Back to Matthew’s list of begats for a day:
There are four women in Matthew’s genealogy in addition to Mary, and in a culture and time that traced lineage through men, you might wonder why they are there, especially when you realize who they are:
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. She disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with him, becoming pregnant with twins. One of them, Perez, is part of the genealogy as well – he was in the line of Christ.
Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute in Jericho who helped the Israelite spies evade capture. After the walls fell down, she married into the nation of Israel and became the mother of Boaz, who married the next woman in Matthew’s genealogy.
Ruth was a Moabite woman who married into a Jewish family and then stayed when her husband died. She eventually met and married Boaz and became David’s great-grandmother.
Bathsheba became the object of David’s desire; out of their union came their son Solomon. David’s actions in this whole affair were tragically sinful.
Mary was a virgin teenager who became pregnant before she was married. That was scandalous, and must have set tongues to wagging. The Messiah being born out of wedlock?
Your first thought when hearing all this might be: wait, what? Why are these sinners, outsiders and unlikely women in the line of Christ? This genealogy establishes Jesus’ legal identity and his credentials as the heir of David. Are we sure we want people like this in the official record?
And then you realize the truth: we are all sinners, and the presence of sinners and outsiders in the official genealogy of Christ gives us hope that we too can be saved. Jesus’ ancestors weren’t all perfect heroes. They were messy, flawed, sinful humans just like us.
God valued these women when the rest of the world would have looked the other way, both because of their gender and their actions. But God is not like us. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, he specializes in the unlikely. He does what no one expects, and in the process turns the worst scandals of someone’s life into moments of grace and glory.