So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. (Ruth 4:13)
The last chapter of Ruth brings the story to a happy conclusion. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi started out alone and wrestling with poverty. They have immigrated to a different country in hopes of finding a better life. They have scrapped along, doing what they could to keep food on their table and a roof over their head. And they have worked strategically to get close to Boaz, a relative of Naomi who has the means to provide for a secure future. In this chapter, the story resolves and the result is a marriage and a child to carry on the family.
This child is listed as an ancestor of King David and in Matthew’s gospel, Ruth is listed not only as David’s ancestor (his grandmother) but also as a part of the lineage of Jesus. Why would Matthew, who lists almost all men and only a few women in his list, decide that Ruth was worth mentioning? After all, she was a Moabite and not a Jew at all.
Perhaps that’s the point. Jesus’ lineage is not just Jewish and it is not some pure lineage. It is a mixed list of people from a wide variety of peoples and places. While his Jewishness is important, even more important is the universal connection that he has with all people. Christ came among the Jews, but his arrival was to be good news for all people – not just one group.
Today we live in a world where “us” and “them” can dominate. Turn on the TV or go to the internet and watch the situation in Ferguson, MO where protests have lasted for weeks now in response to the shooting of an unarmed teenager. While all the details will not be in for a while, it is clear that race plays a part in a number of ways. 2000 years after Jesus’ arrival, we still need to be reminded that God’s love includes love for an ever-widening circle of people. That Jesus has a Moabite ancestor sets the stage for a gospel that is to “make disciples of all nations.”
Take a few moments to reflect on your life, your background and your relationships. How are you continuing the ministry of Jesus by building bridges and being connected to people from a wide variety of backgrounds? And how can the church be a bridge that connects and heals the things that continue to trouble our world?