This Christmas, I’ve been working through the genealogies of Jesus found in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. I have been struck by all the pictures of Jesus imbedded in the list of names in both lists.
Here are three of my favorite expressions you see in the gallery of names in these collections –
A Portrait of God’s Humanity
While Matthew’s list goes back to Abraham, Luke’s list goes all the way to Adam. This subtle difference reminds us that Jesus was certainly Jewish, as prophesied by God’s spokesmen, but he was very much human. He was one of us. All of us trace our genealogy back to Adam.
A Portrait of God’s Sovereignty
The two lists are very different from each other. To the scriptural critic, it might seem this negates the accuracy of the lists. If you accept that Matthew’s list is the legal view of the genealogy, then you can look harder at Luke’s account and see the different perspective the doctor brings.
Luke goes backwards in his list, starting with Joseph. The next name – Heli – is listed as Joseph’s father. But, we know Joseph’s father was Jacob. What’s the story here?
Heli must have been Mary’s father who claimed Joseph as a son since he had no sons of his own – a practice not uncommon in the biblical era. And so, Luke’s account gives us Mary’s genealogy, thus making Luke’s account the biological one. And the word “begat” does not appear here – and neither do any names of women. This is the maternal bloodline of Jesus through his mother, since he was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
David appears in both, as do Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. We learn in Haggai 2:20-23 that they appear in a direct fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Zerubbabel is the “signet ring” affirming that Jesus’ birth came directly from the throne of the Kingdom of God. Why? And how?
A Portrait of God’s grace.
Matthew’s list is distinctively Jewish, told from a Jewish tax collector’s perspective starting with Abraham and following the legal line all the way to Joseph. His list is full of “begats” that connect the generations through the legal means of bloodline inheritance.
So why are five women mentioned in this list? And why would non-Jews make this list? And why in the world are people with less-than-stellar reputations littered throughout?
It seems to me, the closer you examine the religions of the world, the more problems you see. But, the closer we look at Jesus, the more perfection we observe.
This Christmas, look closer at Jesus than you ever have before.
He has never disappointed us.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.c