Matthew—The Gospel of the Promised Messiah (2)

The hope of the coming Messiah lived in the soul of every faithful son of Abraham. Already in the Garden of Eden, God had promised, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). The Jews came to know the Promised One as the Messiah, a Hebrew name for the Anointed One. According to the law and the prophets, Christ was coming as Mediator of the covenant. He was going to overcome the seed of the serpent and establish Himself upon David’s throne forever. That throne was to be one of perfect righteousness, for the law of God would be the norm for rule. To attain that rule, He was to make atonement upon the cross and liberate His people from the bondage of the lie. In this Mediator, the offices of prophet, priest, and king blend perfectly in His one mediatorial work. Matthew speaks of this Messiah, Christ the Promised One. 


Let us now consider how the inspired apostle brings forth this theme in his gospel account. 

1. Prophecy realized in the coming of the Messiah (Matt. 1:1-4:11). Christ’s genealogy is given in three parts, from Abraham, from David, and from the return from captivity, ending in Joseph, Jesus’ legal father (Matt. 1:1-17). It is interesting that this list includes four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, all of whom were disqualified by nature. This account provides indisputable proof that Joseph was not the earthly father of Christ (Matt. 1:18-25). The Messiah is not only for believing Jews, but also for Gentiles. The visit of the wisemen proves this (Matt. 2:1-12). His presence, however, arouses the hatred of, earthly kings, as seen in Herod and his attempt to kill the Messiah, Who instead was taken to Egypt and ultimately grew up in Nazareth (Matt. 2:13-23). He is officially inducted into His office of Mediator through baptism by John. This shows that the righteousness of His kingdom is not in the works of the law, but through His atoning blood at the cross (Matt. 3:1-17). Subsequently, Satan challenges Him and offers Him the kingdom of man by suggesting that Jesus bow down to him and forsake the dreaded way of the cross. Jesus refuses this and obeys His Father’s will (Matt. 4:1-11). In this section there are five references to fulfillment of prophecy. 

2. The Messiah sets forth the principles of His kingdom (Matt. 4:12-7:29). He began His ministry in Galilee by preaching to and healing the “lowly;” He called His disciples, and began to preach and do miracles (Matt. 4:12-25). The theme of His ministry was the kingdom. Matthew refers to “kingdom of heaven” thirty-three times and “kingdom of God” five times. The Sermon on the Mount sets forth the spiritual principles of the kingdom, a description of the citizens (beatitudes—Matt. 5:1-16), the place of the law in the kingdom, not as an external code (legalism) but as an internal spiritual response, “be ye perfect as your Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:17-6:18). The kingdom is of such value that it must be before all things in the minds of the citizens (Matt. 6:19-34); the citizens must live- in love with one another, follow the straight way, and be hearers and doers of the word as the wise man who built his house on the rock (Matt. 7:1-29). 

3. The miracles of the Messiah show that He has the power to realize His kingdom (Matt. 8:1-11:1). One marvels at the extent of Christ’s miraculous power: overdiseases such as leprosy (Matt. 8:1-4), palsy (Matt. 8:5-13), fever (Matt. 8:14-17), paralysis (Matt. 9:2-8), issue of blood (Matt. 9:20-22), blindness (Matt. 9:27-31); over demons (Matt. 8:28-34, 9:32-34); over powers of nature (Matt. 8:23-27); and over death (Matt. 9:18, 23-26). By these miracles, He did more than show off power. These acts verified the words He spoke and directed men to the life of the kingdom which in the future would be free from all suffering and spiritual opposition. He Himself was the greatest miracle, being virgin-born and able thus to realize the kingdom in righteousness through His own death. Miracle-working power was also given to the twelve disciples, to demonstrate that Christ works through His office bearers. They must expect opposition from the kingdom of this world, the anti-Christ. In all this they must fear not, for by their good confession Christ will confess them before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:1-11:1). 

4. The nature of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 11:2-13:53). This begins with a challenge from John the Baptist (Art thou He that should come?), and Jesus’ answer that the kingdom is here in principle (Matt. 11:2-19). The people of Galilee reject Jesus and He pronounces woe upon them, teaching that those who hear the gospel and reject it will have greater judgment than Sodom. He calls the weary and heavy laden who are burdened with the guilt of sin to come for rest (Matt. 11:20-30). Jesus sets forth His authority over the Sabbath day by teaching that it is not kept by meeting legal demands, but in the spirit of godliness (Matt. 12:1-14). Christ adds that His kingdom will not come by outward show, but in the way of meekness (Matt. 12:14-21). The healing of the man possessed by a devil gave occasion for Jesus to teach concerning the kingdom of God over against the kingdom of the devil. Jesus insists that He does not act by satanic power, but that He has overcome Satan and that all who are in the kingdom do likewise. Hence there is no sign for that generation but the prophet Jonah, calling to repentance (Matt. 12:22-50). The parables set forth the true nature of the kingdom more clearly, the purpose being that the citizens of the kingdom may believe, and those outside, left without excuse. Eight parables are taught here: the soil, the wheat and tares, mustard seed, leaven, treasure, pearl, net, and the householder. Each one adds certain truths concerning the kingdom: that it is realized by the gospel and received by hearing the word; there is an antithesis between the kingdom of Christ and anti-Christ; it grows from a small source to beautiful manifestation like a mustard seed, and does that under great power like leaven; it is of great value as a pearl, and ends in the separation of all mankind (Matt. 13:1-52). 

5. Christ’s purpose re the kingdom (Matt. 13:53-16:12). Opposition now increases. Jesus comes to Nazareth and is rejected, for a prophet is not honored in his own country (Matt. 13:53-58). John is beheaded (Matt. 14:1-12). The disciples struggle with Jesus’ severe denunciation of the Pharisees (Matt. 15:1-20 and Matt. 16:5-12). This led Jesus to say bluntly that He must die on the cross (Matt. 16:21-28). Interspersed among these events is the blessed teaching of Jesus that He is the Bread of Life, as He fed 5000 (Matt. 14:15-21) and 4000 (Matt. 15:32-39). Power flows from Jesus into His disciples as Peter walked on the water to Jesus (Matt. 14:22-36). The Jews reject him, so Jesus turns to the daughter of the Canaanitish woman and heals her (Matt. 15:21-28). This tells us that Jesus’ purpose was not to establish an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem; rather He came to establish a heavenly kingdom upon the basis of righteousness. The cross was the only way. 

6. The establishing of the kingdom (Matt. 16:13-27:66). The disciples needed to be prepared for the cross. They too had an earthly idea of the kingdom, so Jesus asked them concerning His identity. He confirms that He is the Christ (Messiah) and that He and they must suffer in order to enter into the kingdom (Matt. 16:13-28). By the transfiguration, Jesus showed them that His kingdom is heavenly and that He must go the way of the cross to obtain it (Matt. 17:1-8). The Father’s hour will determine when, so they must now tell no man. At the proper time He will be betrayed (Matt. 17:9-27). 

As Jesus looks to the cross, He renews with them the importance of life within the kingdom. They must be humble and forgiving (Matt. 18:1-35). Their whole life must be brought into the service of the King: their marriage (Matt. 19:1-15), their life and possessions (Matt. 19:16-29). Our place in the kingdom is not of works, but of grace, as the laborers in the vineyard learned (Matt. 19:30-20:16). So also we are to serve and not rule, as Christ taught the mother of James and John (Matt. 20:17-28). 

The royal entrance into Jerusalem demonstrated to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem that the way into Jesus’ kingdom was not by outward victory over the Jews or over Rome, but the lowly way of suffering on the cross. The donkey testified to that (Matt. 20:29-21:11). In addition to this, Christ established His authority to cleanse the temple of God by His blood (Matt. 21:12-27). The parables He told at this time made it plain that Israel was ready to reject Him: the two sons (Matt. 21:28-32), unjust husbandman (Matt. 21:33-41), marriage of the King’s son (Matt. 22:1-14). 

In return, the leaders of the Jews try to trick Jesus in a series of debates. First, they try to see if Jesus was set against the Roman government, but Jesus declares willingness to pay tax (Matt. 22:15-22). Then the Sadducees argue with Him about the resurrection, and He explains that life after death is much different from the present (Matt. 22:23-33). The Pharisees come to ask concerning the first and great commandment, and Jesus speaks about the one principle of love (Matt. 22:34-40). Jesus takes the offensive and asks them concerning the Messiah (Christ), Who is He, and they are confounded (Matt. 22:41-46).

The gospel now reaches its exalted climax in the crucifixion of Jesus. The chief priests plotted against Him (Matt. 26:1-5); He was anointed for burial by loving hands (Matt. 26:6-13); Judas agreed to betray Him (Matt. 26:14-16); He ate the last passover and instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:17-29); He wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane, willing to go to the cross (Matt. 26:36-46); Judas betrayed him and, overcome in guilt, took his own life (Matt. 26:47-56, 27:1-10). Jesus is taken to Caiaphas for trial, and, while there during the night, Peter denied Him as Jesus had said (Matt. 26:30-35, 57-75). Christ is tried before Pilate, who attempts to rid himself of the responsibility, but fails since he would rather be Caesar’s friend than Christ’s (Matt. 27:11-26). The soldiers mock the Messiah by poking fun of His kingship (Matt. 27:27-30). Jesus is crucified (Matt. 27:31-36). The superscription testifies of His true identity (Matt. 27:37). The whole world rejects God’s Messiah (Matt. 27:39-44). Christ, however, finished His work, which was to establish righteousness as the basis for His heavenly kingdom. His heavenly Father confirmed His finished work (Matt. 27:45-56). He is buried with the rich in His death (Matt. 27:57-61). 

7. The Messiah accomplished His work (Matt. 27:62-28:30). The enemies try to prevent the resurrection by setting a guard (Matt. 27:62-66), and later, by circulating a story that the disciples stole the body, they try to undo the reality of the resurrection (Matt. 28:11-15). The Messiah, the Lord of Heaven, however, cannot be confined by guards, stony graves, or gossip. He arose in majesty (Matt. 28:1-8). He verified it by appearing to the women (Matt. 28:9, 10). Finally, He gave His majestic commission to go to all the world and preach the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 28:16-20).