St John's logo

The genealogy of Jesus

Si Walker, 17th December 2016

Looking through the archives

Programs like ‘Who do you think you are?’ have tapped into our love of family history. Most of us like to know where we have come from. Maybe it will unlock something about who we ARE?

In my own family it is rumoured that we are related by marriage to Oliver Cromwell, something the family was so proud of, that shortly after his head was impaled on a spike and fell off, we decided to buy it. Don’t ask me where it is now. Family histories can be amusing, confusing and often eye opening. Many people don’t realise that Jesus’ family history is contained in the Bible. Matthew 1:1 reads: ‘A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David…’ And then, there are quite a lot of names. Trust me, I’m a Vicar. Or click here to read for yourself in this online Bible.

'what happens next would leave any family tree expert feeling jealous of Matthew’s findings'

Let me give you a few highlights. Tom Wright says, ‘Any first century Jew would find his family history both impressive and compelling.’

ABRAHAM- Most Jews, would have taken as read that they descended from this early Father of the faith. Abraham is kind of a big deal in the Bible, ever since God gave him his covenant promises in Genesis 12 to make him into a great nation and bless him. But then, Jesus has King DAVID listed in his ancestors. ‘Only a select few’ says Wright, ‘would be able to trace their own line through King David.’ But what happens next would leave any family tree expert feeling jealous of Matthew’s findings. Jesus is able to trace his family history through king SOLOMON and the other kings of Judah, all the way to the exile. That is far better than a sketchy claim to fame, such as mine.

And it was also much better than King Herod’s claim to royalty. He had no royal blood, was not Jewish (despite ruling the Jews) and had been installed as a puppet king by the Romans. This was a political statement about Jesus. By mentioning David, the gospel writer is reminding us that God made great promises to him of a great king who would rule on his throne forever. In answer to the question, ‘who do you think you are?’ Jesus is able to say that he is that royal king. And that is before we speak about divinity.

'Jesus is able to say that he is that royal king'

But family trees contain villains as well as heroes, right? Then the family members from the time of the exile are mentioned, when God’s people lived under foreign powers and were oppressed. That was a time says Wright when ‘all God’s promises seemed to be lost forever, drowned in the sea of Israel’s sins and God’s judgement.’ So in sending Jesus as the rescuing descendent of that time, God is reminding us that he is faithful to his promises.

Finally, did you spot RAHAB in the list? (v5) Her presence reminds us of the messiness that Jesus was prepared to come and be part of to save us. Rahab was a Jericho prostitute who welcomed the Israelite spies who came to search the promised land out. And Jesus shares her genes! God can work in these strange ways, and he is setting the stage for the incredible things he will do through Jesus Christ who concludes the genealogy in Matthew 1.

Through Jesus Christ, God still keeps his promises today and works in incredible ways in his world. This Jesus is the Living God, who became part of humanity.