Matthew shows Jesus as the descendant of Gentile grandmothers. “And Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram . . . and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king” (Matt. 1:3, 5-6). In v. 3, there is Tamar, the mother of Perez and Zerah. In v. 5, there is Rahab, the mother of Boaz. In v. 6, there is Ruth, the mother of Obed. Again in v. 6, there is Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon.
These four women have two things in common. One, they were all Gentiles or non-Jews. Two, they were undeserving of God’s grace.
Why did Matthew include these four women in Jesus’ genealogy? I think that Matthew wants to show that Jesus’ family is a family of Gentiles, or a mixed race, and by implication, a family of grace.
Let’s begin with Tamar. In Gen. 38, Tamar was a widow, the wife of Er, the son of Judah. Judah promised his other son, Shelah, to marry Tamar. But Judah sinned by withholding Shelah from Tamar. One day, Judah’s wife died. Tamar dressed herself like a prostitute and waited for Judah. Thinking that Tamar was a prostitute, Judah lay with her. She conceived and bore two twins—Perez and Zerah. Ugly story. But by bearing children, Tamar became a vital link in salvation history.
Then there is Rahab, the prostitute. In Josh. 2, two Israelite spies stayed in the house of Rahab. The king of Jericho sent soldiers to arrest the two spies. But Rahab answered them, “The two men had already escaped.”
Afterwards, Rahab told the two spies that she believed in the LORD God of Israel, that God has given Israel the land. A few days later, the walls of Jericho fell. The army of Israel came inside and saved Rahab and her family from death. Rahab received the grace of God.
There is Ruth. She was a young Moabite widow. She loved Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law, also a widow. One day, Naomi told her to go home to her family and land. But Ruth loved Naomi. She believed in Naomi’s God, the LORD God of Israel. She said the famous words of married women in Ruth 1:16-17, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (ESV) Ruth received the grace of God.
Lastly, there is the world famous, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.You know the story. She was married; but she consented to lie down with King David. She committed adultery with David. Another ugly story. But the Bible does not hide the facts or embellishes the stories. The Bible says it as it is. Yet Bathsheba received the grace of God.
A little boy came home from Sunday School. His mother asked, “Who was your teacher?”
The boy replied, “I don’t know her name but she must have been Jesus’ grandmother. All she did was talk about him.”
Despite being Gentiles with an ugly past, God made them grandmothers of Christ. Despite their sins, God forgave them.
You and I are Gentiles.If God accepted these Gentile women, God can also accept you today by grace through faith in Christ. God forgave these four Gentile women, despite their pasts. God can also forgive you today, despite your past.God used these four women—the most unlikely people, to become the grandmothers of Jesus. God can use you today to do wonderful things for Christ. The inclusion of these Gentiles in the genealogy of Jesus shows that God wants Gentiles to come to Christ. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, Gentiles, so that they can join the family of Jesus Christ.