Jesus The Savior Breaks Down 4 Barriers To Save People
Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish convert to Christianity, said that Jesus’s genealogy, as given in Matthew 1:1-17, was one of the proofs that persuaded him that Jesus is the Messiah. Coming from his experience as a US Marine who had to be accurate when it came to shooting at targets from long-range, Rosenthal says for a Jewish audience, Matthew’s genealogy hits the bulls-eye 10 times out of 10!
Jews were always particular when it came to genealogies right from the time of the Old Testament—be it in the distribution of the land or assigning priests, or even when it came to kings. And since Matthew had made the monumental claim that Jesus is the Messiah and that he is “the son of David” and the “son of Abraham” [Matt 1:1], he needed to substantiate that claim as he called people to put their trust in Jesus. That’s why he gives Jesus’s genealogy all the way through David and up to Abraham. And being a tax collector in his previous life, Matthew would be well qualified to list genealogies since that would have been part of his job in ensuring the correct amounts were collected based on family members.
However, for the majority of us non-Jews, genealogies in the Bible are not that very interesting even though it’s still a part of God’s inspired word and therefore profitable for us [2 Tim 3:16-17]. In this post, I hope to show that even this passage full of names is profitable for us because it describes the 4 barriers Jesus breaks to save people from their sins. And that should motivate us to go to him in faith and joyfully share about him with others.
It will be helpful to first read the entire passage in Matthew 1:1-17 and then look at the 4 barriers Jesus overcomes to save people.
1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
1. Jesus the Savior breaks all RACIAL barriers.
The list contains not only Jewish names but also Gentile names. The first name, “Tamar” [Matt 1:3], who bore two sons “Perez” and “Zerah,” was non-Jewish, most likely a Canaanite woman. The second name “Rahab” [Matt 1:5], most likely the woman who gave refuge to the two Jewish spies [Josh 2:4], was also a Canaanite woman. The third name is “Ruth” [Matt 1:5], a woman from Moab. It is also likely that Bathsheba, who is just described as “Uriah’s wife” [Matt 1:6], was a Hittite or at least embraced Hittite customs since she married Uriah, who was a Hittite before becoming David’s wife.
As one can see, Jesus, by coming through a line that even included non-Jewish people, reminds us that racial barriers are broken in him. He is the Savior of people from all backgrounds. It doesn’t matter what one’s skin color is or where one was born. The Lord Jesus welcomes people of all backgrounds into his family. This also means followers of Jesus must not discriminate against people based on their backgrounds but welcome them all.
2. Jesus the Savior breaks all GENDER barriers.
A second barrier that Jesus breaks is the gender barrier. Listing women in genealogy is unusual. Yet, 5 women are listed in this passage—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary, among which 3 are of very questionable background [Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba]. In a time when women could not even testify in court, Jesus elevated them. It was to a Samaritan woman that Jesus first revealed he was the Messiah [John 4]—not to the elite in Jerusalem. It was to a woman—Mary Magdalene—not the 11 apostles—that Jesus first appeared after his death [John 20:16-18]!
In Jesus the Savior, all gender barriers are broken. Spiritually, we are all equal in Christ even though there are distinct roles functionally. Both men and women are welcome in his kingdom. Followers of Jesus must remember this when interacting with people.
3. Jesus the Savior breaks all SOCIAL barriers.
The list in Matthew includes kings, shepherds, carpenters, and other unknown names. In fact, 11 of Jesus’s 12 apostles were from Galilee—meaning they were not highly educated—fishermen, tax collectors, and rebels. Yet, all were used by him to shake the world. The first-century church mainly was believers from a low social status—slaves [1 Cor 1:26-31]. God not only had saved them but also used them mightily in the expansion of the gospel. This clearly teaches us Jesus the Savior is not just for the elite of the society; he is for all people. In Jesus, all social and economic barriers are broken. It’s also a reminder for followers of Jesus: We must never discriminate against anyone based on social and economic status but treat everyone equally.
4. Jesus the Savior breaks all SIN barriers.
Of all the barriers that Jesus breaks, this is the biggest! Sin is the cause of all our misery in this world, including death! And yet, through this genealogy of Jesus, Matthew shows us that Jesus even breaks the sin barrier. How so? Let’s briefly look at some of the names in Jesus’s family tree—especially their negative traits.
Abraham—guilty of lying on more than one occasion [Gen 12:10-20; Gen 20:1-18].
Isaac—guilty of lying and choosing Esau over Jacob to give the firstborn blessing despite God choosing Jacob because of his love for food [Gen 26:1-11; Gen 25:21-23; Gen 27:1-4].
Jacob—guilty of being a deceiver and a liar [Gen 27:1-29].
Judah—guilty of coming up with the plan to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites and also marrying a Canaanite woman, and later having sexual relations with who he thought was a prostitute [Gen 37:26-27; Gen 38:1-2; Gen 38:11-19].
Tamar—the daughter-in-law of Judah—guilty of pretending to be a prostitute and sleeping with him [Gen 38:11-19].
Rahab—guilty of prostitution [Josh 2:1].
David—the greatest king of Israel—yet guilty of adultery and murder [2 Sam 11:1-27].
Solomon—guilty of polygamy, idolatry, and worldly pleasure [1 Kgs 11:1-8].
Rehoboam—guilty of pride and wickedness [1 Kgs 12:1-15].
Ahaz—guilty of gross idolatry, including offering human sacrifice [2 Kgs 16:1-4].
The list goes on. But guess who gets the ultimate prize for wickedness in this list? It’s Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah. 2 Kings 21:11 says this of him: “He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols.” 2 Chronicles 33 gives more details of his wickedness which included even evils such as this: “He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger” [2 Chr 33:6].
Shocking, isn’t it? The list includes wicked sinners and even godly men like Abraham, who offered his son Isaac a sacrifice [Gen 22] when God commanded him to do so. However, this list also shows even the best of humans, like Abraham or David, were still human at best! What a collection of sinners—both ordinary and extraordinary in terms of their sin. Liars, schemers, prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, idolaters, and so on. The combination of people put together could play a significant role in Clint Eastwood’s old and famous movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Indeed, included in the list are some names that could top the “Hall of Shame” list and some that could top the “Hall of Faith list.
Yet, all found grace upon repenting. A good example is Manasseh. Despite all his wickedness, this is what we read in 2 Chronicles 33:12-13: “12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.”
By listing these names, Matthew shows us that God, in his infinite grace, sent Jesus as the Savior to break forth all barriers, including the biggest one—SIN when it comes to saving people who come to him in humility.
The story is told of an old American Indian led to Christ by a missionary after many years in sin. Friends asked him to explain the change in his life. Reaching down, he picked up a little worm and placed it on a pile of leaves. Then, he touched a match to the leaves.
As the flames worked their way up to the center where the worm lay, the old chief suddenly plunged his hand into the center of the burning pile and snatched out the worm. Holding the worm gently in his hand, he gave this testimony to the grace of God: “Me. . . that worm.”
So, I hope by now you can see that even a list of names present in the Bible is profitable for us. This passage clearly reveals Jesus indeed breaks all barriers to save people. No matter the race, gender, social status, or how much one has sinned, Jesus can overcome all those barriers by forgiving people of their sins and giving them new life.
Jesus is indeed THE friend of sinners and outcasts. He is never ashamed to be associated with them. He came to seek and save messed-up people. No sin is so bad that it can stop Jesus from accepting those who acknowledge their guilt and come to him in true repentance and faith. He welcomes all who will receive him as their King. That should motivate one to come to Jesus without any hesitation.
This includes you—dear reader—if you have not yet come to him! Don’t fear. Don’t doubt him. Come to him and experience the new life he can offer you. Give your sins, sorrows, failures, and heartaches to him. He will heal you. He will help you through the rest of your earthly journey—even through all its challenges. It’s never too soon to come to him. For you never know when the time will come when it will be too late to turn to Jesus! Life is very transient. Death can come at any time. So, please don’t delay. Come to him today!
For those of us who have experienced forgiveness for sins, these truths should compel us to persevere in our obedience to his commands. And that obedience includes faithfully sharing the good news about Jesus with those who need to hear it! It’s only fitting that we owe all our allegiance to him, who has saved us from an eternity of pain and suffering.
One pastor tells the story of an attempted assassination of the first Queen Elizabeth of England. The woman who sought to do so dressed as a male page and secreted herself in the queen’s boudoir, awaiting the convenient moment to stab the queen to death. She did not realize that the queen’s attendants would be very careful to search the rooms before Her Majesty was permitted to retire. They found the woman hidden there among the gowns. So, after taking the knife she hoped to use to kill the queen, she was brought into the presence of the queen.
The would-be assassin realized that her case, humanly speaking, was hopeless. She threw herself down on her knees and pleaded and begged the queen as a woman to have compassion on her, a woman, and to show her grace. Queen Elizabeth looked at her coldly and quietly said, “If I show you grace, what promise will you make for the future.” The woman looked up and said, “Grace that hath conditions, grace that is fettered by precautions, is not grace at all.” Queen Elizabeth caught the idea in a moment and said, “You are right; I pardon you of my grace.” And they led her away, a free woman.
History tells us that Queen Elizabeth had no more faithful and devoted servant from that moment than that woman who had intended to take her life.
That is precisely how God’s grace works in an individual’s life—he or she becomes a faithful servant of God. May we strive to be faithful servants of King Jesus, who has given us new life by his marvelous grace!