If a man suddenly appears and acclaims to be a king, the public immediately asks for proof. What is his background? Anticipating this important question, Matthew opened his book with a careful account of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events that accompanied it.
The Gospel According to Matthew has been called by many Bible scholars the most important single document of the Christian faith. Historians tell that this book was the most widely read, and the most quoted, in the early church.
While all four gospels are important, it is not without reason that Matthew stands first. Matthew is supposed to be distinguished from the other Apostles by the frequency of his references to the Old Testament. He records more particulars of Jesus than the others do far more of his birth, his sayings and his miracles.
From the standpoint of the Kingship of Christ, the primary purpose of the gospel of Matthew is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the Kingly Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures in Jewish prophecy.
The term Messiah is a Hebrew word equivalent to the Greek word for Christ1. Both terms are equivalent to the English expression Anointed One. The ritual of anointing was characteristic of the official introduction into three offices- prophet, priest, and king. Since the prophecies of the Old Testament indicated that Israel’s hopes were founded in Him who would be a prophet, priest, and king, He was referred to as the Anointed One, the Christ. The book depicts Christ fulfilling the predictions of the Jewish recognized prophets and the Old Testament Scriptures. Thus, Matthew was writing
1. Prakashanand Saraswati, The True History and the Religion of India (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass; Borehamwood: Motilal, 2001) 148.
primarily to the Jewish believers.
Matthew is very interested in kingship and uses the word king twenty two times, more than any other book in the New Testament. He uses it in a variety of ways, referring to King Herod, the king in a parable, and the Son of man as King on judgment Day. Here he is making it clear that there is royalty in Jesus line so that he is rightly called King of the Jews.
How Jesus was presented in the book of Matthew? He presented four facts about the King.
The Heredity of the King
Since royalty depends on heredity, it was important for Jesus to establish His rights to David’s throne. Matthew gave His human heredity (Matt.1:1-17) as well as His divine heredity (Matt. 1:18-25).
His human heredity (vv.1-17).
Genealogies were very important to the Jews, for without them they could not prove their tribal memberships or their rights to inheritance. Anyone claiming to be the Son of David had to be able to prove it. It is generally concluded that Matthew gave our Lord’s family tree through His foster father, Joseph.
Many Bible readers skip over this list of ancient (and in some cases pronounceable) names. But this list of names is vital part of the gospel record. It shows that Jesus Christ is a part of history, that all of Jewish history prepared the way for His birth. God in His providence ruled and overruled to accomplish His great purpose in bringing His Son into the world.
This genealogy also illustrates God’s wonderful grace. It is most unusual to find the names of women in Jewish genealogies, since names and inheritances came through the fathers. But in this list we find references to four women from Old Testament history: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, and Bathsheba the wife of Uriah (1:6). Matthew clearly omitted some names from his genealogy. Probably he did this to give a systematic summary of three periods in Israel’s history, each with fourteen generations. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters for David equals fourteen. Matthew probably used this approach as a memory aid to help his readers remember this difficult list.
But there were many Jewish men who could trace their family back to King David. It would take more than human pedigree to make Jesus Christ the Son of David 1 and heir to David’s throne. This is why the divine heredity was so important.
His divine heredity, Jesus Christ’s birth was different from that of any other Jewish boy named in the genealogy. Matthew pointed out that Joseph did not beget Jesus Christ. Rather, Joseph was the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. “Jesus was born of an earthly mother without the need of an earthly father. This is known as the doctrine of the virgin birth.
Every child born into the world is a totally new creature. But Jesus Christ, being eternal God, existed before Mary and Joseph or any of His earthly ancestors. If Jesus Christ were conceived and born just as any other baby, then He could not be God. It was necessary for Him to enter this world through an earthly mother, but not to be begotten by an earthly father. By a miracle of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, a virgin.
1. Paul Barnet, Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A history of New Testament Times (Downers Grove III: Intervarsity Press, 2002) 35.
Some have raised the question that perhaps Mary was not a virgin. They say that Matthew 1:23 should be translated young woman. But the word translated virgin in this verse always means virgin and cannot be translated young woman.
Both Mary and Joseph belonged to the house of David. The Old Testament prophecies indicated that the Messiah would be born of a woman, of the seed of Abraham, through the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David. Matthew’s genealogy traced the line through Solomon, while Luke’s traced it through Nathan, another one of David’s sons. It is worth nothing that Jesus Christ is the only Jew alive who can actually prove His claims to the throne of David! All of the other records were destroyed when Romans took Jerusalem in AD 70 1.
To the Jewish people in that day, betrothal (engagement) was equivalent to marriage – except that the man and woman did not live together. They were called husband and wife, and, at the end of the engagement period, the marriage was consummated. If a betrothed woman became pregnant, it was considered adultery. But Joseph did not punish or divorce Mary when he discovered she was with child, for the Lord had revealed the truth to him.
Before we leave this important section, we must consider the three names assigned to God’s Son. The name Jesus means Savior and comes from the Hebrew name Joshua (or, in the Greek, Jesus), but Mary’s boy was called Jesus the Christ. The word Christ means anointed; it is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. He is Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is His human name; Christ is His official title; and Immanuel describes who He is – God with us.
1. Clarence Larkin, Rightly Dividing the World (Kessinger Publishing, 2003) 116.
God gave them a special sign, a miraculous star that announced the birth of the King. The star led them to Jerusalem, where God’s prophets told them that the King would be born in Bethlehem, and there they worshipped the Christ Child.
From the three gifts listed in Matthew 2:11, some people have assumed there were three kings from the Orient, though this is not certain. But when their caravan arrived in Jerusalem, there were enough of them to trouble the whole city.
Keep in mind that these men were Gentiles. From the very beginning, Jesus came to be the Saviour of the world. These men were also wealthy, and they were scholars – scientists in their own right. No scholarly person who follows the light God gives him can miss worshipping at the feet of Jesus. In Jesus Christ are hid all the treasured of wisdom and knowledge.
The magi were seeking the King, but Herod was afraid of the King and wanted to destroy Him. This was Herod the Great, called king by the Roman senate because of the influence of Mark Antony. Herod was a cruel and crafty man who permitted no one, not even his own family, to interferer with his rule or prevent the satisfying of his evil desires. A ruthless murderer, he had his own wife and her two brothers slain because he suspected them of treason. He was married at least nine times in order to fulfill his lusts and strengthen his political ties.
It is no surprise that Herod tried to kill Jesus, for Herod alone wanted to bear the title King of the Jews 1. But there was another reason. Herod was not a full-blooded Jew; he was actually an Idumaean, a descendant of Esau. This is a picture of the old struggle
1. Jerry Knoblet, Herod the Great (Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2005) 82.
between Esau and Jacob that began even before the boys were born. It is the spiritual versus the carnal, the godly versus the worldly.
The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were ignoring the King. These priests knew the Scriptures and pointed others to the Savior, but they would not go to worship Him themselves. They quoted Micah chapter five verse two but did not obey it. They were five miles from the very Son of God, yet they did not go to see Him. The Gentiles sought and found Him, but the Jews did not.
Matthew chapter two verses nine indicates that the miraculous star was not always visible to the magi. As they started toward Bethlehem, they saw the star again; and it led them to the house where Jesus was. By now, Joseph had moved Mary and the baby from the temporary dwelling where the Lord Jesus had been. The traditional manger scenes that assemble together the shepherds and men are not true to Scripture, since the magi arrived much later.
Matthew cites a second fulfilled prophecy to prove that Jesus Christ is the King Chapter two verse five. How He was born was fulfillment of prophecy, and where He was born was a fulfillment of prophecy. Bethlehem means house of bread, and this was where the Bread of life came to earth. Bethlehem in the Old Testament was associated with David 1, who was type of Jesus Christ in His suffering and glory.
Hostility Against the King (2:13-18)
A person is identified not only by his friends, but also by his enemies. Herod pretended that he wanted to worship the newborn King, when in reality he wanted to destroy Him. God warned Joseph to take the child and Mary and flee to Egypt. Egypt was
1. James Hastings, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospel: (Volume I, Part One.
The Minesota Group, Inc., 2004)195.
close. These were many Jews there, and the treasures received from the magi would more than pay the expresses for traveling and living there.
Herod’s anger was evidence of his pride; he could not permit anyone to get the best of him, particularly some Gentile scholars. This led him to kill the boy babies two years of age and under who were still in Bethlehem.
Matthew introduced here the theme of hostility, which he focused on throughout his book. Satan is a liar and a murderer, as was King Herod. He lied to the magi and he murdered the babies. But even this horrendous crime of murder was the fulfillment.
The Humility of the King (2: 19-23)
Herod died in 4 B.C., which means that Jesus was born sometimes between 6 and 5 B.C. As God’s Son, Jesus was in Egypt and was called out go to Israel. Moses was outside the Egypt, hiding for his life, and he was called to return to Egypt. But in both cases, God’s program of redemption was involved. It took courage for Joseph and his family to leave Egypt, and it took courage for Moses to return to Egypt.
Archelaus was one of Herod’s sons, and to him Herod had willed the title of king. However, the Jews discovered that, in spite of his promises of kindness, Archelaus was as wicked as his father. So they sent a delegation to Rome to protest his crowning. August Caesar agreed with the Jews and made Archelaus an ethnarch over half of his father’s kingdom. The whole episode is a good example of how God leads His children. Joseph knew that he and his family were no safer under the rule of Archelaus than they had been under Herod the Great. It is likely they were heading back to Bethlehem when they discovered that Archelaus was on the throne. Certainly, Joseph and Mary prayed, waited, and sought God’s will. Common sense told them to be careful; faith told them to wait. In due time, God spoke to Joseph in a dream, and he took his wife and her Son to Nazareth, which had been their home earlier.
But even this fulfilled prophecy. Once again, Matthew points out that every detail in the life of Jesus was foretold in the Scriptures. It is important to note that Matthew did not refer to only one prophet, but instead says that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets.
Meanwhile, the term Nazareth was one of reproach. In many Old Testament prophecies, the Messiah’s lowly life of rejection is mentioned, and this may be what Matthew had in mind (Isa. 53:2-3, 8). The term Nazarene was applied both to Jesus and His followers (Acts 24:5), and He was often called Jesus of Nazarene (Matt. 21:11).
But perhaps Matthew, led by the Spirit, saw a spiritual connection between the name Nazarene and the Hebrew word netzer, which means a branch of shoot 1.Several prophets apply this title to Jesus (see Isa. 4:2; 11).
Our Lord grew up in Nazareth and was identified with the city. In fact, His enemies thought He had been born there, for they said that He came from Galilee (John 7:50-52). Had they investigated the temple records, they would have discovered that He had been born in Bethlehem.
Who ever heard of a king being born in a humble village and growing up in a despised city? The humility of the King is certainly something to admire and imitate.
On the other hand, Matthew gave an extended genealogy of Jesus Christ; he singled out David and Abraham for special mention in his introduction. The apparent reason for this is that two of the crucial covenants that determine God’s program for the nation of
1. Mary Coloe, Dwelling in the House of God: Johanninne Acclesiology and Spirituality. (Collegeville, Min.: Liturgical Press, 2007) 46.
Israel was made with David and Abraham. Matthew’s special notation clearly indicates that Jesus Christ had come as David’s Son to rule over Abraham’s descendants in the land that God promised them.
Matthew is especially concerned to establish the unique, special messianic character of Jesus as attested in the Scriptures, the messianic character that leads logically to the confession of Jesus as the son of God. The son born of the Virgin Mary is from the Holy Spirit, and is the promised redeemer. Jesus, therefore, the shoot of David, is presented as Israel’s promised king of salvation in Matthew as nowhere else. On him are focused the genealogy, Joseph’s adoptive paternity, the outcry of the blind men, the questioning on the part of the people, the supplication of the Gentile woman, and the acclamations at the entry into Jerusalem and in the temple. Precisely this son of David is also the Son of God, as Matthew suggests to his readers in the conversation he has about the Son of David.
As well as showing how Jesus fulfils the law and prophets, Matthew also comments that something greater than the temple is here (12:6).Jesus identity runs through the opening chapters as the fulfillment of the Jewish hopes- a new Abraham to bless Gentiles, a new Moses to enter all the lands, a new David to bring the consummation, even a new Israel to triumph in the wilderness. While Jesus refers to himself as the teacher, the disciples never call him teacher in Matthew: only opponents and questioners use this address, and Rabbi is the salutation from the traitor, Judas. Jesus is the Teacher but he is much more than this: in Matthew, the disciples and those who ask for help call him Lord.
Jesus’ Messiahship is not secret, his divine Sonship was clear throughout the infancy stories, and was declared publicly by the heavenly voice. Satan questions this in the temptation, but Jesus does not need to prove it. He is worshipped as the Son of God by the disciples in the boat, recognized by Peter, and this is repeated by Caiaphas.
Jesus divine origin is also shown by the worship given to the infant (2:2, 11), by the synagogue ruler, and by the disciples in the boat (14:33) and after resurrection. Furthermore, Matthew has a tendency to Mark’s references to Jesus’ human feelings: pity for a leper; anger at the Pharisees. Jesus amazement and inability to do miracles in Nazareth.
Thus, Matthew has handled Jesus identity cleverly through these opening chapters. While Jesus as Teacher of Israel repeats Israel’s history through his own experiences as an infant, in Egypt, in the wilderness, in mountains, and at the river Jordan, it is insufficient for Matthew to see Jesus as just a new Moses or a new David. He is all that the great heroes were and more. He fulfils Israel’s history and scriptures, law and prophets. He is the Teacher, the Son of God himself, present with his people.
The world has never before seen Jesus in this capacity, His power, His fierceness, and His glory are far beyond their ability to comprehend His glorious nature. As the Lion of Judah, He is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Jacob of the Old Testament had twelve sons who became patriarchs over the twelve tribes of Israel. One of those sons named Levi became the tribe that would furnish the priests to the kingdom. These priests would offer the sacrificial lambs as an offering to God for the remission of their sins. But, God designated the Tribe of Judah to be the tribe that would supply the kings to the kingdom. So the priests came from Levi, but the kings came from Judah. The genealogies of the Old and New Testaments clearly show that Jesus was in the direct lineage of Judah thereby qualifying Him as the next King. Although, He did not reign as the King in His first coming, He will reign as the King at His second coming. He will then reign as the King, the Lion of Judah.
Just as a lion is the King of the jungle, the Lion of Judah will exercise power over all of earth and heaven. This is basically what Jesus told His followers before His ascension back into heaven.
The Book of Matthew is called the Gospel of the Kingdom. This book is all about the King and His Kingdom. Indeed, it is Matthew’s overwhelming purpose to prove, not only to the Nation of Israel that Jesus is its King, but to the entire world that He is truly the long anticipated Jewish King. It is Matthew who documents and emphasizes Jesus as the Son of David, the great King of Israel. Jesus Christ is the Son of King David. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is shown as the King. Matthew speaks often of the Kingdom of Heaven and the other gospels refer many times to the Kingdom of God.
The king used the three and a half years of His public ministry here on earth to preach and teach the gospel of His Kingdom. He employed several different types of teaching techniques as He announced the precepts of His kingdom. Some of His most loved teachings were done in parables. His parables were used to teach on a variety of subjects, but there is one whole group of parables known as Kingdom Parables.
Barnet, Paul. Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A history of New Testament
Times. Downers Grove III: Intervarsity Press, 2002.
Coloe, Mary. Dwelling in the House of God: Johanninne Acclesiology and Spirituality.
Collegeville, Min.: Liturgical Press, 2007.
Hastings, James. A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospel: Volume I, Part One.
The Minesota Group, Inc., 2004.
Knoblet, Jerry. Herod the Great. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2005.
Larkin, Clarence. Rightly Dividing the World. Kessinger Publishing, 2003.
Saraswati, Prakashanand. The True History and the Religion of India. Delhi: Motilal
Banarsidass; Borehamwood: Motilal, 2001.
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