We live in a culture that is increasingly biblically illiterate. Yet within it, some passages of Scripture are still widely familiar. Take Luke 2 for instance. Perhaps thanks to Charlie Brown’s Christmas special, many people will recall the climactic moment when Linus tells the story of Jesus’ birth, quoting at length from Luke. Elsewhere, nativity scenes capture some of the basic contours of the story line of Scripture, but many details are left out (or sometimes confused).
As Christians, we may assume we are even more familiar than the average person when it comes to stories about Jesus. And yet, as Justin Taylor notes, “People say that familiarity breeds contempt, but when it comes to Bible reading, I’ve found that familiarity is more likely to produce laziness.”Readers are able to experience the supposedly familiar early chapters of Matthew, Luke, and John with new eyes. Step by step, readers are taken through the acts of the story of Jesus first days.
Taylor’s observation appears in the forward of Andreas Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart’s The First Days of Jesus, offered graciously by Crossway to Christ and Pop Culture members. To move beyond mere familiarity, their book collates the biblical passages from Matthew, Luke, and John that tell the story of Jesus’ early life. Mark is left out because it immediately starts with Jesus’ ministry as an adult (and if you’re curious why, you can ask me on Twitter). Their approach is “biblical, exegetical, historical, and devotional.” This means they are paying close attention to details in the passages of Scripture and connecting them to their original historical context. The end result hopefully provides readers with rich devotional material rather than something dry and academic (the latter not always being the former, mind you).
While there are many books about the life of Jesus available, this book fills a gap by focusing on the early life of Jesus. Readers are able to experience the supposedly familiar early chapters of Matthew, Luke, and John with new eyes. Step by step, readers are taken through the acts of the story of Jesus first days. Unless one has done detailed study of the passages recently, there will certainly be something new and fresh to learn and see.
As we move through this season of Advent toward Christmas, the real meaning can be lost. We may not overtly forget what we’re celebrating, but we may not reckon with the depth and beauty of the incarnation of the Son of God. It is too easy to pass over the actual reason for celebration in the midst of ostensibly celebrating it. As a teacher, I’m focused on finishing out the semester and grading finals before traveling for the holidays. It’s also the end of the year, and the loose ends are numerous. The First Days of Jesus provides me with a good opportunity to quiet my heart and read the stories around the birth of Jesus with fresh eyes. Hopefully, you will be able to find some time this Christmas season to do the same and to share in the joy that Christ brings through His first coming.
To receive a digital copy of Andreas Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart’s The First Days of Jesus, consider becoming a member of Christ and Pop Culture for as little as $5 per month. You’ll get free stuff each month, full access to our digital Christ and Pop Culture Magazine (including all back issues), entrance to our exclusive members-only group on Facebook—and you’ll help us keep the lights on. Join now.