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Questions & Answers

If Joseph was Jesus' stepfather, why is Jesus' genealogy traced from Joseph? If God is His Father, why does Jesus' human genealogy matter?

In Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus, we are given Mary’s genealogy (Luke 3:23–38). Probably the best way to interpret verse 23 is like this: Jesus “was thought to be the son of Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli.” Then the genealogy continues all the way back to David, Abraham, and Adam. This establishes Mary as the physical descendant of David, so it can be stated that Jesus truly was “the Son of David” through the lineage of David’s son Nathan.

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:1–16), from Joseph’s perspective, is also important because it clearly demonstrates Jesus’ legal right to the throne of David. According to Judaism, Jesus, as the adopted son of Joseph, would have all the legal rights of a biological heir. Joseph descended from David through Solomon, and that was the chosen line of David for someone to be considered king. Hence, the Lord Jesus was the son of David by biological descent through Mary and the king of Israel by legal right through Joseph.

The amazing part of all this is that God had cursed the line of Solomon so that no physical descendant of his could be named king. Jeremiah 22:30 says of Coniah, “Record this man as childless . . . none of his descendants will succeed in sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.” This created a “Catch 22” of sorts. Only a descendant of Solomon could be king, yet this line was cursed. Therefore, only Jesus could fulfill the Davidic covenant. Jesus had the legal right to be king through Joseph but, because He was virgin born, the curse on Coniah did not apply to Him. Instead, He was the son of David through His mother Mary. Both genealogies are significant in establishing the Lord Jesus as the true Davidic king.

"Do I really believe this stuff?" When I read the Bible, such thoughts often distract me. How do I fight off doubt? How do I make these terrible thoughts go away?

You’re not the first to struggle with doubt. Most followers of Jesus, even John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, have dealt with doubt from time to time. Matthew’s record of John’s doubt (Matt. 11:2–19) gives helpful advice on how to deal with this issue.

To begin, we may experience doubt during difficult and discouraging circumstances. In this Scripture, John was in prison for having challenged the inappropriate marriage of Herod Antipas. This caused him to wonder if he had correctly identified Jesus as the promised Messiah. So, John sent his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else” (vv. 2–3)?

The Lord’s response to John includes four ways we can deal with doubt. The first is to remember the evidence. Jesus reminds John that “the blind see, the lame walk . . . the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news” (vv. 4–5). Together, these events fulfilled the predictions found in Isaiah 35:1–10 and 61:1–3 and were evidence that Jesus was the true Messiah. When we face doubt, it is good to review the evidence that convinced us to believe in the first place.

Second, to deal with doubt, we need to accept the Lord’s approval. Too often, when we doubt, we beat ourselves up and think God is fed up with us. Instead, the Lord Jesus affirms John as the greatest prophet up to that point (Matt. 11:7–11), Remarkably, the Lord says the same of us: “Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (v. 11). The Lord knows our weakness and that we are but dust. He affirms even our smallest efforts to deal with our doubts.

Third, to overcome doubt, we need to manage our expectations. Too often, we expect life to be perfect once we trust in Jesus; we imagine that we will no longer face any struggles. Matthew 11:12, a verse that is notoriously difficult to translate, teaches just the opposite. Here’s my personal translation: “From the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing and violent men are opposing it.” The point is that both we and John need to correct our false expectations. The kingdom of God is progressing even when we are facing difficult circumstances. We should not be surprised when life isn’t perfect now.

Finally, we need to guard against dissatisfaction. In verses 16–19, Jesus reminds the crowd that some were dissatisfied with John’s ministry while at the same time they were disgruntled
with Jesus. It is dangerous when we’re never satisfied with answers to our doubts because that can transform doubt into disbelief. Wisdom learns to accept what can be understood and what cannot. When you feel discouraged, remember that doubt is common to all of us, but the words of Jesus teach us to overcome it.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is a professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the host of Moody Radio’s Open Line with Michael Rydelnik. He is the author of 50 Most Important Bible Questions inspired by both his radio show and his columns for Today in the Word. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael also appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill.

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