I don’t know about you but I am terrible with details. I mean absolutely awful. I am totally that guy who sings along to my favorite band and doesn’t know all the words. You would think that with all my love for writing, I would know lyrics of the bands that serve as a soundtrack to my soul but then you would be wrong. Even my favorite band by my favorite song has lyrics to this day that I slur and hum through each time I listen. I stink at details.
Usually my terror at all things minutia can be supplemented by my daydreaming. If I wanted to be impressive I would call the daydreaming “vision-casting” or “big picture planning.” At the end of the day though, a good 75% of my mind is occupied by a combination of Giants’ statistics, lyrics I should know, conversations I’ve had and whatever I have read in the past day or so. Call it what you will, I pretty much daydream constantly. Maybe you do too.
So when I read Matthew’s account of the story of Jesus, I am the guy yawning and checking my watch till we get to chapter 5 (the Sermon on the Mount). The genealogies read like…well…I don’t know…something I don’t want to read. Yeah it is really cool that there are three sets of fourteen generations leading from Abraham to Jesus but honestly that is mainly a fact that is fascinating to day-dream about.
Then there is the story about John the Baptizer. That is a lot of fun. A guy in the wilderness that makes Bear Grilis look like Charles Nelson Reily (not to mention what he makes me look like!), he is pretty awesome. I have to admit though, when I look at Matthew’s story I get seriously antsy before chapter 5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after all, wrote a ton of stuff on the Sermon on the Mount…and there is this great book by Dallas Willard on the Sermon on the Mount…but there I go daydreaming again.
If I have to be honest, I don’t like the story about Herod and the Wise Men. Sure, the Three Kings are alright but the story really stinks. I mean, who in their right mind gets really excited about a tyrannical, murderous, heartless king killing children? That story is about as bad as it gets. A general statement of fact is bad enough- give me no more details!
And maybe that is why I tend to read right over that little sentence where Matthew compares the exodus of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Exodus of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. All this happened, as the story goes, so that Jesus could be the one who is brought up out of Egypt- just like the nation of Israel a thousand or so years before. God, it seems, is doing something different- something new.
In becoming man, Jesus announces that he will take over from here.
And from that moment on, we see Jesus taking the wheel (apologies to Carrie Underwood) and living our life for us. He is everything God’s people were meant to be. He is everything we were supposed to be way back when his Father formed Adam and Eve from the clay. From now on, Jesus’ obedience, righteousness, faith, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control will stand for his people.
So it makes sense that the first story Matthew would tell about Jesus would be his temptation. Jesus is tempted for forty days (Israel wandered for forty years). Jesus was hungry (Remember all those pleas for food that God answered by raining down manna and quail?). Jesus was alone (How many times have you felt all alone?). Jesus had every reason to doubt his Father’s love and protection (We have all been there, right?).
And yet, as the story goes, Jesus was tested in every way we were and yet was without sin. That is the difference. Jesus went through the same crap we have to go through, only he trusted his Father. And Matthew wants us to know right from the beginning of his story that Jesus’ obedience is now ours.
Can you imagine that? God’s loyalty to himself can stand for yours. God’s love for himself can be your love for him.
Because God called his son out of Egypt, he has called you up out of the same place. Out of the land of slavery. Out of bondage. Out of fear. Out of death.
All this freedom we’ve been missing! It’s been hiding in the small-print!