Efrem was back in our pulpit this weekend with a powerful message of hope and vision for our body! Sometimes we need to look backward for a bit to be able to see where we are going, so Efrem used Christ’s geneology in Matthew 1 as his text. Knowing where we came from can help us understand the destiny God has for us.
Pastor Efrem Smith was back in our pulpit this weekend with a powerful message of hope and vision for our body! His message, “A Deeper Passion for Jesus,” is rooted in knowing who we are in Christ, part of which is knowing something about who Christ is and where he came from. Efrem pointed out that the text, Matt. 1:1-3, is not one we naturally gravitate toward. We generally remember the dramatic passages of exile, escape, healings, murders, miracles and so forth that really grab us. Instead, this text is a genealogy – a record of Jesus’ human lineage. As Efrem put it, we sometimes need to look backward for a bit to be able to see where we are going. Knowing where we came from can help us understand the destiny God has for us. Efrem gave a personal example of this from his own life. He learned that his own great, great, grandfather was actually full-blooded Irish! This man married a woman named Esther who was of both Cherokee and African descent. As it turns out, there is more to Efrem than meets the eye. He is more than he thought he was. Not only is he African American, but he is also Cherokee and Irish! This is a powerful realization when God has called you to be a reconciler and you find that many histories meet in your own history. Efrem wanted us to realize that there is more to who we are than we realize.
Returning to Matt. 1:1-3, Efrem describes the earthly lineage of Jesus and what that says about who he is. The list begins with Abraham, who was from the land of Ur, which was located in what we now call Iraq! The roots of Jesus’ earthly line take him back to that part of the world we find ourselves at war with today. Efrem pointed out that this awareness builds a natural bridge, a common sense of identity, even between people groups that are at war with one another. A common biblical theme is that God’s reconciling work is able to overcome the gap between enemies. God saved us while we were yet enemies of God, Christ identified with us while we were yet sinners, we are commanded to love our enemies, and so forth. It shouldn’t surprise us that our own histories inevitably reveal that we have more in common with our enemies than we often realize.
Tamar also shows up quickly in this genealogy, which is unusual because it is not often that women are given a place of honor in a list of descendents. This woman in particular would be a great surprise to those who are looking for an “honorable” history. Tamar was from a family that was cursed by Noah under unscrupulous circumstances. She was considered an outcast in many ways, from a family separated by this curse from the rest of the descendants of Noah. The bloodline of Jesus contains this cursed family! That is an amazing thing to consider. Even the cursed find a place in the lineage of our Lord and Savior.
Paying attention to the blood that flows in our veins and where that blood came from came help us gain perspective on who we are and where we are going. But the meaning associated with blood is not restricted to simply our physical lineage. Efrem is sure that “there is somethin’ about the blood” that does things, means things that go beyond our ability to comprehend. He referred to this in many ways: blood was used to ward off death, blood was used to atone for sin, and blood symbolizes life and cleansing. There’s something about blood that gets at a core human reality that we cannot express without the image of blood. Blood reminds us of both death and birth; blood is deeply connected to physical life and serves well as a metaphor for spiritual realities as well.
Efrem spoke about two lineages that Jesus has. There is the earthly (physical blood) lineage, as we see in Matt. 1:1-3, and there is the heavenly lineage which we see in John 1. In this heavenly lineage, we see that Jesus also preexisted as the God of heaven and earth! And by becoming one with Christ, becoming heirs with Christ, we also are invited into that lineage of unity with God. This is reflected in John 15 where the image of the vine and the branches helps us envision that connection with God without confusing ourselves with God! By being grafted into the family of God in the way described here, we see that much is promised as a result! Having been grafted in through Christ’s sacrifice, we ARE cleansed by God! We are made members of this new vine and we have the stuff of life that flows through Christ flowing in us! Therefore, we will bear fruit. This new blood, or the life of the vine in this metaphor, empowers us to live a whole new life! Our heavenly lineage is manifest in this! As we abide in Christ, he, and his life and love will abide in us, and love bears fruit.
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