How Bible Genealogies Preach the Good News

Jesus’ family tree offers more than a history lesson.

We joke that most people fear public speaking more than death, but this has not been the case for me. I am frequently behind a microphone teaching the Bible to large groups with a healthy fear of the text but little fear of the audience. So I was caught off guard by the sheer panic I felt when one of my pastors asked me to do a reading. That’s it. Just a simple reading before he preached—no commentary, no embellishments, just read it and take my seat.

Why my sudden crisis of confidence? The text was Luke 3:23–38, the genealogy of Jesus, composed of 77 tongue-twisting names, requiring a solid two and a half minutes to read aloud from start to finish.

The pastor, a dear friend, noted the look on my face and asked, “Is it weird to read that before I preach?” Everything in me knew I should say no, but I wanted to yell, “Yes! I’m just going to read these endless names and wander back to my seat in the awkward ensuing silence?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love the genealogies with all of my Bible nerd heart. Because I teach the Bible line by line on a weekly basis, I regularly go through parts of the text that are often skipped. I know that by fighting through difficult, weird, or boring verses, we find our faith deepened on the other side. Those passages challenge me as a teacher, but they don’t intimidate me.

I fell hard for genealogies when I taught the Book of Genesis. I was forced for the first time to ask why these lists of individual names were so carefully preserved. As my affection for them grew, I became more vocal about the need for us to pay attention to these neglected lists.

Unlike the more well-worn passages of Scripture, the genealogies test whether we actually believe …

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