Graduations are the worst. They’re always too long, often outside in the blistering heat, and you’re really only there to cheer for a couple people, probably only one. Even at my own graduations, I wanted the speakers to speak less so I could get out of my stifling robe and uncomfortable shoes. Then there are the names…SO.MANY.NAMES. Everyone has their moment of walking across the stage, but all of those moments add up to a lot of time of shifting in your seat and politely clapping, dreaming about the tasty BBQ that will follow. To entertain myself, I make up backstories for the graduates, but really, I wonder, “Who are these people?”
Yesterday, I found myself wondering the same thing in my Bible reading. I’d come across one of the many genealogies peppered throughout the Bible, this time in Luke 3. When I come across a list of names in the Bible, I have to fight the urge to skim the list saying “TL;DR: these people were connected” because that’s usually all it is to me, a random list of names.
For whatever reason, this time I took the time to read each name. The ones that were complicated, I sounded out and said out loud. I discovered a couple names I recognized from the Bible study my husband led last year (Zerubbabel and Shealtiel). One name even reminded me of a friend’s email address (random coincidence). Even after reading the list slowly and carefully, I didn’t walk away feeling any awe or insight from what I had just read. The Bible says all scripture is God-breathed and useful, but surely this wasn’t what Paul was thinking, right?
Later that night, I had two realizations. First, these genealogies meant something to the original audience. Just like we love to hear and tell stories that reveal who our loved ones were before we knew them, these genealogies represent ancestors and a deep familial connection. The original listeners would have recognized more names than I do because they heard the stories of these people over and over. The connections would make sense and reveal something about the work God did to bring the world to that particular point.
The second thing I realized is that I hope one day my name will also be written on such a list. When all things are made new and the Lamb’s Book of Life is complete, the names of all those who believed in Jesus will be written and there will be rejoicing. This won’t be polite clapping for strangers, but a joyful celebration of my family adopted and unified through Jesus. I won’t be making up backstories. I’ll know that every story is a person who was lost and broken, then made cleansed and made whole through Jesus.
When I come across a long list of names in the Bible, I may not know who they are, but God does. These are people he knows, loves, and has made a part of his plan. May the same be said of my life.