Summary: We have a world filled with people competing with each other to survive instead of relying on each other for survival. We have a world that is selfish and self centered instead of selfless and self sacrificing.
Family Names in Stone
Today I want to look at Jesus genealogy as recorded in Luke chapter 3. Here we have listed Marys family tree that is traced all the way back to Adam. In Matthews gospel we have the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus.
Matthew traces Jesus to Abraham for a Jewish audience and Lukes gospel traces Marys genealogy to Adam for a gentile audience. In this way we have Jesus tied to God through Abraham and tied to man through Adam. Jesus is then tied to Jews and Gentiles.
Each list has different names but there are points where the names intersect. These intersections are important and help validate the record as it is cross-referenced one against the other. But that is not what we are concerned with today.
I know that our bibles have many genealogies listed throughout its pages and they seem like such a long introduction that we often race past them to get to the meat of the story. I know that I have often done this and maybe you have too.
But there is more than meets the eye than a simple list of names as a preamble to a story. We have to look at each name and the time that the name is referenced to in order to get the picture that we are being shown. This is how ancient Jewish writers wrote their stories. They often started by giving a long list of names but for the Jewish reader the names all meant something important and helped set the stage for the story.
Since we are two thousand years removed from the telling of these stories and since we are not Jewish we have a couple of hurdles to overcome. We have historical distance and cultural distance to cover. It is not always easy to overcome but often when we make the effort we see scripture in a different context that reveals things we might otherwise have missed.
Why is this important? It is all about how we present Jesus to people who do not know him. In first century Jerusalem they presented Jesus using this long genealogy which made sense to the listener. That list tied Jesus to Jewish history.
Many of the names listed in Luke would be familiar to Jewish listeners as names that were common to Jewish patriots during the Maccabean revolt. That revolt saw a Jewish family defend the Jewish faith against Antiochus IV, Epiphanies (God Manifest the Illustrious) (168-135 BC) he managed to keep some of what was once Alexander the Greats empire. So he would have been Hellenistic in his religious beliefs. He sought to slaughter the Jews because they would not make a religious offering to Antiochus as a god. It sounds like a familiar theme doest it.
The Jews defeated this enemy and won 100 years of control over Jerusalem until the Romans took over. Many of the these freedom fighters names were remembered and given to succeeding generations as a memorial to that battle much like we carve the names of our war dead on a Cenotaph. Some Jewish parents would have named their children after some of these Great War heroes. Some of those same kinds of names show up in this genealogy.
Today we would not present Jesus in the same way by bringing up the names of past war heroes or family members named after war heroes. Our challenge is different.
Most people around the world have some idea as to who Jesus is and what he represents so for us a basic introduction is not always needed. Instead we are challenged to distinguish Jesus from other religious figures of history. Jesus is no longer a new religious character to the world but rather a competing character for people seeking faith in God.
Our task is in many ways more difficult than in first century Jerusalem. Our audience is not Jewish and our audience does not believe in creation as the origin of the species. Our audience is not one that associates itself with God in the ways the Jewish people did. Instead our audience does everything to distance itself from God in every way possible. Even to the point of embracing other gods or beliefs that include science or old pagan religions once abandoned but now re-made as New Age ideas. We have a world that in many ways has turned its back on the person of Jesus as Gods Messiah and they are off looking in other directions.
This may be in part because most of the world is not Jewish and so they do not see a link between themselves and this Jewish connection. Or it may be that we the Christians have failed to convince the world of Jesus deity as reflected through our lives and actions throughout two thousand years of history.