I’ve always been particularly fond of Matthew’s Gospel; after all, I share my name with it. When you’re very young and working your way through The Children’s Bible, it’s special to see your name in it in such a prominent place. Of course, it wasn’t a coincidence, but when you’re young these things seem more special than they really are.
God uses opportunities like this to help draw us in and bring us closer to Him. My name was Matthew and the first book of the New Testament was Matthew, so I had to read it thoroughly and understand it as much as I could because….I’m not sure why, but I knew I did.
What I wouldn’t know until much later is that the connection between my name and the Book of Matthew was much more indicative of the larger story of God’s relationship with mankind than the kinder me could have ever understood. Why? Because both are about people thinking they know what they’re doing and God using our hubris to show us the truth of His Truth.
You see, I’m not really supposed to be a Matthew. Until I was seven I thought I was named after the Gospel, but it turns out I was named after my great-grandfather, Matt Snapp. That’s not a particularly interesting surprise, but the underlying story is amusing. My great-grandfather passed away when my mother was in high school. As the first of the Snapp girls to have a baby, she wanted to honor him and the family legacy by naming me after him. A funny thing happened on the way to the Arkansas Department of Vital Records though. This man she only ever knew as Matt was not, in fact, a Matthew; rather, he was a Mattison…and since she-and everyone else in Taney County-only knew him as Matt, she made the assumption that it was short for Matthew (and it was Biblical, so a win-win for my mom).
She didn’t know that she had “misnamed” me until I was almost three. It never really came up in family conversation until she was preparing to have my brother. Going through possible baby names she happened to mention that it wasn’t going to be as easy as the first time like her grandfather Matthew. My grandmother has never stopped laughing at this mistake.
I’m supposed to be a Mattison. I’m not sure that would have made for an easy run of it in the 1980s. But today I’m a Matt…just like my great-grandfather.
The Gospel of Matthew is the beginning of the part of the Bible where God shows us how all of the promises He made in the Old Testament would be kept. How, with Divine patience, He would step directly into our lives and show us mercy, compassion, love, and ultimately saving grace. The thing is, so many of the people in Israel at the time were convinced that Jesus couldn’t be the fulfillment of those promises because He wasn’t a conqueror throwing off the yokes of Roman occupation. Instead, He was a teacher, a healer, and a willing sacrifice for all of us. But He was named for Joshua (Yeshua can be read as Joshua or Jesus), the warrior who knocked down walls and drove out the enemy armies. They thought he was misnamed. But it turns out, He was perfect…and perfectly named.