Allen was instrumental in negotiating the border between Maine and New Brunswick. His family eventually settled in Lubec, Maine.

In a Memoir of Colonel Allen, written in 1867 by his Grandson George, we read this fascinating tidbit from his time as Superintendent of Eastern Indians. It had been a particularly hard winter for the Passamaquoddy people, and the British were trying to entice them to align themselves with the Crown while Allen was attempting to keep them loyal to the new American government. Let’s pick up the story.

 “As a last resort, Colonel Allan announced his intent of going to Boston to obtain the so much needed aid, but the Indians believed that he would never return, and they should be left to the tender mercies of their enemies, demanded some securities for the fulfillment of his promises. It was finally arranged that he should leave his two oldest sons, William, and Mark, in the hands of the Indians as hostages, and they remained with them for two years, living on fish, parched corn and seal meat. William was thirteen years old, and Mark was eleven at this time.”

I wonder how he explained that to his wife when he got home.

And John begat Mark, who begat Lydia, the wife of True, who begat Stephen, who begat Theophilus, who begat Stephen, who begat Elizabeth, the wife of Burton, who begat Dennison.

Every person has an origin, and every origin is full of stories, these are the stories of Jesus’ origin.

Our series over the next eight weeks is called Origins, and we are going to be looking at some of the folks in Jesus’ family tree. This morning, though, we are starting with the genealogy of Jesus.

A few years ago, I stumbled inadvertently into my genealogy and fell in love with the stories of those who went before me.  I love to shake the family tree, partly to see what nuts might fall out.

But as important as family background might be to me to you, that’s nothing compared to how important it was to the Jews two thousand years ago.

The scripture that was read so well for us this morning is one of those scriptures that often gets overlooked or ignored when people read their Bibles.  It continues for ten more verses and concludes in Matthew 1:16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

So let’s begin with 1) The Why of the Genealogy.

The book of Matthew begins in a way that might seem strange to most of us today but was a natural way to introduce someone 2000 years ago in Israel. It was very important because the Jewish nation was founded on the promises given to Abraham concerning becoming a great nation, and often in the scriptures, the people of Israel are referred to as “The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And so we have promises in the Old Testament like Deuteronomy 34:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.”

And it was important to the Jews that those who would teach them were really Jews. Back in the Old Testament, in the book of Ezra, the people of Israel had returned home after they had been taken into captivity, and the Prophet Ezra was working on re-establishing worship in Jerusalem. part of that process was finding out who the priests were and who they weren’t. Some people presented their names, and this is what is written in Ezra 2:62. They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests.

It’s a good thing I’m not trying to find work as a preacher in that culture because I am a mutt. I have Scottish, Welsh, Estonian, British, African, and First Nations blood flowing through my veins.

When it is recorded in Ezra, they searched the genealogical records; those were the same genealogical records that the genealogy of Jesus was taken from. And in all the criticisms that came Jesus’ way, never once was his pedigree questioned.

The book was written by Matthew, who was one of Christ’s 12 Apostles. You may recall that Matthew was a tax collector, and Jesus literally called him from the booth where he was collecting taxes, as tax collectors were wont to do. Immediately, Matthew had a party and invited all of his grotty friends over to meet Jesus. Now, there is an interesting concept.

The Gospel of Matthew, the word Gospel simply means “Good News”, was written primarily for Jewish readers. That’s why more than any of the other Gospels Matthew points his readers back to the Old Testament to show how Jesus fulfilled various prophecies. It was written around 70 AD, although some believe it could have been written up to 20 years earlier than that. Why was it written? To offer proof that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

And so the tax collector begins the introduction to his Gospel by writing Matthew 1:1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: and then he finishes 16 verses later by writing Matthew 1:16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

As we begin our Origin series, I thought it would be good to start where Matthew started, which in this case is 17 verses of names. And maybe as you’ve read the book of Matthew, you’ve wondered what we could possibly learn from this list. Or maybe, like many people, you read verse 1 and skipped to verse 18.

First of all, while the gospels give us a clear account of the life of Christ, they were not originally written for Nova Scotians; they were written for Jews who lived 2000 years ago, and it would have been very natural to declare the bona fides for someone who’s story was this important.

If you are familiar with the New Testament and the Gospel accounts, then you are probably aware that the genealogy that is given by Matthew is different from the one recorded by Luke in Luke chapter 3. Which Pastor Rob is preaching from at Windgate this Sunday.

Some people have pointed this out as a discrepancy between the accounts, but others have pointed out a couple of different reasons for why the two accounts differ. Some have said that the accounts aren’t to be viewed as factual genealogies but instead are simply symbolic, that one shows the Royal lineage of Jesus and the other the Priestly lineage of Jesus.

But that doesn’t cut it for me. Either it is, or it isn’t. The second theory is that the genealogy given by Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage through Joseph, and the account in Luke traces Jesus’ family tree through Mary. They tell us that because of the culture of that day, that lineage was traced through the father, not the mother, and would go on to say that is spelled out in Luke 3:23 Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Heli.

You’ll notice that it does not say that Jesus was Joseph’s son but that he was known as Joseph’s son.

So, early church tradition tells us that Joseph was not Heli’s son, but he was his son-in-law and that this was a workaround to show Jesus’ true lineage through Mary. Some have even suggested that if Mary didn’t have brothers, that her father, Heli, might have legally adopted Joseph for inheritance purposes.

The third option is that under Jewish law, if a woman’s husband died and she later remarried that her children legally became the children of her second husband. So, the thought is that perhaps Joseph’s natural father was Jacob, and he died, and Joseph’s mother then married Heli, making him Joseph’s stepfather.

The truth is we don’t know. We are just guessing, and if anyone tells you they know the answer for sure, they are bluffing.

But there are truths in this genealogy that transcend time and distance.

2) The When of the Genealogy It was Groucho Marx who said “Although it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.” Most of us want to start our story on the day of our birth. I was born on June 13, 1960; don’t worry about the math. It just hurts, and for me, that was the beginning of Denn.

And yetI think it’s interesting that the story of Jesus isn’t just the story of Jesus but is a story of the people of Israel from the time that Abraham was promised that he would become a great nation right up to the coming of the Messiah Jesus. Christ didn’t just suddenly appear out of nowhere, but he, through his family, had a past and a connection to the past.

Every once in a while, you come across a church, a group or a preacher who has this new and wonderful revelation. And they want us to believe that the church is doing the wrong things and has been doing the wrong things for the past 2000 years. There was this brief window when the church had it right, which would be immediately after the day of Pentecost.

Back then, it was almost perfect, and then it all changed, maybe immediately after the first generation of Christians was gone or, in many theories, after Constantine corrupted the church in 313, but the church lost its true vision and meaning at some point. But luckily for you and me, they, whoever they are, have rediscovered the truth, and their church is like the original perfect church.

And somehow, they completely disregard the past, and they are telling us that Aquinas didn’t have it right, Augustine didn’t have it right, Martin Luther didn’t have it right, and John Wesley didn’t have it right, Dwight Moody didn’t have it right, and Billy Graham didn’t have it right, that only they have it right.

But we are no more in isolation than Jesus was. We have a history just as he does, and we need to honour it just as he did. And I would advise you that when someone tells you that they have finally figured out what everyone else has missed, be very, very careful.

3) The Who of the Genealogy Earlier in the message, I mentioned that I like to shake the family tree to see what nuts might fall out, and the reality is that each of our family trees contains not only nuts but saps as well. It was Thomas Fuller who said , “He that has no fools, knaves, nor beggars in his family must have been begot by a flash of lightning.”

Because we believe that Jesus was divine and God incarnate, that is, 100% God and 100% man, and we teach and believe that he was perfect, sometimes the temptation is to think that his ancestors were wonderful, perfect people.

And that is not the reality at all. In the 42 generations mentioned by Matthew, there are good people, and there are bad people, and there are good people who went bad and bad people who became good. The miracle of Jesus is that God stepped into the stream of history, and a young girl became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God was Jesus’ father, but Mary was Jesus’ mother. Jesus was perfect, but Mary and Joseph weren’t. They might have been special, and they might have been chosen, and they might have been faithful, and they might have been wonderful, but there is nothing to tell us that they were perfect or that their family trees were spotless.

As a matter of fact, if you look closely amongst the branches of this particular family tree, you can find a hooker, a murderer, an adulterer, a liar and an Idol worshipper, and that is just looking at the surface.

It is all too common for people to blame their parents or grandparents for the bad choices they have made, “Well, what do you expect? Look at who my parents are or the lifestyle my grandparents chose.” We all have the good, the bad and the ugly in our family tree, and each of us has the opportunity and ability to rise above that or to allow ourselves to settle at the lowest common denominator and blame others.

4) The Grace of the Genealogy I think this is the wonderful thing about this particular portion of scripture because it is here that the word of God extends the grace of God to each one of us, regardless of our background, our previous behaviour or our gender. It is the reality of Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

If I showed you a picture of forty-two green trees, it would be very easy to miss the trees for the forest, so to speak. And on its own, this list of names can become overwhelming. We look at it, and our eyes glaze over, and we just view it as a crowd. But if we put some red into the picture, our eyes are drawn to that which is different.

And that is what Matthew does; into this crowd of names, he puts four names that just don’t belong. Do you remember the song from Sesame Street? One of these things is not like the other; one of these things just doesn’t belong. Oh, they are part of the family tree, but they are the part that, in this case, wouldn’t normally be mentioned, you know they are . . . women.

And if you look through the bible or Jewish literature, you will discover that women aren’t included in genealogies. The family bloodline is passed from Father to Son, and I know that in light of today’s society, that isn’t right, but don’t make the mistake of judging history in light of today.

Matthew 1:3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).

Matthew 1:5–6 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse.  Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).

Four individuals who were first women and then Gentiles. Of the three, the only one with spotless character was Ruth. And yet Rahab, who was a prostitute, was commended for her faith in Hebrews 11:31. Tamar, who, for a variety of reasons, tricked Judah, the father of her dead husband, into sleeping with her, was later referred to as righteous.

It was Bathsheba whom David committed adultery with, and yet God chose her to be the mother of Solomon. It was only Ruth who was above board in her behaviour. And yet they are singled out in this genealogy and become the red trees amongst the green, calling attention to their presence.

Why? Because God’s grace is exhibited in their lives, and while His grace was undoubtedly shown in the lives of others on the list, we would have missed it because they would have been hidden in the crowd.

Paul would later remind us in Ephesians 2:8–9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Or, as Mark Twain said, “Heaven goes by favour; if it went by merit, you would stay out, and your dog would go in.”

William Barclay wrote in the Daily Study Bible, “Here at the very beginning of the gospel, we are given a hint of the all-embracing width of the love of God. God can find his servants amongst those from whom the respectable orthodox would shudder away in horror.”

And it is in these four ladies that we see the reality of Galatians 3:28–29 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

And while our names are not mentioned in the list of Jesus’ ancestors, each one of us has the opportunity to be listed as his descendants. John 1:12, But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

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