The genealogy of Jesus includes a woman named Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute. Such an inclusion is not only shocking, but it also is scandalous. Why was she included and what does it mean for us today?
Rahab is part of the famous story of Jericho. She lived in a house that was part of the outer wall of Jericho, which was the most accessible but the least protected. She was a prostitute, and her home would have lived in the “red-light district.” She was part of the dispensable part of society. The Isrealites sneaked in through her house, but some one sees them. The king of the city confronts Rahab about the Israelite spies. She lies to those investigators to protect the spies.
In the Ancient Near East, it was assumed that any god was a terrorizing god, and Rahab thought that the Israelite God was causing great destruction and fear. She was asking for mercy from the spies so that she would not be a victim of that violence.
What does Rahab’s story tell us about the meaning of Christmas? First, it’s shocking that Matthew includes women in Jesus’ genealogy. Even more shocking is the fact that two Canaanite women would be included, Tamar and Rahab. The most shocking of all is that he includes a prostitute. Those who were a part of this trade lived at the bottom of the social strata. It was never a profession a woman would chose if she had any other options. Rahab was an ultimate outsider, yet her presence in Jesus’ genealogy tells us that Jesus was not ashamed to call Rahab a friend and part of his family.
This is a prophetic forecast for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was thought to be a sinner because he scandalously ate with prostitutes and hung out with sinners. He was turning things upside down as he taught that such people were closer to God’s kingdom than the religious leaders of his day. Matthew 21:31 reads: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” This confronts the judgmental attitude that shapes so much of the church today. Christmas brings an end to judgment and opens the path to agape love.
Secondly, Rahab was likely a prostitute because she had been disowned by her family due to some kind of scandal. With this in mind, she asks that her family, including those who had disowned her be shown mercy. She was asking for mercy for her father who had condemned her to a living hell of having to have sex with multiple strange men every night. She gives love to those who have not loved her. She embodies the forgiveness of the Kingdom Jesus came to bring. Rahab is a foreshadowing of the forgiveness and reconciliation that Jesus came to bring.
With Christmas, God comes and brings the unexpected. He includes all, and we must therefore release the common pattern of judgment. Jesus forgives us all of everything and opens up a path for restoration and flourishing, just as he did with Rahab.
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