The Bible is the greatest book ever written. It has more tension, twists and turns than a John Grisham novel. The Bible is more informative and accurate than any history or science book. Its depth and variety of subjects is more complete than a whole library. It is more creative than science fiction, the love stories are more intense than romance novels, and the Bible, when rightly understood, is more colorful than a comic book.
There are aspects of the Bible that make it better than any book ever written. It is a living book. It acts upon you when you read it. God speaks to you through it. Your life gets direction from it. Your soul feeds upon it. Your mind is renewed by it. Faith comes from hearing it. The Holy Spirit spoke it. Your life is encouraged by it. In short, through the Bible, God is exalted, Christians are edified, and the world is evangelized.
There have been times in my life, and maybe in yours also, where I am reading the Bible and my heart is pounding with excitement because of what I am reading. Sometimes it will be a chapter, sometimes just a verse, or even a few words. If you have never experienced this, you are missing out. Bible study is the adventure of a lifetime. You never know when God’s Word will unfold before you and God’s voice will speak clearly to you through study of the Bible.
Sadly, most Christians have no comprehension of this. They have never experienced the Word of God as it was meant to be experienced. They read the Bible, and they get bored out of their minds. If that describes you, there are reasons for that, and things you can do to correct it. But that is not what we are going to learn about this morning.
In this message, we are going to learn about those passages that nearly everyone finds boring. You see, even among Christians who love to read the Word, and who regularly read the Word, and have good Bible study principles so they can rightly understand and apply the Word, even these Christians get bored with certain portions of the Bible. Even Christians who love to read the Bible skip certain portions of Scripture.
And the hard part about it is that when a pastor teaches through books of the Bible as I do, when we come to some of these seemingly boring sections of Scripture, what are we to do with them? One of the cardinal principles of expository preaching is that it is a sin to bore people with the Word of God. This is true of any Bible teacher. If you are going to teach the Word, you better be so excited about it that you can pass on to your students that excitement as well. This is the Word of God we are teaching!
So what do you do when you come to passages like genealogies? Some people are able to read through the Minor Prophets. Others are able to wade through the Levitical laws. But very, very few people are able to read the Genealogies of Scripture.
And the problem with that is that they are everywhere. These seemingly endless lists of people. List of how so-and-so begat whats-his-name who begat that-one-guy. And most of the time, most of the names are hard to pronounce. So, most of us, skip right over them. We think, “Well, I don’t know why God placed that in the Bible, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t have anything to teach me. So let’s move on to the good stuff.”
And we shouldn’t feel bad about this. The genealogies in the Bible are very hard. This morning we are going to look at the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3, but as I was preparing my message, I found that even the pastors and teachers and Bible scholars who are experts in the Word, passed over it with hardly a comment.
I have over fifteen commentaries in my study on the Book of Luke which aid me in my sermon prep, and most of them said almost nothing at all about this part of Luke 3. The ones that did say something only had a paragraph or two explaining some of the obvious details and why this genealogy is different than the one we find in Matthew 1.
So, if you tend to skip over the genealogies in the Bible, you’re in good company — even the commentaries skip them. But I want to show you that there is another option. I have found personally, that the genealogies of Scripture can be some of the most rewarding and exciting passages of Scripture IF we take the time and effort to understand them.
Sometimes, in Scripture, the richest nuggets and the biggest jewels lie hidden in the deepest caves. When we get out our pickaxe and shovel, and pray for the illumination for the Holy Spirit, and then go digging, it is amazing what gems we will uncover. The genealogies in the Bible are some of the deepest and hardest passages in the Bible. From the surface, they look like barren landscapes, with sand swept surfaces of unyielding granite. But, if we can break through the surface, golden riches and sparkling jewels can be found. How do we know this?
Simply because they are Scripture and God put them there for a purpose. In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read that “All Scripture is God breathed and is profitable for teaching…” God intended every chapter, every verse, every word of the Bible to be profitable for teaching — yes, even the genealogies. In fact, God believes genealogies are so profitable, He devoted large portions of his Word to them. We have them several times in the book of Genesis, the book of Numbers is almost one long genealogy, we have one at the beginning of 1 Chronicles and one at the end of 2 Chronicles. We find them in Ezra and Matthew and also here in Luke 3.
By skipping all the genealogies in the Bible, we are passing over a lot of what God thought was important for us to know. He put them there to teach us something, and if we skip them because we think they have nothing to teach us, we are missing out on all that God has for us.
Now, before we look at the genealogy of Luke, you must understand this also. Every genealogy is different. Every genealogy teaches us something different. Shows us something different about God and the way He works.
Most people think genealogies are just a bunch of names. When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But such is not the case. They are all unique, all different. All have different facets, different lessons, different things to learn. For example, a few weeks ago, in our Sunday night study through the book of Genesis, we studied the genealogy in Genesis 5. Now, I did not go into great detail on that genealogy, but those who were present that night learned of a beautiful gem contained in that genealogy which us English speaking people miss, but anyone who reads Hebrew would see. If you’re wondering what it is, you’ll have to get the tape, or ask someone who was there that night.
There are lots of genealogies in Scripture, but we are looking at the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23-38. A genealogy rich with meaning and significance. Let’s cover the surface truths first, the ones that you can pick up from the commentaries and such, and then we will see if we can crack through the surface, and dig a little deeper. We’re going to be spiritual spelunkers this morning.
The Genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:22-38)
We’ll go through the genealogy rather quickly, making some minor comments about it as we go, and then we’ll step back and see what truths we can discover.
Luke 3:23. Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age,
In Greek society, this was the age that most men entered public service. Up until that age, they would be learning their craft or trade, and at 30 they would start to practice it on their own. It was the same for the Hebrew people, but especially for the Levitical priesthood. Levites did not start to serve in the temple until they were 30. This is also the age at which David became the king of Israel.
So up until now, Jesus has been preparing himself for ministry. He has one more step of preparation to go through — his temptation in the wilderness, which we will begin to look at next week in chapter 4. But here, it says he was about 30.
After this statement in Luke 3:23, we get to the actual genealogy.
…being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph,
In those days, people naturally assumed that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary. Luke corrects them here by saying that Jesus was only the supposed son of Joseph.
But there is another way to translate the Greek, which I think is possible. Rather than translating it, as was supposed, it could be translated: as was the custom, as was acknowledged by law, as was entered in the ledger, or as we find it on record.
You see, Luke is giving the recorded genealogy of Jesus as would be found in the public documents. Luke has apparently copied down a Greek or Roman form of a genealogy here. The Greeks and Romans had a very low view of women, and so in Greek and Roman genealogies, the names of women were not allowed. And so when Jesus was born, and his genealogy was recorded in the ledgers, they wouldn’t write down Mary’s name, so they put down Joseph’s name instead, even though they ran the genealogy through Mary. Luke can’t change the legal record, and so he can’t include Mary’s name. So he includes the parentheses that simply says that Jesus was on record, or it was supposed, that Jesus was the son of Joseph.
But anybody who knew Jesus, and knew Joseph, and knew Mary, knew that Mary’s father was Heli, and Joseph’s father was a man named Jacob (Matthew 1:16). Therefore, when they saw the next name in the list, Heli, and the end of Luke 3:23, they would immediately recognize that they were reading Mary’s genealogy; not Joseph’s. And by the way, when verse 23 says that Joseph was the son of Heli, the words, ‘son of’ are not there in the Greek. They should be italicized in your Bible, unless you have the NIV, which shows that they were added by the translators, but they are not really in the Greek.
So when we put all of this together, it makes sense that when you go and compare this genealogy in Luke 3 with the genealogy in Matthew 1, you notice many differences. Matthew is trying to show that Jesus was the perfect Jew and the legal heir to the throne of David. Royal lineage was always passed down through the father, and so Matthew draws Jesus’ lineage through Joseph.
Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the heir to the Davidic throne. Jesus is the King. Luke, on the other hand, wants to show that Jesus was a man. That He was fully human. And so he can’t draw the royal lineage through Joseph, because Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph. Jesus was, however, the biological son of Mary. And so that is what he does. He draws the physical lineage through Mary, back to David, Abraham, and the first man, Adam.
So, Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, which in this genealogy means that Jesus was the supposed son of Joseph, not biologically, but legally. Not physically, but as was recorded in the ledgers. So Jesus was the supposed son of Joseph, but really of Mary. And Mary’s father was, as we read at the end of Luke 3:23, Heli.
Now, I don’t want to comment on all the names in Luke 3:24-38. There are things we could say about each one, stories behind each name, and lessons that could be learned. Some of it though, we would have to get from places outside the Bible. For example, we know nothing of Mary’s father, Heli. The Bible contains not another word about Him. But we could speculate about what kind of father he must have been in order to raise a daughter like Mary. But such speculation would carry us beyond the pages of Scripture, and I want to stay away from doing that. So let me just pick out a few of the names that I do want to comment on, and then we will come back to see what gems God has hidden in this genealogy.
Down in Luke 3:27 where it mentions Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, this is the Zerubbabel who led the Jews back to Israel from Babylon (Ezra 3:2). He is a very important figure in the Bible, and you can read about him in the opening chapters of the book of Ezra.
Skipping down to Luke 3:31, we read of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz. All of these names should be very familiar to you, especially that of David, since he was the greatest King in Israelite history. And of course, Boaz is talked about in the book of Ruth. All of this shows that even Mary is of the royal line of David, but not through the heir of Solomon as is recorded in Matthew. Instead, Mary is through one of David’s other sons, Nathan.
Now, this actually becomes very prophetically significant. Joseph is in direct lineage of Solomon, the heir to the throne. But one of Solomon’s descendants named Jeconiah was such an evil king that God pronounced that no descendant of Jeconiah would ever sit on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:28-30). So Joseph, although he was technically and legally of the royal line of David through Solomon, could never have sat on the throne because that line had been spiritually cursed by God. I’m sure on that day, Satan was doing a little dance. He thought that by getting God to curse the kingly line of Solomon, he had kept the Messiah from coming. But God is never thwarted. God’s plans never fail. For right here we see that although the legal line was traced through Solomon to Joseph, the spiritual line was traced through Nathan to Mary. So however you look at it, Jesus is the heir to the throne of David, both legally and spiritually.
Well, the rest of the genealogy takes us from David all the way back to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and then to the first men which we studied in Genesis 5 a few weeks ago, and ultimately to Adam, who, Luke 3:38 says, is the son of God.
And that finishes the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3. Let’s turn now to dig for gems.
The Gems in the Genealogy of Jesus
We’ve already seen one of the gems in the fact that Jesus is the heir to the throne of David both legally and spiritually. That’s an amazing fulfillment of prophecy which we can count as a gem. But there is much beyond this. We often think that lists and genealogies are boring. But each one is like a gem, multifaceted. Sure, at first glance, when you first dig it up from the ground, it looks like any old rock. Maybe even a boring rock. Have you ever seen an uncut diamond? It looks like a dirty piece of broken glass. No big deal. But as you cut it, great beauty emerges. So also with genealogies. As you carve away, great truths emerge.
So let’s start cutting away. I found five facets to this genealogical gem, so let me take you through each, one at a time. There may be more than these five, but I will leave those for your future study. These five are true of any genealogy in Scripture. So whenever you come across a genealogy in your Bible reading, remember the five gems you learn here.
1. Genealogies tell us that our faith is rooted in history.
First of all, simply from the fact that this is a list of names, the gem begins to take shape. Genealogies tell us that our faith is rooted in history.
Christianity is not a religion based on somebody’s imagination. It is a relationship with God rooted in history. It is helpful to remember that there are great multitudes of believers who have gone before us, have faced the same questions and struggles that we face, and yet, came through it okay.
The writer of Hebrews mentions this in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. That chapter is kind of a genealogy of faithful people. It is a list of faithful men and women who went before us and despite all odds, remained faithful to God. The writer calls them a great cloud of witnesses. Genealogies remind us that we are not alone. That our faith is rooted in thousands of years and millions of people who have gone before us.
2. God is sovereign.
But not only is our faith rooted in history, but we learn secondly from genealogies, that God is sovereign.
We already saw this a little bit in the fact that God brought Christ both through Solomon and Nathan, so that Christ could be the King both legally and spiritually, so that God’s plans would not be thwarted by Satan or the evil king Jeconiah. That shows that God is incredibly sovereign to accomplish his purposes in this sinful world no matter what happens. God, from day 1, planned to bring Christ into this world as the Messiah, and nothing could stop God from accomplishing His sovereign will.
But we also see that God is sovereign in the lives of individuals as well. We can be certain that life was not grand for each one of these individuals. We can be sure that many of them, if not all of them, had great trials and troubles in life. For some of them, at times, life seemed horrible.
Maybe that’s sometimes how you feel about your life. Maybe your life is in shambles right now. But take comfort from the lives of these individuals. God had something great in store for them. The promised Messiah would come through them. You never know what God can do through you, or what God can bring from you, if you will just let Him have His way in your life. Romans 8:28 says that God works in all things for the good, to those who love God and have been called according to his purposes.
So you see? Genealogies tells us that God is sovereign in his purposes and in the lives of individuals. Whatever you are currently going through, He is sovereignly at work in your life also. Our faith is rooted in history and God is sovereign.
3. God is orderly
Thirdly, these genealogies of Scripture tell us that God is a list maker. God is orderly.
My wife is a list maker. She has grocery lists, lists of meals to make, to-do lists for me and for her, lists of foods that the girls like, prayer lists, verse lists. I sometimes tease her that she’s got lists for where all of her lists are. I probably shouldn’t tease her anymore, however, because God keeps lists too. Of course, God doesn’t need lists to aid His memory like we do. He keeps lists in order to keep records. And there are lots of such lists that we learn about in Scripture.
Psalm 56 says that He records in a book the times you have cried. When you cry, God takes notice, and records it. Isn’t that amazing?
Hebrews 6 tells us that God does not forget our labor of love. Those things are recorded by Him.
Malachi 3:16 says that those that feared the Lord spoke often to one another, and the Lord listened to them, and wrote was being said in a book of remembrance. When you talk about God to one another, God listens to what you are saying about Him, and He writes it down. I hope there are a lot of entries under your name in the book of remembrance. This is His Scrapbook, his book of memories, his creative memory book. If you want God to write a book about you, just talk a lot about Him.
The Bible also tells us that He keeps a list of the things done in the body, whether good or bad. There are books in heaven which record your every word, thought and deed. Now, that’s encouraging, because we know God sees when nobody else notices, but it’s also a bit scary, because again, God sees when we think nobody’s looking. Daniel 7 and Revelation 20 talk about these books. It says that the dead are judged according to the things written in them.
But there is another set of lists which God keeps which I am thankful my name is in, and these are the book of life and the Lamb’s book of life. We read of these books several times in the Old Testament, and frequently in the New Testament also, especially in Revelation (Book of Life: Psalm 69:28; Deuteronomy 25:19; 29:20; Exodus 17:14; 32:32. Lamb’s Book of Life: Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 21:27).
It appears that the book of life is a book in which everybody’s name is written. Every person who was ever born is added to this list. And when they die, their name is erased from the list, or blotted out from the list. The book of life is a book of the living. If you are in the book, you are alive. If you are not in the book, you are dead.
But there is another book, called the Lamb’s book of life, which contains all the names of those who have eternal life through faith in Christ. If you’re name is in this book, it is written in permanent ink. It will never be blotted out, erased, or covered with white-out (Rev 3:5). When you believe in Christ for eternal life, God writes your name in the Lambs book of life, and once that happens, your name will never be removed from the book. Your name will never be blotted out from the book. Is your name permanently in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you believed in Jesus for eternal life? God is a keeper of lists. Genealogies show us that, and also the many other lists God keeps in the Bible.
4. God Knows Your Name
But fourthly, notice that this genealogy in Luke 3 is not just any old list, it is a list of names. Follow me here. If God keeps lists, and some of these are nothing more than lists of names, this means that God knows your name.
These lists tell us fourthly, that God knows your name.
God knows the names of these people, and God knows your name also. What is it that is so important about knowing somebody’s name? Because remembering somebody’s name shows that you care about them. You remember the names of the people you care about. We remember the names of our spouses, we remember the names of our kids, we remember the names of our friends. We even remember the names of our favorite musicians, actors and athletes. But how would it appear if you didn’t take the time to learn the names of your co-workers, or your classmates? It would appear like you didn’t care.
And God knows your name. There’s even a song played on Christian radio stations a few years back called “He Knows My Name.” It’s a very moving song because it’s a very moving truth. God cares about you enough to know your name.
If you feel forgotten, if you feel insignificant, if you feel that there is nothing special about you, if you feel overlooked, just remember this, God knows your name, His eyes are upon you. He cares for you. You are on a first name basis with God. God knows you and He will honor your faithfulness to Him whether it receives public recognition or not. The genealogies show us that God cares about you enough to know your name.
5. Salvation is for All
Fifthly, and finally, I believe this list in Luke 3 shows us that Salvation is for all.
There were some in Luke’s day who believed the salvation was only for the Jews.But here in Luke 3, the genealogy goes all the way back to Adam the father of all, rather than just back to Abraham, the father of the Jews. Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles alike (cf. Luke 2:32). We see at the end of the genealogy that in Adam, mankind had a beginning, through the creation of God. But in Jesus Christ, we have a new beginning, through the re-creation and regeneration of God.
Are both true of you? Are you related to God, not only physically, but also spiritually? Are you are relative of God? Are you a child of God? Are you an heir of God? Can you honestly say, “I have God as my Father”? Jesus Christ came to bring new life to all people. And once again, He gives that life to anyone who believes in Him for it. If you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you become a child of God, and co-heir with Jesus Christ. That is Gem number 5.
There is a story about a wealthy farmer who was probably one of the richest men in Africa. Hafid owned a large farm with fertile soil, herds of camels and goats, orchards of dates and figs. One day he heard that some men around the country were rapidly becoming richer than him by discovering and mining diamonds.
Hafid, eager to increase his fortune, sold his farm, herds, and orchards. He placed his family in the care of someone else and set out to find his fortune. Hafid’s travels took him all over Africa. Finally, in deep despair he threw himself off a mountain and died a frustrated, broken, poor man.
The farmer that bought his farm was watering his camels one day and noticed a pretty rock in the river, because it sparkled. He took it home and put it on a shelf where the sun would strike it and splash rainbows of color across the room.One day, a holy man entered the house, saw the rock on the shelf, and exclaimed, “That’s a diamond! Where did you find it?”
The farmer, somewhat confused in the flurry of excitement explained that it came from down by the river. “Show me,” insisted the holy man. The two of them went out to the river, and there, in the white sands, they found a larger diamond, then another, and many more diamonds, large and small. Actually the land, which Hafid sold to pursue his fortune elsewhere, turned out to be acres and acres of diamonds. In fact, it became the Kimberly, the richest diamond mine in all of South Africa!
You are sitting on a diamond mine of the Word of God. Get into it. Dig deep. Discover great treasure. I hope that what we’ve looked at has given you some ideas on how to glean truths from the other lists in the Bible. God put these lists in the Bible to guide us and teach us about himself.
I hope that next time you come across a list in Scripture, or a genealogy in Scripture, you won’t pass over it, but you will stop and pray, saying, “God, You put this list here for a reason. What is it? Will you show me what you want me to learn from this list?” And then read and meditate and think about what God might want to show you.
 Zodhiates, Complete Word study Dictionary, 1014 (word 3543), from the derivative, nomisma.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, 1835.
 See my clarification notes on the Book of Life.
 Book of Illustrations
 Wilkinson, The 7 Laws of the Learner, 144.
Want to Learn More?
Read other sermons on Luke: