Books, prostitutes and Jesus

Published 8:49 am Saturday, May 10, 2014

by Brandon Robbins

I’m an avid book reader. My wife will tell you we have far more books in our house than we know what to do with. You might call it an obsession; but since Thomas Jefferson was the exact same way, I guess I can get away with calling it a distinguishing attribute (there’s probably little chance of my wife agreeing with that, though).

For the longest time however, reading was definitely not among my top passions in life. In fact, I probably read more books in a year now than I did in the first 18 years of my life. Back then, reading was a chore. It was something I had to do for school. And because of that, I would do whatever I could to read as little as possible and still pass the class.

One strategy that I thought was helpful in this approach was to skip the introduction of a book or chapter. I figured this would allow me to save time and move straight on to the important reading. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I finally did go back and start reading introductions, I quickly realized that not only did they often summarize everything in the chapter, they also explained it. Introductions gave those important details that allowed everything that followed to make complete sense.

Interestingly enough, the same thing also appears to be true in the Bible. In Matthew, chapter 1, the author of the gospel presents a lengthy lineage of Jesus’ ancestors. He traces Jesus’ line all the way back to Abraham, connecting him with kings and other important men of the Bible.  In essence, it’s Matthew’s introduction to Jesus, his way of asserting who Jesus is, and why he is important.

Strangely enough though, most people who read the Bible skip right over this introduction. All they see is a long line of “so-and-so was the son of son-and-so who was the son of so-and-so,” and they miss the important details tucked into this exhausting list.

For instance, one of the critical elements that one discovers reading Jesus’ lineage is the mention of women. In Jesus’ day, ancestral lines would have been patrilineal, meaning that they would have only mentioned the men in the family. This was because all rights and privileges were passed down through a person’s father. But in Jesus’ line, four different women are mentioned. And they are an intentional, essential key to understanding who Jesus is and why God sent him.

For instance, Rahab was a prostitute. Bathsheba (who is apparently so disliked by the author that she is only referred to as “Uriah’s Wife”), cheated on her husband with King David, inevitably leading to her husband’s death on the battlefield. And Mary was an unwed teenage girl one word away from a public stoning.

However, God used each one of these women to change the course of history in the life of God’s people. Rahab helped the Israelite people to conquer the city of Jericho. Bathsheba became the mother of Solomon, one of the great kings in all of Israelite history who is responsible for building the Temple. And Mary became the mother of Jesus.

What this lineage shows us is that God is not an ordinary God, Jesus is not an ordinary man, and the story about to unfold in the gospel of Matthew is not an ordinary story. Jesus’ ancestry shows us that with Jesus, boundaries are removed and barriers knocked down.  With Jesus, we realize that the world is now a place no longer dominated by the rich, the powerful, the upright, and the male. Everyone has a chance to be a part of God’s story — especially women.

I know that this sounds somewhat condescending and misogynistic now. But in Jesus’ day, this was revolutionary!

This sort of thinking turned the world upside down! In a world dominated by men, Jesus’ story shows that women are not only a part of God’s story, they’re essential to it. Jesus, the world, would not be the same if it were not for women.

Perhaps this is a lesson that we too should learn in our own lives: that we would not be the same were it not for the women in our lives. I know that in my own life, it’s far too easy to take for granted all that my mom has done and continues to do. From the lessons she taught, to the long hours she worked, to the unexplainable amounts of laundry she would gladly do for me when I came home from college for the weekend, my mom’s every act was a testament to her love for me and her desire to embrace this precious task God had given her to raise me.

The same is true for my grandmother, who was always more than happy to let me spend the day with her when I was sick (though I’m not sure she realized how less-than-happy I was to watch all of those soap operas).

It’s true for my aunts, who nurtured and protected me as if I were their own child. It’s true for my teachers, whose passion and commitment formed and shaped me to become the pastor and man I am today.

My whole life has been shaped by women. Just like Jesus’ life. Just like yours, I suppose. Which is why it’s so important for us to recognize and appreciate them for all that they’ve done.

That’s why this Sunday at Courtland United Methodist Church, we are celebrating all women who attend our service for Mother’s Day. We don’t believe that you have to have a child in order to be a mother. There are many women who have no children of their own but have influenced countless lives. And we want to honor God’s work in that.

So on Sunday, we’re going to have a special gift for every woman who attends our service. Additionally, our children are going to create a video honoring the women in our church. And our message is going to celebrate the amazing work God has done through women in the Bible.

Jesus himself was formed and shaped by the women in his life. And through that, he teaches us the importance of honoring, celebrating, and appreciating the women in our own lives; of giving credit where credit is often overdue; and of returning the love that has molded and shaped us into the people we are today.

So this week, may you take time to recognize the women in your life and find a way to thank them for the influence that they have had on you.

May you do this not only for your mother, but for all women that God has placed along your path. And may you honor their love and sacrifice by committing to a life that shares such unconditional love with others.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Brandon Robbins is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or