The Christian Century magazine had a reflection on our Epiphany Scripture reading about the Magi; it captured my imagination and was written by Mihee Kim-Kort, a Korean Presbyterian minister in the US. She wrote about the genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel, the bit that comes before the visit of the Magi, the Epiphany, and she reflected on her own Korean heritage.
Mihee’s grandfather and grandmother visited the US for the first time when she was a teenager. Her grandfather presented her with a genealogy of her father’s family. The genealogy went through 74 generations all the way back to the year 42 of the Common Era—rather remarkable. Jesus’ genealogy, according to Matthew—Luke’s is different—goes back a mere 28 generations to Abraham: Abraham to King David is 14 generations and from the break in the monarchy during the Babylonian exile to Jesus is another 14 generations. Fourteen was a special mythological number.
I’ve spent little time looking at my genealogy, and I don’t know a lot about the various branches of my family. Maybe when I retire, I’ll delve into genealogy; who knows? In retirement, you have to have a hobby, correct?
There are interesting things about Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Mihee suggests that the genealogy points to “places, events, images, and teachings—even prophecies, hopes and dreams” that make up Jesus’ background. One interesting thing is that Matthew links Jesus to some who struggled, were marginalized, had been abused, all of whom lived real lives of joy and woe; Rahab, for example, was a sex-worker who helped the Israelite people capture Jericho. There’s Tamar, who had been treated abysmally by Judah’s sons, but who bore a child and, through her own initiative, was protected by Judah. There’s Ruth, who was not Jewish at all. Matthew’s genealogy placed Jesus in a particular time and place with particular ancestors who had a story to tell. Mihee reminds us of that when she reflects on the line from Matthew’s Gospel, “In the time of King Herod.”
King Herod, known as Herod the Great or Herod the First, ruled as a Roman client king of Judea when the Magi—incidentally, who were likely Persians (Iranians), full of wisdom, knowledge and learning—visited Bethlehem. This Herod was the great builder; he modified the Temple in Jerusalem, built Masada, the stronghold mountain fort near the Dead Sea, Herodium, Herod’s palace near Bethlehem, and the port city of Caesarea. But he was ruthless, callous and jealous of any claim to his throne.
Mihee, in her article, suggests that Herod is a kind of anti-hero. “Herod was frightened and all Jerusalem with him” because these wise teachers who came from the East, from Persia, recognized that a Kairos moment had occurred, that the “time has been fulfilled.” Herod was a violent anti-hero who murdered innocent children because he was afraid of Jesus and didn’t know that the time had been fulfilled. He wanted to annihilate any glimpse of God’s light of love, compassion or justice because it threatened his rule.
Mihee writes again, “God’s kingdom represented in this newborn, who embodies a steadfast resistance to such systems of violence. During this particular time and space, in “Bethlehem of Judea,” we see how God’s promise has been written right into the story from the beginning, from generations that preceded this moment. Even “in the time of King Herod,” when it seems impossible and precarious—with all of creation yearning, groaning under many years of oppression from an unyielding empire—the entrance of Jesus into the world activates reverberations felt by people thousands of miles away who are simply attending to the choreography of stars and planets.” The Magi knew a special moment had occurred—a Kairos moment—that would overturn everything and would reverberate around the world.
I think we share a Kairos moment now, today. We do share a common genealogy and I’m not talking about the Garden of Eden; I’m talking about a common heritage as followers of Jesus who are part of a common creation that has reverberated through history. We share in a Kairos moment because Jesus disrupts the time-space continuum to give us a glimpse into God’s Kin-Dom, very different than the kingdoms of this world; a Kin-Dom is all about light, hope and a new creation. We are at that moment of new creation.
At the end of his Gospel, Matthew gives us the parable of the sheep and the goats and the invitation to recognize Christ in the midst of suffering and challenge; at the beginning of his Gospel, which we just heard, Matthew recognizes that Jesus began in a particular place of suffering and challenge and inaugurated a new Kin-Dom of Light. Jesus began life as a refugee family who fled to Egypt and who embodied a new vision of life where all are valued and no one is marginalized; no one holds power over another and all life is cherished. Matthew inspires us to follow this vision of hope, love, justice and compassion.
Ultimately, really, what matters to Matthew and to Jesus in terms of genealogy is not where we come from, but how we are connected to each other and to God’s creation. As Mihee ends her reflection on the Epiphany, she said, “What engrafts us—what writes us into and onto one another—is that longing that carries us through every generation.” In my estimation, that longing is the longing for God’s Kin-Dom, where the light of love prevails over the darkness of exclusion, where hope prevails over the war- and fear-mongers among us, where violence is overturned in the name of peace, where a new beginning protects the most vulnerable and marginalized, where healing overcomes suffering, and where all life can flourish in a world that sees the underlying divine spark of life in all. Jesus, and all that he is, upsets all the ages of all the Herods. Jesus speaks to us today to remind us of God’s Kin-Dom of light!
And we bring that Kin-Dom energy to our work to save the animals in Australia and our work to mitigate climate change, to work to not go to war with Iran, and to stand in solidarity with the families who’ve lost loved ones in the downing of the plane in Tehran. The Kin-Dom of Jesus connects us all together as one living family.
 See the online article at The Christian Century: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/living-word/january-6-epiphany-lord-matthew-21-12.