The two genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels are contained in Matthew 1:1ff and Luke 3:23ff. There are specific reasons for each, reflected in their details; the names included, the omissions and the differences all matter because of the purposes of Matthew and of Luke. There is something about them, though, that is so simple in its difference and profound in its implication, that I want to reflect on it with you.
Matthew starts with Abraham and works down to Jesus; Luke starts with Jesus and works backwards to Adam.
There are many reasons: the audiences, the purposes of writing, the core messages; and the key ideas that each interpretation of the same Gospel presents are just a few. Matthew is writing for Jews, to help them understand that their Messiah is the Hope of Israel, the New Moses, the One promised through Abraham Who would be a blessing to Israel and through His Messiahship to the world. Luke is writing to remind us of the Universal Hope that Jesus brings. His Gospel account is a celebration of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit; he emphasises the ministry of Jesus to women, children, the poor and the excluded. He wants us to see that Jesus is the Hope of the world.
Matthew reminds of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1) at the very beginning of His Story. Luke, on the other hand, reaches the astounding crescendo of his genealogy with the remarkable phrase that Jesus is the Son of Adam, the Son of God, (Luke 3:38). It is these two beautiful descriptions that capture me: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham; and Jesus, the Son of Adam, the Son of God. Put these two lineage accounts together and you have a powerful, provocative and remarkable declaration. The One Who comes to us is the Consolation of Israel, and the Hope of the world.
It is in Him that Israel finds herself. He is the answer to their yearning and longing. He is the fulfilment of every promise of God to them. They are not forgotten, they are not replaced. Their Messiah has come, and He will come again. He is the answer to every yearning for the Jewish People. He is their Messiah and they will see Him when He returns. Christ not only answers the yearning of Israel, He is the perfect Israel before God. He fulfils not only God’s promises to them (as the Messiah) but He also fulfils their role in God’s plan back to God Himself (as the perfect High Priest and Sacrifice). Thus, Jesus is both the Messiah they need and yearn for and the Representative before God that can set them , and therefore the world, free.
Yet Luke shows us that Jesus is the Son of Adam and the Son of God. He is the representative that every human needs. He carries our humanity. He redeems all of Creation. His coming is the arrival of Hope for the world. He represents us all. This one man, this God-man, carries us to God but also carries God to us. He brings consolation to Israel, God’s chosen community who were called to demonstrate His grace to the world, and He brings hope to all the peoples of the world if we will turn to Him. He is our Bridge. He is our Hope. He is our Comfort. He is our Rescuer. He is our Life.
As I reflect on these genealogies I am left feeling that Matthew and Luke help me realise that God’s Son, our Saviour is rooted in One Story of Hope in two directions. It goes all the way back to Adam through the powerful vocation of God’s People, Israel and God’s great servant Abraham and goes all the way forward through time and history to the end of all things. I wonder if Luke’s language has a powerful meaning that enables me to find my broken humanity redeemed in Christ. I am a son of Adam, as Jesus is a Son of Adam, but because He is the Perfect Son of Adam He brings wholeness, hopefulness and life to my brokeness, my yearning and my death. Jesus, the Son of Adam, redeems the sons and daughters of Adam precisely because He is also the Son of God. Through the ministry of Jesus, sons and daughters of Adam can become children of God. Our humanity is not simply patched up by the life and ministry of Jesus, it is utterly transformed. It is transfigured. We, the children of Adam, can become the children of God! How remarkable! And thus the genealogy continues through us.
So we trace our story backwards to Jesus, Who is the Son of God; but we also carry the new identity of being children of God forward. The disciples became followers of Jesus, and through them the genealogy continues. The Great Story carries on through them, through Paul, through Lydia, through so many others across so many generations. This same Great Story is birthed in us, and carries on through us until we, the children of Adam, who are now the children of God, come face to face with Jesus, the Son of Adam, the Son of God.
How do we allow this Powerful Story to transform our identity looking back, and our hope looking forward?
(C) Malcolm J. Duncan. (Advent 2019)