The Gospel Of The Kingdom
Main Idea: The Gospel of Matthew is an account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and King predicted by the Old Testament.
- The Gospel of the Kingdom
- The book of Matthew is a Gospel (an account of good news).
- The book of Matthew is one of four Gospels.
- John: Jesus is the Son of God.
- Luke: Jesus is the Son of Man.
- Mark: Jesus is the Suffering Servant.
- Matthew: Jesus is the Sovereign King.
- Introduction of the King
- He is the Savior.
- He is the Messiah.
- He is the son of David.
- He is the son of Abraham.
- Overview of the Kingdom
- Gospel: The message of the kingdom
- Disciples: The citizens of the kingdom
- Discipleship: The demands of the kingdom
- Church: The outpost of the kingdom
- Mission: The spread of the kingdom
- Demons: The enemies of the kingdom
- Hope: The coming of the kingdom
- Salvation through the King
- God saves only by His sovereign grace.
- God saves ultimately for His global purpose.
- The Bottom Line
- Like the leaders, will you completely reject Jesus?
- Like the crowds, will you casually observe Jesus?
- Like the disciples, will you unconditionally follow Jesus?
The book of Matthew is a Gospel, an account of good news. That point may sound obvious, but we can't overlook it as we consider this first book of the New Testament. "Gospel" literally means "good news," and Matthew's purpose in this book is to write an account of the good news of Jesus Christ—how Jesus came, what Jesus did, what Jesus said, and what Jesus accomplished in His death and resurrection. These truths are intended to change our lives and the entire world.
In order for us to rightly interpret Matthew's Gospel, we need to understand what it is and what it is not. First, as we consider this Gospel, we need to remember that it is not a congregational letter. Matthew is not like 1 Timothy, a letter written by Paul sent to Timothy and the church at Ephesus. This Gospel is not primarily addressing a certain congregation in a certain situation; rather, it is presenting Jesus Christ—who He is and what He has done—to all people. Second, as you read through Matthew you will also notice that it is not a comprehensive biography. Matthew was not trying to include every minute detail of Jesus' life. There are many things that have been left out. Matthew chose various stories and abbreviated teachings from Jesus' life in order to accomplish a specific purpose. This Gospel includes what it does because the author wants to say something specific about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Finally, concerning the purpose of Matthew's Gospel, we see that it is not a chronological history. Obviously, time plays a role in Matthew's arrangement, since he begins with Jesus' birth and ends with Jesus' death and resurrection. However, within this broad framework, Matthew has intentionally arranged his material around specific emphases. In particular, Matthew organizes his Gospel around five distinct teaching sections, and in between sections he tells us different stories, or narrative accounts. After the first four chapters of narrative in Matthew, we come upon the first teaching section in chapters 5-7, a section we know as the Sermon on the Mount. Immediately following Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew says, "When Jesus had finished this sermon..." (7:28). We might think of these summary statements to be the "seams" stitching together the major teaching sections. Consider the following five seams:
- 7:28-29 — "When Jesus had finished this sermon..."
- 11:1 — "When Jesus had finished giving orders to His 12 disciples..."
- 13:53 — "When Jesus had finished these parables..."
- 19:1 — "When Jesus had finished this instruction..."
- 26:1 — "When Jesus had finished saying all this..."
Matthew's structure is not accidental. It is intentional—even beautiful. After each of the five key teaching sections, he gives us one of these summary statements. By this organization, Matthew gives us a beautiful portrait of Jesus' words and deeds. In considering this structure, we need to remember the main point of this Gospel, namely, to give us an account of the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Next we'll consider Matthew's portrait of Jesus in relation to the other Gospels.
The book of Matthew is one of four Gospels. Each Gospel writer gives us an account of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Now there are certainly similarities among all four Gospels, but each one uses different stories at different times and in different ways in order to emphasize different truths about Jesus. It's as if the good news about Christ is a multi-colored diamond that you can look at from a variety of different angles, with each angle giving you a unique and glorious glimpse of the Lord Jesus. Still, at the end of the day, it's the same diamond. While Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are composed by different writers and written with different emphases, each Gospel is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16).
The following is admittedly an oversimplification, but it may help us to see some of the different emphases of the four Gospels. These emphases are even evident in the way that the Gospels begin:
- John: Jesus is the Son of God. Instead of including a genealogy like Matthew, John begins by saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (1:1). John is showing us Jesus' divinity from the start. He even gives us a purpose statement toward the close of the book: "But these [signs] are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name" (20:31).
- Luke: Jesus is the Son of Man. Jesus' significance for all humanity is emphasized from the very beginning of Luke's Gospel. His genealogy in chapter 3, for instance, is framed differently from Matthew's. In ascending order, Luke traces the physical lineage of Jesus to Adam, whereas Matthew begins with Abraham and moves forward to Jesus.
- Mark: Jesus is the Suffering Servant. Mark doesn't give us a genealogy. Instead, from the very start, there is a clear emphasis on Jesus coming, not to be served, but to "serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many" (10:45). Mark also highlights the suffering that will come to all who follow Jesus.
- Matthew: Jesus is the Sovereign King. From the very beginning, Matthew makes clear that Jesus is the King, coming from the line of King David (1:1), and He is the Messiah, the promised One from the line of Abraham (1:1). In descending order, Matthew traces the legal lineage of Jesus from Abraham. Matthew shows us that Jesus came not simply from Adam, but more specifically from the line of the kings in Israel. He is the promised King!
A few more points regarding Matthew's genealogy may be helpful. First, he is not giving us a comprehensive genealogy, that is, not every descendant in the family tree is included in this list. This genealogy is specifically arranged in groups of 14, as Matthew himself tells us in 1:17: "So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations." Matthew has arranged his genealogy this way for a reason that goes all the way back to the Hebrew name for King David. The Hebrews recognized something called gematria, a system of assigning numerical values to certain words based on the corresponding letters of the Hebrew alphabet. When you add up the numerical values of the Hebrew consonants in David's name, you get a total of 14 (Blomberg, Matthew, 53). In addition, David's name is the fourteenth in Matthew's list (Blomberg, 53)! Clearly, Matthew intended to connect Jesus to King David.
Once we see some of these pieces put together, it should be clear that Matthew's genealogy should not be skipped over in order to get to the "good stuff." These opening verses help clue us in to the purpose of Matthew's Gospel.
Introduction of the King
As we consider Matthew's genealogy in verses 1-17, it may be helpful to highlight several significant names along the way. This list is saturated with Old Testament history. Consider the following: David (1), the first name mentioned, is the king whose line God promised to establish for all time (2 Sam 7). Abraham (v. 1) was the one through whom God's promised blessing would come to the whole world (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-6). Isaac (v. 2), Abraham's son, was a miracle-baby born to a mom named Sarah, who was shocked to find out that she would have a child. This supernatural birth would set the stage for Mary (v. 16), who was also pretty shocked (though for different reasons) to find out that she was going to have a child. Tamar is the first woman mentioned (v. 3). According to Genesis 38, Tamar was Judah's daughter-in-law, and it was sinful incest that led to the birth of the twins mentioned in verse 3, Perez and Zerah. The second woman mentioned is Rahab (v. 5), a prostitute who was spared when the people of God came into the promised land (Josh 2). Ruth is the third woman mentioned (v. 5). She was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4), a people known for their sexual immorality, and who at one time were forbidden to come into the assembly of God's people. These 14 generations leading up to King David make up the first of three sets of 14 generations.
In the second set of 14, we see the fourth woman mentioned (she is not explicitly named here)—Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (v. 6). Bathsheba was brought into David's kingly line through adultery and murder (2 Sam 11). Then, picking up with Solomon, Matthew lists the kings in Israel leading up to the exile (vv. 7-11). A few of these kings honored the Lord, but most of them were evil, leading the people of God into sin and idolatry. This eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon (Jer 52). Thus ends the second group of 14 generations, which, again, would have sparked images and conjured up emotions and stories in the minds of Jewish readers who knew their Old Testament.
In the third set of 14 generations, in verses 12-16, Matthew traces Jesus' genealogy from the deportation to Babylon to the birth of Jesus Christ.
All in all, this is one crooked family tree! Yet, this was the family tree through which the incarnate Son of God stepped onto the pages of human history. So why is this genealogy important? Why was it significant for Matthew to begin his Gospel in this way, both for the original hearers and for us today?
First, consider the original audience. Most of Matthew's readers were either Jewish people who had put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or they were Jewish people who were contemplating trusting in Jesus. Either way, this thoroughly Jewish genealogy would have been massively significant. Mark, by contrast, likely had a predominantly Gentile audience in mind, so it wasn't as critical for his original hearers to understand the Jewish lineage leading to Christ. But for Jewish men and women who were considering trusting in Christ as the Messiah, or for those Jews who had already trusted in Christ as the Messiah and were as a result losing their families, their possessions, and their own physical safety, this genealogy was extremely significant.
In his introduction of Jesus as the King, Matthew points out that He is the Savior. Verse 1 begins, "The historical record of Jesus Christ." The name "Jesus" is the Greek form of the name "Joshua" or "Yeshua," which means "Yahweh saves," or "The Lord is salvation." This theme fits with the angel's instructions to Joseph later in the chapter: "She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins" (v. 21; emphasis added). Recall from the Old Testament that Joshua was the leader appointed by God to take His people into the promised land; now, Jesus is the leader appointed by God to take sinful people into eternal life.
After looking at the name "Jesus," we turn to the title "Christ." By applying this title to Jesus, Matthew is telling us that He is the Messiah. It is important to keep in mind that "Christ" is not Jesus' last name. No, "Christ" literally means "Messiah" or "Anointed One." Throughout the Old Testament there were promises of a coming anointed one, a Messiah, who would powerfully deliver God's people. Here Matthew says of Jesus, "This is He, the One we've waited for!"
Next, continuing in verse 1, we learn of Jesus' royal identity: He is the son of David. When we think about the son of David, we're reminded of David's desire to build the temple of the Lord in 2 Samuel 7. Here is God's response:
When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Sam 7:12-13)
The Lord informed David that he, David, would not be the one to build the temple, but that his son Solomon would. God made a covenant with David in the context of this discussion and promised him two primary things. First, David was promised that a continual seed will endure to the end (2 Sam 7:13). This was a promise that God would bless Solomon, David's son. However, we know that the promise extends beyond Solomon, because God was not just referring to the next generation—the throne of this kingdom would be established "forever" (v. 13). That word "forever" is repeated over and over in 2 Samuel 7 (vv. 16, 24, 25, 26, and 29). God was telling David that his seed, his family, would endure forever. As readers in the twenty-first century, we should be struck by the fact that a promise given in 2 Samuel 7 is still active today. This promise is literally shaping eternity.
The second thing God promised to David was that an honored son will reign on the throne. This promise had an immediate reference to Solomon; however, God promised that the throne would be established forever: "Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever" (2 Sam 7:16). The Old Testament had been pointing to a continual seed that would endure and an honored son from the seed of David who would reign on the throne. This is precisely what the prophets spoke of.
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.
Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight will be in the fear of the Lord
On that day the root of Jesse
will stand as a banner for the peoples.
The nations will seek Him,
and His resting place will be glorious.
"The days are coming"—this is the Lord's declaration—
"when I will raise up a Righteous Branch of David.
He will reign wisely as king
and administer justice and righteousness in the land.
In His days Judah will be saved,
and Israel will dwell securely.
This is what He will be named:
Yahweh Our Righteousness."
My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow My ordinances, and keep My statutes and obey them.
They will live in the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They will live in it forever with their children and grandchildren, and My servant David will be their prince forever.
In each of these passages there is an assumption that God's promise is continuing. For instance, in the final passage—Ezekiel 37—the people are in exile, having been ripped away from their home city, Jerusalem. The temple has been destroyed and the people are wondering, "Have God's promises failed?" And while King David was dead at this point, Ezekiel still speaks of David being king. The prophet is picking up on God's promise that through the line of David, God's kingdom would be established forever. The covenant would be an everlasting covenant (Ezek 37:26). To a people who for generations had longed for a Messiah from the line of David, Matthew is not just giving a list of names in this genealogy; he's announcing the arrival of the King.
After telling us that Jesus is the Son of David, Matthew then tells us that He is the son of Abraham (v. 1). Once again we're thrust back into the Old Testament, all the way back to Genesis 12. Here is God's word to Abraham:
Go out from your land,
and your father's house
to the land that I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who treat you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you. (Gen 12:1-3)
Based on this passage, we see the following:
- God will form a covenant people. God would make Israel into a "great nation."
- God will give them a promised inheritance on earth. This inheritance would become known as the promised land.
- God will use them to accomplish a global purpose. Abraham and those who come from him will be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
God's promise to Abraham is reiterated in chapter 15 and then again in chapter 17. In 17:5-6 God says, "Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you." Through Abraham's line God says that He will send a King. Then in verses 15-16 of the same chapter, God says of Sarah, Abraham's wife, "I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her" (emphasis added). Speaking of Abraham's line again in these verses, God says that God's kingdom will one day expand to all people groups. This truth is reiterated later, in Genesis 49:10, where Jacob prophesies, "The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until He whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him." Again, God is promising a royal line.
God works out His promise to Abraham in Israel's history and ultimately through His Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing in history is accidental. Every detail in the Old Testament, even from the very beginning (Gen 3:15), was pointing to a King who would come. History revolves around a King who would come—a King who now has come! Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, is the center of it all.
You are not at the center of history. I am not at the center of history. Our generation is not at the center of history. The United States of America is not at the center of history. Billions of people have come and billions have gone; empires have come and empires have gone; countries, nations, kings, queens, presidents, dictators, and rulers have all come and gone. At the center of it all stands one person: Jesus the Christ. This is the bold claim of Matthew's Gospel. And if this Jesus is the King of all history, then it follows that He should be the King of your life. When you realize His rule and submit to His reign, it changes everything about how you live. Everything.
Overview of the Kingdom
In light of what we've seen above from Matthew's opening words and the promises of the Old Testament, God's kingdom figures prominently in this first Gospel. Consider how a number of concepts fit within this kingdom framework:
- Gospel: The message of the kingdom. The central message in the mouth of Jesus is clear: "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!" (Matt 4:17).
- Disciples: The citizens of the kingdom. In Matthew 5-7, which we refer to as The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins by telling us what kingdom citizens are like.
- Discipleship: The demands of the kingdom. Following this King is costly, for He says in Matthew 10, "Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it" (v. 39).
- Church: The outpost of the kingdom. Matthew is the only Gospel writer who actually uses the word for church—ekklesia. We're going to see that Jesus has designed His people under His rule to be a demonstration, a living picture, of the kingdom of God at work. Do you want to see what people look like who live under the rule and reign of King Jesus? Look at the church, Matthew says.
- Mission: The spread of the kingdom. The church proclaims the gospel of the kingdom, and not even the gates of hell will be able to stop it (Matt 16:18).
- Demons: The enemies of the kingdom. The Gospel of Matthew makes very clear that the Devil and all his minions are absolutely opposed to this King and everyone and everything in His kingdom, including you and me. But, Satan's power is limited and his doom is assured.
- Hope: The coming of the kingdom. In the Gospel of Matthew we get a dual picture of the coming of God's kingdom.
- On the one hand, the kingdom is a present reality. The great announcement in the book of Matthew is that the King is here! Jesus Christ has broken into a dark and hurting world, bringing healing and forgiveness. He binds up the brokenhearted, He gives rest to the weary, He gives sight to the blind, and He gives life to the dead.
- On the other hand, Matthew will also show us that the kingdom is a future realization. Jesus dies on the cross, rises from the grave, and before departing from His disciples, He promises to return. The King is coming back. At His first coming, Jesus came as a crying baby. At His second coming, Jesus will come as the crowned King.
Salvation through the King
We've seen already that Matthew's genealogy is so much more than a list of names or simply a historical record for first-century Jewish readers. It presents Jesus Christ as the climactic fulfillment of God's promises of a coming King and His kingdom. Also included in this genealogy is a picture of how God saves. Matthew tells us at least two things in this opening section about the nature of God's salvation.
First, God saves only by His sovereign grace. The list of names in verses 1-17 is full of evil kings and sinful men and women, a description that includes Abraham and David as well. Abraham was a polygamist patriarch who lied about his wife twice. David was an adulterous murderer. And the list goes on and on. It's amazing to think that the great, great, great, great, great grandparents of Jesus hated God and were leading other people to hate Him too. Clearly, then, Jesus came not because of Israel's righteousness, but in spite of Israel's sinfulness.
Throughout Scripture we see the sinful responsibility of man. Evil kings and evil men lived their lives in rebellion against God, and they were responsible for their sin. Nevertheless, God was working in and through these people. In the midst of man's sinfulness, we also see the supreme will of God. At no point were any of the men and women mentioned in this genealogy outside of the sovereign control of God. Yes, they were choosing to disobey God, and they were responsible for that. At the same time, God was ordaining all of this to bring about the birth of His Son.
In addition to the men mentioned earlier, the list of sinful women on Matthew's list is equally stunning. The message is clear: Jesus came for (and through) the morally outcast. Tamar was guilty of incest (Gen 38). Rahab was a prostitute (Josh 2). Ruth spent a rather shady night at Boaz's feet (Ruth 3), but more importantly she was a Moabitess, a people known for their sexual immorality. Finally, the wife of Uriah is mentioned (Matthew doesn't actually record her name—Bathsheba), even though she committed adultery with David. So we have adultery, sexual immorality, prostitution, and incest; you'd think Matthew would have chosen some different women to include here! You may also have recognized the last woman on this list—Mary, the mother of Jesus. As an unwed, pregnant woman, she was surrounded by rumors of sexual scandal (1:18-25). This is a surprising way to introduce the Savior of the world.
So why is this theme of sexual immorality so prominent in this genealogy, and why are these people included in the line that leads to Christ? For the same reason your name is included in the line that leads from Christ—solely because of the sovereign grace of God. Praise be to God that He delights in saving sinful, immoral outcasts! This theme of sovereign grace even applies to Matthew, the author of this Gospel. Matthew was a tax collector, a Jew who made his living by cheating other Jewish people. When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, the only people Matthew knew to invite to his house for a party were moral reprobates (9:10-13)! Matthew knew he was the least likely person to be writing this Gospel, which is fitting for a book that announces good news. God saves not based on any merit in us, but totally on sovereign mercy in Him. If He didn't save like that, we would all be damned.
Not only did He come for (and through) the morally outcast, but also Jesus came for (and through) the ethnically diverse. These women—Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth—were all Gentile women. Bathsheba may have been an Israelite, yet Matthew calls her "Uriah's wife," for Uriah was a Hittite (2 Sam 11:3). This ethnically diverse genealogy leads to the second aspect of God's salvation in this genealogy: God saves ultimately for His global purpose. Recall the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, that "all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you." God's promise to His people is for the sake of all peoples. This universal plan will reappear throughout Matthew's Gospel, and at the center of this plan is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
Matthew shows us repeatedly that Jesus fulfills God's promise to bless His chosen people. This helps explain why his Gospel is loaded with Old Testament references. Jesus came to bring salvation to the people of Israel, a point Matthew makes clear (15:24). But that wasn't all: Just as God promised to bless His chosen people Israel for the sake of all peoples, so Jesus accomplishes God's purpose to bless all peoples. Jesus would pour His life into twelve Jewish disciples, and then He would tell them, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (28:19). The end will not come, Jesus says, until the "good news of the kingdom" is "proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations" (24:14).
Matthew's Gospel teaches us that an emphasis on missions is not just a made-up program that man has come up with; it's all over the Bible. Missions have been the purpose of God from the very beginning of history, with His saving acts culminating in the person and work of Christ. Now all followers of Christ are on a global mission to make this King known among all nations, to spread the gospel of this kingdom at home and among every people group on the planet.
At the end of the day, how does God save us? Solely by His sovereign grace. Why does God save us? Ultimately for His global purpose. This is at the heart of Matthew's genealogy. The question then becomes how we will respond.
The Bottom Line
As we move forward in the book of Matthew, we are going to see three distinct groups of people: (1) The religious leaders who deny Jesus, (2) the crowds of people who follow Jesus as long as He gives them what they want and attracts their interest (but who ultimately and eternally walk away), and (3) the very small group of disciples who are going to follow Jesus, learn from Him, and eventually lose their lives for Him. As you read Matthew's Gospel, you must decide which group you are in.
Like the leaders, will you completely reject Jesus? We are going to see attacks on Jesus' character and attacks on Jesus' claims throughout this book by people who pridefully choose to deny that Jesus is King.
Like the crowds, will you casually observe Jesus? This is the place where many church attenders, probably even many church members, find themselves today. Content to observe Jesus, to give Him token allegiance, they add Him as a part of their life. These are people who do good things and are actively involved in the church in different ways. They are, in some way or another, associated with Jesus. And one day they will say, "Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?" (7:22). And Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!" (7:23).
Like the disciples, will you unconditionally follow Jesus? In a day when nominal Christianity and lazy discipleship are rampant in America and in many places around the world, will you rise up and say to Jesus, "You are King, and because You are King, there are no conditions on my obedience to You. I will follow You wherever You lead me, I will give You whatever You ask of me. I will abandon all I have and all I am because You are King and You are worthy of nothing less"? This is the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ.
How will you respond?
Reflect and Discuss
- What is Matthew's overall purpose in writing this Gospel?
- How is it possible for the four Gospel writers to each have a purpose in mind yet write accurate historical accounts?
- How is Matthew's Gospel different from a New Testament letter?
- Which person in the genealogy do you most resonate with, and why?
- What is the significance of the term "Christ"?
- What did the Old Testament prophets promise the Jewish "Messiah" would be, and how is He also good news for the Gentiles?
- How did morally outcast people figure in to Jesus' coming?
- In what way does this Gospel have a global purpose?
- Explain how the kingdom has arrived and is yet to arrive.
- How should true disciples respond to Jesus as a result of Matthew's Gospel?