Our Universal Family Tree

Luke 3:23-38

by Tom Graves

Today’s passage is Luke’s version of the genealogy of Jesus. Genealogies were important in Jewish culture. Exodus 6 sets the pattern by providing a genealogy of Moses. A biblical priest had to prove an unbroken family line all the way back to Aaron, Moses’ brother. The purpose of Luke’s genealogy is to root the life of Jesus in the story of the people of Israel.

Artwork by Robert F.

Matthew 1:1-17 also provides a genealogy of Jesus and it varies significantly from Luke’s. First century genealogies tended to be very stylized and symbolic, so the differences should not distress us. There is one significant variation, however, that cannot be overlooked: Matthew ends Jesus’ list of ancestors with Abraham, while Luke traces it all the way back to Adam.

What Luke is teaching us is that Jesus is certainly a true child of Israel and in continuity with his Jewish heritage, but Jesus is importantly related to all humankind, and Luke interprets this as part of God’s original and never abandoned purpose.

That theme of the universal family of Jesus is crucial throughout Luke’s Gospel as in the nativity story about the foreign magi who come to bring their gifts and worship the Christ child. That same emphasis is even more central to the second volume of Luke’s work, the book of Acts, which comes to a close with the words: “Let it be known to you then that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles . . . with all boldness and without hindrance.”

This Advent season tells us the good news of Christ who comes to each one of us. That gift of Christ also brings with it a responsibility to share Christ’s love “with all boldness and without hindrance.”

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