June 21, 2023
Thank you for joining in the desire to pray each Wednesday for revival and for our prodigals. Prayer is one way that we can demonstrate to both the physical and spiritual realms that we are loyal dependent subjects of the One True King.
The gospel of Matthew is the first in our New Testament and breaks the 400-year silence between Malachi and the announcement of Jesus’ birth. He bridges the gap between the old and new. His goal is to show the Jews that Jesus is the long-expected Messiah, the Son of David, the eternal king, and that His life fulfilled the prophecies of old.
While Luke and John clearly gave their reason for writing, Matthew doesn’t provide a purpose statement (Luke 1:4, John 20:31). Yet, the very first verse provides a strong hint for the focus of the content of this book: “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).
Jesus is immediately identified as belonging to the royal kingly line of David and Abraham, the father of all Jews. Matthew’s Jewish readers would have immediately understood the significance of these references to their revered forefathers.
Matthew quotes from the ancient Scriptures almost 30 times, and 13 of those say, “to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 1:22).
Matthew’s name, which was previously Levi, means “gift of the Lord.” Jesus delivered him from a sinful life of thievery and extortion, as he had been a tax collector for the Roman Empire, and used him and his message as a gift to God’s people.
Imagine the struggles and difficulties these early Jewish believers must have had in accepting what seemed to them like a new religion that required them to give up their traditions and orthodoxy and embrace something different. But Matthew shows them that to receive Jesus, the Messiah, they were not being told to give up their old faith, but rather replace the symbols and shadows with the real substance. (This is exactly what the Apostle Paul does later in the book of Galatians.)
Matthew’s words would bring assurance and confirmation that in receiving Jesus, the right choice was being made! While this was especially important back then, it is equally important to us today. If you are trusting Jesus, you are trusting the One True King!
Matthew, knowing that Jesus was the prophesied king, also wrote to explain God’s kingdom program. The first-century believers who had left the shadows to follow Christ must have wondered what would become of them and what would happen in the future. So Matthew explained how and why Jesus was rejected by Israel and God’s program following that rejection.
The expression “kingdom of heaven” is found 31 times in Matthew and not once in the other gospels. This phrase is synonymous with “kingdom of God” and is used to highlight the central theme of Jesus' teachings and the ultimate goal of His ministry, describing the reality of God’s reign and authority over all creation.
Jesus teaches that this kingdom is not limited to a specific geographical location but is a spiritual reality that transcends earthly boundaries.
His kingdom has both a present and future dimension. For those willing to receive the Messiah, it is a spiritual realm that we enjoy in Christ, as we submit to God's will and experience His transforming power in our lives. However, it also refers to a future reign that will be fully realized when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on earth (Matthew 16:28).
His kingdom has ethical and moral ideals. These principles are expounded by Jesus in His famous Sermon on the Mount discourse (Matthew 5-7). These words outline the righteousness and values that should govern the lives of those who belong to the kingdom. He spoke of things such as humility, love, forgiveness, justice, and mercy.
When teaching His disciples to pray, He said, “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). He not only wanted them to live presently by kingdom standards, He wanted them to pray for His kingdom to be fully established on earth.
Henri Nouwen said, “God’s Kingdom is a place of abundance where every generous act overflows its original bounds and becomes part of the unbounded grace of God at work in the world.”
His kingdom is both inclusive and universal. It is open to all who believe and respond to the invitation to enter.
Matthew records the beautiful invitation of Jesus, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). This transcends moral, social, and religious boundaries. It includes Gentiles (non-Jews) in the kingdom and opens the door to all who are willing to submit to the King.
I like the words of Rachel Held Evans, “This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”
His kingdom brings about transformation and restoration in individuals and within community, providing deliverance from sin and fulfillment in Christ. The miracles and acts of compassion of Jesus demonstrate the power and impact of the kingdom in addressing human brokenness.
The parables of Jesus recorded in Matthew 13 compare the kingdom to a harvest of wheat, a mustard seed, a treasure, a pearl of great price and a net full of fish, all of which the Jews of that time period could easily understand and relate to. By doing so, He unlocked the secrets of the kingdom, the results of the gospel during this present age.
The kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ involves cost and discipleship. Being in the kingdom of heaven necessitates a commitment to discipleship and a willingness to surrender to God's will. Jesus emphasized the cost of following Him and the need for wholehearted devotion and obedience. Matthew 10 explains this.
What is being asked was exemplified through Jesus’ life and made possible through His death, burial, and resurrection. Best of all, He promised His presence with us forever, in the final words of Matthew’s gospel, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
May God help each of us to live for the advancement of heaven’s kingdom!
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel