Sunday, April 8, 2007

Matthew 1:1-"Here is your King."

The early church recognized Matthew as the first Gospel. It was the most often quoted book in the early church. The author, Matthew, was originally called Levi and he was a tax collector by trade. Tax collectors, it seems, were able to overcharge the taxpayer on the amount of tax the person owed and keep any extra as a bonus. They were, therefore, esteemed much like our IRS today. Matthew left his tax collection business upon Jesus' call to "Follow me" in Matthew 9:9. He faithfully followed Christ and wrote this record of His ministry under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. His purpose in writing this Gospel was to present Jesus as the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. His primary target audience is, therefore, the Hebrew people. However, all Christians will find study of this wonderful evangelistic book to be a blessing.

Matthew records, in verse 1, the book of the genealogy (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word used for origin or beginning-Genesis) of our Lord and Savior. As the 17th century expositor Matthew Henry noted, one might question why Matthew might include something as common as a birth record in his Gospel narrative. He observes, and we should remember, that the purpose of Matthew's Gospel was to introduce the Jews to their Messiah. The Messiah had to be Jewish (of Abraham) and had to be of the kingly line of the house of David. Therefore, Matthew is not presenting an interesting bit of trivia but was in fact grounding the message of his Gospel on a central theme-Jesus is Messiah. Here to the reader, especially the Jewish reader, Matthew begins to hammer that point home. Through the use of this genealogy and Old Testament quotes, Matthew presents the resume of our Lord for the position of the long awaited Messiah who would reign on the Throne of David.

Furthermore, we should notice the name of this Messiah. Jesus (Ie¯sous) is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. The name means "Jehovah saves". We are told later in this chapter that Jesus will, in fact, save His people from their sins. With this name is paired the title Christ (Christos) which means anointed. Jesus Christ was God's anointed in several respects. First of all, as the book of Philippians Chapter 2 tells us, He was God's Servant who "became obedient to death, even death on a cross". He came to do the will of His Father in heaven and was specially commissioned for such work. He was also anointed of God by having been given the Holy Spirit without measure, as the Gospel of John records. However, the anointing that Matthew likely has in mind here is the anointing of Kingship. David had been promised a descendant who would reign forever. Matthew here points out that Jesus is the One who was uniquely anointed by God for just that task. Again, in Philippians chapter 2, Paul notes that at the name of Jesus "ever knee shall bow….and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

As the anointed Christ, Jesus would have to trace his ancestry back to the family of David. In Jeremiah 23:5, the Lord said that " Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.'" The title son of David would have aroused feelings of pride and hope in the heart of the Jewish reader. They knew of the political situation they were in being subjects of Rome and they knew of the promise of God and His faithfulness through the years. In the years surrounding the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people were waiting expectantly for the Messiah. In fact, even people who were not people of faith in God were expecting his arrival (Matt 2:7, Acts 5:35-37). Of course, the Jewish people were expecting immediate emancipation from their Roman rulers and, as such, assumed a military victory. In identifying Jesus as the son of David after His death, burial, and resurrection, Matthew affirms the truth that the Messiah's permanent eternal kingdom is not of this world. While He will reign at some future point in Jerusalem for 1,000 years, the kingdom of which there shall be no end will be in the New Jerusalem.

Matthew next identifies Jesus as the son of Abraham. Jewish people obviously revered Abraham as their father (John 8:39). God made an eternal covenant with Abraham. This covenant had three features: Land (Gen 12:7), Blessing (Gen 12:3), and Seed (Gen 22:18). The land we now know as Palestine was promised to Abraham and his decedents as their possession. When Matthew wrote this gospel, the Jewish people were under the rule of Rome. In fact, since the Babylonian deportation in 476 BC, the land of Israel had been under the control, politically, of another country (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome). They had not taken possession of the land and, therefore, held onto this promise. We know that Jesus, when He comes back at the end of the Tribulation, will set up a Millennial kingdom in Jerusalem where He will reign for 1,000 years. However, Jesus fulfilled the other two parts of the covenant while here on earth. Paul identifies Him as the Seed that God was referring to in His promise to Abraham. In Galatians 3:16, Paul writes, "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ. " Therefore, Christ came into this world as the Seed promised to Abraham. It was through this seed that God would bless the whole world and the specific blessing that he would bring was the salvation promised by God in the Old Testament (Hosea 2:14-20). This salvation was not only for the Jews, but was in fact for all who would place their faith in Jesus Christ (Col 1:6, Romans 2:9-10).

Matthew, in the first verse of his gospel, identifies Jesus as the promised Heir to the throne of David and as the promised Seed of the covenant with Abraham.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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