THE FIRST DAYS OF JESUS: THE STORY OF THE INCARNATION, by Andreas Kostenberger and Alexander Stewart

Published on September 30, 2015 by Fred Zaspel

Crossway, 2015 | 240 pages

This is a book you’ve wished for. We read the early chapters of Matthew and Luke (and maybe John 1 also?) each Christmas season (at least!), and although the story is familiar there are scores of questions that go unanswered. Just who were those wise men? What about that star? Who’s Herod? And Augustus? And Quirinius? When you pause to consider, it quickly becomes clear that this familiar story has significance and many details that we often miss. More importantly, why does Matthew begin with that genealogy? What was the point of the visit of the Magai? How are all these events surrounding the birth of Jesus significant? And Hosea wrote of Israel when he said, “Out of Egypt I have called my son” – how did Matthew know that referred to Jesus? Or better still, what is the point of this interesting story?

Of course the incarnation of the second Person of the Triune Godhead forms the hinge of redemptive history. And so Andreas Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart write to trace out the details of this wonderful event and to put it all in biblical perspective. Their approach is biblical (interpreting the story in its larger biblical context), exegetical (paying close attention to the details of the text), historical (situating the story in its 1st century context), and devotional (explaining your place in the story). The First Days of Jesus is the book to read, along with your Bible, during this Christmas season.

Quote & Unquote

1)  Concerning the visit of the wise men

First, the account of the wise men powerfully points forward to the universal scope of Jesus’s kingdom—non-Jewish people pledged their allegiance to Jesus as King through worship and gifts. This King would not limit his kingdom to Palestine.

Second, the account narrates two different responses to Jesus and invites us as readers to identify with the wise men. It implicitly asks us whether we will respond to Jesus with worship and allegiance or with hostility and opposition, fearing the loss of our own “kingdoms.”

Finally, the narrative powerfully communicates the conflict between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God, which was invading and reclaiming lost humanity, and the kingdom of this world, which would fight tooth and nail to stop it. Matthew introduces these two kingdoms in the first verse of chapter 2 by referencing two kings: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.”

2)  Concerning Matthew’s genealogy

Four features of Matthew’s listing of Jesus’s family tree deserve comment. To begin with, the first two Greek words of the New Testament, biblos geneseōs (“The Book of the Genealogy”), mirror the language used to introduce creation itself and the genealogy connected to Adam…. 

Second, the inclusion of four women in the genealogy is unusual, particularly in light of the fact that each of the women was an outsider to Israel with a questionable background….

Third, Mary falls in line with these other women by conceiving a child in an unusual, questionable, or surprising manner….

Fourth, by dividing salvation history into three periods of fourteen generations each (Abraham to David, David to the exile, the exile to Jesus), Matthew communicates the theological truth that God was in control throughout even the most difficult periods of Israel’s history….

3)  Outline of Chapter 15

            The Scandal of Jesus’s Coming

            The Scandal of the Virgin Conception

            The Scandal of the Incarnation

            The Scandal of a Lowly Birth

            The Scandal of the Cross

            The Scandal of Unmet Expectations

            The Returning King to Bring Final and Complete Salvation

The First Days of Jesus will give you a new appreciation of the original “Christmas” story. It is now the book, along with your Bible, for Christmastime reading.

Fred Zaspel

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The First Days Of Jesus: The Story Of The Incarnation

Crossway, 2015 | 240 pages

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