Penalty Power and Promise

Today’s Reading: Matthew 1

Good morning and welcome to day 2 of Bible Journal 2017! As you likely read yesterday, we are beginning this year with the gospels. I’m so excited to dive in deep with you and learn more about Jesus through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Today, as it is Monday and we are all robustly dedicated to new starts, we’ll begin with the gospel of Matthew. A little research taught me that the gospel of Matthew wasn’t actually the first of the four written, but appears first in all Bibles. A former tax collector, Matthew left everything behind when he became a disciple of Jesus. Some believe that Matthew was the unofficial recorder of Jesus’ teachings. Among the disciples he had the best literary skill given his previous occupation and therefore put his skill to use as a “secretary.” Matthew begins his account with the genealogy of Jesus. Was anybody else sort of disappointed? It’s ok, no one else is reading with you, go ahead and admit it! Sort of anticlimactic right? We’re all ready to do this Bible Journal 2017 thing…we’re super committed and excited about uncovering new life changing truths about Jesus…and then we get 14 generations of meaningless names.

Ok, before you give up on your diet too, stick with me! There are actually some really exciting messages hidden in today’s scripture. A little more research revealed that the Jews were actually excellent genealogists. Mathew shows us the thread that binds Jesus’ claim to the throne of David through his adoptive father, Joseph. Not a blood lineage but a legal path to the throne. By the end of the first paragraph, Matthew presents Jesus as the kingly Messiah promised from David’s royal line. Later, we’ll learn about Jesus’ blood lineage through Mary in the gospel of Luke. Although on the surface this long description seems rather cursory, there’s some real significance to be considered. For me, the realization that Jesus is truly the promised Messiah is so important. He’s not just some guy born to a young couple that happens to be the Son of God. This careful tracing back gives my scientist brain the evidence it craves that Jesus is the promised Messiah. It’s the solid foundation upon which His legacy is built.

So, now that we’ve covered the “who’s your Daddy” section we can move on to the second exciting segment of today’s scripture. We’ve all heard these familiar words about the conception and birth of Jesus. It’s easy to breeze past them. It’s like an old song, we know the words. Mathew tells us the story through the eyes of Joseph. What a great trial it must have been for Joseph to endure this most humiliating circumstance. Mary and Joseph only had the awareness of their own integrity and of course God to lean on. How many of us are living that reality day to day? Do we have the courage to lean on our own integrity and the love of God in ethically challenging situations? Are we brave enough to bear witness as Mary did with her pregnant belly? Or perhaps most importantly, are we brave enough to stand by our Mary as Joseph did? To be fair, Joseph did get some real guidance when he was visited by an angel in a dream.

The angel of the Lord says to him:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

Bam! Did you notice that the angel said “his people” rather than “God’s people”? Jesus came to save His people, all of us, not just God’s people which at the time would have indicated just the Jews. One of the commentaries I read for today says this about the angelic message: “Jesus meets us in our sin but His purpose is to save us from our sins. He saves us first from the penalty of sin, then from the power of sin and finally from the presence of sin.” (Blue Letter Bible). The penalty, the power and the presence. Isn’t that so freeing? I’m starting the New Year with that idea, I’ve written it down in my journal like this:

  • Jesus saves us first from the penalty of sin
  • Jesus saves us next from the power of sin
  • Jesus saves us finally from the presence of sin

As we continue to journey with Matthew over the next few weeks, we can build upon this foundation. Jesus was the promised Messiah. His legacy begins with Abraham and continues today through us, his followers. His parents, biologic and adoptive acted on blind faith in God to bring us salvation. The angel of the Lord promises that Jesus will save His people, not just the Jews but all of His people from the penalty, the power and the presence of sin. Matthew the former tax collector turned disciple scribe has so much in store for us. Praying he’ll reveal so much more in the coming weeks and welcome us into His presence with joy!