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Hands down, The Emperor’s New Groove is one of the best Disney films of all time. It tells the story of a narcissistic king named Kuzco who plans to celebrate his birthday by destroying a local village in order to build an extravagant summer home complete with a swimming pool. Kuzco doesn’t care who he hurts in the process, as long as he gets what he wants in the end.

Sadly, Kuzco’s story isn’t that far-fetched. History is filled with stories of kings and rulers who lived for what they could squeeze out of others.

Jesus was a different kind of king. In fact, Matthew hints at that in the next words of his gospel: The book of the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1).

The name Jesus is, of course, an English rendering of the Hebrew name “Yeshua,” which means “Yahweh saves.” In Matthew 1:21, the Lord tells Joseph in a dream that he should call Mary’s baby “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So when Matthew introduces this king as Jesus, he intends us to see Him as a gracious King. But it isn’t merely evident in Jesus’ name, it’s also evident in His family tree. Jesus comes from a long line of sinners that needed saving.

Look at some of the names in Jesus’ family tree. Abraham lied about his wife, slept with a servant girl, then kicked her and their baby out of his house and left them to die in the wilderness. Jacob was a chronic liar, a polygamist, and his family was a nightmare. Judah had twins after sleeping with his daughter-in-law who was disguised as a prostitute. David stole Uriah’s wife, impregnated her, then killed her husband. Solomon had a harem that would make Hugh Hefner look like a nun in comparison. Rehoboam was a fool whose pride divided an entire nation. Manasseh was an idol worshipper who sacrificed his own children to his false gods. We could go on, but you get the point. Jesus family tree includes some pretty bad people.

None says it better than Patrick Schreiner in his book, Matthew, Disciple and Scribe: “The family from which Jesus comes reveals the family for which He comes.” [1] Jesus came from bad people because that’s the only type of people there are. Jesus came from bad people because He came for bad people.

This truth must have been special to Matthew, the human author of this book. Matthew tells his story this way:

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed Him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)  

If you’re not a sinner, you don’t need this Jesus. The problem is, you know you are. We all do! Even if we disagree on what sin is, we all know we’ve fallen short of something.

In the end, Kuzco is changed. But he spends much of the film atoning for his selfishness. He has to undo the mess he created. That’s not the kind of king we need. Not a mess-making king who, eventually let’s hope will clean it up in the end (knock on wood). We need a righteous King who comes for unrighteous people. We need a gracious king. We need Jesus.    


[1] Patrick Schreiner, Matthew, Disciple and Scribe: The First Gospel and Its Portrait of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2019), 181.