Christmas QUESTIONS - what can we learn from the Genealogies of JESUS?
Have you ever read the genealogies of Jesus found in Matthew 1 or Luke 3 and wondered why are they there?
In our modern culture, especially in Canada/America, there seems to be little sense of heritage. Families may have some traditions, but most don’t know the names of their great, great grandparents, where they lived, what they did, or who they were.
Because genealogies are not emphasized today, we often skip right over the genealogies found in the Bible. Yet, we must remember God had reasons for inspiring every part of the Bible, even the genealogies mentioned and especially that of Jesus.
In this post, we will look into Luke 3 and see the value of not only reading this portion of scripture but also what we can learn from it.
Let’s read about the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23-38 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, who was the son of Heli, 24 who was the son of Matthat, who was the son of Levi, who was the son of Melchi, who was the son of Jannai, who was the son of Joseph, 25 who was the son of Mattathias, who was the son of Amos, who was the son of Nahum, who was the son of Esli, who was the son of Naggai, 26 who was the son of Maath, who was the son of Mattathias, who was the son of Semein, who was the son of Josech, who was the son of Joda, 27 who was the son of Joanan, who was the son of Rhesa, who was the son of Zerubbabel, who was the son of Shealtiel, who was the son of Neri, 28 who was the son of Melchi, who was the son of Addi, who was the son of Cosam, who was the son of Elmadam, who was the son of Er, 29 who was the son of Joshua, who was the son of Eliezer, who was the son of Jorim, who was the son of Matthat, who was the son of Levi, 30 who was the son of Simeon, who was the son of Judah, who was the son of Joseph, who was the son of Jonan, who was the son of Eliakim, 31 who was the son of Melea, who was the son of Menna, who was the son of Mattatha, who was the son of Nathan, who was the son of David, 32 who was the son of Jesse, who was the son of Obed, who was the son of Boaz, who was the son of Salmon, who was the son of Nahshon, 33 who was the son of Amminadab, who was the son of Ram, who was the son of Hezron, who was the son of Perez, who was the son of Judah, 34 who was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham, who was the son of Terah, who was the son of Nahor, 35 who was the son of Serug, who was the son of Reu, who was the son of Peleg, who was the son of Eber, who was the son of Shelah, 36 who was the son of Cainan, who was the son of Arphaxad, who was the son of Shem, who was the son of Noah, who was the son of Lamech, 37 who was the son of Methuselah, who was the son of Enoch, who was the son of Jared, who was the son of Mahalalel, who was the son of Cainan, 38 who was the son of Enosh, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.
Here are five things we learn from studying the Genealogies of Jesus.
1 Genealogies Are Important To Israel
Read the first five books of the Bible, and you will find genealogies scattered throughout listed in different places. This was because of the historical importance, and it was crucial to the functioning of Israel as a people and nation. Here are some examples.
A family’s ancestry determined how the land of Canaan was divided initially up among the twelve tribes of Israel (Numbers 26:53-55). Different tribes received different areas of land. So, it was essential to know ancestry to determine the property acquired.
Secondly, ancestry also grounds upon which the right of inheritance to property and the entire estate (animals, crops, servants, etc.) when a member of the family passed.
Thirdly, genealogies were important to Israel because ancestry established the grounds for the kinsman-redeemer. For example, if a poor man was forced to sell his property, one of his close relatives (and it had to be a relative) was to purchase it (redeem it back) and return it to the relative who lost it. This close relative was called the kinsman-redeemer.
Fourth, ancestry determined one’s eligibility to serve as a priest. In the book of Ezra, it shares the story of several men who could not prove who their descendants were, “and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean” (Ezra 2:59-62).
Finally, concerning Christ, genealogies would be necessary to Israel because God had made it clear that the promised Messiah (Saviour) would have specific key individuals in His lineage. So, anyone claiming to be the Messiah could not make these claims without the genealogical records to back up their claim. The readers of Luke would have understood this. More on this at the end of this post.
2 The Differences In The Genealogies Of Matthew And Luke
One might think that having two genealogies that differ would hurt the claims of Christ, but in fact, the differences are significant, for a good reason, and highlight some important points and each writer’s different purpose.
Matthew, as a Levite (in his priestly role), focuses on Christ being the Messiah, His purpose of being called Saviour. So, he traces the legal line from Abraham through David, then Solomon, and follows the royal line, to Joseph, the legal father of Jesus and the husband of Mary.
Luke, as a physician, focuses on the humanity of Jesus. He traces the bloodline from Adam to Abraham and then Abraham to the House of David. Luke then goes from David, through Nathan, a different son of David, down through the generations to Heli, the mother of Jesus.
Some might notice in Luke it says Joseph and doesn’t reference Mary. First, genealogies didn’t include women, and that leads us to the problem, which was Heli, the father of Mary, didn’t have any sons. Under the Law of Moses, when there were no sons to maintain the inheritance, the husband of the daughter (son-in-law) would become an adopted son upon marriage to keep up the family name. Therefore, when Joseph married Mary, he became the son of Heli as per the Law of Moses and consequently was now legally included in the genealogy.
So, while Joseph was not physically the father of Jesus, he is the legal father. Luke noted that crucial point when he says, “Jesus … being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph”.
There is not a contradiction but a separate focus and intention. The genealogy of Matthew follows the line of Joseph, and the genealogy of Luke follows the line of Mary.
3 The Beginning Of Jesus’ Ministry Is Identified
Third, the genealogy of Jesus is noteworthy because of the statement that identifies the age at which Jesus began His ministry.
Luke records in verse 23, Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age.
It is interesting because this was the traditional age for men to begin their service or ministry.
Here are some other examples.
Ezekiel, the prophet, began his ministry at the age of thirty.
Joseph, the son of Jacob, became prime minister of Egypt at the age of thirty.
The law requires that a man entering the priesthood be thirty years old before he could begin his service (Numbers 4:3, 35, 39, 43, 47; 1 Chronicles 23:3).
David, Jesus’ ancestor, became king of Israel at the age of thirty.
4 It Confirms The Virgin Conception Of Jesus
Luke went on to say in verse 23, Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph
It was reasonable for people to assume (suppose) that Jesus was the son of Joseph. But their assumption would’ve been incorrect. As we have already seen by the language used by Luke showed that Joseph was only legally and not physically Jesus’ father.
Through this plain and simple text, Luke was upholding the virgin conception of Jesus. That is to say, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit without the action of any human father.
The language Luke used was imperative because it maintains the virgin conception of Jesus.
5 Importance Of Names Listed
And finally, the genealogy of Jesus is important because of the significance of three names.
The three names we will look at are critical to Jesus’ claim to be the promised Messiah sent from God.
First, Jesus was a descendant of David. Luke said in verse 31 that Jesus was the son of David. David is noteworthy because he was the greatest of all of Israel’s kings. The people of God deeply respected him. In 2 Samuel, it was with king David that God made a promise to raise a descendant who rules as King forever.
2 Samuel 7:11-13, ever since the day in which I appointed judges over My people Israel. I will give you rest from all of your enemies. The Lord declares to you that He will instead bring about a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up after you an offspring from your body, and I will establish his rule. He will build a house for My name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.
Jumping back into Luke, even before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel went to Mary and said to her that she was going to conceive and bear a son, whose name would be Jesus. Then the angel said to her in Luke 1:32-33, He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. And of His kingdom there will be no end.
Jesus, as a descendant of David, was the promised Messiah who would rule as King forever and ever.
Second, Jesus was a descendant of Abraham. Luke said that Jesus was the son of Abraham. If we look back into Genesis, we see that God calls Abraham (Abram) to himself. God said to him in Genesis 12:1-3, Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your family, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless them who bless you and curse him who curses you, and in you all families of the earth will be blessed.”
Later God made a further promise with Abraham when Abraham was concerned that he had no child. We read about it in Genesis 15:1-6: After this the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Abram said, “Since You have not given me any children, my heir is a servant born in my house.” 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir, but a son that is from your own body will be your heir.” 5 He brought him outside and said, “Look up toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So will your descendants be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.
Paul would clarify that God’s promise to Abraham would find its fulfillment in Christ. Galatians 3:16, Now the promises were made to Abraham and his Seed. He does not say, “and to seeds,” meaning many, but “and to your Seed,” meaning one, who is Christ.
So, the covenant that God made with Abraham would be fulfilled through his direct descendant, Jesus. Jesus, the promised Messiah, would be the Saviour of the whole world and in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.
Lastly, Jesus was a descendant of Adam. Luke states that Jesus was the son of Adam. Adam was the first man created by God. He was created in the image of God. From Adam, all of humanity descended. But Adam also fell into sin, which caused all of humanity to be born into sin. Humanity needed a savior, a kinsman redeemer, to purchase humanity back.
Luke extended his genealogy of Jesus back to Adam was to show that Jesus, as a direct descendant of Adam, was, in fact, the promised Messiah (Saviour) not only for Jews but in particular for every person (all of humanity).
The statement about Jesus being a son of Adam is not a minor detail. Jesus had to be born as a man to fulfill the requirements of being a blood relative to humanity so that He could go to the cross and bring salvation.
In conclusion, we find essential details in the genealogies of Christ, and because of it, we can be confident that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.
Let us then trust him as the one who came and lived and died and rose again for our salvation.