Luke 3:33. the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
Matthew 1:3. Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar.
Genesis 38:27-30. 27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.
Perez and Zerah are the second set of twins in Genesis. The first, of course, were Jacob and Esau. Esau, the older brother, clearly had all the qualifications to lead the family. Strong, tall, warrior-like. But God’s choice was the second son. The weaker son. Weaker physically and weaker in character. The “heal-grabber.” The deceiver. Jacob.
Less is known about Perez and Zerah, but once again we see the stronger son, Zerah, reaching out his hand to grab the blessing, the inheritance. A scarlet thread is tied to his wrist to show that he will be the son of promise. The heir of Judah. The father of kings. The “rising.”
But not so fast. As Zerah’s hand withdraws, little Perez “breaks through” and is born first.
Christian, this short story is the gospel story. It is the story of our union with Christ. Jesus, the son of Perez. The son of the breakthrough.
Often Christians believe their life is supposed to be the life of Zerah, of rising. From strength to strength. But the life of Christ in us is the life of Perez, of breakthrough. From weakness to strength. From shame to honor. From barren to fertile. From deceiver to believer. From shepherd to king. From death to life.
Zerah is the only non-ancestor of Jesus listed in Matthew’s genealogy. Why would he do this? There’s no Ishmael or Esau in the family tree, so why Zerah? Because he wants us to be reminded that Jesus is the son of the breakthrough. That even Jesus’ rising (his zerah) from the dead required him to break through (perez) the walls of hell itself. Jesus had to break through into our time and space by going lower and lower. For Jesus to break through the power of sin and death on Easter morning, he had to first go through the shame of the cross and the despair of the grave. This humility, this downward spiral, was his breakthrough.
And now that breakthrough is alive in you. While you wait and you feel weaker and weaker, just know that you have the Spirit of perez in you. Your rising won’t ever be from strength to strength, but only from weakness to strength.
Christian, are you desperately reaching out your hand, grasping for what’s yours? Are you waiting impatiently for the glory God owes you? Are you managing your own rise to glory? Or are you waiting patiently for Jesus to burst forth out of your weakness in his timing? Are you embracing second place? Are you willing to let Christ use you as he sees fit as you await his promised return? Are you willing to let his love breakthrough as you go lower and lower into Jesus’ own self-sacrificing life?
Is your life a rising, or a breakthrough? Explain. How might you embrace second place today? How might Christ use you to let his love breakthrough this Christmas season?