Sermon: Jesus the True Son for All (Luke 3:23-38)

I.        Do we really have a heart for people from all nations?

A.     Today, African-Americans see people locking doors when they drive by them.

B.     Today, Hispanics are made fun of and not made welcome in their workplaces.

C.    Today, people of middle-eastern descent are looked at suspiciously by average white people.

D.    And this has even come into the church.  Anthony Bradley wrote an article on World magazine’s site about the blessing of interracial marriage.  There were almost 200 negative, critical comments posted.

E.     This is all the while people around our country are rejecting Jesus.  They’re seeing Christianity as a white, middle class religion, ironically while the gospel is exploding around the world!

F.     Do we really want people from all nations to worship?

G.    We have been going through a series on “Jesus in the Margins” from the book of Luke.  We’ve mentioned how Luke emphasizes in his gospel that the good news about Jesus is for all. 

H.    We see this here in today’s passage: Lk. 3:23-38, a genealogy, the type of thing we normally skip right over. 

I.        But looking at it closely, the particulars of it, and the overall point of it, should encourage and challenge us greatly.  It teaches us Jesus is the true Son for all.  Do we really have a heart for people of all nations?

J.      Let us pray.


II.      Lk. 3:23-38—“Jesus is the True Son for All”: we will first look at the particulars of the genealogy, followed by looking at its overall point.


A.     The particulars: through ordinary and bad people over much time God brought us the Son for all.

1.      “The Death of High-Fidelity”—Recently read article in Rolling Stone about the way recording and listening to music has changed.  Regarding recording, now musicians are using lots of compression when mixing their albums.  This reduces the difference between the loud and the soft parts of music, “compressing” them, making it all seem louder.  They are doing this to compete with other bands and to stand out, or at least not seem wimpy.  Regarding listening, most of us have iPods now.  They play, as you know, songs in MP3 format, which takes a recording and compresses it, removing the high frequencies and low frequencies from recordings that aren’t as obvious to the listener.  So what we have, due to both the recording process, and, also, the MP3 ripping process, is music that doesn’t have the dynamic range that music used to have.  You don’t hear the various instruments like you used to.  And music doesn’t have the emotional energy that it once did.  It’s all just really loud.  Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen put it this way: “God is in the details.  But there aren’t details anymore.”   

2.      Friends, but this doesn’t just apply to how we want our music now—but also our lives.  We don’t want to see the highs and lows, the ups and downs.  We don’t want to see the details.  We don’t want to spend much time on the final product.  We just want it fast and loud and now.  But the Bible doesn’t allow for this.  We see all of that as we look at the story of Scripture—we see the high parts and the low parts of human struggle.  We see the painstaking, ordinary details of every day life.  And we see it taking place over thousands of years.  We see it looking at the Bible as a whole.  But we see it in summary when we look at a genealogy like we see today.

3.      Look with me at two aspects of the particulars of this genealogy.  See ordinary guys and bad guys.

4.      First, ordinary guys.  One thing you’ll notice about this list is a whole bunch of Joe Schmoes—people you’ve never heard of.  Let’s just take three of the names:

i.        Who is Matthat in v. 24?  Heard of him?  This would have been Joseph’s grandfather.

ii.      Who is Amos in v. 25?  You’ve heard the name, but this isn’t back far enough to be the prophet.  No, it’s some random guy named after him.

iii.    Who is Josech in v. 26?  We have no idea.  That’s the only time we see his name in the Bible.

iv.    You get my point, don’t you?  There are a lot of no-names in this passage.  In fact, as scholar Bock puts it, “Most of the people mentioned in 3:24-31 are unknown, until one reaches the name Nathan in 3:31.”  These are a bunch of Joe Q. Publics and Jane Does, but they all play a key role in God’s plan.  Do we see that God uses ordinary people? 

v.      I’ll never forget my senior year here in college at Mizzou.  It was 1994, and during that year, our basketball team went undefeated in the Big 8 and almost went to the Final Four.  They had couple of good, exciting players.  But mainly they were a group of ordinary guys.  Two examples would be forwards Kelly Thames and Lamont Frazier.  What did those guys do?  They played defense and rebounded a bunch.  They were ordinary players.  But we won a championship.

vi.    Brothers and sisters, in our compressed, loud world, the Lord uses ordinary people.  I want this to encourage you and challenge you.  I want it to build Your faith in the Lord.

vii.  First, let it encourage you.  If you seem pretty common, pretty ordinary, and not too spectacular, it’s exactly a person just like you whom God will use in His plans.  See 1 Cor. 1:26-31 (p. 952).     

viii.But, second, let it challenge you.  Embrace being ordinary.  Let us not always pursue being big and flashy and a celebrity.  God usually looks for those kinds of people.  See Jas. 4:7-10 (p. 1013).

ix.    And that’s the primary sin associated with this truth.  In our culture where celebrities rule and where we learn about the bowel patterns of Lindsay Logan, we must fight again pride.  Individually, we must resist pursuing the limelight, so that we might receive honor.  And, as a church, we must fight against creating our own celebrity culture, where the flashiest and the richest and the most gifted get all the pub.  We must cultivate humility in our hearts and in our congregation.

5.      Second, bad guys.  Take just three examples from this list.  I could say things about David, Abraham, and others, but let’s look at some less common guys.

i.        Consider Obed in v. 32.  He’s the son, as it says of Boaz.  He’s the product of his father disobeying God’s law and hooking up with a pagan woman, a woman from Moab.  That was a no-no, as you likely know.  But he’s in the line of Jesus.  God used Boaz.  

ii.      Look at Perez in v. 33.  If you read Gen. 38, Judah slept with a prostitute who ended up really being his daughter-in-law, and that’s how we got Perez.  Judah was a sinner to the core, but God still used him.  He’s in this list.

iii.    Look at Noah in v. 36.  Of course, we know Noah for being faithful and building the ark.  But we also see in Gen. 9 him getting really drunk and laying around naked with his sons making fun of him.  He had his issues.

iv.    So God used some bad people, and we could talk about David the adulterer or Jacob the deceiver or Abraham the liar or Adam who only had one simple rule and couldn’t keep even that.  Do you see that God uses what we would call bad people?  Do you hear, “Jerry, Jerry!?”

v.      I mentioned several weeks ago about a former Liberian warlord who has confessed to killing over 20,000 people and is seeking forgiveness.  What I didn’t say then is that he was called “General Butt Naked,” and he went around in killing people with his “Butt Naked Battalion,” killing people in the nude.  But now he’s an evangelical Christian preacher, who now claims to be walking with Jesus.  Can God forgive such a person?  Does God use bad dudes like him?  Let it once again comfort and challenge you.  Let it build your faith in God.

vi.    First let it comfort you.  Look in the mirror, as you should, and see a sinner, a broken, messed up person, and embrace that.  God will use even you.  He has forever.  No matter what you’ve done.  He is about saving and using sinners.  Trust him.  Singer Bono said, “The fact that the Scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers, and mercenaries used to shock me.  Now it is a source of great comfort.”

vii.  But, second, let it challenge you.  Our tendency is to look in the mirror and let it cripple us.  We think, “Woe is me,” and “God can’t use me,” and blah, blah, blah.  We just sit there and do nothing, whining and crying.  My word to you is: get up and work.  Don’t let it paralyze you.  Girl, so you’ve had premarital sex.  Get over it.  Boy, you looked at porn this week.  That’s not good.  But get over it.  God uses messed up people.

viii.What we tend to do is sin again with pride.  We live in this world where in the church and outside, the goal is to be a good person so we can think highly of ourselves.  But we must fight again that—individually, by looking at our worthiness only in Jesus and humbling ourselves before God.  There is a type of false humility that says, “woe is me,” and ends up slapping Jesus and his atonement in the face.  In the church, we must stop preaching this moralistic, legalistic gospel of “measuring up” that is no gospel at all.  We must preach a God who is holy and people that are sinners and a Jesus that reconciles the two.  We must pursue holiness but not as a pathway to pride.  It must be an expression of gratitude.  And where we stand each day in terms of growth must never be seen as the ground for God’s approval or of our ultimate joy.  The Lord uses ordinary, even wicked, people.  That statement applies to each of us!  That is His amazing grace.

6.      But, I also said at the beginning that “over much time, God brought us the Son.”  We see in v. 23 that God is in no hurry.  He brought Jesus into the world and then waited 30 years.  But, of course, what are 30 years, when you’ve been slowly working your will for thousands?  In this instant world of convenience and disposability, we lack patience all the way around.  But God takes His time.  And we should learn to trust Him in the daily grind that is totally in His hands.

7.      And see that.  He is a God of providence.  Through all of this time, through all of the ordinary Joes and the terrible Toms, God was working His will, even in the evil, even in the mundane.  It was all totally in His hands.  We must have faith in God’s providence over the details.  

8.      In our world, we don’t want high-fidelity.  And we’re not trained to see it.  But may God give us the grace to see the particulars, the details of life and rejoice in His grace over all of them.  Through ordinary and bad people over much time God brought us the Son for all.


B.     Second, the point.  Through Israel and for all nations, God brought salvation through His Son. 

1.      As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the FOX program 24.  I heard good news this week that the writer’s strike is over.  It sounds like season 7 will begin in January of 2009.  What is so enjoyable about the show, of course, is that it is played out in real time.  Each show is an hour of a long, intense day for hero Jack Bauer.  The details do unfold slowly, and, only by seeing the last episode alongside the others can you see how the details fit together.  Well, we just discussed some of the people that lived out this genealogy in slow, real time.  But here, in Lk. 3, we can look over all of it and see how it was linked in God’s providence. 

2.      I want you to notice four key names in this genealogy, and then we’ll narrow it even more to just two and focus just a bit more.

i.        First, see David in v. 31.  As we saw last week, Jesus is the promised Son, the one in the line of David, the King.  In 2 Sam. 7, God promises to make one of His descendants an eternal king.  Jesus is that Anointed One, that Messiah, that Christ.

ii.      Second, see Jacob in v. 34.  His name gets changed to Israel in Gen. 35, and He is the father of the 12 tribes, the nation of God in the Old Testament.  As we’ll see in a second, Jesus’s whole ministry was geared toward that nation and was about creating a new nation. 

iii.    Third, see Abraham in v. 34.  That man is the father of the Jews.  In fact, the book of Matthew, written to Jews instead of Luke’s Gentile audience, uses a genealogy that has the purpose of just linking Jesus back to father Abe.  God again met him in Gen. 12 and told him that He would make him into a great people and give him great land and bless the whole world with both.  Jesus is tied to that amazing promise.

iv.    Fourth, see Adam in v. 38.  He is the first man God created and put in the garden.  God put him there and told him to obey, and he didn’t.  So the curse came upon the world and all its creatures.  Jesus is tied to this first human being, and to all of God’s creation. 

v.      So, Jesus is tied to the king, the nation, the promise, and the human race. 

3.      Now, let’s now zoom in further and look just at Israel and Adam.  First, Israel. 

i.        As I said, salvation came through Israel.  We know from the gospels that Jesus went first to the Jews.  In Mt. 15:24, Jesus said He was sent only to the “lost sheep of Israel.”  When He sent His disciples out in Mt. 10, he told them, in v. 6, that they should not go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but rather to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  God brought salvation through the Jews.  And it came to them first. 

ii.      We emphasize Jacob here because Luke does.  If you look at the passage before, that we saw last week, John the Baptist came preaching to just the Jews, telling them to ready themselves for the King Jesus. The Father, in anointing Him with His Spirit and calling Him His beloved Son, tells those Jews that Jesus is the Messiah they had been looking for.

iii.    In addition, we’ll look next week at Lk. 4, where Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted.  This clearly ties Jesus to the nation of Israel, who, in the Old Testament, goes also into the wilderness, and they are tempted.  The results, as we’ll see, though, are totally different.

iv.    Jesus came to that nation.  Salvation, as the Bible says, is of the Jews.  But, although they forfeited God’s covenant, Rom. 9-11 seems to indicate that Israel will one day experience revival and will join all the nations worshipping Jesus the King.  So the answer isn’t to persecute them like Mel Gibson or Adolph Hitler or countless others—it’s to love them and tell them Jesus is the Messiah they’ve awaited.

4.      Second, Adam.

i.        But, that nation, of course, rejected God’s grace in Christ, at least most of them, crucifying our Lord.  So, as part of His plan from the beginning, God opened it up, welcoming people from all tribes and tongues and nations.  We see this come to pass in Luke’s next volume, the book of Acts, as the gospel is spread by Paul and others to the Gentiles. 

ii.      As I mentioned before, Luke in his gospel emphasizes that the gospel is for Gentiles.  It’s for all nations.  This is something he wants to get across.

iii.    And I think it’s the ultimate point of this genealogy.  That’s why it goes back to Adam.  Like I said, Matthew wants us to see Jesus tied to Abraham and the fulfillment of the nation Israel.  Luke wants us to see Jesus tied to Adam and the fulfillment of the whole human race.  Jesus is not just the King of the Jews.  He is the King of the earth.  Just as Adam was given the charge to be king under God, over the garden, so Jesus is king, and one day He will completely reign over the entire world.

iv.    Salvation is for the entire world, for people from every people group.  So, as the Bible teaches us, in Acts 1:8, for example, our task is to be witnesses “to the end of the earth.”  We have been given this amazing mission of God.

v.      And the opposite of that is the sin we can so easily struggle with—prejudice toward, and distrust of, and lack of respect for, people from those other nations.  We must fight that in our hearts, weeding it out.  And we must pray and take action to see that our churches reflect what heaven will be like.

5.      Let me now take another angle.  I said at the beginning that through Israel and for all nations, salvation came through Jesus.  Let me tell you how that salvation came, how Jesus fulfilled both Israel and Adam.

i.        First, I said last week that Israel is called in the Bible God’s “Son.”  For example, in Ex. 4:22, God tells Moses to tell the king of Egypt, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.  If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”   

ii.      As we’ll see next week, Jesus came and obeyed, unlike Israel.  He is the Son that did what God said and resisted temptation.  And in doing this, He created a new nation, a new Israel, the church.  He is making a group of people rightly living as a people before God, reconciled with Him and each other, as intended.  Those that are united to Him by faith become a part of that new people of God. 

iii.    Second, Adam is called here the “son of God” in v. 38.  Obviously, he’s not God’s son in some physical, biological sense.  Neither is Jesus.  But he was created by God as the first human, as His son.  He was made in God’s image to rule under Him over His creation.

iv.    And the key thing to remember here is that, unlike Adam, Jesus never broke God’s law.  Adam, in Gen. 3, disobeys God’s command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  So the fall happens.  Jesus, again as we’ll see next week, doesn’t bite the temptation of Satan.  He stands strong.  And in doing this, He created a new humanity made up of people from every tribe and tongue and nation who are rightly related to God.  He is making a people who are being remade in God’s image, living as they were intended to live, ruling rightly under the Lord.  Those of us who have faith in Jesus are made a part of that new race.

v.      Jesus is the true Son.  He’s the true and ideal Israel.  He’s the true and ideal human.  Unlike Israel and Adam, Jesus totally obeyed, and by God’s grace and through faith, the Lord applies the righteousness of Jesus to us.  We put it on, like a garment of white, that allows us to stand before God.  Through the love of our Lord, we have been given salvation.

vi.    Again, the sin that we so easily tend to is a lack of faith.  We try to measure up to God’s holiness, trying to show off our own righteousness. But God is not impressed.  In fact, He’s offended.  He wants us to look to His Son.  He hates our prideful unbelief in the gospel.

vii.  But Jesus, again, did not just obey.  Last week, I used the illustration of a chalkboard.  I talked about how Jesus writes His righteousness on the chalkboard, so that the Father looks at it and sees His righteousness counted to us.  But, before that, it has to be erased of all our sins that are written there and to which our enemy, Satan, points, accusing us.  On the cruel, cold cross, Jesus died there, absorbing the punishment of God we so much deserved.  And our sins were erased by the grace of our Lord. 

viii.Jesus is the Son who brought salvation—through His obedience and sacrifice.  The point again?  Through Israel and for all nations, God brought salvation through His Son

6.      But, let me add something else that we can’t ignore.  Jesus is the Son, but of another order.  We see this back in v. 23.  Luke says of Jesus that he was “being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph.”  This ties us back again to the first two chapters, our Christmas story.  Jesus is born of a virgin.  So He isn’t the son of Joseph.  He is the Son of God.  Put another way, He is God the Son.  This is the second person of the Trinity, fully God, yet distinct from the Father and the Spirit.  As God, Jesus could obey and satisfy the Father.  He could die as a perfect sacrifice.  Jesus isn’t just a man.  He’s God.  And only through that truth can we be saved.


III.                Jesus is the true Son of God for all.

A.     Again, the key point of this passage is that Jesus is for everyone.  He is tied to Adam.  God is making a new humanity, incorporating all into that new nation.  And our mission is to reach all with the gospel.

B.     The problem, though, is that we can get confused as God’s people.  We can start thinking, through the enemy’s schemes, that America is the new Israel and not the church.  We can have this type of patriotism that distracts us from our calling as Christians.  We can think we’re the best race of people on earth.  This results in a lack of love for others from other nations.

C.    But America is not God’s country any more than any other.  We are no better than any nation.  And we are connected to all people through our common ancestor, Adam.  We are Christians first, and Americans second.

D.    Our task is, within God’s church, to model a love for people in the margins, for people unlike us.  We are to reach out to the aliens and strangers.  We are to seek them out and bring them in, right here in Karis in Columbia, Missouri.  And we are to go and send to other nations to set up indigenous churches in those lands foreign to us.  It takes pursuing reconciliation here and mission elsewhere, pursuing a model of heaven here, and trying to get people to heaven across the globe.

E.     Let me close by speaking of two pictures that exemplify this to us:

1.      Take William Wilberforce, a committed believer in England back in the 17 and 1800s, who was the leader in the abolition movement, who, with God’s grace, ended slavery there once and for all.

2.      And consider the Moravians, who I have mentioned before, who sold themselves into slavery to reach the islands of the West Indies.

3.      We must repent of our lack of reconciliation and diversity in our church.  We must repent of our lack of missional zeal for all peoples.

4.      I talked at the beginning of the highs and lows and the mundane details and the great diversity of the song of the story God.  But this is the message.  This is what the lyrics and the melody are trying to convey: God who created everything is reaching out to that creation, redeeming it, and particularly its people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

5.      Do we really have a heart for people from all nations?