Why the Genealogies?

Matthew 1:16

THE long lists of our Lord’s ancestry given in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 have puzzled the devout not a little. They are not identical, and the ordinary reader wades through the formidable genealogical lists perhaps to no great edification.

But there is a definite purpose and value to every portion of the God-breathed Scriptures. Matthew, writing to Jews, traces our Lord on His human side back to Abraham. Luke, writing to Gentiles, goes back to Adam. Matthew traces the line through David to our Lord’s legal father, Joseph. Notice the changed expression in 1:16: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Matthew, representing Christ the King, gives His kingly descent.

Much difficulty attends the fact that Jacob is given as Josephs father in Matthew while Luke says “Joseph which was of Heli” (3:23). It is believed that in Luke we have the ancestry of Mary whose father was Heli, therefore Joseph as son-in-law is called “son.”

Whatever the explanation of that, the lists afford us spiritual meat. Our Lord is the heir by descent to the throne of David, which throne He will yet occupy when He reigns on earth over a redeemed Israel.

All classes occur in this line, good and bad, rich and poor. Our Lord is the representative of collective humanity. All of us may find our types in this line of descent. He was identified in His ancestry with all sorts. Three women who were guilty of gross sins are found here: Rahab, Tamar and Bathsheba. On our side, the Lord Jesus inherited all the common tendencies of humanity so that He might be tempted in all points like as we. Yet He was without sin.

On the human side He comes through all this checkered ancestry truly representative of the race, Jew and Gentile blood in His veins. On the divine side He comes from God, the express image of God, the Word, Emmanuel. These are joined in the supreme miracle of all time, Jesus Christ the God-man. So, legally through Joseph and actually through Mary, our Lord is linked with David and Abraham in the Gospel to the Jews and with Adam in the Gospel to the Gentiles. And both writers are careful to declare His virgin birth. Matthew with his “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” and Luke with “Jesus… being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.”

Familiarity with the story has dulled us to the wonder and mystery of this marvel of all time, God becoming man. How carefully the stage is set: the Roman, Jewish and Greek worlds converging on this focal point, each with its own contribution! And God maintained through the centuries the line of descent until in the fullness of time He would send forth His Son born of a woman. No page of His record is dull when seen in the light of His wonderful purpose!

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