Why the “Begats” Matter: The Importance of Jesus’ Genealogies

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Throughout the Advent season leading up to Christmas, there are several passages from the Bible that are commonly read or recited. We read Scriptures on the birth of Jesus, the magi, the shepherds, and even hear about the prophecies of Jesus. Very seldom, however, do we read or hear about the genealogies of Jesus. In fact, these are passages we often skip over. If you grew up in the church or are familiar with the King James Version of the Bible, you’ve probably read these genealogies before and been completely confused, as they would go on and on about “so-and-so begat so-and-so.” Did you ever think that these genealogies were all that important? 

Though we struggle to make sense of the genealogies, Matthew and Luke considered the genealogies important enough to include them in their gospels. Found in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38, these genealogies tell us much about Jesus. While it is important to know the lineage of Jesus and understand where he came from (remember, Jesus did come from the line of Rahab the prostitute and Ruth the Moabite), Matthew and Luke share the genealogies of Jesus for two other very important reasons.

A Blessing to Others

In Matthew’s opening chapter, there is significance in the way he starts his genealogy of Jesus. Matthew writes, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Matthew then proceeds to begin his genealogy with Abraham. Why would he so intentionally note that Jesus came from Abraham? First, it is important to remember that Jesus was Jewish and Abraham is the father of the Jews. Directly connected to this truth is a promise God gave to Abraham. In Genesis 12:3, after calling Abraham away from his land and family, God promises Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Ultimately, this promise is fulfilled in one particular descendant of Abraham- the Messiah. In his genealogy, written centuries later, Matthew is showing us that Jesus completes the promise of God to Abraham Throughout the Old Testament, there is talk of an “anointed one” who would deliver and lead the people of Israel. Interestingly enough, Matthew says, “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 1:1). In Greek, Christ was the word for the Hebrew word Messiah. The blessing that would come from Abraham was Jesus, and Jesus would be a blessing to all families by providing a way for reconciliation between humanity and God through his birth, life, death, and resurrection. I would consider that to be an incredible blessing to all the families of the earth!

Bruising Satan’s Head

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ genealogy is a bit different. Rather than beginning with Abraham, Luke works backwards from Jesus all the way to Adam, the first human being. The last line says, “Adam was the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Here, Luke is doing several things. First, he’s showing us that, like Adam, Jesus is a son of God. As Luke’s Gospel continues, we see that Jesus is more than a son of God; he’s the Son of God. In referencing Adam, however, Luke takes us back to the Genesis account of the creation and fall. In particular, I’m reminded of Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In this verse, God is promising Adam and Eve that a day will come when the serpent, Satan, will be defeated. In particular, God mentions “her offspring.” He also mentions that “he [the offspring] shall bruise your head.” The offspring God is referring to is Jesus and the bruising he is referring to is Jesus’ defeat of Satan. When Luke points us back to Adam in Jesus’ genealogy, we are to remember not only that Jesus is the Son of God, but also that Jesus came to earth to defeat Satan and deliver us from sin, as God promised he would. 

The genealogies of Jesus matter. In just mentioning Matthew and Luke’s genealogies, we see that Jesus is the Savior promised from long ago. He is the one who will be a blessing to all families. He is the one who has defeated Satan. As we celebrate Advent and Christmas, let’s thank God that Jesus came from the lineage of Adam and Abraham. More importantly, let’s thank God that Jesus has blessed all families and defeated Satan.