The birth of Jesus is one of the most widely-known stories of the Bible. Most Christians can piece together the gist of what happened according to Matthew and Luke in Bethlehem that night. But because of our familiarity with the story, we unfortunately tend to gloss over it year in and year out. We may revisit it during the holiday season, but it’s the same old manger, and same old wise men. The result of this story becoming “tired” to us is that it loses its miraculous nature, its gripping storyline, and we forget the significance of the event itself.
In The First Days of Jesus, Köstenberger and Stewart have masterfully sought to bring back the transformative power of the birth and beginnings of the life of Jesus to each of us. This book is a companion piece, and the prequel to The Final Days of Jesus, this time examining the early days of Jesus and how various accounts flow together. Deeply expositing the beginning of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, Köstenberger and Stewart have written a book that is biblically rich, highly theological, carefully historical, and helpfully informative.
One of the features of the book I really enjoy is that it expounds on differing theological views and then provides an explanation of the view that makes the most sense within the context of all things considered. For example, in chapter 2 there is some discussion surrounding the perspectives that Matthew and Luke are written from. Matthew’s account is written from the perspective of Joseph, while Luke’s account is written from the perspective of Mary. Why is this? From here, the book explores multiple answers to this question, and attempts to arrive at the best explanations for these nuances we find in Scripture. It never wrongly makes assumptions for the sake of solving, but always recognizes the elements of mystery and resolves to let Scripture do the revealing.
Many would not expect to see such a thorough analysis of John as directly relating to the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, but Köstenberger and Stewart have helped us make the necessary connections from John’s broad account of Jesus’s incarnation to Matthew and Luke’s detailed accounts.
Not only has The First Days of Jesus helped revive our appreciation for these stories, but in perhaps the best feature of the book, we have been given an Advent reading plan to walk through Scripture and this book as a companion for the Advent season. This is something I’m looking forward to going through with my family.
This book is a perfect blend of rich theology with rich devotion. It is an excellent conversation starter around the Christmas season and beyond, and helps us think on the Scriptures, especially the doctrine of the Incarnation, with more clarity and worship. I highly recommend this resource to those looking for deeper study and a refreshed look at the classic accounts of Jesus’s birth.