The Family Tree


Isaiah prophesied many times about Jesus, and one of those prophecies was this:
Isaiah 11:1–5 ESV
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Briefly, this prophecy is telling us that it would seem as though the Lord’s promise that there would always be a descendent of David on the throne had failed. The family tree of Jesse, King David’s father, would appear to have been cut down.
But as some of us have experienced, a stump can often grow back into a tree. Isaiah was saying that a branch would still come out the apparently dead tree of Jesse.
In two of the gospels, the family tree of Jesus is recorded. Matthew records the genealogy of Jesus, tracing back all the way to Abraham, to whom the covenant was given that God would bless the entire earth through Abraham. Matthew showed that Jesus was a descendent of Abraham and also a descendent of David. And Luke records the genealogy, but it is different and instead of starting with Abraham and going forward to Jesus as Matthew did, Luke starts with Jesus and goes backward, all the way to Adam.
I am going to read it in a moment, and many of you may be thinking, “why?” Why would someone read this passage out loud as part of a sermon, since it is simply a listing of names? Well, there are some good answers to that. First off, it is in the Bible and therefore we can conclude that in this passage there most definitely must be something that is edifying in some way to the believer. You can imagine, perhaps, that as I was preparing to preach this passage, in the beginning stages I myself wondered what would come of this.
As always ends up being the case, there is actually much here to encourage us as we look into the genealogy Luke provides.
Big Idea: There is much to encourage the believer in the genealogy of Jesus
Three things that may encourage us in this passage:
Genealogies are actual historical evidence.
God uses very imperfect people
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed
Luke 3:23–38 ESV
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
Big Idea: There is much to encourage the believer in the genealogy of Jesus
Three things that may encourage us in this passage:
Genealogies are actual historical evidence.
God uses very imperfect people
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed
If you have spent any amount of time reading things like systematic theologies, or church history, you have probably come across the name Karl Barth.
Karl Barth, who lived from 10 May 1886 – 10 December 1968) was a Swiss Reformed theologian. Barth is best known for his commentary The Epistle to the Romans, his involvement in the Confessing Church, and especially his unfinished multi-volume theological summa the Church Dogmatics. Barth's influence expanded well beyond the academic realm to mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time on 20 April 1962.
Barth is considered very influential, and he was an inspiration to many, including Dietrich Boenhoffer. He had a great impact on church ethics and other important areas of the Christian faith. People wanted to know what Barth was thinking. He was in his time, regarded as some of us today regard John MacArthur or RC Sproul. He was very intellectual, and yet he could communicate to even people who were not as educated as he.
When Karl Barth was once visiting an American University, many came because they wanted to ask him questions. Just as many Christian conferences today have Q&A sessions, and people line up to ask their favorite preachers questions, this was exactly what happened with Karl Barth when he visited the US. One student got his golden opportunity to ask a question of Karl Barth, and the question was a great question and the answer Barth gave was, in my opinion, simply powerful.
I don’t know about you, but I have sometimes imagined if I had a conversation with some person who was the top of their field, what I would ask. If you had just one shot at a question to ask someone you greatly admired, what would it be? I’ve had many mock conversations with great people in my mind. What would I ask if I could ask one question of Martin Luther, or Charles Spurgeon, or even the governor or the president? How would I use my one shot to ask a question?
So some students had this opportunity with Karl Barth, and one student asked a question that got quite a startling response.
The question this student asked Barth was this: “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound thing you have ever learned in your study of theology?”
Great question, right? “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound thing you have ever learned in your study of theology?”
Barth’s answer stunned me. I think you will find it very wonderful. I think that his answer will cause most of you a profound moment when you hear what Barth found to be the most profound thing he ever learned in his study of theology.
I’m going to give you his answer. But you will have to listen to the rest of the sermon first. His answer, I believe, can sum up for us what wonderful truths are found throughout scripture, and in particular our little passage of study today, this list of people who were somehow in the lineage of Jesus.
I want to mention quickly that Luke tells us Jesus was about 30 when he began his ministry. Students of the Bible will be aware that the age of 30 was often an age when important biblical figures really began their ministry or mission. Gen41.46
Genesis 41:46 ESV
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.
Number 4 tells us that priests were men 30-50. David became king at age 30: 2Sam5.4
2 Samuel 5:4 ESV
David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.
Ezekiel was 30 when his ministry began Eze1.1
Ezekiel 1:1 ESV
In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
So the age of thirty, according to scripture, is an important age. It is young enough to still have strength and vigor, old enough to have some life experience. I can’t imagine being a pastor personally when I was 20. I still have a lot to learn.
Big Idea: There is much to encourage the believer in the genealogy of Jesus
Three things that may encourage us in this passage:
Genealogies are actual historical evidence.
God uses very imperfect people
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed
The first point will be somewhat brief. I debated getting into a lot of very technical things about why Matthew and Luke have different genealogies, but frankly, it is a lot of in the weeds stuff that many of us would be a bit bored with. However, let us say at least that Matthew and Luke had different concerns. Neither of these genealogies include every single descendant of Adam who was in the line leading up to Jesus. They both highlight certain people in the line, but not the same people.
The use of language for these authors, when they say, “the son of”, is not to be taken in the same literal sense as we would today. For example, my great-great-grandfather was the Rev. Kolbein Hovde, my great-grandfather was Valdemar, and my father is Darrel. We would not say Jason, son of Kolbein. But in many historical accounts, the important thing was not to give every single name, but to establish the line of heredity. So while it may be important to our families to know each person in the line, to others it may not be so important.
If someone were telling the story of my daughters someday, they may decide I am not important to the story, so they may skip me altogether. Maybe that seems rude, but if we were to record every person in a long family line it would take a lot more time and paper and ink to do so. So both Luke and Matthew chose certain people they found significant in the line of Jesus.
Today, many people love to learn about their family history. People want to know if someone in their lineage was a king or a president or a famous scientist. And certainly it is understandable that people learning about Jesus would want to know something of his family history as well. But Paul warns us not to get too carried away and become obsessive with genealogies. He cautioned the pastor Timothy to be wary of people who taught bad doctrines and who were obsessed with myths and endless genealogies.
1 Timothy 1:3–4 ESV
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
To the other pastor of the pastoral epistles, we gave a similar warning:
Titus 3:9 ESV
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
I can’t imagine Paul would have written this if genealogies had been a source of distraction for some in the church. Today we may see other distractions from the true gospel. Many churches or pastors have a very narrow theme of doctrine they spend most of their time thinking and teaching about. For some it is the end times. For some it is Israel. For some it is charismatic experiences. But any church or pastor who concentrates heavily on one pet topic and does not teach the whole council of God will usually end up off track and wacky. In Paul’s day clearly genealogies were one of those things that people spent a lot of time discussing but had little value. In fact, Paul says, no value. they are unprofitable and worthless.
So while many scholars have done a lot of important research to understand the genealogies in the gospels, we should be careful not to engage in a lot of arguing or speculation, for that would be unfruitful. Instead, we should see what we can learn from these accounts that has value in building up our faith. And one of those things is that these accounts help us to have some historical certainty about certain factors in Jesus’ parentage.
When the gospels were written, it would be easy for people to check out these genealogies to see if they were true. Just as if you were checking my lineage, perhaps you could say, it is not important who his grandfather is or his father (although it is important to me), you may instead say “he came from the line of Kolbein Hovde”. You would not be wrong to say so, and even if you did skip a couple generations, you would still be providing some historical evidence of my lineage.
The genealogy of Jesus proves that He has a legal right to David’s throne.
Big Idea: There is much to encourage the believer in the genealogy of Jesus
Three things that may encourage us in this passage:
Genealogies are actual historical evidence.
God uses very imperfect people
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed
God uses very imperfect people. This point should be a great relief to us and also a great encouragement. Working our way back with Luke, some names pop out to those who have some Old Testament knowledge. There are many names here, and I am only going to select some for us to consider.
Zerebbabel: Was one of the men who led out the Babylonian exiles and brought them back to Judah. You can read about him in Nehemiah and Ezra. He was one of the administrators who helped rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. Ezra5.2
Ezra 5:2 ESV
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
He is the one spoken of by Zechariah: Zech4.6-10
Zechariah 4:6–10 ESV
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ” Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
So how did Zerubbabel accomplish the rebuilding of the temple? In his own strength, or by his political power? No, but by the Spirit of God. So in the line of Jesus is a man, who, like Jesus, led people out of captivity, and revered and built up the house of God, and who was filled with the Spirit of God.
Now, many names in the genealogy Luke gives are familiar names but probably not the ones you are thinking of. Just like today, families recycled names, so for example, Joshua, Levi, and other names here are not the main characters you may have thought of.
If we move down to verse 31 we see some familiar names that are the ones we probably think of. Nathan was the son of David and Bathsheba, a brother to Solomon. You may have thought of another Nathan, the prophet who rebuked David and brought that tender response of repentance beautifully recorded in Psalm 51. Isn’t it interesting that David later named one of his sons after the prophet who cared enough to rebuke him soundly?
And of course, David himself. Certainly David had many wonderful qualities, God called him a man after his own heart. And yet, he was an adulterer, a murderer. A man of passion whose passions got him and his entire family into deep trouble. David himself was the great-great grandson of a guy name Boaz.
Boaz was the kinsman-redeemer of Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite whose loyalty and devotion to her Jewish mother-in-law brought the attention of Boaz on her. Boaz redeemed Ruth and married her and provided for her and her mother-in-law Naomi. After Boaz and Ruth were married, Ruth had a son. His name was Obed, and Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David. A kinsman redeemer in the line of the Redeemer!
Now Ruth and Boaz are given very nice stories in scripture, so we are pleased when we learn that they were in the line of King Davis and Jesus. But what about a prostitute? Right after Boaz, Luke places Sala. Who was Sala? The only thing we know about him is that he was married to Rahab. Matthew records that in his genealogy, though he uses a variation of his name, Salmon, and Matthew even includes Rahab’s name to make sure everyone knows exactly who he is talking about.
Who was Rahab, but a worldly woman who was saved by faith alone? Her faith not only saved her and her family but also she was given further grace by being in the line of Jesus.
To mention a few more of these names, we see Amminadab, who was head of the tribe of Judah during the wandering in the desert. We see Judah, who took the law into his own hands, we see Jacob, who cheated his brother, we see Isaac, and Abraham, We see Noah. And all the way back to Adam.
Now Luke ends this with Adam, the son of God. And indeed Adam was a son of God, as all people are children of God in the sense of His being our creator. But Adam is not son of God in the same way Jesus is Son of God. Jesus is the second Adam. Jesus is the son of God from Eternity. He was not created as Adam was, but was there at the creation.
As you consider many of the characters in the line of Jesus, consider who many people who we would say could not serve because of their failures and sins, and yet God used them in his eternal plan of salvation. This should be of great encouragement to us! If we are in Christ, it is because He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world! He had this plan of salvation planned out. All of these people who would have a role, including prostitutes, foreigners, murderers, usurpers, all kinds of people with all kinds of vile sin, and yet they were chosen.
Every one of us who has faith in Jesus should marvel no less at the fact that these people were in the line of Jesus than we marvel to find out that we, if we are in Him, are in his line as well! The same God who planned the salvation guaranteed that the salvation would have effect on those whom he had called and chosen. From Adam, our first father, sin has been the curse of our human race. We are all born with it as a nature. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.
But where Adam failed in obedience, Jesus succeeded.
1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Adam’s sin brought death to all his ancestors, that is every human. But Christ makes alive those who were dead in their sins.
Romans 5:17 ESV
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Big Idea: There is much to encourage the believer in the genealogy of Jesus
Three things that may encourage us in this passage:
Genealogies are actual historical evidence.
God uses very imperfect people
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed. He has seen to it that every one of those he chose will be saved. Some theologians call this the golden chain. Rom8.30
Romans 8:30 ESV
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Since God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, nothing could have stopped it. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand! ‘Til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ, I stand! What love! What mercy! That God has planned to save those of us who are His, and his plans are incorruptible! Nothing can stop one from being saved who God has predestined to salvation. What love!
1 John 3:1 ESV
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God IS Love!
1 John 4:7–12 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
So here we are, those who have faith in Christ! Here we are, enjoying the Love of God! This love that determined in advance that we would be saved. And what a beautiful salvation this is! We can be sure this is true because the Bible is God’s Word, and the Bible teaches these truths.
So do not fear, brothers and sisters! Is your soul in doubt of the salvation of God? What keeps you from having the assurance of your salvation? It can be a time away from his word, or away from his church and the fellowship of the saints. It can be allowing the troubles of the world to distract you from the beautiful truth of God’s Word.
Why should you doubt if your salvation will be sure? If you are in Christ, he intercedes for you constantly! None of those who are his are lost. Heb7.24-25
Hebrews 7:24–25 ESV
but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
And Christ is the only way to salvation, you will find it in no one else!
John 14:6 ESV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Believer, if you can understand Predestination and election, you will find great comfort in this! The reformers boldly declared that the way to become more and more sure of your salvation was to understand the doctrine of election. The church of England may not be what it used to, but in their 39 articles, written in the 1570s, they said this:
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God...
I realize that is not worded in modern English, but here is what it is saying. If you consider predestination and election, you will find it to be sweet and pleasant and unspeakable comfort to you if you are a godly person. This doctrine will drive you to fight the fight against sin and the flesh, and it will draw you to think very highly of God. And this is very important. It will confirm and establish your faith and cause your love for Him to be like a fire!
We love Him because He first loved us. How can we understand this love of God fully? Even Paul, the great Apostle and theologian, marveled at these truths. Rom11.33-36
Romans 11:33–36 ESV
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
I return now to the question asked of professor Karl Barth: “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound thing you have ever learned in your study of theology?”
Do you want to know the answer? Do you?
You note-takers better get your pens ready, because this won’t be on the screen.
Indeed, we all would like to know from the esteemed professor what the most profound thing he ever learned in his study of theology was!
In fact, since I read this, I have thought more and more about it, and it truly is profound. You could think about Barth’s answer every day for the rest of your life and it would still be profound.
“Dr. Barth, what is the most profound thing you have ever learned in your study of theology?”
After being asked this question, Barth paused for a moment, and answered:
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Is this profound to you? You see, nothing is more profound than what is profoundly simple. How do we fathom the love of Christ? How do we know it to be true? The Bible tells us so.
Do you know this truth? Have you searched the scriptures to find it out? The love of God, personified in Jesus, is real, because the Bible tells us so. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. The Bible is His Word. And it tells us good news.
Big Idea: There is much to encourage the believer in the genealogy of Jesus
Three things that may encourage us in this passage:
Genealogies are actual historical evidence.
God uses very imperfect people
God’s salvation is perfectly planned and executed
So if your own assurance in your salvation is wavering, may I suggest, as if I were your doctor offering a prescription, that you spend time reading God’s Word? Daily reading and spending time reflecting on these great truths.
And this is why even a passage that may at first glance seem like just some boring family tree to some reveals to us something about that profound statement, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. The Bible tells me that Jesus revealed his love in coming to be born of a woman. The plan included, all along, a number of people who would be the ancestors of Joseph and Mary, and many of them were not such nice people.
But are you and I such nice people? Do we deserve his grace and mercy any more than any of them? No, we all deserve death. The wages of sin is death. Yet in Christ all who were chosen by Him will be given the gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So read these doctrines and believe them and you will be more than conquerors. Rom8.37-39
Romans 8:37–39 ESV
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus Loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.
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