Christ’s ministry was characterized by reaching and ministering to “the least of these”—those who were overlooked, ignored, or deemed unimportant by the world, but who were valuable to God. Matthew highlights and emphasizes this throughout his Gospel.
He begins by listing Christ’s genealogy through His earthly father Joseph. Notice, however, two unusual things for biblical genealogies. First, four women were mentioned: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Second, these women were unlikely ancestors for the Messiah.
Tamar was a Canaanite Gentile impregnated by her Jewish father-in-law. Rahab was a Gentile refugee who had been a harlot. Ruth was a Gentile refugee from Moab, a country infamous for its scandalous beginnings. Finally, Bathsheba, though possibly Jewish, was originally married to a Gentile and was involved in one of the greatest scandals in Scripture.
The point is that these women were the least likely to be in the genealogy and bloodlines of the Messiah (these were Mary’s ancestor’s too), yet God not only used them, He inspired Matthew to single them out.
Matthew goes on to highlight the ministry of Jesus. Notice Jesus’ strategy. When He visited a town, He typically started with the poor, the outcasts, the sick, the lame, the homeless, the lepers, the demon possessed, those with questionable pasts, immigrants, etc. In other words, Jesus started with the least likely people imaginable.
This emphasis can also be seen in Jesus’ parables. In one of them, Jesus stated, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40). The point being we should be willing to help anyone in need whom God is calling us to reach, regardless of their status or importance in the eyes of the world.
Throughout Matthew and the other Gospels, Christ has a huge heart for “the least of these,” including the forgotten, overlooked, counted out, or least likely people the world would consider. They are in His genealogy. They are in His DNA. They are found throughout His teaching. They were a ministry priority.
Shouldn’t the truth throughout Matthew’s Gospel, influence how we approach Christ’s Great Commission “Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19)?
In your personal witness and ministry, as well as that of your church, is reaching “the least of these” a priority? Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, only connecting with those who look like us and act like us. Other times, we focus on reaching “the least of these” in foreign missions, but overlook those right in our own cities.
While we should be burdened to reach anyone and everyone with the gospel, let’s not overlook the ones Jesus went to first. Who are “the least of these” in your community—those whom the world and possibly the church are overlooking? What can you do to reach them?
(Note: This article originally appeared in EvanTell's 2017 Spring issue of Toolbox. Download a free copy!)