Son of God, King, Saviour
This study is the second in a series of studies on the books of the New Testament.
(Matthew’s gospel – read in 1 hour 20 minutes)
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21(NIV)
These words in the header scripture, spoken by an angel, could be a theme verse for Matthew’s gospel. In one sentence it traverses the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit through to his atoning sacrifice which saves “his people from their sins”. A lot happens between these two events and Matthew traces the story in a carefully detailed sequence.
The audience was a people who had been brought up on Old Testament scriptures. They were read to them every Sabbath in the synagogues. Jesus himself did just that in Luke 4:16-19, when he read from the prophet Isaiah. The people knew that God had, in the past, communicated with his people through prophets but there had been a silence of about 400 years since Malachi’s writings.
Matthew returns to these scriptures, time and time again. He embeds the accounts of Jesus’ ministry in the scriptures people knew so well, emphasising Christ’s fulfilment of prophecy. This sets Jesus above the many false messiahs who had risen up, before and after him. There are over 50 direct references, often including the phrase, ‘what the Lord had said through the prophet’. In doing this he is following Christ’s example, who recognised himself in the same scriptures. On that last night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ refers to a prophecy of Zechariah, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” (Matthew 26:31 NKJV quoting from Zechariah 13:7).
In his first chapter, Matthew uses these scriptures to identify three important roles of Christ. It begins with a ‘genealogy of Jesus Christ’, establishing who he is. He is ‘the Son of David’ – a king (Matthew 1:1). He is the Son of God, living among us, as detailed in Matthew 1:18-24 where he references Isaiah 7:14. And as the angel explains to Joseph, he is the longed-for Saviour.
The plan that Jesus would live among us before his final sacrifice was the opportunity to demonstrate what his kingdom would be like, and to lay down a body of teaching that went far beyond anything contained in the Old Testament writings.
Matthew created an organised account that sought to record the words and the actions of Christ. He structured Christ’s teachings into five distinct sections, sometimes referred to as ‘sermons’ or ‘discourses’, the first one being the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Each concludes with ‘When Jesus had finished saying these things…’ or a similar phrase. (Matthew 7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). These ‘discourses’ begin with Christ delivering a law that would not necessarily be recognised by those who heard it – beginning as it does with the counter-intuitive, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3). There follows the sending out of his disciples; the parables of the kingdom; a section which is a response to two questions from his disciples: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” and “…how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?”; and finally, a sustained attack on the corrupt version of the kingdom demonstrated by the scribes and the pharisees. This last one moves straight into Christ contemplating his soon-coming crucifixion. (Matthew 26:2).
The conclusion of the matter – the culmination of this teaching – is the command in the final verses of the gospel: “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Father, help us to understand the teachings and the examples of Christ in this gospel, and to fulfil the final command. Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council
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