Another Christmas Birth Story

At Christmas time, we’re used to reading the story of a birth.  Just maybe not this birth.

"When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.”  - Genesis 38:27-30

What a bizarre story found in this tucked away corner of the Scripture.  One son waves hello, gets a scarlet thread tied around his wrist, and then disappears.  The other son somehow intrudes into the process of birth and makes what the text refers to a “breach.”  He pushes his brother back so he can break out into the world.

And the mama?  A woman named Tamar, whose story is not a family friendly tale.  She went through a lot of family dysfunction, was sinned against, sinned herself, and ended up unmarried and pregnant by her late husband’s father.

And then comes the birth, with this odd occurrence.  Two sons.  One named Perez, meaning “breach” or “broken out.”  The other named Zerah, meaning “dawning” or “brightness.”  And these twins are a picture of you and your big brother.  Your big brother named Jesus.

This brother Perez – he is everything we are.  A man who will push to get his own way, a man who causes brokeness and breaches.  A man who carries the sin nature. 

This brother Zerah – his situation is a foreshadowing, a hint of the redemption that was on the way.  A man who was here before we were, yet came after man to save man.

Jesus lived before the beginning of time.  He is eternal God.  Yet, since sin entered the earth, the whole world had been waiting for Him to arrive in the flesh.  And none of it was a surprise to God.  The fall of man.  The entrance of sin.  The withering of mankind.  He wasn’t shocked or astounded.  He had a plan.  And it was the same plan He had from the beginning.

The plan was Jesus.

From the moment Adam drew breath, the sin of the world was tied to Jesus with a scarlet thread.  God knew His own son would have to come to save us, so we could be grafted into the family.  And He still did it.  Knowing His son would have to die a brutal death to save us, He still created us, mankind. 


And even more amazing.  Jesus said yes.

He said yes to the virgin birth.  He said yes to taking on flesh.  He said yes to coming to earth as a baby, putting the fate of mankind into the hands of a carpenter and his teenage bride.   And in doing so, He said yes to the cross.  To the agony of bearing the sin of the world on His perfect and blameless shoulders.  To the humilation of dying naked on a tree.  He said yes and He came.


He said yes because it meant having you.  And for all the years from the garden to the manger, He waited, with a scarlet thread tied to his wrist.  It was his love for you.

There’s another labor story we don’t think about much at Christmas.

Jesus’ labor on the cross.

After Jesus had been on the cross for awhile, with every sin of mankind placed upon Him, after every vile act from tiny lies to genocide had been tied around His neck, He was ready to finish what He started in the manger.  He bore those sins to the very end, and then He shouted “IT IS FINISHED!” and He gave up His spirit.  And a soldier came a stuck a spear into His side.  And John the disciple, an eyewitness, tells us in John 19 that when the spear pierced his side, “immediately blood and water came out.”  It was the fulfillment of the scarlet thread, the fulfillment of the promise.  It was the greates birth story ever told.  Because the only time blood and water flow together under natural circumstances is during a birth.

And Jesus was indeed birthing something.  He was bringing into the world a new covenant, a new man.  He was closing a door, and opening a new one.

Paul calls Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15 the “last Adam.”  This means something terribly important for everyone who follows Jesus.  It was the first Adam who brought sin into the world.  It was the last Adam who brought redemption into the world.

The first Adam caused mankind to fall.  The last Adam redeemed it.

The first Adam imparted a curse to all his sons who came after him.  The last Adam made a way for all those sons to come home to the Father.

Paul also says in Colossians that Jesus is the “firstborn of many brothers.”

Jesus…the most amazing big brother ever.


No longer do we have to live under the curse of sin.  Our big brother paid for us to be free.

Our brother who chose to wear the scarlet thread.