You need to open with a big story, something fast-paced and emotionally intriguing.
Your opener needs to be more jarring, compelling, and exciting.
This is a great story! This needs to be your introductory paragraph. Move it up earlier.
These are some of the comments I’ve given authors in the past. As an editor, I’ve learned that authors have about five hundred words, or three to five minutes, to capture their readers’ attention. Otherwise, they might not finish the book. And, unfortunately, the book may not get much attention, no matter how exciting the conclusion is.
If I had written Matthew’s Gospel, I might’ve opened with the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” or the clearing of the temple courts—something big, bold, and dramatic. To our modern eyes, seventeen verses listing genealogical information is anything but big, bold, or dramatic.
But to Matthew’s first-century audience, this was a killer hook. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). While we might gloss over that description as quick family context, Matthew’s Jewish audience would have been on the edge of their seats.
In that first sentence alone, they would’ve seen that this book was about Jesus of Nazareth, who was: 1) the Christ (Messiah), the chosen one of Israel who would redeem the people and usher in the Kingdom of God; 2) the Son of David, in the line of Davidic kingship; and 3) the Son of Abraham, an embodiment and fulfillment of the covenant promise.
For Matthew’s Jewish readers this chapter was not merely a well-documented chronology; it was a blow-by-blow account of God’s faithfulness throughout salvation history. They would’ve remembered God’s words to Abram/Abraham:
“I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).
Jesus Christ was the perfect fulfillment of that promise. Where the people of God had come up short through the ages, Jesus came to bring restoration and blessing. So in this season of Advent, we celebrate the coming of our Lord, who was miraculously born to Joseph and Mary, Son of David, Son of Abraham. In His mercy, He has extended the blessing of sonship to us all, that through His life we can experience adoption into this royal lineage. My prayer for each of us is that we take that invitation seriously and receive it with great joy.
Written by Andrew Stoddard