Summary: We may be tempted to skip over the account of Jesus' ancestry, but it is an important part of the good news of Jesus.
If you had the job of writing up the story of the life of Jesus, one of the decisions you would make would be what to do with the opening paragraph. You know how important the opening is. You want something to grab people’s attention and pull them into reading the whole thing.
What would you say? You might say this is the greatest story ever told. You might say this is a story that can change your life, connect you with God’s blessings, show you how to live the best life possible. You want them to see right away that there is something for them, right?
Let’s look how the Gospel of Matthew opens. Could somebody look it up? And this is not just the opening of Matthew’s Gospel. The early church put Matthew’s gospel at the beginning of the New Testament, so it is the opening of the whole New Testament, too.
It says: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,”
Do you want to go on and read the whole thing? I didn’t think so. It doesn’t really grab the interest of most people.
We’ve been working through Luke’s gospel and Luke includes a genealogy of Jesus, too. He doesn’t open with it. He waits until chapter 3, but while Matthew goes back to Abraham, Luke goes much farther back. I believe that if the Holy Spirit guided the early church to include Jesus’ genealogy in the Bible, there must be a reason for it. So that’s what we’ll look at today.
I’ve preached this text once before, back in 1988. And when I mentioned to Kathy what I was thinking about, she said, “Don’t you dare.” And our 9-year-old son said, “Can I go to the nursery that day?”
Our culture often doesn’t think much of family histories. We live in the present, the here and now. But we lose something in that. We lose a sense of what God is doing in the big sweep of the history of salvation. We lose a sense of who we are.
One of my friends is the son of a specialist who studies the history of Christian missions. He once told me of one culture that was just not interested in the story of Jesus, until the missionary told them that the Bible listed Jesus’ genealogy. And that’s what they wanted to hear. It was the most important part for them. Once they heard his family history, they were ready to hear the rest. In their culture you just couldn’t understand someone until you knew their family background. There is a lot of wisdom in that. Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ family history tells us some important things about Jesus.
Our text for this morning is Luke 3:23-37. You can find it on page 60 of the New Testament section of your pew Bible. Please stand for the reading of God’s word.
“Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli, 24 son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, 25 son of Mattathias, son of Amos, son of Nahum, son of Esli, son of Naggai, 26 son of Maath, son of Mattathias, son of Semein, son of Josech, son of Joda, 27 son of Joanan, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri, 28 son of Melchi, son of Addi, son of Cosam, son of Elmadam, son of Er, 29 son of Joshua, son of Eliezer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, 30 son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam, son of Eliakim, 31 son of Melea, son of Menna, son of Mattatha, son of Nathan, son of David, 32 son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Sala, son of Nahshon, 33 son of Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni, son of Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah, 34 son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor, 35 son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Shelah, 36 son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech, 37 son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan, 38 son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.”
So, does that excite you? What in the world is that all written down for? Paper was really expensive in New Testament times. Each sheet was hand made. Every copy was made by hand. Why bother with this?