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Matt 1-2: Jesus, the Promised King Print E-mail
Monday, 18 July 2005

The years between the Old and New Testaments were seemingly a time of silence.  When the writers of the New Testament began to write their books, over 400 years had passed since the last prophet, Malachi, had written.  Even though many Israelites had returned from exile, it still seemed as if God were through with the rebellious nation.  Yet, so many questions remained.

How was the promise to Abraham, that all the nations would be blessed through his offspring, found in Genesis 22:18, to be fulfilled?  How was the promise to David, that he would have a descendent reign on his throne forever, found in 2 Samuel 7, to be fulfilled?  The prophets have spoken of the One who is to come to set his people free but where is He?  Indeed, as we sing at Christmas: “O come, O come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appears.”  They were waiting for a King.  Thus, reading Matthew 1:1 in such light, makes us marvel at the great plan of our God.  Our cry is “Rejoice, rejoice, Immanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”  We struggle not to miss what Matthew is claiming in this first verse.  But make no mistake about it, he is making it clear that the promised King has come, and his name is Jesus Christ, our long awaited Messiah.

Matthew goes forward from this point to teach us about Jesus, the Messiah.  He emphasizes the teaching ministry of Jesus with five main discourses found in chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 24-25.  He also deals with the life and ministry of Jesus, concluding with His death, burial, and resurrection.  Matthew ends his gospel with the Great Commission of Christ calling for his disciples to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (28:18-20).  In these first two chapters, as he will continue to emphasize throughout his gospel, Matthew is teaching us that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, the King of Israel.  As we look at these two chapters together this morning, I want us to ask and answer this question: How exactly does Matthew teach us that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah?

First, Matthew teaches us that Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham (1:1-17).

Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy.  Obviously it is tempting for us to simply pass over this part as a big list of hard to pronounce names that is not important.  Yet, in reality, the genealogy is extremely important.

The first major purpose in the genealogy is to identify Jesus’ significance in the history of Israel.  Israel was expecting a King.  They were expecting this King to come in the line of David.  Matthew uses his genealogy to demonstrate that Christ was in the royal line and was indeed a descendent of David.  Again, based on 2 Samuel 7, we know that one of David’s descendents will sit on the throne forever and Matthew is demonstrating that the descendent is none other than Jesus Christ.  Thus, Matthew is using his genealogy to show his readers that Christ is in the royal line of David, making him a descendent of Abraham as well.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham and the promise to David.  He is both the promised King of Israel and the One who will bring blessing to all the nations, even as we have already mentioned from the Great Commission. 

It is this point which leads to one other purpose in Matthew’s genealogy.  Matthew, contrary to custom, mentions four women in his genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.  It seems that he does this to make the point that Jesus’ line includes not only great Kings of Israel and men of valor, but also humble women who were Gentiles.  Matthew is showing us from the beginning of his gospel that the plan of God is for the nations.  We see this theme also in the visit of the Magi.  These men who come from the East, possibly Babylon, to worship the Christ Child were Gentiles.  They were not Jews.  Again, Matthew is demonstrating that it is through Jesus that the nations will be blessed and the promise to Abraham will be fulfilled.  Thus, Matthew teaches us that Jesus is the Messiah by demonstrating that He is the Son of Abraham and the Son of David.

Second, Matthew teaches us that Jesus’ birth was part of a divine plan, involving divine protection (1:18-25, 2:12-13, 19-22).

At a number of points it seems that the plan of God is being threatened.  When Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant, an obvious violation to her commitment to him, Matthew tells us that he resolved to divorce her quietly (1:19).  Yet, the Lord sends an angel to explain to Joseph what has taken place so that he will not divorce her, as we read in 1:20-21. 

We also read of Herod’s plot to kill the Child.  After hearing from the wise men of the birth of the King of the Jews, he tells them to go to Bethlehem to find the child and to report back to him what they find.  Yet, the Lord warns them in a dream and keeps them from telling Herod about the Child.  In 2:13-18, Matthew tells us of the Father’s continued protection of His Son.  He sends an angel to Joseph to warn him of Herod’s plans to try and kill Jesus.  Even though Herod carries out his horrible plan of having the male children that were 2 years or younger in Bethlehem killed, the Father protects the Son in Egypt. 

After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord comes again to Joseph and calls for him to return to Israel.  Yet, when he finds out that another wicked ruler is presiding over Judea, he decides not to return to this area of Israel and instead goes to Galilee.  The Father confirms Joseph’s decision in a dream and they end up settling in the city of Nazareth.

In all of this we see that there was indeed a sovereign plan behind the birth of Christ.  All of the events happen in such a way that Matthew can write over and again “all this took place to fulfill what had been written by the prophets.”  God was in control of the events surrounding the birth of Christ.  Be it wise men coming from the East or even the reign of King Herod, God was in total control of all the circumstances, even as He is in total control over all circumstances. 

Not only was there a divine plan in place, but there was also divine protection.  Matthew tells us how the Father protects the Son through dreams and angels.  We know from the beginning that this is no ordinary child.  He is the Son of God and the promised King of Israel.  Thus, in teaching us that Jesus’ birth was part of a divine plan, involving divine protection, Matthew is teaching is that Christ is indeed the Messiah.

Third, Matthew teaches us that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah (1:22-23, 2:5-6, 14-15, 16-18, 23).

Although book after book has been written on Matthew’s use of the Old Testament prophecies in these two chapters alone, I just want to look at a couple this morning to help us in our understanding of the text.

First, look with me at 2:5-6.  If we turn over in our Bibles to Micah 5:2, we see that the fulfillment of this prophecy is straightforward and not difficult to understand.  Micah, writing around 700 years before the time of Christ, says that a ruler for the people of Israel shall come from Bethlehem.  Matthew is simply making the point that Christ was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of that prophecy.

Yet, not all prophecy in Scripture is that straightforward.  In fact, prophecy is some of the most difficult passages to understand and interpret.  When we get to that section on Sunday night, we will look closer at some principles for understanding and interpreting prophecy.

As sort of an example, let’s look at 2:14-15.  Matthew is quoting from Hosea 11:1.  If you look at the Hosea passage it is clear that Hosea is referring to Israel and the Exodus.  Israel was in bondage to the Egyptians and the Lord rescued his people through the plagues and the defeat of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea.  Thus, Out of Egypt I called my Son.  So what is Matthew doing?  Is he simply a bad reader of the Old Testament and misunderstands what Hosea is talking about?

No, Matthew is just the opposite.  He understands that Israel was often referred to as the Son of God in the Old Testament.  They were God’s chosen people whom He loved and cared for.  Yet, they were disobedient to the covenant and failed in being the fruitful people that God had called them to be.  However, God was not finished with His people.  He still longed to have a people who would be obedient to His commands and bear fruit to His glory throughout the earth.  In the Incarnation we meet the obedient Son of God.  All of Israel’s history pointed to Him.  He was the One who would rescue His people from their sins and secure a people for the Father who would live to His glory.  Thus, Matthew sees in Hosea’s writing concerning the Exodus a ‘pointing forward’ to the future salvation of God’s people that would be accomplished through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  Indeed, it is fascinating what is packed into just a couple of verses.

Matthew also quotes from Isaiah concerning the fact that the coming Messiah will be called Immanuel in 1:23.  He also makes another connection with Christ and Israel’s history with his reference to Rachel’s weeping for her children in 2:18.  And chapter two concludes with a reference to Jesus being a Nazarene, which seems to be Matthew simply summarizing the teachings of the prophets that the Messiah will be despised, since Nazareth was not a town of high esteem.  In all of this we see that Matthew is making it clear that Christ is the promised Messiah because He fulfills the Old Testament prophecies.

Fourth, Matthew teaches us that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to save His people from their sins (1:21).

I make this a separate point because I do not want you to miss the significance.  Israel was expecting a military King like David, someone who would defeat the Romans and drive them out of the land.  Yet, in reality, Christ came to deal with a much bigger problem than the Romans.  Since Adam’s Fall, humanity has been left with one constant need.  Their greatest need, even today as it has always been, is for the forgiveness of their sins.  And this is what the promised Messiah came to provide.  Matthew makes it clear, even from the beginning of his gospel, that Jesus had a mission in His coming.  Even here, the writer is already pointing us to Golgotha.  Christ came to save His people from their sins and it is this mission that Matthew continues to unfold throughout his gospel.

We might be asking at this point: How should all this impact us?  I mean if Matthew is laboring to teach us that Christ is the promised Messiah, how should we respond to such teaching?

First, these chapters should give us confidence in the person of Christ.  If you are here and you have never repented of your sins and placed your faith in Jesus Christ, then I plead with you to heed what Matthew is teaching.  I may not know much about you but I can say with confidence that your greatest need is for the forgiveness of your sins.  The Bible teaches us that God is a holy God, our Sovereign Creator, and that man has rebelled against Him and turned to their own way.  Yet, even as we have looked at this morning, God sent Jesus to live a perfect life and to die in our place on the cross that He might save his people from their sins.  The Scriptures call us to turn from our sins and place our faith in the saving work of Christ and I call you by their authority to do no less this morning.

As believers, these chapters should give us confidence that Christ is indeed the promised Messiah.  Man is in need of a Savior and their only hope rests in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He alone is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham, who was sent from God the Father, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, to redeem His people from their sins.  May our confidence in the person of Jesus Christ be renewed this morning by this text.

Second, these chapters should give us confidence in the plan of God.  Ephesians 1 tells us that God planned before the foundations of the world to send His Son and to redeem a people for Himself.  We have seen that plan being fulfilled even in the opening chapters of Matthew.  God’s plan is to redeem a people to Himself by His grace through faith in Christ and to conform those people, His Bride, into the image of His Son.  This morning, we gather as those who have indeed been redeemed by the blood of the lamb.  God is fulfilling His plan among us even this hour as we worship Him and meditate on His Word.  Thus, may we live in confidence of the great plan of our God and may we rejoice in His grace as we long for the return of our promised King.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 July 2006 )

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