Found amongst the names in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17) there are five women that are listed. All five of them are mothers. The first is a woman named Tamar, followed a few generations down with Rahab, followed by Ruth, next is Bathsheba the wife of Urriah, and of course the Mother of Jesus, Mary. Each woman carries a unique narrative found in Scripture. I would encourage everyone, especially on this Mother’s Day, to take a few minutes and read about each of these women to understand just how important they were to the unfolding Gospel message of God’s grace.
But for now, stop and consider their being listed in Christ’s genealogy at all. Do you understand how radical this was to the original readers of Matthew’s Gospel? Listing women in a genealogy was unheard of in the Greco-Roman culture of the first century. Women were not to be treated with such respect and honor. Their names should have been left off entirely. After all, in a patriarchal society like theirs, women were seen to be so untrustworthy that they would not have even be allowed to testify in a court of law! Therefore, to list women on a public document like a genealogy would have been a disgrace. But not for Jesus!
This simple mention is an undeniable demonstration of the accord that women were (and are!) given by Christ. This shouldn’t be a complete surprise since women were also the first witnesses at Jesus’ birth and resurrection.
The genealogical record becomes even more radical in nature when considering who these women were. Two of these mothers, Ruth and Rahab, were from pagan religions and seen as religious outsiders in their culture. Tamar was an incest survivor, Rahab a prostitute, and Bathsheba committed adultery with David—all moral outsiders. Even Jesus’ own mother Mary was ostracized as a pregnant unwed mother. She was a social outsider and a scandal to her friends and family.
But all five received grace and all are remembered (and celebrated) to this day! On this Mother’s Day, let us be reminded that it is God’s amazing grace that changed these ancient women and let us also be reminded that this same grace is as much available to us today as it was to them way back when! Happy Mother’s Day!
Dr. Dave Lescalleet serves as the Director Chaplaincy for PruittHealth.