When my older brother heard the Gospel and believed, he was instantaneously delivered from drug addiction and began praying for my salvation.
Because my own drug use caused heightened tension with my parents, I decided to run away from home in Miami and return to Philadelphia. The night before I left home my brother called, and I told him of my plan to run away. He told me again he was praying for me and that I was going to meet Jesus.
The next day I stood out on I-95 with my thumb extended and after three days made it to a small town in Maryland where, late one evening, I was picked up by three people. When the driver asked me what I was doing in the middle of the night in Maryland, I opened my mouth and began to tell them of the growing tension between my parents which led me to run away and return back to Philly. After telling them my story, the driver turned around and looking at me asked, “Do you know Jesus?” I told him I did because my brother was in Bible school. But he persisted and asked again, “Do you know Him?” With that, they invited me to come to their house and spend the night.
After feeding me pancakes, I sat on their couch as they shared with me the love of God. I had heard much of what they spoke that night from my brother’s lips, but I was blown away by their love for a perfect stranger. When I awoke in the morning, they again fed me and then took me to the bus station where they bought me a ticket to Philadelphia. As we embraced before I boarded, Bob (whose full name is Bob Silver and I discovered I was in Perryville, Maryland. My brother’s name is Perry). He handed me a New Testament which I promptly stuck in the deepest recesses of my coat and bid them farewell.
As a Jew, I had never held a New Testament in my hands, let alone read it. Like most Jews, I believed that if I ever did read it, it would confirm my deepest suspicions; that it was the most Gentile book I had ever read. During the entire bus ride, I struggled with whether or not to take it out and read it. Suddenly, curiosity got the best of me and reached into my coat pocket. I took it out and opened to the first verse of Matthew: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). I couldn’t believe how Jewish it was! I knew those guys from my own history. I quickly read the remainder of the genealogy of the Jewish Messiah (vs. 2-17). That experience was one of the central things God used to bring me to faith in Jesus as Messiah.
By beginning his Gospel with a genealogy connecting Jesus to the great figures of the Hebrew Bible, Matthew is telling us that the Jewish Messiah is a Man with a story; the origin of His story begins in the Old Testament. Two things can be learned by his genealogy. First, is the simple fact Jesus, the gentle Savior, was Himself a Jew. But more importantly, it instructs us there is no way to understand him apart from seeing him in the context of Hebrew history; it is a history that stretches back many centuries.
It’s hard to believe the Christmas season is coming to a close and a New Year about to begin. Most of us probably attended Christmas services this season where Matthew 1:18 was read: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Rare indeed is the Christmas service where the verses preceding are read (Matthew 1:1-17). Perhaps the reason is the difficulty we have pronouncing the names found in these verses. But perhaps there is a more important reason these verses aren’t read. It is that we have forgotten (or else never learned) that Jesus’s own story can only be understood by first connecting it to the larger story which begins in the Old Testament. By starting with him born in Bethlehem’s manger rather than connecting him to the larger story of which he is part of severely limits our view of Him.
Imagine if I took a picture of the tree in my front yard with my house behind it and then Photoshopped the house out of the picture. Could you accurately tell how big or small the tree was? It would be difficult since, without the house in the picture to give it perspective, it would be difficult to gauge its actual size. But once you view the same tree against the backdrop of my house, you suddenly know the true size of the tree. In the same way, viewing Jesus without the backdrop of Hebrew history severely distorts our view of him.
Before the Christmas season comes to a close, I urge you to read his whole story!