As a boy, if it was my turn to do the Bible reading in devotions, I dreaded the “son of” sections. There were names I did not know that are challenging to sound out for anyone, but given my difficulty pronouncing vowels, a constant embarrassment, the reading was hard. This is not, perhaps, the most serious childhood problem, but it was not fun, at all.
All evils produce goods, given the deep beauty of God’s cosmos, and one good that came of my difficulty reading all those “son of” passages was being forced to think about them. I could not breeze along, as I did with most reading, so I had to stop, think about it, and consider what it all meant.
Jesus was born of a family that stretched into antiquity. Obviously this is true for all of us: nobody is born without ancestry. We forget this at times, since we tend to think about ourselves, easy enough to forget that we exist only because of those who came before us.
When we ignore the past, we ignore what created us.
When we ignore the past, we are ignorant of what made us.
So sometimes we must pause and consider our genealogy. This matters. My family chose to come to Jamestown in the early colonial period, leaving England for America. Unlike some Reynolds folk, we chose to keep moving and eschew slaves and tobacco. We kept moving until we reached western Virginia. There we stayed and the lesson of those choices has helped me all my life. My ancestors chose righteousness over the world, the flesh, and devils. I have not done so well as they did, but the voice of those men and women kept rising up and rebuking wrong choices and bringing me back to a better way. The household ancestors, the genealogy that created me, also educates me. One of the great evils of slavery and modernity is that the enslaved and the moderns are cut off from other generations.
Such deep roots taught me some simple truths. We are the product of a genealogy that makes all of us siblings. Jesus is related to everyone! There is more as Jesus is also Jewish: the product of generations of God’s education of the Chosen People. We have basic humanity in common, but diversity in the particulars of how God deals with our folk. This glorious diversity in commonality is what the world desperately needs.
A genealogy reminds us of the obvious: the young will soon be the old. I recall defending what I now defend when BBS atheists (now Internet atheists!) would dismiss me as old and out of touch. I would reply: “I am 27.” They would fall silent. Now I am 56 and so old, therefore my opinions have caught up with my age. So?
The young man becomes the old man. Truth does not age. Indeed, there is a genealogy of truth: David to Joseph to Jesus. I aspire to be in such a royal line: my Papaw loved truth, my dad loves truth, may I love truth!
Best of all is this reality: if we are adopted, becoming the brothers and sisters of Jesus, then His genealogy is our genealogy! We are sons of Adam, King David, and God.
That is good news indeed, good enough that all the hard names are worth while.