Luke 3:23-38

Jesus was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, son of Mattathias, son of Amos, son of Nahum, son of Esli, son of Naggai, son of Maath, son of Mattathias, son of Semein, son of Josech, son of Joda, son of Joanan, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri, son of Melchi, son of Addi, son of Cosam, son of Elmadam, son of Er, son of Joshua, son of Eliezer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam, son of Eliakim, son of Melea, son of Menna, son of Mattatha, son of Nathan, son of David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Sala, son of Nahshon, son of Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni, son of Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Shelah, son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan, son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God. Luke 3:23-38

Yes, today’s reading is Luke’s genealogy of Jesus.

Contrary to all claims otherwise – which usually sound like “I tried to read the Bible but I couldn’t get through all the endless lists of names” – the Bible is not dominated by lists like this. But there are some of them and they are there for the same reason that ancestry.com has sold millions of genetic testing kits. We’re all interested in learning more about where and who we came from.

Kelley and I both took one of those tests. She discovered that her Cherokee ancestry, mixed in with the rest of her European cocktail, was a myth. It turns out that her grandma wasn’t actually a Cherokee Native American, she just grew up in Cherokee, OK. That’s different.

And I was surprised that my supposed 50% pure-bred Norwegian side was actually 63% Norwegian, diluted by 24% Swedish and 13% England/Wales/NW Europe. I guess the Vikings got around a bit.

What does Jesus’ genealogy tell us?

First, let’s note that Matthew includes a very different tracing of Jesus’ heritage. Luke begins (as was thought) with Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, and he traces Jesus all the way back to God. Matthew begins with Abraham and works his way forward to Jesus. Matthew also includes some scandalous names, including women, and wraps it up in a numerology bow with a series of three 14 generation periods. Luke does none of that.

Second, let’s also note that both of these genealogies were constructed by the authors in order to fit their purposes for writing. It isn’t just that they “made them up”, it is that they were each carefully crafted. For both writers, their purpose wasn’t to get the genealogy of Jesus “right”, it was to tell the Jesus story in such a way as to get US right.

Matthew wanted to establish Jesus’ Jewish bona fides; Luke wants his Gentile audience to know that Jesus’ roots reached back to God, to the very beginning of time, not just the beginning of the people of Israel. Jesus’ universal roots reinforce his universal reach.

All of this is yet another nail in the coffin of the very modern “literalist” way of reading and understanding the Bible. There is neither a need to argue that either Matthew or Luke are “right” or that there would be some value in homogenizing the lists. They are what they are. Both are arguments meant to establish that Jesus is who he is.

The good news isn’t just how far back the family line of Jesus extends but how far forward – you and I can rejoice that our names have been grafted onto his family tree, that we might assume our responsibility in honoring and furthering our family legacy.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, all of us “come from” different people, places, and times yet we can trace our lineage back to creation itself and forward to life with you forever. Thank you for our ancestors and bless us in keeping and furthering life for the sake of those yet to come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

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