-by Pastor Mike Middaugh
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
These words indicate that an epic story is about to be told. Similarly “once upon a time,” and “some years ago” are phrases that prepare us for the beginning of a great adventure, a myth, legend, or fantasy that promises to sweep us away to a new land where anything might happen.
It is striking then, by comparison, that the New Testament Gospels decidedly do not begin in this way. Matthew introduces his account with the words “This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ” and goes on to name names, concluding with the statement that “there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah”. Matthew gets specific, and explicit.
If anything, we as the reader of these words are supposed to take notice – what comes next is not a tale or metaphor, but reality, it actually happened. Luke even writes at the beginning of his book, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, and I too decided to write an orderly account for you . . . so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Here is why this matters. If the gospels were good advice, another story with a moral, then we could read them and learn how to live as better people. But the gospels are not good advice, they are good news – accounts of things that have taken place. Advice encourages the listener to take action. News informs us that some action has already taken place, and now there is an opportunity to respond.
The difference is significant. Imagine if you received word that your favorite professional team was short players and needed you for the next game. You would suddenly be desperate for good advice. You would want a trainer, a coach, and your teammates to help you perform your best. But, if instead, you received news that your favorite team had just won the championship, you would no longer be worried about seeking advice. Instead you would celebrate. The game is over, your team has done it!
And so it is with the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. We don’t come to this story to get swept away to a distant land, or to a place where magic exists. Instead, we find a historic reality. And what a reality it is! The gospels contain miracles – sight for the blind, food for the hungry, a cure for the sick – epic battles – Jesus versus Satan, John the Baptist versus Herod, the disciples versus wind and wave – and a great protagonist, tragically heroic, who gives his life for his people. Everything you might want to fill out a great fantasy adventure.
But instead of being one more myth or legend pointing to some underlying reality we might wish for (true love’s kiss, a whole new world, happily ever after) the gospel is the underlying reality to which all the other stories point.
It is true, it is real, it is woven into history, and it is for you.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.