I was a sophomore in high school when I became a Christian. I remember that season well. I received the gospel like it was a gift given especially to me. I was hungry to learn what it meant to live out this new faith, but I had no idea where to begin.
The counsel my youth group leaders gave—read the Bible and pray—has since become what I refer to as “the jeans and t-shirt” of the Christian life. Scripture and prayer are so basic, and yet they never go out of style. No matter what is happening in my life, spiritually or otherwise, I am happiest and healthiest when prayer and Scripture are part of my regular rhythm.
My youth pastor gave me a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan. That little card directed me to start by splitting my time between Genesis and Matthew. I imagine these are the first books of Scripture for many new believers—the beginnings of the Old and New Testaments.
Today’s reading—Matthew’s opening two chapters—are a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. They give the history of those who came before Jesus, and the story of His birth, which changes everything that follows. No one understood this better than Matthew himself.
Matthew was not just an historian. He was a person who knew firsthand the transforming power of the gospel. Matthew was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, a tax-collector called away from his booth. Jesus called him to stop feeding off the wealth of his countrymen and to give away the riches of God’s kingdom instead.
Many people meet Jesus for the first time through Matthew’s Gospel. This was Matthew’s primary goal: to introduce his readers to Jesus. Matthew also introduces us to the world in which Jesus lived, died, and rose again. In this Gospel, we meet key people and groups involved in the story of salvation, from John the Baptist to Pontius Pilate, from the twelve disciples to the Pharisees. And not only that, we also become familiar with the Promised Land itself—Israel, with the Sea of Galilee in the north and Jerusalem on the mountain in the middle.
As you read, pay attention to these details: the characters, places, and plot points. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see things you’ve never before noticed or known. Whether you are new to Scripture or reading this Gospel for the tenth time, my prayer is that we would all come to know Jesus better after spending time in these words.
Written by Russ Ramsey