Editor’s note: This summer, I – and others from Wesley and beyond – begin the Summer 2015 reading challenge to read through the New Testament from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The readings are not just meant to be a check off list. Like, day one reading of the first four chapters of Matthew – check – done. It is structured and yet flexible way to keep us in the Word so we can hear what Jesus is saying to us. Too often we take to reading the Bible like a chore; that is, got to read this devotional or daily passage to keep in good with God. Instead, we forget we are making ourselves available to a fresh revelation of the One who loves us enough to give us The Word in our hands and in our hearts. I will do my best to keep up to date blogs, at least three times a week. Until I can make the blog accessible through the church website, I will just email it to those who have signed up for the challenge. Just understand, I am human – life happens – and I am a work in progress. Thank you God for grace.
Story and stages. That is what struck me as I read the first four chapters in the opening Gospel of Matthew. The familiar genealogy, followed by the birth narrative and all of the drama befitting a modern day soap opera. Good guys and bad guys. Misunderstandings. Divine intervention. Surprising outcomes. But it is the story and the step-by-step stages or events that caught my attention.
Following a recounting of generational legacies, Jesus is born. There are some tense political moments and some rerouting of plans, and then we jump over 30 years to his preparation for full time ministry. Each stage of his life having its significance – the baptism of Jesus, which leads into the temptation of Jesus, which then leads into the calling of the disciples and the startup in Galilee. At each stage, life happens right in front Jesus, just like it happens right in front of us.
We all have a story. And our story has happened in stages. For a reason.
At his baptism, Jesus says, “it must be done because we must do everything that is right.” (Matt. 3:15)
Jesus was fully divine and thereby perfect; and yet, as fully human, he knew the right thing was to embrace humanity and come clean before God. Was he already clean of any sin before God? Yes – but others didn’t know that yet. When I was younger , the routine was that you washed your hands before dinner – no matter what you had been doing. And if Mom said, “go wash your hands”, and you said “I already did,” to the reply “then go do it again,” you didn’t argue — you obeyed.
By faithfully taking each step, each stage of his life that laid out before him, Jesus was showing obedience and trust that God was in charge and knew the right thing to be done at the right time. What would have been the result if Jesus decided to gather his buds together first, then go into the wilderness? My guess is that some of them would have tried to talk him out of it. We are all accountable on a personal level first before God, and then as a community in ministry for God.
By baptism, Jesus showed it was the right thing to come before God before undertaking any ministry or life endeavor. By the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus showed it was the right thing to face evil and its challenges before telling others how it should be done. By calling the disciples from specific places and times, Jesus showed that God would provide the right person at the right time for we are not meant to be in ministry alone.
Our stories are much the same. We come from a legacy left from preceding generations so that we can add our stories to theirs. And our story will emerge in stages or steps along the way – some anticipated, some from out in left field. But in all our life stages, trust and obedience in Christ will help us do the right thing at the right time for God’s reason in our life.