Today we return to the life of Jesus. Jesus is the center of our religion and very life, so it is fitting to return to the gospels every quarter. In fact, that would be a great rhythm for life long after this year. As a former student of Chris Dahlberg’s likes to say, as we age maybe it becomes second nature to concentrate on the red words.
Matthew starts his gospel very differently from Mark. Mark got right down to business; from beginning to end of his gospel Jesus was a very active adult. Matthew, though, spends two chapters just getting Jesus to adulthood and ministry. There is very little action in Matthew 1 at all. Mark chose to keep us guessing about Jesus throughout much of his book. Like his disciples in the gospel, we really had to work to get that Jesus was divine.
Matthew, on the other hand, makes everything very clear right from this first chapter;
“Look: the virgin is pregnant, and will have a son, and they shall give him the name Emmanuel” — which means, in translation, “God with us.” (1:23)
From the beginning we are introduced to Jesus as God Himself, come to be with us once again. Remember that if a person were reading the Bible page by page, they have just flipped from Malachi, over 400 years of divine silence where God’s presence was much more hidden. That is no longer the case. God is with us again, but in a new, strange, embodied way.
And we are introduced to the gospel right off:
She is going to have a son. You are to give him the name Jesus; he is the one who will save his people from their sins. (1:21)
God has come in the form of Jesus to save us from our greatest oppressor of all: sin. Already, in the first chapter Matthew has made it clear what kind of Savior this Jesus is too. We are off to a very straightforward beginning.