Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 7 2020 - Luke 3:23-38 – Don’t ignore the small print

When I started secondary school (rather more than fifty years ago now), I was given a Bible. It was an Authorised (or King James) Version bound in dull red cloth. One of the features of this particular Bible was that sections of it were reduced to small print. The suggestion, I suppose, was that such passages were not as important as the rest – or at least, not such good reading. You could get the substance of the story without ploughing through the minutiae of Levitical legal code or the endless lists of names that dominate the book of Numbers and occur regularly elsewhere. Genealogies such as that of Jesus found here in Luke's Gospel were definitely considered "small print".

The genealogy of Jesus we read here in Luke differs from the one at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel. Matthew traces Jesus' parentage through Mary while Luke traces it through Joseph whom he speaks of as the one whom people thought to be Jesus' father. Matthew has a carefully structured list to emphasise the plan of God moving from Abraham to David, from David to the Exile and from the Exile to Jesus; Luke simply has a list of names. Matthew includes women in the list to emphasise the grace of God embracing foreigners such as Rahab and Ruth and that human sin (Judah with Tamar; David with Bathsheba) cannot and will not frustrate his saving purposes. Luke simply has a list of men. Matthew starts with the ancestors and works his way forward to Jesus; Luke starts with Jesus and works his way backwards.

But the biggest difference is that while Matthew is content to trace Jesus' ancestry back to Abraham, Luke traces it all the way back to Adam – and beyond that to the power of God by which Adam was created. Matthew stresses that Jesus is the promised Messiah; Luke that Jesus is the Saviour of the world and the one in whom God has begun his work of new creation.

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

I have sometimes heard Christians say that we don’t need the Old Testament. It’s too long, too complicated and unnecessary; all we need is the New Testament which tells us about the Lord Jesus. These genealogies remind us that the New Testament is intimately connected with the Old and that the long history related in the Old finds its fulfilment with the New. Jesus came to fulfil and complete all that was written and promised beforehand. His life, death and resurrection, and the promise of his return, can only properly be understood against the background of that long history of creation, fall and of Israel's calling and disobedience.

Furthermore, we cannot properly understand the mission of God and his calling upon our own lives without an understanding of the big story of which we are now a part – a story which begins with Adam, concludes with the last Adam and embraces all who embrace him.

Understand the big picture. Live the big story.

Living God, creator of heaven and earth and redeemer through Jesus Christ of all that you have made, help me by your Spirit to understand your purposes that stretch from eternity to eternity. Help me to see how the many-coloured threads of the story all find their focus in the Lord Jesus. Help me to live the story as I live in him and to serve your kingdom purpose of bringing all things back under the lordship of Christ. Help me to start with myself today, that my every thought and action may be shaped by him and bring glory to his name.

Peter Misselbrook