The Gospels provide two genealogies of Christ: Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. These genealogies contrast one another yet both point to the sufficiency of Christ in helpful, informative fashion. Of all manner in which Scripture speak to us, genealogies contend for chiefly stubborn in gleaning practical substance. How are we edified through such lists? What does a family tree have to teach us about the Gospel?
Christ, the True and Greater Jew (Matthew 1:1-17)
Matthew’s genealogy records the Jewish heritage of Christ. Beginning with Abraham, Matthew takes great care to demonstrate Christ comes from a royal, thoroughly Jewish line. The highlights of this genealogy are given in Matthew 1:1, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” As the son of David, Christ is able to fulfill the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:10-13). He will be the Davidic King Who will reign forever. As the son of Abraham, Christ is able to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:1-14). He will be the true and greater Jew, to obey God and circumcise the hearts of His people.
The Gospel of Matthew focuses upon the Jewish-ness of Jesus, intent on presenting Christ as the King of the Jews, the true Messiah promised in the Old Testament. The opening genealogy begins this theme, pointing not only to the reality of Christ’s Jewish heritage, but also it’s insufficiency. Israel didn’t do a good job at being Israel (Deuteronomy 10:12-17; Romans 2:29; cf. 9:6-8). Abraham lied about his marriage to Sarah, and David took Bathsheba and killed her husband. Wicked kings, prostitutes, and gentiles comprise other portions of Christ’s Matthean lineage. Matthew wants us to see Christ, as Israel’s Messiah, will come from this insufficient heritage and save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Israel was insufficient, Christ is sufficient.
Christ, the True and Greater Adam (Luke 3:23-38)
Luke’s genealogy records the biological heritage of Christ. Beginning with Jesus, Luke accounts for the entire family tree of Christ, insofar as his father is Adam. What was said of David and Abraham may be said here, only with special emphasis given to Christ being a literal (not simply covenantal) descendent of these two figures. His descent from Shem (Luke 3:36) is also significant. Noah prophesied Shem would be blessed, Japheth would dwell in his tents, and Canaan would be his servant (Genesis 9:26-27). Luke shows Christ came from Shem, along with all Israel: Shem was indeed blessed. Japheth’s descendants became Gentiles, mainly in Europe, and the New Covenant brings them into “the tents of Shem,” (v.27). Canaan was smitten by God through Israel, those left alive subjected to servitude – this ultimately prefigures the demise of Christ’s enemies. So Jesus, as the descendant of Shem, fulfills this Noahic prophecy.
Luke’s genealogy traces Christ’s lineage past the call of Abraham, thus past the inauguration of Israel. Writing to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4) who was probably a Gentile, Luke is concerned with demonstrating, not that Jesus is a true Jew, but that He is a true man. The only two men who have been born directly from God are Adam (“the son of Adam, the son of God,” [3:38]) and Jesus (“You are my beloved Son,” [v.22]). All who come from the seed of Adam share in his sin, because he represented us in the Garden. He is our covenant/federal head. Jesus is descended from Adam, but not by means of seed – He is born of the Spirit (1:35). Therefore, Jesus does not have Adam as a covenant head, and He Himself becomes a new representative of a new people – a second Adam. Where the first Adam failed to obey God, the second Adam (Christ) did not fail, and all those who belong to Him will enjoy eternal life (John 3:16).
A Hopeful Christmas
These two genealogies give great meaning to the birth of Christ, and consequently our Christmas festivities. First, Christ is Who Israel was supposed to be. As God’s covenant people, Christmas is a hopeful reminder we don’t have to save ourselves. Christ will save us from our sins. Second, Christ is Who man was supposed to be. The hope of Christmas is not just for the church, it’s for all nations. By publicly celebrating Christmas, we draw our fellow man’s eyes to Christ, who is the only means of escaping the fall and ruin of Adam.
To conclude, I have provided a brief (i.e. incomplete) list of differences between the Matthean and Lukan genealogies of Christ. Reference below.
|Matthew 1:1-17||Luke 3:23-38|
|Christ’s Jewish Heritage||Christ’s Biological Heritage|
|From Past to Present||From Present to Past|
|Back to Abraham||Back to Adam|
|Literary Structure: Gematria||Literary Structure: Direct Genitival|