The Genius of the Genealogy

Light of truth

Benny Nalkara CMI

“What is in a name?”- the famous Shakespearean question in Romeo and Juliet reveals the fact that a name does not define a person or a thing and reasons that our language is really just random at some point. But, then it is amazing that the Bible has got around 1800 names! One who starts the reading of the New Testament comes to an astonishing fact that the very first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is having a long list of names, representing exactly 42 generations with a total of 41 names. And in the Gospel of Luke, we have a Genealogy with 77 names in 11 groups of seven. This long list of names may seem tedious to the modern mind, yet it establishes Jesus’ insertion into the history and a people. What is there in these names?

The Genealogy of Jesus makes it clear that God worked in this people to prepare the coming of His Son, and He worked through a varied collection of persons. In fact the long history of Israel was God’s preparation for the coming of His Son and that story tells about the favours and graces of God upon the human race. God worked through various people and He used both admirable people as well as who were with defects. In this list we have mighty names, great heroes and weak and meek personalities. The Genealogy teaches that we are part of a great history. That family tree gives inevitable proclamation of the covenant between God and Israel.

Contrary to the Jewish practice of presenting the Genealogy, Matthew includes women, and that too gentile or foreign women like, Ruth, Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba (She is mentioned as Uriah’s wife). They all had unexpected and quite extraordinary backgrounds and irregular marriage relationships. Some of them had a past with the shade of sin. Ruth acted against the traditions by not going back to Moab but accompanying her mother-in-law to a foreign land. She agrees to marry Boaz, even though she was free of family obligations, once again demonstrating her loyalty and obedience (Ruth 1:16-17; 2:1-4:22). In order to have family lineage continued Tamar conceived from the father-in-law (Gen 38:1-26). Rahab was a harlot lived in Jericho in the Promised Land and assisted the Israelites in capturing the city by betraying her people (Josh 2:1-24). Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite, was forced to commit adultery with David. But they all are included in the family history of Jesus because they all played their own role in the history of Israel in extraordinary ways. To their list Mary too is added. Yes, God moves through unexpected, extraordinary, amazing and sometimes even confusing ways.

The Genealogy of Jesus proclaims the nucleus of the mystery of the mercies of God. Abraham, who is the role model of faith in God, became “untruthful” for a moment when he lied that Sarah is his sister. Jacob, the blessed was also a “traitor” and David who had a “fatal fall” all had their lives interwoven by sin and sanctity. But they all are included in the Genealogy. God’s boundless mercy is revealed through them. God is chooses the untrodden paths to surprise us. God’s election of all these people with varied backgrounds was to make them participate in a unique mission. Genealogy of Jesus is the story of preparation for Jesus’ mission through the mission of these great men and women in extraordinary ways and means.

The Genealogy presents thus the all-inclusive attitude of God that transcends all barriers and boundaries. Unlike the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew, Luke’s presentation of the genealogy (3:23-38) traces Jesus’ heritage beyond Abraham, all the way to Adam, the father of the human race. This presentation of more names in human history shows that He is the saviour for all people, in all times and for all nations. His redeeming grace has no bounds and He excludes no one.

When we conclude the genealogy by reading that Jesus was born from Mary, we understand how beautifully and meticulously God prepared the people and the generations for the coming of Jesus. Also how unorthodox and extraordinary is God in His ways! Whether we are great and mighty or the least and the last, God can make us to bring Jesus to others. God the Father lets nothing stand in our way. When God uses us to present His Son to others, we are becoming part of the on-going Genealogy of Jesus. So the final question: Where is my name in the Genealogy of Jesus?

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