There it is. The genealogy. You start reading it, and after about three or four names, you just skip down and move on. Who are all these people anyway? I guarantee that if we took the time to study them, we’d find some very interesting tales. It’s true with anybody’s genealogy: You start with a name. If you can put a face to the name, it gets more interesting. But if you can put a story to the name, genealogies are fascinating. Well, I wish I had the time and fervor to examine all these names. I’m certain if I did, we’d find some interesting stories, and skeletons, in Jesus’ genealogical closet. But there are a couple of things to point out. Remember, there are no wasted words in the scriptures. The parchments on which they were written were not as readily available as paper and blog space are today, so they used every inch they could, and they didn’t waste words. Those lists of names in the Scriptures are there for a reason. They just take some digging to get to the bottom of. So what about Luke’s genealogy?
First of all, we only get a genealogy for Jesus in two Gospels. We get them in Matthew and Luke. Matthew’s comes as the very first thing in his Gospel, and it leads into Matthew’s birth narrative. Luke, however, begins his immediately following Jesus’ baptism- that is, immediately following a voice from heaven saying to Jesus, “You are my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased”. By placing the genealogy here, I believe Luke is calling out the significance of what happened at Jesus’ baptism. This man is not merely the son of Mary of Jesus. He is the son of God, and his baptism becomes, in this sense, almost another birth narrative. He was born of a human, and now he is born of the Spirit. Jesus’ life up until this point has been very human- he was born a poor, homeless, infant child. He was circumcised, he was presented in the temple, he went to school, he even got lost and frustrated his parents. Everything about his life has had very human elements to it, but now, at his baptism we get a voice from heaven claiming him as “my son, the beloved.”
And it is here that the genealogy comes, and it does things very differently than Matthew. As already noted it is placed differently. But it also works in an opposite direction. Matthew starts with Abraham and works toward Jesus. Luke starts with Jesus and works back all the way to God. By beginning with Abraham, Matthew is calling out Jesus’ Jewishness. But it is also important to note that Luke does not deny nor ignore Jesus’ Jewishness. Both Matthew and Luke mention David, and the way in which Luke lays it out, David falls exactly in the center of the genealogy. However, by working all the way back to Adam and ultimately God, Luke is calling out what Luke has already called out about Jesus: That he is “good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Jesus is for all of humanity. And by actually finishing with “the son of God”, Luke is making it abundantly clear that Jesus is God’s son (as if it wasn’t already clear from the Baptism). Make no mistake about who this is. He is the Son of God, born as a human, here to be good news for all of humanity. What are the implications of that? Keep reading.