“The total number of generations”

I didn’t know what to make of today’s reading from Matthew 1:1-17. It’s a recounting of the genealogy of Jesus. It seemed pretty simple at first glance: These are the forebears of Jesus the Christ through the generations:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

But upon meditating on it, I realized this reading suggests more. This spans 42 generations. There are plenty of predictions in the Torah of the coming of a Messiah and yet after 42 generations the Jewish people didn’t recognize the Messiah when he arrived. It’s been roughly 26 generations since Jesus appeared and most Jews still don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Ever since the emergence of Christianity, Christians have tried to convert the Jews. At times they have even tried to force the conversion of the Jews. But recently, Pope Francis said that it’s time to stop. And this made me wonder if that’s just Francis speaking or if he was inspired by God to say that. And further, it made me wonder if that’s not just a message to Christians (Catholics in particular), but also to Jews. Is their window of opportunity to recognize Jesus as the Messiah closing?

Or perhaps this is a message from God to Christians to stop picking on His chosen people. God gave the Jewish people an abundance of rules for living rightly and cleansing themselves of sin. Perhaps those who need to firm up their faith in Jesus aren’t the Jews but the “Christians” who spend way too much time focusing on what others believe and how they act than how they themselves act and what they themselves believe.

Or maybe it’s just a reminder of the long road to redemption. Moses led the Israelites through the desert for 40 years. There were 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus. Twenty-six or so more after Jesus till now. And humanity still has trouble with Jesus’ two most commandments: Love God with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself — especially that last part.  And if they aren’t getting the last part right, they likely aren’t getting the first part right.


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