Family Heritage

PMT 2014-053b by Don Strickland

Luke 3:22-24: “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.’ And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph.”

Matthew 1:1 : “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Heritage. It is something we all have. And whether we appreciate it or not, it is something that affects what we look like, what we do and who we are. It’s in the genes. You cannot get away from it. When I was growing up, I thought that I was safe from getting bald because my dad had (and still has!) a full head of hair. You can imagine my confusion in the past few years as I looked in the mirror at my ever thinning locks. Recently, I found out, much to my chagrin, that I have the hair line of the Griffin side of the family (my father’s mother). I guess it is appropriate since I got my middle name from her, but I still wish I could have kept more of my hair.

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Treats the Old Testament covenants from a successive standpoint.
This book shows how the covenants (and not dispensations) structure Scripture.
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Our culture’s perspective concerning heritage, like its perspective on most other things, has changed since I was young. One’s family tree once mattered a great deal. “Who’s your daddy?” had a seriousness that it totally lacks today. There was a downside to that earlier view, of course. It was much harder to rise above one’s genetic pedigree, but not impossible. Now we are supposedly judged on own merits – apart from our family lineage. Thus, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the “begats” of Scripture. You know the “begats.” So-and-so begat So-and-so, who begat So-and-so, and etc.

In the verses above, I have referenced the three family lineages of Jesus – two actual and one by adoption. The genealogy listed in Matthew is clearly that of Joseph, since he is listed in verse 16 as a member of that family line. The Jewish reckoning of one’s heritage was through the father. Thus, this genealogy establishes Jesus’s right to the throne of David by His adoptive father. But there is a problem with this genealogy. In Jeremiah 22.24, 28-30, we see that God judges Jeconiah (ie Coniah) for his wickedness by rejecting all future members of his lineage from ruling over Israel. Though legally Jesus was Joseph’s first born son, and therefore heir to the throne of David, Jesus could not actually be descended from that King Jeconiah, else He could not sit on the Davidic throne.

The genealogy we see in Luke has differences from the one in Matthew occurring after David. Instead of following the line of Solomon, that lineage follows the line of David’s son, Nathan. Why the difference? Is this an error? No. Note that the verses in Luke specifically point out that Joseph was not Jesus’s real father (v23). And we know that Mary was also from David’s family line (Ps 132.11; Lk 1.32; and Rm 1.3). Therefore, many commentators understand Luke’s genealogy to be that of Mary’s – Jesus’s actual human lineage to David.

The third lineage listed is given above in Luke 3.22 where God declared Jesus to be His Son. Verse divisions sometimes obscure the context, so you may not have previously noticed the close proximity of a public revelation of Jesus’s Divine Sonship to the accounting of His human lineage. I find it striking. It reveals that Jesus’s heritage uniquely qualified Him not only to rule on David’s throne, but also to be the Messiah. Heritage mattered.

Another way Jesus’s heritage mattered was His likeness. As Jesus said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14.9). And the author of the book of Hebrews wrote, “And [Jesus] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb 1.3). If I may say this reverently, Jesus was a Daddy’s boy. He took after His Father – perfectly. There were no flaws in His character. He had complete control over His passions. He made no inappropriate remarks. He had flawless logic with a vast depth of feeling always appropriately expressed. He was perfectly loving, perfectly obedient, and perfectly honest. And these descriptive sentences are merely a few generalities of His likeness to the Father. But He was none of those things (and more!) because He was trying to gain favor with His Father. He was those things because they were who He was (and is!). It was in His “genes.” It was part of His heritage.

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How about us? Yes, we all take after our parents and forefathers in physical traits and mannerisms, likes and dislikes. We can be encouraged and appreciate the lives they lived and the legacy they left for us. And we should cherish those things that are not sinful. Each one of us is an unique expression of our familial projection into culture and society.

But a Christian has an additional heritage. The believer has been adopted by the Heavenly Father (Rm 8.14-16 and Eph 1.5). We are now part of God’s Family. And while our ancestral attributes are not wiped away or made irrelevant, with the Holy Spirit’s presence, this new familial association should be changing us from the inside out (Eph 3.16; 2Co 4.16; Gal 5.22-23; 2Th 2.13 and Phil 2.13).


Strickland Don

Don Strickland

The study of Scripture and of those family members who have gone before us (ie church history) will catch us up on our Christian family heritage. With the passage of time, we should be looking more and more like our Father in heaven (2Co 3.18; 1Co 4.11 and 1Pt 1.16). As you look into the spiritual mirror of your life, how much of a family resemblance do you have?

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3 thoughts on “Family Heritage

  1. Patricia Watkins May 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    It’s good to see the biblical reasoning for the difference in the two genealogy lists of both Joseph and Mary’s ancestry. This makes perfect sense now, even if Mary’s name is not specifically mentioned in Luke 3:23.
    One slight error on a minor point in this article; Jesus’ official ministry did not begin at His baptism when He was about 30 years old. According to Ussher, there is at least a three-year gap between Jesus’ baptism and the official launch of His ministry with the first miracle at Cana and the selection of the first disciples. With a careful comparison of gospel accounts in Mark 1 and John 1 & 2, this becomes obvious. Once this understanding is in place, the prophecy of Daniel’s final 70th week, which has Christ’s crucifixion taking place in the middle of this week, lines up exactly with Christ’s actions and His own words as to when this 70th week began and ended. Ussher’s “Annals of the World” nailed it.

  2. Kenneth Gentry May 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for your note. But I believe Usher is mistaken. Most modern evangelical commentators see Jesus’ ministry beginning with his baptism. Perhaps that is a study for later!

  3. Don Strickland May 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I have a great deal of respect for Bishop Ussher. On occasion, I have enjoyed using his work on theology. Such was his theological stature and godliness among the Puritans, he was one of the few Episcopalians invited to attend the Westminster Assembly (though he declined to do so). Having said that, I would agree with Ken in this matter.

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