Researching one’s family history can turn up surprises. A couple years ago, a distant cousin of mine researched our family line using a computer program. How surprised I was to learn that my family had been in this country for over 350 years and that our ancestral home was Warwickshire, England.
In the Scriptures, we find several genealogies. When we come across one of them when doing our devotions, our first inclination is to skip over them. Yet as we read Christ’s genealogy in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3, we find some familiar names- Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David- and we find a few surprises.
Just as doing family research may help us to gain a sense of connection to the past and form our identity, so Christ’s genealogy tells us important information about who He is and what He came to do.
It is vitally important that Jesus have a human family line. After all, to be our Savior, He had to be not only true God, but also true man, to take our place under the law and suffer and die for us.
Matthew’s Gospel begins with the words “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (1:1). This clues us in on what this genealogy demonstrates, that Jesus is the Messiah. To be the Messiah, Jesus had to be the descendant of Abraham, to whom it was promised, “In your Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). He also had to be a descendant of David, Israel’s greatest king, to whom it was promised that his family would never fail to have a man on the throne.
The genealogy in Matthew’s gospel also turns up some surprises. Jewish genealogies usually only included the names of men. Surprise- we find four women included in Christ’s genealogy. These aren’t just any women, either. These are the type of people we would be ashamed to find in our family tree. The first woman is Tamar, who disguised herself as a prostitute and bore twin sons by her father-in-law Judah. The second is Rahab, a Canaanite harlot who hid Israelite spies before the Israelites occupied the promised land. Next we find Ruth, a Moabitess, descended from a line marred by incest. Then we find Uriah’s wife, Bathseheba, with whom King David had an adulterous affair. This may be more information than we’d like to know. But in this we see the grace of God, that His Son, Jesus came to save sinners. He humbled himself to be born of family that consisted of forgiven sinners. That foreigners such as Ruth and Rahab are included shows that God’s grace extended beyond Israel to all people.
While Matthew’s genealogy follows the line of Joseph, Jesus’ legal guardian, Luke’s follows Mary’s line. His list begins with Joseph, with the note that he was only thought to be Jesus’ father. Jesus had no human father, but is the very Son of God. Luke traces Christ’s family line backward to Adam and finally back to God. This shows that Jesus is the second Adam, who came to restore all that the first Adam had lost in the fall, that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind.
Learning about our own family tree can be important for this life, teaching us interesting and sometimes surprising facts. But how much more important Christ’s family tree is for our eternal life. You and I are children of Adam, conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity. Thanks be to God that Jesus entered our human family to be our Savior. We are children of Abraham by faith in Gospel. Therefore we are also children of God and co-heirs with Christ of eternal life.