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The Genealogy of Jesus: Tracing the Ancestry of the Messiah

In this post, we will study the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3, enabling us to understand the significance of Jesus' ancestry.

The Genealogy of Jesus: Tracing the Ancestry of the Messiah


The genealogical record of Jesus, as written in Luke, provides a profound glimpse into the ancestry of the Messiah. In our contemporary society, where familial heritage often takes a back seat, the significance of genealogies can be lost.

Biblically, genealogy serves various purposes in the Old Testament, evident in Genesis and Numbers, where ancestral lines dictated land division and inheritance rights. It formed the basis of kinsman redemption, ensuring property remained within the family. Ancestry was also a prerequisite for priesthood service, as seen in the book of Ezra. However, the most significant aspect was fulfilling God's promise that the Messiah would have specific individuals in his genealogy—such as Abraham and King David.


Luke's Genealogy of Jesus


Let's start by reading about the genealogy of Jesus from 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.


Why is this in the Bible, and what is significant about this portion of scripture?

Luke's readers would have understood precisely why he included a genealogy of Jesus. As mentioned above, it was necessary to establish his claim to be the promised Messiah.


The Differences in the Genealogies of Matthew and Luke

Some will note that there are differences between the records of Matthew and Luke. Only Matthew and Luke of the Gospel writers gave us a genealogy of Jesus, and there are differences but not contradictions.

One difference is that Matthew begins his genealogy with Abraham and moves forward to Jesus. Luke started his genealogy with Jesus and worked backward to get to Adam.


Another reason for the difference is that it reflects each writer's purpose.

Matthew, as a Levite (priestly role), focuses on the Messiahship (role of being called Savior) of Jesus in that he traces the legal line from Abraham through David, then Solomon and 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. Then Luke goes from David through Nathan (a different son of David) to Heli (Father of Mary) - the mother of Jesus.

Interestingly, Joseph and Mary have their lineage following a very similar pattern, and both come from the throne of David.

Also, Luke gives the name Heli (the father of Mary) but then doesn't list Mary but mentions Joseph. Why? Heli had no sons; according to the Law of Moses, when there were no sons to preserve the inheritance, the husband (son-in-law) would become the son upon marriage to keep up the family name. Therefore, Joseph, when he married Mary, became the legal son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and, therefore, could now be legally included in the genealogy. There is no contradiction but a different focus and intention.

This is important because even though Joseph was not biologically the father of Jesus, he was legally the father of Jesus, in much the same way a father legally adopts a son today.


The Genealogy of Jesus Identifies the Beginning of Jesus' Ministry

Luke said in verse 23a, Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age. This is the only verse of the Bible that mentions this. The significant reason is that 30 years of age was when it was customary for men of God to begin their ministries.

Ezekiel began his ministry as a prophet at thirty (Ezekiel 1:1).


Genesis 41:46 - Joseph, the son of Jacob, was thirty years old when he became prime minister of Egypt.


The Old Testament stipulated that a man entering the priesthood had to be thirty years old before he could begin his service - Numbers 4:3, 35, 39, 43, 47; 1 Chronicles 23:3.

2 Samuel 5:4 - Most notably, Jesus' ancestor David was thirty when he ascended to Israel's throne.


So Jesus began his public ministry at an age that connected him with other Old Testament notables and at an age that people in that day would've considered appropriate.


The Genealogy of Jesus Is Significant Because it Affirms the Virgin Birth


Luke went on to say in verse 23b, Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph

It was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 - Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.


It was understandable that people "supposed" that Jesus was the son of Joseph. After all, Joseph and Mary had other children; Jesus was the oldest, they thought.


But that assumption was both correct and incorrect as Jesus was biologically the son only of Mary, and Joseph (as mentioned above) was only the legal father. The way Luke showed that in the Greek text was very simple. Every ancestor of Jesus in Luke's gospel is written in a definite manner (was the son of), which was the standard way. Yet, it is different when it comes to Joseph, (as was supposed, the son of Joseph).

Luke showed that Joseph was only legally and not physically Jesus' father. In this evident and straightforward way, 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. Upon receiving news from the Angel that she was going to have a baby - Luke 1:34 - Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"


The Genealogy of Jesus Is Significant Because It Includes Three Names


Three names are essential to Jesus' claim to be the promised Messiah sent from God.


First, the Messiah had to be a descendant of David. Luke outlines in verse 31e that Jesus came through the lineage of David. David was the greatest of all of Israel's kings. The people of God greatly respected him. God says of him that he was a man after His own heart. And it was with King David that God made a covenant. We read about it in 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.

You may recall that even before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel went to Mary and told her that she would conceive and bear a son, whose name would be Jesus. Then he 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.

This statement by the angel outlines that Jesus, as a descendant of David, was fulfilling that promise to David, making Him the promised Messiah who would rule as King forever and ever.


Second, Jesus was a descendant of Abraham. We find this in Luke verse 34c. God called Abraham to himself while he was still a pagan in Haran. 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 covenant 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." But Abram said, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Abram said, "Since You have not given me any children, my heir is a servant born in my house." 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." 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." Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.


Yes, the promise began in Isaac and grew from there. But the blessing was the starting point, and Paul clarified that God's covenant with Abraham was fulfilled in Christ. Paul said in 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 made with Abraham would be fulfilled in his offspring, Jesus, a direct descendant of Abraham, again making Jesus the promised Messiah. All the families of the world through Christ will be blessed.


Finally, Jesus was a descendant of Adam. See verse 38c. Adam was the first man created by God. He was created in God's image and likeness. From Adam, all of humanity descended. Yet we also know that Adam fell into sin, which caused humanity to fall into sin.


Remember that Matthew's genealogy of Jesus does not extend beyond Abraham. The reason for that is that Matthew was writing primarily to a Jewish audience, and he wanted them to understand that Jesus was a direct descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people.

Luke extended his genealogy of Jesus back to Adam to show that Jesus, as a direct descendant of Adam, was, in fact, the promised Messiah (Savior) not only for Jews but for every person (all of humanity).

Jesus had to descend from Adam because He had to come in the flesh (as a man) to die for the sins of the world.


In Hebrews, it tells us that the sacrifices of animals could not take away sin. Neither would the death of an ordinary sinful human being. Only someone human, tested, and sinless could pay for sin. Jesus had to come in the flesh to fulfill these requirements.


Jesus had to be a human being to die. It says in Hebrews 2:14 - So then, as the children share in flesh and blood (physical nature/human), He (Jesus) likewise took part in these, so that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil… A human brought sin upon us; with that came the consequences (separation from God). A human could only make payment for that sin. The only way for Jesus to qualify as the remedy was for Him to become the perfect man.


As the sinless man, his death on the cross has paid the penalty for our sins. He died in our place so that we do not have to suffer the eternal consequences of sin.


Matthew 20:28 - even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.


Jesus Christ came into the world to become our Savior. But He could not do it without becoming human. So, in His genealogy, we get a picture of Jesus coming as a man, the second Adam, so He can bring salvation to the world.


Conclusion


In conclusion, the genealogy of Jesus, meticulously detailed in Luke 3:23-38, serves as a powerful testament to the ancestry of the Messiah. Luke's careful documentation, tracing Jesus back to Adam, emphasizes the nature of Christ's mission. The genealogy establishes Jesus as the promised Messiah. It sheds light on the importance of his ministry commencement at thirty, affirming the virgin conception and underscoring key names—David, Abraham, and Adam. The differences between Matthew and Luke's genealogies, far from contradictions, reveal distinct emphases in each writer's purpose. Luke's readers would grasp the necessity of establishing Jesus' claim to Messianic fulfillment, making this portion of scripture a crucial foundation for understanding the lineage and significance of the Savior. Remember this when you read the lineage of Jesus in Luke or Matthew, and let it strengthen your faith in the plan and purposes of God.



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Mar 22
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Also, Luke gives the name Heli (the father of Mary) but then doesn't list Mary but mentions Joseph. Why? Heli had no sons; according to the Law of Moses, when there were no sons to preserve the inheritance, the husband (son-in-law) would become the son upon marriage to keep up the family name. Therefore, Joseph, when he married Mary, became the legal son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and, therefore, could now be legally included in the genealogy. There is no contradiction but a different focus and intention.

This is important because even though Joseph was not biologically the father of Jesus, he was legally the father of Jesus, in much the same way a father legally adopts a son…


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