Summary: A concise exposition of Jesus in history and what that means to us
Part one of a series History Mystery Majesty (not my invention for the series)
Mention history to most people and immediately what comes to mind is a list of dates. Dates of battles, kings, presidents, and events. Or, what comes to my mind, is a kind of fuzzy impression that there are dates of battles, kings, presidents, and battles, which I ought to know, but I simply can’t connect them all together
But more and more, nowadays when you mention history, people respond with a story of their search for their family tree. There are websites and companies all over the place, it seems, that can give you new tools and ways of searching for your lost brothers, and your sisters and your cousins and your aunts. There is an absolute need for us to know where we come from. What is our place in the family? What is our place in history? It might be fun to be related to someone famous, but we have a need to know who we are and where we are in our history of our family in our world. And so it is no surprise that in the gospels of Matthew and Luke we find a list of the people in Jesus family tree. We often talk of Jesus as one of us; a man. But what might surprise us, is that we really do need to know Jesus family tree. It confirms that Jesus was a real person. He had a family history. He has a place and a time on earth. When we visit a new place, the first questions we get asked are the kind of questions that place us in the history of the people we meet. We need to know that the people we meet are one of us. We are known by our family history. It is the starting point of our personal history. And so it was for Jesus. So first of all let’s imagine we are meeting Jesus for the first time and getting to know him. We get to know some of his family history. What can we know about Jesus? How can we place him in history?
It could take a long time to go into the list in detail, but we can quickly pick out highlights of what we might expect of the man Jesus. Three times in the genealogy we find that Jesus is the son of, or descended from, Abraham and David. Abraham was the father, the patriarch of the Jewish race. Abraham is the one who travelled first of all the Hebrews to the land promised by God as an inheritance. And the inheritance was to be for all of Abraham’s seed; to all of his family tree to come. He was the original priest. He rescued his nephew Lot when he was kidnapped. He was the one who saved Lot and most of his family from destruction of judgement.
David is the archetypal king of the Jews. When a Jew thinks of an ideal king, they think of David; David who had the courage to stand up to the power of Goliath; David the shepherd of sheep and of God’s people; David who would stand up to the evil in his day.
Some of the lesser known ancestors help to make Jesus ancestry more clear; Amminadab is the father of Aarons wife; a priestly connection. Nahshon was a leader of the tribe of Judah in the Exodus wandering in the desert; a kingly leadership connection. Zerubbabel plated a prophetic role in Israel’s history during troubled times. Jehoshaphat was a king who was one of two kings of faith in a line of kings that brought darkness to Israel. He was a bringer of light. Jesus, when he came into history, had a history. He had ancestors and a name to live up to. And if we were to put these ancestors into some kind of job description for Jesus we would say that he had all the ancestral advantages to be prophet and priest and king. Fanny Crosby so wonderfully used these offices of Jesus in her song Praise Him. Song 184 in our songbook, if you want to look it up later. We all have history. We have parents and grandparents who have lived lives with character. And we come from a line of ancestors ourselves with expectations. I was somewhat fortunate as the older child because when I went to my school, I was the first in line. My poor sister had to endure the comparisons with me. Captain Maureen was second in line and had to endure the same. I wonder if our teachers had known our ancestors, perhaps there would be a different reaction. We know that when we get together as Salvationists we seek to know who we are related to. It matters because when we know that, we may get an inkling of the character of the person we are meeting. Our ancestry gives us a certain preparation for the roles we will play in life. And so we can expect certain behaviours perhaps. As Christians we have become born again into a new life. We have a new set of ancestors. Paul describes this as a cloud of witnesses that surround us and encourage us to press on towards the goal. Our ancestry creates a new expectation of behaviour. There are certain things that are expected of Christians. Sometimes these are real expectations and sometimes not. On the one hand people expect us to be helping others all the time, any time. On the other hand we are also supposed to be reading our bibles and praying most of the time. There was a time when it was expected that a Christian would not go to see a film. In fact one of our generals went to see a film and walked out under conviction that it was definitely not right. But now we are expected to know the culture and engage with it. WE are expected to be soft hearted, but hard enough to take the abuse without reaction. When people hear the word Christian they often get the wrong idea, mostly because they haven’t read the bible. We are not alone in this expectation of behaviour. Mention the word Moslem and most people in the western world think of suicide bombers and terrorism. At the end of the list of Jesus ancestors we come to his name and attached to that name is the title the Christ. And if you are a Jew there are certain expectations that come with that title. The Christ is the messiah who will rescue his people. In Israel’s history the rescuer has nearly always been one who conquers and defends. But like most of us, the Jews had overlooked the other prophetic scriptures that described the coming Messiah in different ways; as a shepherd. (Ezekiel 37:4); as the offspring of a virgin womb (Isaiah 7:14). "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him." (Deuteronomy 18:15). And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. (Isaiah 29:18). He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7) Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12) He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)