Week 2: The Surreal Life

A Year With Jesus: Matthew 1:18-25.

In Mrs. Doubtfire, one of my favorite comedies, Robin Williams’ character finds himself in a stage of life that he never expected. In one scene, after being reprimanded by his boss, he ponders, “Have you ever wished you could freeze frame a single moment of your day, look at it and say, ‘This is not my life’?”

I think we all face moments of “surrealness” in our lives. They can be in the context of both positive and negative experiences.

Sometimes you think to yourself, “Wow! How did I get here?!”

Other times it’s, “Ugh! How did I get here???”

I’m pretty sure Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, faced one of these moments in this week’s reading.

The Book of Luke tells us the “Christmas story” from the perspective of Mary. Matthew, on the other hand, shows us Joseph’s point of view. Joseph was a good man. But he wasn’t a perfect man. (That honor was reserved for his son. 🙂 ) It’s true, he was more honorable than probably most men put it his position. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, Matthew tells us, “He did not want to put her to shame in public. So he planned to divorce her quietly.”

But I wonder, did Joseph listen to Mary’s side of the story? Or did he just decide to cut his losses and move on? Or, if he did let Mary tell her side, was there any part of him that wanted to believe it was true? But how could it be?

And as all this is churning in Joseph’s mind, he gets a visit from an angel, who confirms that Mary’s side of the story is true. He invites Joseph to be part of Jesus’ story. Don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. And, in the midst of all the surrealness, Joseph accepts.

I think the “Christmas story” has become so familiar to us (even among non-Christians) that we forget these characters – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi – had no idea how any of their circumstances would play out. They didn’t have the luxury of knowing how their story would end.

They were in uncharted territory. It wasn’t a common occurrence for angels to appear in dreams and tell you who to marry. And people were quite aware of where babies came from. Even as Joseph made the decision to take Mary as his wife and become a surrogate father to her son, there had to be part of him that thought this was completely insane. I’m sure in this surreal moment, Joseph thought to himself, “Ugh! How did I get here???”

But I’m also sure that Joseph experienced another surreal moment in his life. Perhaps it was when he first held the baby in his arms. Or maybe it was when Jesus was 12, and Joseph and Mary lost Jesus (yes, they lost him!) and later found him in the temple teaching the teachers. Or maybe it was a moment when Joseph was teaching Jesus his trade of carpentry, and he realized that there was something very special about his son.

And he may have thought to himself, “Wow! How did I get here?!

Questions to Ponder:

Why do you think Joseph decided to follow the angel’s instructions?

Have you ever experienced a “surreal moment” in your life?

*Photo by Erik Johansson. (He has a ton of cool photography!)

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Week 1: Messy Family Trees

A Year With Jesus: Matthew 1:1-17

Family trees and ancestries seem to be all the rage these days. But if we look back far enough (or, more likely, not so far!) we’ll probably find some scoundrel we’d rather not be associated with. Can’t we just cut them out of our family line? Edit history a little?

Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ life with a genealogy. But why start with Jesus’ family tree? Why not jump straight into the action – you know, with Jesus doing some kind of miracle or something? Why, Matthew, must you have to go digging around and uncover something that might embarrass Jesus?

I think Matthew begins his story with this prologue of sorts for two reasons:

1. Matthew wanted to show that there was a method to God’s madness. Matthew wrote his book primarily for a Jewish audience who were now trying to follow Jesus. They would have been very familiar with this cast of characters. Matthew is connecting Jesus to the Old Testament. He’s been part of God’s plan since the beginning.

2. Matthew wanted to show that Jesus came from – and for – broken people. The Old Testament is filled with stories that are… (what’s the word I’m looking for?)… Unsanitized. We read these stories and think, How can this be included in the Bible???

But the truth is, the Bible is filled with stories of broken people who mess up in really big ways. This fact is not lost on Matthew. Take verse 6, for example:

And Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon. Solomon’s mother had been Uriah’s wife.

King David was known as Israel’s greatest king. But Matthew openly airs his dirty laundry by including this detail: Solomon’s mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Uriah’s wife was Bathsheba. While Uriah was away at war, David used his power and position to take advantage of Bathsheba sexually. Even as I type these words, I am chilled by this story in a whole new way. When I think of it in light of the stories we’ve heard this past year of women being abused by men in power, it brings a whole new weight to it.

And this story hangs on Jesus’ family tree for all to see. Rather than hide it, Matthew reveals it. Matthew begins his story by acknowledging how messy and broken this sad world is. But the lineage ends with a ray of hope: Jesus is here. He has come to set things right and redeem all things.

All things.

Questions to Ponder:

Why do you think Matthew began his story with Jesus’ family tree?

Are there any parts of your story that you wish could just be cut out?

If you would like a quick overview of the entire book of Matthew, this video is awesome.

A Walk With Jesus

Happy New Year!

I hope 2018 is off to a great start and you’re already eating better, working out more, and _____________________ (fill in whatever your thing is). I know I’m not! But I am excited about this year…

My church, Summit, has officially declared 2018 to be “A Year With Jesus”. I know, sounds a bit weird – isn’t every year a year with Jesus at a church? But all it means is that we’re being intentional about looking at the life and teachings of Jesus all year long. I’m excited because lately, it seems like Christianity has become synonymous with everything BUT Jesus. I think this year will give us a chance to reconnect with who we are supposed to be all about. And if you’re not a Christian and happen to drop in on any given Sunday, it will just give you a chance to take a walk with Jesus and get to know him.

I’ve decided to follow along with the “Jesus Year” on this blog. So here’s what I’m gonna do (I can use the word “gonna” in a blog post, right?!):

I’m going to blog my way through the Book of Matthew this year. The Book of Matthew is simply one of four written accounts we have of the life of Jesus (the others being Mark, Luke, and John. These accounts were later collected and combined into what is now referred to as the New Testament.). I found a 40-day reading plan for the Book of Matthew. But rather than do it in 40 days, I’m going to do it in 40 weeks.

Each week (I’m aiming for Fridays) I’ll post my thoughts on a section of Matthew. Now, I’m not a Bible scholar or theologian. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to Scripture. (Or anything!) Not even close. I’ll try my best to give accurate interpretations, but everything I post will be my opinion and my opinion alone. My main reason for doing this is to get to know Jesus a little better this year. And you’re invited to come along for the ride!

Feel free to join in the conversation and post comments (even if you disagree with me). I’m going to try including a “Question To Consider” at the end of each post. And if you wouldn’t consider yourself a Christian or follower of Jesus, you’re welcome to join in the conversation, too! I want this to be a safe place for everyone to process any thoughts they have.

Well, now that we have all the housekeeping out of the way, let’s begin!

… (On Friday, that is…)