Saints and Scoundrels
About the Guest
- Saints and Scoundrels by Nancy Guthrie resources: https://www.nancyguthrie.com/saints-scoundrels
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Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her home church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as at conferences around the country and internationally, including through her Biblical Theology Workshops for Women. She is the author of numerous books and the host of the ...more
Every extended family has in it people who are far from God. But it’s never too late, says Nancy Guthrie, for God to reach the most self-righteous or the most cynical and hard-hearted.
Saints and Scoundrels
Bob: Jesus' brother, James, grew up with Him/lived with Himhis whole life and still did not believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be until Jesus rose from the grave. Nancy Guthrie says James' persistent unbelief, and his ultimate surrender to Jesus as his Lord, gives us hope for what Jesus might do in the life of any of our family members.
Nancy: He can reveal Himself to the most hardened, cynical family member you have in a way that would overcome doubts and overcome their passionate disregard for Jesus, so that they then would become a passionate servant of Jesus. That's what happened in Jesus' family, and I think that gives us hope for our own families.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 9th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Nancy Guthrie says the Bible is full of stories of both saints and scoundrels. In fact, all of us were scoundrels before we came to faith, and that should give us hope that God
can still work in the lives of any of our family members. We'll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Here's a little pro-tip for those of you who are regular listeners: “If you ever notice, online, that there's a new book coming out from Nancy Guthrie, you can say, ‘Oh, I wonder when she'll be on FamilyLife Today,’”—
Ann: —because we love her.
Bob: —because anytime there's a new book coming out, the door is open. Nancy, welcome.
Dave: She writes a lot of books; she's going to be on FamilyLife a lot. [Laughter]
Nancy: Some people might say that I started talking and won't shut up. [Laughter] You guys put it very nicely, and I really appreciate it. [Laughter]
Bob: Nancy is an author and a speaker—and is doing a lot online these days—Bible studies that you can engage with online.
We first chatted with you and your husband more than two decades ago; wasn't it?—
Bob: —over the loss of your daughter, Hope, and your son, Gabriel. We're just grateful you keep coming back.
Nancy: Thank you for letting me come back. I'm excited to talk to you guys today.
Bob: When I saw that you'd written this book about saints and scoundrels in the Bible, and I dug into it, I thought, “Jesus' family tree—He comes from a dysfunctional family.”
I thought, “We need to get you here and talk about how interesting it is that the Son of God would enter humanity in the midst of a family, like all of our families, has all kinds of
Nancy: Isn't that true? You know, you and I didn't get to choose what family we were born into. But from the very beginning of this family, you want to say to God, “You could've done better than this.” [Laughter] I mean, as you go all the way back to Abraham, Isaac—then you get to those 12 sons of Jacob.
Ann: Oh! There's so much dysfunction.
Nancy: Oh my goodness. And we know, right then, that this is the family He's chosen He's going to be born into. And then, when we turn the page to the New Testament, Matthew begins his Gospel by giving us a genealogy of Jesus. He wants to show Jesus is this son of Abraham, through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Jesus is this son of David, who is the Son who's going to sit on his throne forever.
But I think he's doing a little bit more than that with this genealogy, by who he includes and even who he doesn't include. You go through the genealogy; and it's quite surprising that, in a Jewish genealogy, they would mention women at all.
Nancy: The first woman mentioned is Tamar, who was Judah's daughter-in-law, that he slept with, and impregnated her.
Ann: That's not weird at all. [Laughter]
Nancy: Ooh; you've got Rahab, who is running this brothel, basically, when the Israelite spies come in. She ends up marrying into the family. And we discover a couple of generations later, when we get to Boaz—Boaz is her son—and who does Boaz marry?—he marries a Moabitess, Ruth. Well, what is a Moabite?—they come from the family of Lot, out of his incestuous relationship with his daughters.
So just so much of this. And then he [Matthew] takes care—it's interesting when he talks about Solomon—that he is the son of David—but he really calls him the son of Bathsheba, wife of the Hittite. It's like a reminder: “You remember what happened here in regard to David taking her into his household.”
And all of those kind of preparing you for Mary. Of course, even though she's a virgin and innocent, there's sexual scandal; is there not [because of people’s presumptions]? It's fascinating what he's doing there.
Dave: What is he doing? Because, you know, I grew up in a church [sporadically]; and I never heard any of this. It was all sanitized; it was all—everybody in the line/everybody in the Bible, almost, was perfect. Obviously—
Bob: —all the way to the immaculate conception.
Dave: Exactly! And so here you are—I mean, your book, Saints and Scoundrels—there's scoundrels everywhere. Why is Matthew telling us this?
Nancy: I think there's three things about that genealogy. I think, first of all, if you just look at the form and shape of it, it's organized according to anticipating the king, the king ruling over Israel; and then after exile, and there's no king. He's saying something about the Kingship of Jesus; and of course, we know that's what Matthew wants to do in his Gospel.
But then getting back to the family, I think one thing: all of these women, except for Mary, are Gentiles. Well, that would be shocking to this first generation of Jews, who would think that God was all about the Jews. Here's Matthew, and in a sense, he's
saying to these proud Jewish people: “God has always been about having a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. And He's been bringing them into His family/making them a part of His family since the very beginning of His family.”
Nancy: So I think that's one thing he's doing.
Dave: That's huge.
Nancy: But I think it's also very significant—I guess, when I present this to people, I want to look people in the eyes—and for me, most often, it's women that I am speaking to. You know, you can be in gathering with a group of women, and everybody looks really good; but we know that, no matter what group you're in, there are people who walk in and they have some secrets; and they have some sexual shame in their past. There's a part of them that wonders if they could ever, really, be a part of God's family, or if they have gone too far/if they've done something too shameful.
I think what we have, when we look at this genealogy from Matthew—we can say: “Let's see: ‘Do you have some incest in your family?’—well, you can find a home here,” “‘Have you experienced an unwanted pregnancy?’—welcome to the family.”
Nancy: There is no sin that can keep you from becoming a part of the family of Jesus!
Dave: That's also true for men; it isn't just women that have that in the lineage. It's like men walk in those rooms, like you're talking about, with the same shame—
Dave: —thinking, “I'm too far…”—and then you look at who's in that line; and you're like, “Whoa!”
Nancy: You've got Abraham in that list—you know, how he lies about his wife and jeopardizes her.
Ann: —several times.
Nancy: David, Judah—I mean, they're all there—it give us hope; doesn't it?—that maybe we could fit into His family.
Bob: I wrote a newsletter for our church recently. I said, “We, as Christians, should be very comfortable wearing masks; because most of us have been doing it for years.” [Laughter]
Ann: That's true!
Bob: I just talked about the fact that the whole idea of mask-wearing—there's a word for it in the Bible—it's the word, “hypocrite.” It's putting on a mask so that people don't
see the real you. I said, “I understand why there are times we don't want people to see the real us, because we do have this shame. But the good news of the gospel is our shame has been removed; someone else has borne our shame for us.”
The problem comes—not with: “Will God accept me?”—the problem is: “If I reveal who I really am”/“If people knew this about my family tree, how are the other sinners/the other scoundrels that I'm having fellowship with, how are they going to react to me?” That's, I think, the challenge why people resist being transparent about the reality of the dysfunction of their own families.
Nancy: Absolutely. Isn't it good news for us to know that Jesus welcomes into His family—people, who don't come from the/and I'm using air quotes: the “right” family—
Nancy: —you see that here—and people, who have less than perfect records, which is all of us! He welcomes us in to call us: “brother”/“sister.”
Bob: And good for us to know that the person you look at and go, “Oh, that's a part of their background?”—well, we probably don't have to dig too far in yours before we're going to find some scandals and some messes. We're not as clean as we think we are.
Dave: And what would the church be?—if it was a no-mask—and I know I'm not talking COVID, because we should be wearing masks—but you know, if we could be real and honest, and bring our shame to the cross in a community that everybody’s done that. We could look at each other with love, even though there's sin and guilt. It's in the Bible, and it's in us; and it's been paid for.
Nancy: You know, unfortunately, we can tend to be stingy with extending grace to others.
Ann: Why?—do you think?
Nancy: I think some of that's pride. We want to think we're more worthy of being included in Jesus' family, maybe, than someone else; or we're the more natural choice.
What I've found, over and over again, as I was scouring the Gospels for these stories of the scoundrels and saints that are part of the story of Jesus—the most significant thing I came away with was the generosity and the open-handedness of the grace of Jesus toward the worst of sinners.
What good news we have to share with the world. You know, maybe the world sees the church primarily as a finger pointed out at them—you know, wanting to point out their sin or blame—but boy, what I see in the picture of the Gospels is this open-handed generosity of Jesus, with grace, towards sinners.
Bob: Our friend, Ron Deal, has noticed that the blended family dynamic is present in Jesus' family tree as well. And of course, Ron's ministry is to blended families—he just wants to give encouragement to those, who are in blended families, and trying to make beauty from the ashes, whatever those ashes are that have brought them to their blended family. Jesus knows what you're dealing with because that's a part of His background and His lineage as well.
Talk about the nuclear family—Jesus' mother, His father, His siblings—I've always wondered, “Wouldn't it have been the worst to be Jesus' brother? And have His mother always saying, ‘Why can't you be more like Jesus?’” [Laughter]
Ann: And when the brother says, “Why do You always have to seem so perfect?” And Jesus could say, “Because I am.” [Laughter]
Nancy: Let me talk to parents first, and then we'll talk siblings. When we look at Joseph and Mary, one thing that strikes me is that the first thing we're told about both of them is—Joseph in a dream and an angel speaking to him, and an angel coming to Mary—t's clear, when we read Mary's song/her Magnificat, that she has some understanding of who this child is going to be. If you examine her song, she's praising God for proving true to His promise to Abraham/His promise to ancestors; so there's a sense in which she recognizes who this child is—that this is the child, who's been promised ever since Genesis 3:15/that there was going to be an offspring of the woman, who would crush the head of the serpent—so there's a sense in which she understands that. Joseph seems to understand that—the fact that he listens to the angel and takes Mary as his wife—and he's told this is Immanuel/”God with us.”
But then we read the story of when Jesus is 12 years old, and they go to Jerusalem. Jesus gets left behind at the temple; they come back and they're saying, “What are you doing?” And Jesus' answer is: “Don't you know that I must be in My Father's house?” I guess what I saw about Joseph and Mary is there's a sense in which they understood who Jesus was; but then there's this gap, as well—a lack of full and complete understanding.
I found hope in that, too; because all of us—we have some understanding, perhaps, of who Jesus is—but maybe there are still some gaps. That's really good news; because what it says is—and I just want to say this to anyone who, maybe you've been exploring a little bit about who Jesus is, but you think, “I don't have Him figured out yet; so I can't be ready to take hold of Him by faith,” or “I can't get in because I don't know enough/I don't understand enough,”—not at all.
Nancy: Jesus welcomes into His family people who understand some about Him, but don't yet understand Him fully.
Bob: The people closest to Him, who should have known the most about Him, didn't understand.
Nancy: And yet, they were part of His family.
Bob: So He did have brothers and sisters.
Nancy: He did; we don't know a lot about them. The brother's names are listed. And it says that He had sisters. What we know about them/what's revealed most of all is—we read this little phrase—and honestly, when I read it, it makes me terribly sad—because it says about His brothers: “They didn't believe in Him.” I'm with you: “What was it like to grow up with a sibling, who never talked back to mom and dad?—
Nancy: —“and always responded in love.”
There's a part of me that I do have that thought of like—any of us, who had a sibling, and like if their good behavior is making you look worse, that's annoying—but how could you miss that He always loved you perfectly?—you know, that He was always selfless, that He always spoke the best of people. I mean, it's hard for me to imagine how they didn't see something dramatically different in Him and that that would cause them to believe in Him; but they didn't.
In fact, you know, when He comes home to Nazareth—and He opens up the scroll in the synagogue, and basically is claiming to be the Messiah that Isaiah had written about—and everybody wants to throw Jesus off a cliff—they want to put Him away/—
Nancy: —you know, carry Him off to the crazy bin.
Now, it's interesting—in the Gospel of John, it tells us, at one point, that they're kind of pushing Jesus out the door to go to Jerusalem for the feast; because they say, “You can do your miracles there, because there's going to be lots of people there.” That's kind of curious; it's like they think, “We don't believe in You or anything; but if we can maybe ride on your coattails to some greatness/if You're going to do these miracles, let's go do them where lots of people can see them.” And so, they kind of pushed Jesus out the door to do that.
But then, this amazing thing happens. It's not stated clearly—but we read in Acts and then later in 1 Corinthians—it says that James is one of those who saw Him after the resurrection. It doesn't tell, right there, that it's talking about Jesus' brother; but we discover that later. How great is it that Jesus would reveal Himself—the risen resurrected Jesus—would reveal Himself to His brother, James?
And then, of course, we get to this book of the Bible, written by James, followed by a book of the Bible written by Jude—these two half-siblings [of Jesus]—and what really fascinates me, when I get to those books—now, if I'd been in that family, and I was going to write a book, I would start it: “I, Nancy, sister of Jesus”; because I want to assert my credibility out there; right? No—not James and not Jude—they begin: “James, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ”; and Jude does the same thing. Their credibility is not built on being a sibling to Him, but having Him as their Savior and being a servant to Him.
That's really encouraging to me for a number of things. I think it should be encouragement to everyone who reads it. I mean, don't all of us have someone in our family, who has not yet taken hold of Jesus Christ by faith?—that they would fall into that line if they did not believe. Maybe we're thinking: “You know what? If I were a better example…”/“If I were a better witness...”/“If I knew how to explain things better…then that family member would come to Christ.”
I think the good news in seeing these siblings of Jesus is to recognize: “It's not too late!” And that to come to believe late is possible—a better-late-than-never believer. It gives us a sense of hope that maybe, that person has not yet believed, but God is not done; and that He can reveal Himself to the most hardened, cynical family member you have in a way that would overcome doubts and overcome everything—overcome their passionate disregard for Jesus—so that they become a passionate servant of Jesus/a passionate sharer of Jesus. That's what happened in Jesus' family, and I think that gives us hope for our own families.
Ann: I can't imagine, first of all, I think we all have family members that we may be embarrassed about. I'm thinking these brothers and sisters could have embarrassed—like, “Oh, this is the crazy brother.” And then to think of the shame that they would carry, and the grace of Jesus visiting them after—James—after His resurrection. Can you imagine having the thought: “I grew up with Him. I saw Him”?—and he probably reflected back on: “Now, it all makes sense.” But the shame and the grace—that combination would be hard.
I love their humbleness of these brothers, talking about that; because I think we all have that. And even when you say, “scoundrels,” have you experienced that in your own life?—of people rejecting Jesus in your family members?—or even thinking it's silly what you're doing?
Nancy: I certainly have family members that I think have not gone from spiritual death to spiritual life; and so, in this, I find hope.
Bob: If Jesus' personal model and His own speaking was not sufficient for His brothers and sisters to go, “Clearly, You are the Son of God,”—then our model and our speaking—we shouldn't expect that it will be sufficient. To your point—it is the work of God in somebody's life, which means we still speak and we still model; but we recognize that it's up to God to do the work in someone's life. That's why we pray; that's why we trust in Him.
I keep thinking that maybe one of the reasons the brothers and sisters kind of didn't want anything to do with Jesus is because there are some people I've been around, who are so godly, that I don't want anything to do with them; because it shows up my own shame.
Ann: Are you talking about Dave and me? [Laughter]
Bob: That’s what I meant; yes! [Laughter] You've been around people, where it's like—
Bob: —“I can't be around him, because it just reminds me of how far away from God I am.”
Dave: Nancy started here—I think the beauty of the entire story is the grace that we see Jesus live and then model for us. There's scoundrels all around us—we're scoundrels—and yet, He never let that stop the grace of—right?—I mean, that's—
Nancy: “While we were yet enemies—
Dave: Right; right.
Nancy: “Christ died for us.”
Bob: Yes; you've written about, not only about Jesus' family tree, but other saints and scoundrels in the Bible in your book. You've also done a video series on this book—a lot of people watching this, either on their own, or in a small group. In COVID days, this is a great way to virtually connect around a Bible study.
If you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, there's information about Nancy's book,
Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. There's also a link on our website to Nancy's website if you want to find out more about the video series. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; you can order Nancy Guthrie’s book, Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus from us. Or you can order by calling 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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We hope you have a great weekend—hope you and your family are, in some way, able to gather together with your local church for worship. And we hope you can join us back on Monday when we're going to talk about how we get over ourselves—how we get past the focus and obsession on what's going on with us—and start to be a little more other-centered. Jen Oshman's going to be here to help us with that, and I hope you can be here as well.
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