The Genealogy of Jesus

Luke 3:23-38

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli… (3:23 ESV).

When Jesus began to preach, he was about thirty years old. Everyone thought he was the son of Joseph. But his family went back through Heli… (3:23 CEV).

Recently, a friend gave us a gift membership where we could trace our ancestry. We were told that we might find something surprising. One surprise is how far back we can trace our ancestors in some cases four to six hundred years, while in others all leads end in three or four generations. Another surprise is the reflection about how many people it took to produce David and Sharon and our children and grandchild. Yes, we knew this, but seeing their names and dates of birth and death adds a deeper touch of reality. Even more, as I researched our family trees, I solemnly wondered, “How many of them changed their minds and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life?” That might seem a very melancholy reflection, but even in the line of Jesus the Messiah, not everyone was godly. (Read the books of 1 & 2 Kings.) Thank God for his grace that has reached many, though others persisted in the hardness of their hearts. (They are responsible for their own hearts.)

Luke begins this section by saying that Jesus began. The question is “What did he begin to do?” The ESV, NIV, NASB, NLT, and CSB all supply the word ministry. However, considering Luke 4:18, the first statement in Luke from Jesus about what he was doing, it might be better to supply preach, as in the Contemporary English Version, quoted above. After his baptism, Jesus began to do his great ministry of preaching and teaching God’s Word. God made his good news known through his one and only Son. This required much preaching (to the crowds) and teaching (to small groups and individuals). God the Spirit uses the word of God to bring people to new birth. It ought to be our delight to hear the Scriptures taught and preached. Do you hunger after Biblical preaching?

Luke tells us that Jesus was about thirty years old at that time. I was twenty-seven when I became a pastor of a local church. Charles Spurgeon was sixteen. After I had been a pastor for a few years, I appreciated the wisdom of waiting till a man is thirty. Those couple extra years can make a significant contribution to how a man looks at life and ministers to people. But the Lord has his reasons for putting some into situations ahead of human reasoning, though not ahead of God’s. For example, David Brainerd and Robert M. M’Cheyne died when they were twenty-nine. If they had waited till they were thirty, their powerful ministries would not have existed. My point is that thirty years old can be a good year to start, but we mustn’t make absolute rules.

Luke joins all this with the genealogy of Jesus. A careful study of the genealogical lists in the Bible will reveal that some generations are skipped in any genealogy. It seems they were constructed in patterns for easier memorization. Here, Jesus is called the son of Heli, though he was at least his grandson. (In the whole list, the word son is supplied from the first instance in 3:23.) A comparison with the genealogy in Matthew makes it clear that we have two different lines back to the time of David the king. Many have puzzled over this. It seems (note my word choice) that Luke gives Mary’s physical line back to Adam, while Matthew gives the line of the kings from Abraham who was promised that kings would come through him to David to Jesus. If this is so, why would Luke give Mary’s line? Here are a couple suggestions. First, it connects Jesus with the promise made to Mary by Gabriel (Luke 1:29-35). When studying a passage, we should never forget what the writer has previously said. Biblical writings are carefully constructed. The list shows that he was David’s son, and that he was also the son of God. Second, many have suggested that it fits in with Luke’s purpose that the good news is for people of all nations. Unlike Matthew’s list that starts with Abraham, Luke’s list includes not only the Hebrews but also people of the nations. In addition, giving Mary’s line might be another example of Luke’s theme of the importance of women in the people of God. Luke has much to teach us about the nations and women. Let’s remember this in our doctrine and way of life.

Grace and peace, David

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About Dave Frampton

Originally from Streetsboro Ohio he presently resides in the greater Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania. Until recently David Frampton served as pastor of a church located in Newtown Square Pennsylvania and prior to that he served a church in upstate New York. He studied at Grand Rapids Baptist College. Dave is a popular blogger at