We need to start back a few generations. Luke tells us that Mary and Elizabeth were close relatives, 1:36. If one is from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David, and the other a “daughter of Aaron” from the tribe of Levi, how could they be “close?”
Under the Jewish system, unless there were no sons to inherit property, daughters were allowed to marry outside their tribe and were absorbed into their husbands’ tribes. Luke’s genealogy shows that Mary was a direct descendant of David. Yet he also says she was a “near kinswoman” of Elizabeth, a “daughter of Aaron.” For Elizabeth to be past child-bearing age, she must have been at least two generations older than Mary, the same generation as Mary’s grandmother. Thus it is likely that a sister from the previous generation married into the tribe of Levi, the family of Aaron. The mother of those two earlier sisters must have been a righteous woman to raise two daughters who then raised yet more generations of righteous Jews, one of whom bore John the forerunner of the Messiah, and another the grandmother of the Messiah himself.
This brings us to the woman in question—Jesus’ grandmother. We know she had at least two daughters, Mary being the more famous. Now get a sheet of paper, if your mind needs to see this in black and white like mine usually does. Read Matt 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25. List the women who stood at the cross and start matching them up. Matthew says they were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Mark says they were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. John says that besides Jesus’ mother Mary, they were Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleopas (or Clopas or Cleophas), and Jesus’ mother’s sister.
Look how much you learn from such a simple exercise. Besides finding yet another Mary, we find out that James the Less had a brother named Joses. We find out that his father Alphaeus (Matt 10:3) was also called Cleopas. He was probably the Cleopas on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:18.
More to the point, we find out that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also the sons of Salome, and that she was Mary’s sister. If John were the “baby cousin,” no wonder he was especially dear to Jesus. This might also mollify any bad feelings some have toward Salome. She really wasn’t all that presumptuous. She was His aunt after all, and her sons were Jesus’ only blood relatives among the apostles. Why not think they should be His first and second lieutenants?
So following those righteous women down the line we have one branch of the distant family bringing about the Forerunner of the Messiah, the Elijah of the New Testament, a martyr for the Lord’s cause. In the other branch we have two twigs, one bringing forth the Messiah, the writers of two epistles (James and Jude, two of Jesus’ brothers) and an elder in the Jerusalem church (the same James); and the other bearing two of the apostles, one of whom would be the first apostle martyred (James in Acts 12) and the other who would write one gospel, three epistles, and the final Revelation—the apostle John.
I have often thought of Mary and her dilemma when she discovered that she would be a pregnant virgin. At that point she was a young teenager, poor and unmarried. Imagine having to tell her parents. Would you believe your daughter? Of course, in this age things like that no longer happen, but when was the last miracle these people had seen? How long had they been living with the promise of a Messiah who had yet to come? They knew how they had raised their daughter. They knew she was telling the truth. Or maybe God “helped” them know as He helped Joseph, and their faith kept them strong through what must have been a difficult and awkward time with the rest of the community.
I wonder if God could find such a family today, especially one whose righteousness He could count on to continue through several generations. What about the family I raised? What about yours? What will happen two or three generations from now? Did we give our children enough ammunition to fight Satan that long?
One of the reasons God said he could trust Abraham, one of the reasons he was chosen was I have known him to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah to do righteousness and justice to the end that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken to him, Gen. 18:19.
Jesus grandparents and great-grandparents, poor, uneducated by our standards, and living in a vassal nation, still accomplished what even the wealthiest and most powerful could not. They probably never knew the end result during their lifetimes. We may never know what our efforts have accomplished either, but it may be something wonderful. Don’t ever think that teaching your children won’t matter to the rest of the world. Your influence, for good or bad, could go on for generations.
Therefore we said, Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord,” Josh 22:26,27.
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