One Christmas, as a pastor of a church, I decided to preach a sermon on the genealogies of Jesus recorded in the gospels. I asked one of our elders to read the scripture passage from Matthew 1 at the Christmas service. As you can imagine, he was not too enthusiastic about reading it, what with all the names contained in the genealogies going back to Abraham. However, he did it, and he did it amazingly well. He told me afterward that, to his surprise, he had felt the anointed presence of the Lord as he read it. Who would have thought a list of genealogies could be thus anointed with the presence of God.
THE GENEALOGIES OF JESUS
The genealogies of Jesus are recorded in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-34.
“Matthew’s record traces the lineage of Jesus from Abraham through Joseph, although he is careful to point out that Joseph was not Jesus’s actual father. Since he was writing to a Jewish audience, Matthew’s purpose was to prove that he was the promised Messiah. Specifically, stating that Jesus was the supposed son of Joseph. Whereas Luke ascends the family line all the way to Adam, thus identifying Jesus universally with the human race.
Some commentators account for the differences in the two genealogies by assuming that Matthew gives the legal line of royal descent. While Luke gives the lineage of Mary, the only human parent of Jesus. If this is the case, Joseph may be recorded as the son of Mary’s father, Heli, through marriage”(Spirit Filled Life Bible 1514).
If I have one regret regarding my family tree, it is that when I was younger, and my parents were alive, I did not ask enough questions about the generations that came before me. I never knew my grandparents, as my father had left them behind when he immigrated from England to Australia. Likewise, my mother immigrated from Scotland to Australia with her mother and sisters, but her mother died when I was quite young. It is only as I have got older that I became curious about these things.
LEAVING A LEGACY
We cannot decide who comes before us or who is in our family tree. However, we can start building a legacy so that in years to come, people will be able to observe the members of your family and what became of them through your family tree.
Nearly twenty years ago, I wrote a book entitled “Hedges,” which encouraged leaders in the church and society to build hedges of protection around their ministry or business, specifically in the areas of money, sex, and power. You need to look no further than today’s newspapers to read the stories of celebrities, pastors, and leaders who failed to do that. Stories, the betrayal of their spouses leading to the undermining of their ministry and calling, and leaving a cloud over their children. At the end of the book, I wrote a closing word about “a hedge that lives on.” Let me share it with you.
“Our life, according to James, is but ‘a vapor that appears for a little time then vanishes away’ (James 4:14). Very quickly, it is all over, but we can leave a heritage for future generations. Proverbs 13:22 tells us, ‘a good man leaves an inheritance to his children.’ The question is, ‘Are we leaving a godly inheritance?’ We need to remember what a difference a life of integrity makes… one author writes about what a difference a life of integrity makes in an article entitled ‘Are you leaving a legacy?’
“A recent study of two 18th century men serves as a reminder that each life leaves a powerful legacy. Consider Max Jukes, who lived in New York State. Max did not believe in Christian training and married a woman of like character. A study of more than 1,000 descendants from their union reveals that 300 died prematurely, 100 were sent to prison for an average of 13 years, 190 were public prostitutes, and 100 were drunkards. The Jukes family cost the state $1.2 million, and they made no demonstratable contribution to society.
“Now consider another 18th century man who also lived in New York State. This man was a devout Christian and married a woman of like mind. A study of 729 descendants from their union reveals that this family has produced 300 preachers, five college professors, 13 university presidents, 60 noted authors, 3 United States Congressman, and one Vice President of the United States. This man’s name? Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s great theologians and preachers who helped lead the Great Awakening.
“Each of our lives leaves a powerful legacy. The Bible says God will punish. ‘the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation’ but also show love to thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6).
Are you leaving a legacy? Am I?
Dr. David Jeremiah writes similar things in a devotional reading: “As a teenager, Elizabeth Tilley traveled with her parents to the New World from Plymouth, England, in September 1620, aboard the Mayflower. One of her fellow passengers, John Howland, fell overboard but was miraculously rescued. Shortly after their arrival, the two were married. They had ten children and 88 grandchildren, providing a rich legacy of Mayflower descendants. Among the number: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Ralph Walde Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Humphrey Bogart, and Phillips Brooks, the author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Elizabeth outlived her husband by fourteen years, and she was an extraordinarily active mother and grandmother, always busy cooking, sewing, cleaning, gardening, and caring for loved ones. If you visit her gravestone, you’ll see it inscribed with these words: “It is my will and charge to all my children that they walk in fear of the Lord and in love and peace toward each other.”
Mothers who do their work enthusiastically for the Lord leave a legacy that shapes history.” (Jeremiah, n.d.)
Don’t skip through the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. They are there for a reason. Genealogies remind us that we can build a legacy for the future. We need to be building future generations of descendants who will follow Jesus and, in turn, will pass it on to their descendants.
Jeremiah, D. (n.d.). In Moments Like These. San Diego, CA: Turning Point.
Langstaff, A. M. (2004). Hedges: Building a hedge of protection around leaders in ministry or business. El Cajon, CA: Christian Services Network.
Spirit Filled Life Bible: New King James Version. (1991). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.