When we think of the biblical characters, Adam and Jesus, we often think of them simply as individuals. We do this because we are accustomed to thinking according to Western individualistic categories. However, as we dive into the genealogy described in Luke, we are faced with the concept of holistic solidarity, where individuals cannot be separated from the “organic reality” of a larger whole. It is through this solidarity that Jesus becomes the “New Adam” and provides the way for the creation of a New Humanity in Christ.
An important question can be asked of Luke’s genealogy: Why does Luke present his version of Jesus’ genealogy (or Jesus’ family tree, if you will) in reverse? This seems a bit quirky compared with other genealogies seen in the Bible. A suggested reason among scholars has been that Luke is not just setting up a family tree of sorts; he is also using it to contrast Adam with Jesus. Over and against the first Adam, who was disobedient and started the decline of humanity, Jesus lived his life in obedience to God and, through that obedience, has become the New Head of the Human Race.
For centuries, people who have studied the Bible have tried to understand how Adam’s sin against God could have such a negative impact on the whole human race that follows him. A particular traditional teaching along this line is called “original sin”, which says that every human being is born sinful and guilty. From this perspective, all suffering and even people going to hell is directly related to us simply by us being born human beings after the likeness of Adam. This traditional approaches is problematic not only for moral reasons, but also biblical ones (Read Ezekiel 18:20 for an example.) There is a perspective, however, that seems to resolve the tensions. With the biblical concept of “solidarity”, it is said that the natures and destinies of each individual is wrapped up with a larger whole. Just like we see with family systems or organizations, what affects the whole affects the single person in the whole. Also, what affects the individual affects the whole.
When the first human beings separated themselves from God, a socializing force of corruption was set into place that has defined all of humanity from that time. We are not guilty for what Adam did, but what Adam did does affect us. Stated another way, “It’s not our fault, but it’s our problem!” This is what makes Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice so important. Just like Adam created a socializing force of corruption for humanity, Jesus Christ created a socializing force of healing and reconciliation for humanity. Jesus came to begin a “New Humanity.” God wants us to live in the reality of the New Humanity right now as we give ourselves completely over to Christ.
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