Matthew and the Big Story of Jesus


Matthew and the Big Story of Jesus
Brian Zahnd

The Bible tells a big, sprawling story of sin and redemption, of death and resurrection. It takes us from Creation to New Creation — from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. Along the way, the plot sometimes feels lost and the story seems…stalled. But when we turn the page from Malachi to Matthew, the twisting plot of the Story God is telling is about to come into sharp focus. We’re about to meet the central character of the Story — his name is Jesus!

A few years ago I read the Bible straight through like you would any other book. I was trying to read it as if I’d never heard the Story. There were moments of elation, but also times when I felt the pain of the Hebrew prophets as they nearly despaired. Would the promises God had made to Abraham and his seed ever come true? Would the longed-for reign of Messiah ever arrive? The wintery day I ended my reading of Malachi and turned the page to begin Matthew was during the season of Advent. I was sitting by a woodstove with a warm fire. Music played quietly in the background. As I read the words of Matthew 1:18, “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born,” the radio began to play the familiar carol What Child Is This? Tears filled my eyes. The Story was back on track, and God was keeping his promise!

Matthew opens his Gospel (his telling of God’s redemptive Story) not with the birth of Jesus, but with a long genealogy tracing Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Abraham. Matthew wants us to understand that even though God is doing a new thing with Jesus, that new thing is in continuity with what we have read in the Hebrew Scriptures. When we go from the Old to the New Testament, it’s not that God has abandoned what he was doing with Israel from Genesis to Malachi — rather, God is bringing into fulfillment the promises he made to David and Abraham. So Matthew opens the New Testament with these words: “This is the record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). God had promised David that a son of his would sit upon an eternal throne. God had promised Abraham that his seed would bless the nations. Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus.

In writing his Gospel, Matthew is careful to remind us that this Jesus we call Lord is the Jewish Messiah spoken of by all the prophets. The New Testament is not “plan B” — it’s “plan A” finding fulfillment. From the wise men who seek the king of the Jews, to Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, to his post-resurrection appearance where he says, “I have been given all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18), Matthew is joyfully announcing the good news — King Jesus has come, and he has brought with him the reign of God!


This is my introduction to the Gospel of Matthew in the Jesus Centered Bible. I thought it would be an appropriate post for the beginning of Advent. You can learn more about Advent (and find an Advent Scripture reading guide) on the Advent page at the Word of Life Church website.