LOiving with Luke (10): Jesus' Genealogy

            Luke the Evangelist
 is traditionally symbolized by a winged ox or bull –
             a figure of sacrifice, service and strength.                                                                                                        The ox signifies that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ.


Luke 3:23-38:  Jesus’ Genealogy
23 Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry. People supposed that he was the son of Joseph son of Heli 24 son of Matthat son of Levi son of Melchi son of Jannai son of Joseph 25 son of Mattathias son of Amos son of Nahum son of Esli son of Naggai 26 son of Maath son of Mattathias son of Semein son of Josech son of Joda 27 son of Joanan son of Rhesa son of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel son of Neri 28 son of Melchi son of Addi son of Cosam son of Elmadam son of Er 29 son of Joshua son of Eliezer son of Jorim son of Matthat son of Levi 30 son of Simeon son of Judah son of Joseph son of Jonam son of Eliakim 31 son of Melea son of Menna son of Mattatha son of Nathan son of David 32 son of Jesse son of Obed son of Boaz son of Sala son of Nahshon 33 son of Amminadab son of Admin son of Arni son of Hezron son of Perez son of Judah 34 son of Jacob son of Isaac son of Abraham son of Terah son of Nahor 35 son of Serug son of Reu son of Peleg son of Eber son of Shelah 36 son of Cainan son of Arphaxad son of Shem son of Noah son of Lamech 37 son of Methuselah son of Enoch son of Jared son of Mahalalel son of Cainan 38 son of Enos son of Seth son of Adam son of God.

Genealogies in the ancient world were kept to authenticate pedigree which was crucial to their worthiness for the tasks fallen to them.  Both Matthew and Luke have one yet they use them to quite different purposes and in quite different places in their narratives.  Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy intent on establishing Jesus’ relationship with the line of Abraham.  Luke, however, takes Jesus’ lineage back through David and Abraham all the way to Adam, to the very origins of the human family. Since Adam was “son of God” (v.38) and Jesus, though thought by his neighbors to be Joseph’s Son (v.23), has just been acclaimed the same by God himself, Luke clinches this identification with this genealogy.

Luke also runs his genealogy from the present to the past, opposite of Matthew’s presentation.  That he ends with Adam prepares for the temptation story which comes next in Luke with its allusions to our first parent’s failure in temptation standing in contrast to Jesus’ successful negotiation of the same.  

By means of his genealogy Luke ties together the particular importance of Israel in God’s plans by identifying Jesus as an Israelite, indeed connected to the families of David and Abraham with the universal significance of Adam for all humanity.  In other words, he ties the universal (Gen.1-11) with the particular (Gen 12 and following) in the way the Bible always does.  God’s work through Abraham’s family carries meaning for the entire human community from Adam.

On the other hand, Luke’s genealogy is bracketed on each side by an emphasis on the Spirit’s power at work in Jesus.  He is baptized with the Spirit before the genealogy and lead into the wilderness for his temptation after which he “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (4:14).  This theme of the Spirit is one of Luke’s major emphases and contributions to Christian thought.

Son of God, Adam, Abraham, David, the Spirit – this cluster of phrases goes a long way to setting the stage for Luke’s presentation of Jesus!


Popular posts from this blog

Spikenard Sunday/Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut

The time when America stopped being great

Idolatry of the Family