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Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. – Luke 3:23-38 [ESV]
I am somewhat interested in my family roots mostly because most of the work to trace them back to the 1600’s has been done by someone else. A gift from a student of my Uncle Eugene shows some very interesting names: Schwarzkopf (Remember the General in the Persian Gulf War?) and Hoffman (Oswald Hoffman was a noted speaker of The Lutheran Hour) among others. And I’ve been to our Bahn family ancestral home in Benshausen, Germany. That was quite a memorable trip.
It’s interesting to me, but probably not to anyone outside our family. I’ve done nothing to earn my ancestry, or even to put together the family tree.
In the case of Jesus, however, his ancestry is significant. Luke traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam, “the Son of God.” And along the way we see some very special persons mentioned. Whether it’s Judah (Jesus is said to be the Lion of Judah), or David (the Son of David conveys a sense of kingship) I take two lessons from this listing.
Jesus has a lineage of sinners and saints. I think of David, the great King of Israel. I suppose he might be like Ronald Reagan in his fame and popularity, or George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln. Great men to be sure. But sinners as was David. In fact, David was a murderer and adulterer. Yet David was also called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Even the greatest of us falter and fail. Jesus, however, will reign unlike David: eternally, and without fault or failure. He is the eternal King of kings.
I see also Abraham in this lineage: the Father of Faith. He believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Yet even this great man of faith wavered when he feared for his life on account of his wife’s beauty. He failed to entrust himself to God for fear that Pharaoh would kill him in order to take Sarai for his own (Genesis 12:10-20). Jesus, however, will keep perfect faith in all things and under the greatest duress imaginable. Recall his words on the cross as he is dying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In that terrible moment Jesus calls God his God. He entrusts himself to the One who had forsaken him in his hour of greatest need.
And what of Adam, the son of God. Adam had it all and traded it for a bite of the forbidden fruit. Jesus will resist every temptation, stand against every evil choice, and live a perfect life without sin. No one else has done this, nor with anyone ever do so.
Jesus has a checkered lineage. But that lineage will not define him in its failures. He is fully human, yet without sin. But he is also fully God. The mystery of the incarnation is therefore twofold. How could God become a man? I don’t know, but he did. And Why did God become a man? This I know: to save and redeem us, to seek us and bring us with him into present purposefulness (apart from any human lineage), and eternal joy and bliss.
Thanks be to God!
Below are notes about the genealogy of Jesus. Interesting, but not essential to our application of this section of Scripture.
ESV Study Bible Notes on the Genealogy of Jesus
Whereas Matthew (see notes on Matt. 1:1–17) traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham to emphasize Jesus’ Jewish heritage, Luke traces it back to Adam to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes of all people (cf. Acts 17:26). In addition to some minor differences and gaps (see note on Matt. 1:17), the genealogies in Matthew and Luke differ significantly in the period from David to Jesus, even naming different fathers for Joseph (Jacob in Matt. 1:16; Heli in Luke 3:23). Both Matthew and Luke are evidently depending on detailed historical records, and various suggestions have been proposed to explain the differences: (1) An old suggestion is that Matthew traces Joseph’s ancestry while Luke traces Mary’s ancestry. But very few commentators defend this solution today, because 1:27 refers to Joseph, not Mary, and taking 3:23 as a reference to Mary’s ancestry requires the unlikely step of inserting Mary into the text where she is not mentioned but Joseph is mentioned. (2) The most commonly accepted suggestion is that Matthew traces the line of royal succession (moving from David to Solomon; Matt. 1:6) while Luke traces Joseph’s actual physical descent (moving from David to Nathan, a little-known son mentioned in 2 Sam. 5:14; Luke 3:31), and both lines converge at Joseph. Then there are various explanations for the two different people named as Joseph’s father (Jacob in Matthew; Heli in Luke). In most proposed solutions, they are thought to be different people and a second marriage is assumed (sometimes a levirate marriage; see note on Matt. 22:24), so that Joseph was the legal son of one but the physical son of the other, and thus there are two lines of ancestry for the two men. (3) Some commentators have suggested that Heli was Mary’s father, but that there were no male heirs in the family, so Heli adopted Joseph as his “son” when Mary and Joseph were married (cf. 1 Chron. 2:34–35; Ezra 2:61; Neh. 7:63; also Num. 27:1–11 for inheritance through daughters when there is no son). Although the genealogies in Matthew and Luke differ in their organizing principles, both of these genealogies emphasize that Jesus was the “son of David” (Luke 3:31; cf. Matt. 1:6). Luke further emphasizes the virgin birth (cf. 1:34–35) with the phrase “being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph” (3:23).