Christian LivingDoctrine

In the spitting image of God

This year on my birthday I received one of those DNA test kits – and I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to do it. I’d been wanting to do one of these for ages. The instructions directed me to spit into a little test tube and mail it off to the lab. It felt momentous. What will my saliva sample reveal about me, about my ancestors? Is it really true that I might have a mysterious exotic great-great-grandparent, or is this just a family rumour? Perhaps there’s a mix of all sorts of fascinating forbears from around the world? Where have my people come from? Where have I come from? Who am I, really?

Six weeks later, as promised, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it was revealed that my ancestors are all from northwest Europe and the British Isles, most specifically the Scottish islands. And also 2% from Scandinavia. Well that explains my reddish hair, the sunburn-prone skin that I’ve managed to pass on to my son (but somehow not to my daughters), and perhaps why my parents drove Volvos.

Judging by the old photos that have found their way to my box of family history records, the ancestor I look most like is my great-grandmother Rose (who for some unexplained reason went by the name ‘Peg’). We have the same eyes, the same expression in a candid shot, and though I do have a photo of her holding me as a baby, I have no memory of her. But I love her. She came out to Australia from England by ship one hundred years ago to marry an Aussie Digger whom she met in the aftermath of WWI. I found out recently that it was her example of faith despite much personal hardship that was the slow-burning catalyst for her son, my beloved Pop, to turn to Jesus Christ at the end of his life a few years ago. I’m so pleased to discover that I share physical characteristics with her.

Okay that’s enough about my genealogy. What about Jesus’ genealogy – who was he like? There are two genealogies recorded in the Gospel accounts – Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3. So many of Jesus’ ancestors are famous or infamous biblical characters: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Tamar, Ruth, Boaz, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jehoram, Hezekiah, Zerubbabel. Which of these was this new baby king going to take after? Did Jesus look like any of his ancestors? Presumably he did – but what the Bible is at pains to point out is that it is what Jesus does that shows that he is just like his heavenly Father (John 5, 8); in fact, the Son is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). Who cares whether Jesus had Zerubbabel’s ears or hair just like Hezekiah? He is the spitting image (so to speak) of God! So it is huge that he chose to take on flesh and became like his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2) – as my teenage daughter would say, “eww!” All our gross human-ness in this fallen world.

But here’s the thing – Jesus was okay with having a human genealogy, so that we could experience adoption as God’s children. Galatians 4 tells us, “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (vv 4-5). Wow. So God planned it all out, and thanks to the Son’s willingness to have a human genealogy, we are able to have adoption into his spiritual family: to become the very children of God. Again, Hebrews: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11). Incredible.

So what does it mean to be a brother or a sister of Jesus? To now be adopted into his genealogy, included in his family tree?

One of the things it means is that thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit in us, we begin to take on the characteristics of our new family. Galatians 4 goes on to explain: “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father” (v 6). We grow to be like Jesus, because his Father is also now our Father, in heaven. One day we’ll go home and be with him and we will be remade in the spitting image of God, gloriously so, but in the meantime while we wait to go home, we get to cultivate our family attributes. Galatians lists some of these attributes for us: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5:22-23). Imagine being in an earthly family that lives like this! But this really is the family we’ve been adopted into and it’s what we’re really heading for, so let’s keep growing to be like the family we really do belong to. God himself is remaking us in his spitting image.