Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus

I’m up to Luke 4 and I feel like the story is just beginning. Luke spent some time on some details of a few people, most notably John the Baptist. The first three chapters show God’s initiative in all these events. Zechariah didn’t go into the temple and tell God that he would be a father and that his child would be the herald of the Messiah. Mary didn’t decide to become pregnant before she “knew a man.” God sent his angel to both and initiated the works of salvation that Luke is about to relate to us. Right off the bat, Luke wants us to know that this story is God’s story and it is initiated by God.

But then I got to the genealogy of Jesus at the end of chapter 3 and I’ve spent the past few days asking myself why it is there. I’m not asking why he included the genealogy, but why he didn’t include it at the beginning like Matthew did? Luke is far too intentional in his writing style to have simply dumped it here for no reason and there is no textual evidence that it wasn’t original. So why is it here?

Well I spent a few days reading back and forth and I kept tripping on the genealogy till I pressed on. Like I said at the beginning, the story is just beginning! Consider how Luke ends his narration just before the genealogy. He rather quickly wraps it up. John baptized, Herod threw him in jail, and oh yea, John baptized Jesus too. I mean he covers all that in 5 verses, he rushes right through it as compared to the other narratives so far. There is a feeling of summing up in that first part of chapter 3. Then a genealogy introducing Jesus.

I know, we’ve already been introduced to Jesus. We read of his birth, his presentation at the temple, then he’s 12 and he’s teaching the teachers at the temple. But we really haven’t met Jesus. We don’t really meet him till now. Luke 4 begins with the Spirit leading him into the wilderness and the devil tempting him. The genealogy showed us the link between Jesus and God via Abraham via David. Now, in the temptation, the devil makes the statement that Jesus is the Son of God. Bring to bear what we’ve learned so far and we see that Jesus is the Son of God first by miraculous birth, second by descendancy and finally by God’s very own pronouncement (Luke 3:22). Satan then comes along and tests Jesus in that very area and Jesus passes the test. The temptation ends with the announcement that Jesus begins his ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

If we consider the first three chapters as prologue, which I think has some warrant, then the genealogy is the beginning of the story and Luke’s narration of Jesus begins with a very powerful introduction. He defeats the challenges to his role as the Son of God and launches his ministry in the power of God’s Spirit.

Here is Jesus.

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  • there is something about the genealogy that bothers me – it is so basic I must be missing something basic. The genealogy back to David is from Joeseph – If Jesus was a virgin birth, then only Mary’s genealogy would matter, right? So Jesus is either from the house of David, filling prophecy OR he is of a virgin birth … but he can’t be both.

  • That’s a fair question Tom. One way that Christians have answered that is to say that Luke’s genealogy is Joseph’s and Matthew’s is Mary’s. Both were descendants of David. Personally, that seems weak.

    I think it is pretty clear that they are both Joseph’s. Here’s why Jesus can be born of a virgin and still be David’s son. Once Mary and Joseph were betrothed, they were in essence married. When Joseph didn’t send her away (cf Matt 1:18 & 19 & 24) Jesus, though not physically Joseph’s son, was a son of Joseph since he was born into his house. He in essence adopted Jesus as his own son. That made Jesus’ descendancy from David through Joseph perfectly legitimate.

    It isn’t either or. The Bible is clear that Jesus was born of a virgin, all three synoptic gospels agree, and that he was the son of David (see Acts 2). Both are true and there is no issue with them both being true.

  • Actually Mary’s genealogy didn’t matter either. Neither seed of Mary or Joseph were involved in the birth of Christ. If it had been then Jesus wouldn’t have been a fit sacrifice. He would have been polluted. The guilt of Adam would have been conveyed though them. God formed Jesus in the womb of Mary to bring about the promise to David and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s virgin birth.

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