Disheveled Theologian: The family of God
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading some of the Old Testament books that have long lists of “so-and-so begat so-and-so”, I tend to zone out. To skip bits. To feel bored. I shouldn’t do that! But it’s been known to happen. The truth is, genealogies, no matter how dull, do hide interesting facts.
My Grandpa Wendt has a (long-since expired) patent in RCA’s first color television. I have a friend from college whose grandfather invented Head and Shoulders. The choir director in my church when I was growing up was Judy Garland’s cousin.
Claims to fame in our ancestry. We all have them, no matter how tenuous. Sometimes our ancestor’s stories are more notorious than exemplary. Tales of the “black sheep” in our families become favorite stories around the holiday table. After all, “black sheep” are a lot more interesting than boring old humdrum sheep. At my husband’s grandmother’s funeral a year ago, the audience laughed more than once at some of the family lore, which was shared during the eulogy. Some long-dead relative shot some other relative over a road sign, for goodness sake!
I have never spent any time delving into my ancestors, but I have a dear friend who has discovered amazing things — stories, photographs — about her family through her research. The search itself has become a beloved hobby for her, bringing her to far-off cities around the country. Turns out she’s related to a Civil War hero, which is pretty neat. One of my great (great-great?) grandfathers fought in the Civil War, too We have a really cool sepia-toned photo of him, huge long beard, standing next to his rifle, the bayonet extending far over his head.
Yes, our family lines can be fascinating. And Jesus’ is no exception. I’ve been drawn, over and over in the past few weeks, to the two listings of Jesus’ family lines that we have in Scripture. One covers Mary’s family tree, and is found in Luke 3:23-38. The other is in Matthew, chapter 1, verses 1-17, and covers the ancestry of Christ through his father, Joseph.
Matthew’s account reaches all the way back to Abraham, covering 42 generations with 14 from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile to Babylon (Jeconiah’s generation) and 14 from Jeconiah to Jesus.
One vital thing to note about this genealogy, however, is that since it is Joseph’s family line, it means that Jesus isn’t actually related to them. Crazy, eh? Since Joseph isn’t Jesus’ real dad (remember Mary was a virgin; God is Jesus’ father!), Joseph’s bloodline is inapplicable. It’s as if Jesus was adopted by Joseph. Luke subtly points this out in verse 23 of his version of the genealogy by saying that Jesus, “was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph”.
The fact that Jesus isn’t actually related by blood to Joseph is significant in another way, too. There was a promise made by the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 22, verse 30) about Joseph’s relative Jeconiah, that “ none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David.”
That was a bummer for Jeconiah, I’m guessing, but that prophecy is fulfilled since Jesus wasn’t related by blood to Jeconiah! It is the bloodline of Mary that gives Jesus his Davidic right, and she, as seen in Luke’s account, is not related to Jeconiah.
Isn’t that cool? Other neat things show up in Jesus’ ancestral account as well. He was related to some amazing people — pretty much every big name — in Biblical history. Luke’s account of the family line takes it all the way back to Adam, where he calls Adam “the son of God." I love that.
The truth, of course, is that we all can be God’s children, if we choose to accept that gift. Glory, hallelujah!
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1 NIV
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org .