Visiting Balls Falls in Vineland, Ontario years ago, our family found a tree with low branches and used it for a family picture. Positioned around the trunk with our children nestled in the branches, the picture was used for our Christmas photo card that year. The caption was “Our Family Tree.”
These days there is a growing fascination with tracing out one’s family tree. The Learning Chanel has produced the TV show about celebrities exploring their family tree–“Who Do You Think You Are? And web sites, like ancestry.com, provide historical databases for research. The challenge of discovering the family’s genealogy has become a mission for millions around the world.
An example of this interest is the case of Don Treble of Ottawa, Ontario. In his decade of research, he discovered that his ancestors include an Elizabethan spy and a knight who fought alongside William the Conqueror. In his great-great- grandfather’s Bible he also discovered the family name mentioned in a Saxon charter back in A.D. 739.
The family Bible is not only a place for documenting names and events for posterity, its text also contains the records of many relevant genealogies which go back thousands of years. Since this season recalls the birth of Jesus Christ, let’s consider what is recorded about His family tree.
The Family Tree of Jesus Christ
In Matthew’s Gospel, the first book of the New Testament, we have an extensive list of names which trace the lineage of Christ from Abraham down to Joseph (the step father of Jesus). Matthew’s account begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”
Why the priority of this genealogy? Since Matthew, one of the twelve disciples, was a Jew commending Jesus to his nation, he refers to fulfilled prophecy about 60 times and quotes the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) about 40 times. It was written there that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, through the tribe of Judah, in the line of King David. Readers wanted to verify the claims of Jesus, including His title as “the Son of David.”
Those who have read the Gospel of Luke may have noticed that it also contains the genealogy of Christ. In chapter three Luke’s list begins with Jesus and ascends back to King David, Abraham, and eventually to Adam at the dawn of creation.
A closer look reveals that the first portion of Luke’s genealogy differs from Matthew’s record. Although scholars have proposed a few ways of reconciling the two accounts, the oldest and most likely explanation is that Luke’s genealogy presents Christ’s biological line through His mother Mary; Matthew’s genealogy gives Christ’s legal line through His step father Joseph. This would indicate that both Mary and Joseph were in the royal line–Mary through David’s son Nathan, and Joseph through David’s son Solomon.
The family line was further demonstrated in the episode of the census:
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child” (Luke 2:1-5).
Which is your spiritual family tree?
One of the stated motivations of people who are tracing out their family tree is the quest for identity and heritage. Mr. LeGendre of Quebec was so impressed to discover that he was the descendant of a famous French mathematician that he had the family crest tattooed onto his back!
The bad news: When we are born into this world, we are in the corrupted family line of Adam. This has brought legal condemnation and spiritual death to all of humanity.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
The good news: When admit to our lost condition and confess our sins, God invites us to receive the gift of pardon and eternal salvation!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10),
The New Testament offers God’s provision for our needs by His amazing grace. The Gospel of John promises, “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13).
Christ’s call to discipleship is an invitation to be part of God’s spiritual family tree. God has no grandchildren; each of us must make a personal commitment to become part God’s family. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
There is no better identity to have; no greater heritage to value.
2nd edition. Copyright 1999 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reproduce this article for non profit purposes if credit is given to the author and Grace Notebook. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (Copyright by Thomas Nelson).