One Perfect Savior–Royal Lineage of our Jesus
Geoff Thomas, Alfred Place Baptist Church, December 16, 2007
St. Luke 3: 23-38 “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Eli … the son of Adam, the son of God.”
Genealogies are important in many nations even today and they were particularly so to the Jews. In Romans 11: 1, St. Paul is talking about himself — “I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin”. So the two genealogies of Jesus in Mathew and Luke would have been absolutely essential reading to establish the background of our Savior Jesus Christ. You will meet American patricians in Boston who will boast to you that their ancestors arrived in the USA on the Mayflower, and some of them can prove that. All over the world are communities who know their ancestors over many generations, and to the National Library of Wales and the United States National Library of Congress people come from everywhere searching for information about their family trees.
A black American named Alex Haley who wrote a book called Roots traveled to Gambia to discover where his slave ancestors had come from. He said, “I realized then I had roots. I had history. My family came from somewhere.” That is how we respond to Jesus Christ. He is not a man from nowhere who turns up one day in a little town in Israel, a man of mystery who does strange things and says strange words. Jesus has a biography; he has family and ancestors that go back and back. He is earthed in the history of this people with whom God chooses to have dealings. He belongs, and when we belong to him, then we belong to these people too. Adam is my father too; Abraham is my father in the faith.
Family trees in biblical times were important for practical reasons, for example, for buying and selling land. Genealogical records were consulted to insure that such land did belong to one particular tribe and it was not being sold to members of another tribe. The integrity of the divinely given tribal boundaries could not be compromised. There had to be genealogical proof that you came from the same tribe as your ancestors. Purchasing land from another tribe was frowned upon. Again, you have noticed the lengthy genealogies in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah because after seventy years in Babylon thousands of Jews were returning to live in Israel and they wanted to know what parts of the land had been allotted to their ancestors. Again, in determining the priesthood, were you from the tribe of Levi? You had to prove it! Again, in determining the right to ascend to the throne, did you have the pedigree to wear David’s crown?
When you compare the genealogy of Jesus in St. Luke 3 with St. Mathew 1, you notice many differences. Mathew is trying to show that Jesus was the perfect Jew and the legal heir to the throne of David – Jesus is the King. St. Luke, on the other hand, wants to show that Jesus was fully human. And so he cannot draw the royal lineage through Joseph, because Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph. Jesus was, however, the biological son of Mary. And so that is what he does. He draws the physical lineage through Mary, back to David, Abraham, and the first man, Adam. I do not want to comment on all the names in St. Luke 3:24-38. There are stories we could say about each of the 77 names mentioned in this Lineage, and lessons that could be learned. Some of it though, we would have to get from places outside the Bible. For example, we know nothing of Mary’s father, Eli. The Bible contains not another word about Him. But we could speculate about what kind of father he must have been in order to raise a daughter like Mary. But such speculation would carry us beyond the pages of Scripture, and I want to stay away from doing that. So let me shift the focus on Jesus. What is the Royal Lineage of our Jesus telling us?
- Our Savior Jesus is fully human! Jesus is the son of Adam as are all of us. By his emergence from Mary’s womb, he became a living son of Adam. From the list of 77 names, none of them were half men and half gods. They were all human beings, flesh and blood, bone of our bones, and so was Jesus. Around the time Luke was writing this gospel a group of people influenced by Greek philosophy began to infiltrate the church teaching that Jesus was not really human. Heretics were emerging called Docetism preaching that He only appeared to be human. For us, Christ is fully human capable of humanly sympathizing with our pain, of saying to us, “I know what you are going through. I went through that too.”
- Our Savior Jesus is the promised Messiah! The genealogy if telling us that, Jesus is the Christ. He is the promised one. He is the one sent by God to deliver Israel from her sin and oppression. If he is the Messiah then he must be the descendant of David. He is “the son of David” – Jesus fulfils the covenant promises made by God to David. St. Luke is reminding you that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that God had given to David in II Samuel chapter seven when he promised to put on David’s throne a son who would rule forever and ever. That was not fulfilled in Solomon as glorious as was his reign. And it was not fulfilled in the sum total of the kings of Israel as impressive as that dynasty was. Some claim that it was the longest human dynasty, ever to rule in the entire history of the world. But that was not the fulfillment of God’s promise. No, the fulfillment of that promise of God to David was in the coming of King Jesus.
- Our Savior Jesus was born of a virgin! Note the special attention to details with which St. Luke writes, “He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph”. You search through the list of the other 76 names in this genealogy and you do not come across any other ‘so it was thought.’ Many in Israel did think that Jesus was the son of Joseph the carpenter, but all believers know that that is untrue. Jesus was only the apparent son of Joseph, in fact his identity as the Son of God does not need to be traced back through Joseph to Adam. He was begotten miraculously, without any contribution from Joseph whatsoever. Joseph was Jesus’ legal father but not his biological father.
- Our Savior Jesus is the Savior of sinners! Of the 77 names we know, majority of them had notable moral failures. For instance, Abraham lied about his wife Sarah. Isaac did the same thing. Jacob was a cheater, Judah a fornicator. David was an adulterer. Manasseh was the most evil king Israel ever had. The best of these men had flaws. However, it shows the grace of God because people like this made up Jesus’ family tree. I can see three reasons for St. Luke including people like that in the Royal Lineage:
- It calls out the self-righteous people, “You think you deserve eternal life because you are righteous men. Consider the family-tree of the Messiah. What a shock to your religious system to read this genealogy because of the liars, murderers, thieves, adulterers and harlots. It is not a pretty picture. It is not a cleaned up or covered up family tree. This list was a stinging rebuke to that kind of judgmental self-righteousness. Jesus was born into a sinful family. However, God chose this Royal Lineage to bring us the Savior!
- It displays God’s grace. If your family tree has so many unseemly men then you cannot exactly boast of your heritage. How many of try so hard to hide such names from our lineage? Yes, your ancestors were rulers and kings, but they were also great sinners. The question you hear often these days is whether a prostitute can go to heaven? Can an adulterer go to heaven? Can a murderer go to heaven? Can a liar go to heaven? I would say YES, because these men and women displayed repentance commensurate with their wickedness and after they turned back to God with grief they walked humbly with God for the rest of their days. The hero of this story is God. His grace shines through the blackest of human sin as he chooses flawed men and women and places them in Jesus’ family tree.
- It shows that our Savior is an approachable high priest. Many people are intimidated by religion. They hook God up with a lot of religious paraphernalia, cathedrals, popes, bishops, archbishops, stained glass, and all the rest. When they look at the trappings, it is all too imposing for them. How true it is in our own Church – St. Mathew 23: 4-7 “They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers.” How many of our priests, high priests, bishops, and archbishops, and the heads of our Churches are APPROACHABLE? They frighten and are very good at condemning people than ever welcoming a sinner as God did through our Savior Jesus Christ. This genealogy is there to let us know that he had a background that was a lot like yours and mine. He called himself the friend of sinners, and he said he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He said, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Therefore, my loving respected friends again we are fast approaching Christmas – the Birth of our Savior. Perhaps there are family members in our genealogy who embarrass you. Some of us have to spend time with people who have hurt us deeply or there are those whom you have hurt. It will not be an easy Christmas for many people across the globe. Some in our families are violent, some are adulterers, some are liars, some are murderers, and some are evil in bizarre ways. Our Lord Jesus understands the way we feel. He came from a disreputable family. His family tree was decorated with notable sinners. He knows what it’s like to have relatives who embarrass you. He knows all about a dysfunctional family situation. No matter what is your past, Jesus can save you. No matter what you have done in the past, you are not irredeemable. Jesus can save you. No matter what your past looks like, or your present feels like, no matter where you have been or what you have done, God can give you a fresh start. During this Holiday Season, there’s a lot of brokenness and a lot of pain. He knows exactly what you are going through this year at Christmastime. Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the hope of all ages, the culmination of all redemptive history, Savior of sinners and every life, every life as to its eternity is connected to Him. Those who are in hell are in hell because they rejected the salvation He provided; those in heaven because they received it. Let us pray that, may this Christmas be the day when many would embrace Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior and receive the forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven. My family joins me in wishing you and your family a memorable Christmas and a prosperous Christ filled New Year in 2017!