Day one, The Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 1.Matthew 1 has been the first chapter of the first book in the Christian New Testament for centuries. Many people who have never encountered the main character of the Bible, a man called Jesus, start with Matthew 1 and just see a long list of hard to pronounce names. Many more people who have sat in church pews all their lives skip that list of hard to pronounce names and on to the "stories" of Jesus. Why would the author choose to start his book with this list.
Think about your day. What are the important things you have to accomplish today?
Imagine a man in a dark room lit only by a oil-burning lamp. He is furiously writing onto parchment the most important thing he knows. He chooses to start this story with a list of names because his audience would recognize many of them. It isn't a list of perfect people. It's a list of imperfect people. Some are thieves, some rapists, many are cheaters and manipulators, but their names are included. Some are heroes and some are villains, and both types have their names included. The lives of each of these people were messy, random, and seemingly full of uncertainty and, at times, uselessness. Yet this group, when viewed together, looks anything but random.
Six groups of seven generations.
Fourteen generations between major historical events the original readers would have all known by heart.
Six groups of seven.
Seven being the most weighty and important number in ancient Hebrew numerology.
Six groups of seven.
The first born of the seventh group would be the most important in a list of this type, and in this case it is Jesus. Born of a virgin to a man named Joseph who was a distant relative of the true royal line of the nation.
This list is politically volatile to the first generation of readers who were being ruled by leaders not from their royal family. This list is made up of imperfect lives, but is somehow perfectly orchestrated to fit an outline the people should have noticed all along.
Think about your day. What are the most important things you have to accomplish today?
Our lives aren't perfect. They aren't supposed to be. Perfect lives wouldn't go anywhere, wouldn't make us more mature, wouldn't make us more whole. Our lives are messy precisely because that's the nature of life. The messy nature, the things that makes our life look imperfect from the ground level, are perhaps a part of a greater story from 30,000 feet.
Matthew 1 is the announcement that this whole thing has a point. That the most miserable things in life can be used by the unstoppable One who is drawing us forward, progressing us towards a plan in which we are all indispensable. You're more than part of a list of names.
Be silent for a moment. Feel the movement forward from the God who is pulling you there.