Pastor Scott Andrews | December 3, 2023
Genealogies – or at least DNA testing – seem to be the rage today. I guess everyone wants to know where they came from. So, go to any number of websites – My Heritage, Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me – order the kit, provide a blood or saliva sample, and for about a hundred bucks, you can know your genetic heritage. But really, nobody cares except you – but I guess it’s kind of fun. Even genealogies which give the family tree – more than just genetics, but actual names – may be interesting, but they’re a little like home movies – nobody really cares except the people who are in them. Have I shown you pictures of my grandkids lately?
My dad always told us we were Scottish – in fact, I thought I was part of the Ross clan. Even had a tie with the Ross clan tartan – that Scottish plaid – that I bought in Novia Scotia – new Scotland. Then, I found out at Thanksgiving – just two weeks ago – one of my sons did a DNA test. Not a drop of Scottish blood – but about 40% Irish. Do the Irish and Scots even like each other? And no, I’m not changing my name to O’Charley. And yes, I threw the tie away.
Of course, even better than DNA testing is having your family genealogy or your family tree. You might find it in the front of your grandmother’s family Bible. Again, nobody really cares, unless you have someone important in your tree. But, if you go to the trouble of research, you could find out you’re the great, great grandson of Jack the Ripper. In other words, the famous could actually be the infamous. My brother-in-law once got into family genealogies – did a lot of travel, interviewed family members, filled out the tree. It didn’t really change their lives – but I guess it was a fun hobby. No one has done it on my side of the family – and now, who cares since I’m not Scottish and can’t have William Wallace or John Knox in my family tree.
So, I say all that to say this – I have some good news and bad news today. The good news is this, unlike last week when we covered two whole verses in Luke 3, this week, we are going to cover 16 verses and finish the chapter. The bad news is, it’s a genealogy of 77 names. But, it’s not really bad news – it the family tree of Jesus – which is of eternal significance. Why? Because if He didn’t have this family tree, then He couldn’t be the Messiah, and He couldn’t save us from our sin. In other words, these 77 names prove that He is fully qualified to bear our sins, and bring us, as it were, into God’s family tree. That’s the important family tree – by the way. Which means, this is a family tree in which we should all be most interested. So, let’s read it – Luke 3:23-38.
I’m not sure exactly how to outline a genealogy, so I’ll simply make some observations, hopefully, important ones as we study our Savior’s ancestry, which, again, is of eternal significance.
Notice first, before we actually get to the genealogy, Luke says Jesus began His ministry when He was about thirty years of age. That’s kind of interesting. You see, priests in the OT began their ministry when they turned thirty. It was then you were thought to be old enough, wise enough, mature enough, to fulfill priestly duties. So also, Jesus is prophet, priest and king – in fact, Hebrews says Jesus is our Great High Priest, so when He reached the age of thirty, He was ready to fulfill the role.
Further, He was the son of David as we will see in the genealogy. In fact, He is the greater David, the one who would sit on David’s throne forever, according to II Samuel 7. And so, it’s interesting to note King David began his reign when he was thirty years of age. Further, the great OT prophet Ezekiel began his prophetic ministry when he was thirty. The point being, we see three OT figures or roles – prophet, priest and king – who began their roles at this pivotal age.
Oh, and by the way, Joseph of the OT book of Genesis – the one the brothers sold into slavery in Egypt – the one who ended up being the savior of his family, became prime minister of Egypt when he was thirty years of age. It’s all just kind of interesting – there seems to be little left to chance in Scripture.
So Jesus, entered His ministry at about thirty. Remember, I suggested He was born between 4 and 6 BC, meaning the year was now about 26 AD, give or take a year or two. Remember also, just last week, we saw Jesus was baptized – inaugurating/anointing Him into His ministry. The sun begins to set on John and rise most brilliantly on Jesus. Jesus’ baptism affirmed that John’s ministry was divinely appointed and signaled Jesus’ readiness to fulfill the duties of His office; it set an example of obedience for us; and by His baptism, Jesus was fully identifying with the sinful humanity He came to save – although, remember, He had so sin.
So, He entered His public ministry. But, Luke wanted to prove that He was fully qualified to do so – to be the Messiah. It’s one reason he spent so much time on John the Baptist – to demonstrate that John was the forerunner, as prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi. In order for Jesus to be the Messiah, He had to have a forerunner. To announce the kingdom of heaven was at hand, because the king was here.
It’s also why Luke spent so much time in the announcement and the birth of Jesus. Gabriel told Mary, the virgin, that the child to be born would be the Son of the Most High God, and that He would sit on David’s throne forever. Then, at His birth, the angel declared, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Then, at His baptism, Jesus was filled by the Holy Spirit, empowering Him for ministry, and He was endorsed by the Father, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well-pleased.” So all is ready – He is prepared to take on the mantle of His responsibility.
But Luke has one more proof to offer – that of the genealogy of Jesus. You see, in order for Him to be the Messiah, He had to be the Son – the descendant of Adam – that is, human; he had to be the Son of Abraham, that is, a Jew, through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed; and, He had to be the Son of David, to sit on his throne. So while genealogies are a bit of a novelty, even a curiosity for us – for Jesus, it was an absolute necessity.
Now, the Jews kept meticulous records of the births of their children. For one reason, the ownership of land was determined by genealogy. And the land was divided according to tribal ancestry. Further, to be a priest, you had to come from the priestly line. And to be the king, you had to come from the tribe of Judah. And to be the Messiah, you had to come from the line of David.
Now, you may know that Matthew began His gospel with the genealogy of Jesus as well. His purpose was to demonstrate that Jesus was the Son of David, and therefore, He was the rightful King of the Jews. But, there’s a bit of a problem – I need to acknowledge that at the outset. You see, Matthew’s genealogy and Luke’s genealogy are different, dare I say, contradictory.
To be sure, there are differences in the extent and direction of the lists. Meaning, for example, Matthew’s list descends from Abraham to Jesus, and only has 42 names. Again, don’t miss it – Matthew’s purpose was to demonstrate Jesus was the rightful king of the Jews – that is, He was a Jew as a descendent of Abraham, and He was of the right tribe – the lion of the tribe of Judah, but He was also of David’s line, necessary for Him to fulfill the prophecy found in II Sameul 7. Which is why Matthew introduces his Gospel and the genealogy with these words, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Two very important and required names in the family tree. Of course, Luke has those names, too.
However, Luke’s genealogy ascends from Jesus all the way through David, all the way through Abraham, and all the way back to Adam – again, 77 names. Now, that’s not necessarily a contradiction – just a couple of differences. One ascends, one descends. One starts with Abraham and goes to Jesus; one starts with Jesus and goes back to Adam. So, we could ask why, but I’ll come back to that. Because, you see, there are some other differences that are seeming contradictions. It’s why I asked Hunter to sing Matthew’s genealogy – quite certain when you heard the names from the song he sang and the names I read – you’d notice right away the problem.
You see, right off, Matthew lists Joseph’s father as Jacob – Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. It seems quite clear Matthew is saying, this is Joseph’s line. A legal line, because Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father.
But then, upon close examination, we see Luke says Joseph’s father was Eli or Heli. Wait – is it Jacob or is it Eli? Oh, and the names from Joseph back to David are quite different. Now, the names from David to Abraham are the same, and as we’ve seen, Luke goes on from Abraham back to Adam. And those two sections of the genealogy – from David to Abraham and Abraham to Adam match the genealogies found in Genesis and Chronicles.
But what are we to do with this apparent, glaring discrepancy from Joseph to David? I’m sure some of you have had a philosophy of religion class which highlights these differences to prove there are errors in the Bible. What to do with that? Abandon the faith? They hope so. But maybe, just maybe there’s another explanation. (Emily Harris)
Through the centuries, scholars have tried to explain the difference, and they largely boil down to three legitimate explanations. The first one suggests the two genealogies are Joseph’s, but one recognizes there was a levirate marriage or two. What are those? Well, if a brother died without offspring, it was the living brother’s responsibility or another close relative to marry the widow and provide an heir in the dead brother’s or dead relative’s name. It was a common practice, and so early in church history, it was supposed this is what happened, thus the different family lines. The only problem with this idea is there is not a shred of evidence to support it – other than the practice, and the fact that we have two family lines.
Another commonly and fairly widely-held position is that while both lines are Joseph’s lines, they are different because one is the legal and royal line, and one is the biological line. In other words, if you married a widow with a child, it was the practice to adopt her son. And so, for example, it is suggested that one or the other was Joseph’s biological father, and the other is his adopted father. Further, Matthew lists the royal line had it continued, and Luke the biological line. It all gets a bit complicated.
It’s further interesting to note that one line – the one in Luke – does not list all the kings – good and bad – in the line of Joseph. In fact, the names in Luke’s line are rather common and unknown except that they are here in this genealogy. In fact, many don’t appear in Scripture at all. So, it is suggested, while the legal line meets the necessary qualification that Jesus be in David’s line, the biological line meets the same qualification, without all the baggage of ungodly kings. It just contains the names of regular joes – of everyday people Jesus came to save. It’s a strong possibility, and would seem to fit Luke’s purposes.
But there is a third position, which is still widely held, which doesn’t require a lot of supposition. It goes like this – the genealogy in Matthew is Joseph’s line, but the genealogy in Luke is Mary’s line. This would easily explain why they are different – if they were the same, they would be brother and sister. But don’t miss it, both lines of necessity go back through David and to Abraham. And Luke might be tipping his hat to this when he writes, “When he began his ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph [but of course, He wasn’t because of the virgin birth], the son of Eli,” and so on.
Now, the primary objection to this idea is that you normally didn’t have family lines through women, but rather through men, to which I say, you don’t normally have a virgin birth either. Plus, remember, Luke makes much of women.
And here’s something else very interesting. If you go back to Matthew’s genealogy, in verse 12 it says this, “After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel…” Does that bother anyone? It should, because Jeremiah 22:30 says that although Jeconiah is in David’s line, “no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.” This curse would have precluded the right for Jesus to rule as King, if Joseph had been his natural father. But, while Jesus’ legal descent came through Jeconiah to Joseph, His blood descent, and thus His right to rule, came through Mary, and not through Jeconiah. If you look at the genealogy in Luke 3, the line is not traced through Solomon and the subsequent kings to Jeconiah, but through Nathan, another son of David.
You pick – lots of reputable scholars who stand with the second and third options. Whichever – and I’ll let God’s revelation in the future in heaven deal with the issue – the point is, there are credible explanations for the differences. In fact, let me go ahead and quote Emily’s paper at the conclusion, “Regardless of one’s position, the message is not ultimately about who Joseph’s father is, but that theologically Jesus is the ‘Son of David, son of Abraham’ (Matthew) and the ‘Son of God (Luke). The [apparent] inconsistencies in these genealogies do not negate the overall message of the Bible, and the name of Joseph’s father does not actually change anything about the Kingdom that Christ came to bring.”
And so, as I conclude, there are several important things I want you to notice about Luke’s genealogy. First, as I already mentioned, while there are many names we recognize – Joseph, Zerubbabel, David, Jesse, Boaz, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Methusaleh, Enoch, Seth and Adam – there are lots especially from Joseph to David we don’t recognize. They are names not otherwise found in Scripture. They are common names – representative of the kinds of people Jesus came to save. He was not so much impressed with that which impresses us. He came to save the weak, the lowly, the marginalized, the unknown. He came to save people who needed a Savior – who knew they wouldn’t make it without Him. In that sense, Jesus’ genealogy is just like ours – lists of unknown, names, but needy people.
Oh, and don’t miss that Luke, a Gentile author, did not stop at Abraham. He went all the way back to Adam – to demonstrate that Jesus is the Savior of all people – Jew and Gentile alike. This is one of Luke’s favorite themes, as it ought to be ours.
Next, this genealogy is admittedly unusual – it’s the only one we know of that goes back to God. Adam, the son of God. Why is this important? There is a sense in which Luke is affirming both the humanity and deity of Jesus. Remember, this is Jesus’ family tree, and He ultimately the Son of God. His humanity is seen in that He comes from a long line of people – all the way back to the first person – actually people – Adam and Eve. Just like all of us. We all share that in common. You see, while many want to trace their DNA ancestral origins to discover what ethnicity, what race, what people they come from – the truth is, without minimizing any race – there is actually only one race – it’s called the human race. Because if we could somehow trace those DNA origins – everyone of them would go back to the same set of parents.
But there was something unique about Adam and Jesus. Both were created outside normal biological function which was set into motion with that first couple. Adam was created by God from the dust of ground, and God breathed into him the breath of life. To be clear, he was not divine – but created by divine fiat. Jesus also, when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, was born by the creative act of God. The difference being, Jesus was not only human – 100 percent man; He was also divine – 100 percent God – having been created by a work of the Spirit. But, He also had to be human, Hebrews says – “since the children share in flesh and blood, [it was necessary], He himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives…Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” By divine act, God created the human race through one man, and by divine act, God makes salvation possible through one Man.
You see, that leads to the final thing I will say about this genealogy. Some would suggest Luke did not have this in mind – but how could he spend so much time with the Apostle Paul and not have it in mind. You see, there is a significant similarity between Adam and Jesus. Again, Adam was created by a direct act of God. And he represented the whole human race. You know the story – when Adam sinned, we all did – and Adam died, and we all will. He represented us, and failed, and so, we have inherited the sin nature of Adam. We are sinners by nature and by choice.
And so, we were in need of a second Adam to represent us – to take our place – who would not fail. Paul talks about it in Romans 5. Listen to what he wrote – that Luke no doubt knew:
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
So I am suggesting Luke went all the way back to Adam, because Adam represented all people – and all became sinners. So there was need for a second Adam, who would not fail, who did not sin – who represented all people. And through the death and resurrection of the one Man – by grace through faith – the many will be made righteous. He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might receive the righteousness of God, through Him.