Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Emmanuel: God With Us…TODAY!

January 13, 2008

In the mornings, I have been reading through the Gospel according to Matthew. Without doubt, I have found the evangelist’s testimony very comforting during this time as my wife and I seek his face and ask for his wisdom concerning the next few months with a baby on the way and doctoral work just around the corner (Lord willing for both). This is so because at both ends of his testimony concerning Jesus, the son of Abraham, the Son of David, there lies an outstanding emphasis concerning the nature of the incarnation and his current reign, the nature of this Messiah’s coming to his people then and this same Messiah’s presence with his people now.

At the beginning of his Gospel, Matthew helps us to see that Jesus is the expected Messiah from Abraham’s progeny and David’s royal line (Matt 1:1-17). In a sense, we might say that Matthew picked up the pen the Chronicler laid down in order to continue the Gospel-narrative set forth by the Old Testament (1 Chr 5:2 [cf. Gen 49:10]; 14:2 [cf. Num 24:7]; 2 Chr 6:6; 9:8; 21:7; 36:22-23). What is unique about this seed of Abraham, this son of David, is that he will not be begot (or “fathered”) by a man, as those in verses 1:2-16a, but by the Lord himself. The virgin Mary will conceive, and the child would be “of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:20). What is more, this baby shall be called “‘Emmanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us'”, in fulfillment of what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah (1:22-23 [Isa 7:14]). 

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, following his identification of Jesus with Isaiah‘s Suffering Servant (Matt 8:17 [Isa 53:4]), especially in his passion narrative (Matt 26:63 [Isa 53:7]; 26:67 [Isa 50:6; cf. 53:5]), God triumphantly raises Jesus from the dead and gives him all authority in heaven and on earth, a declaration Jesus shares with his disciples on the designated mountain (Matt 28:18). Because Jesus reigns, all the nations will be discipled, baptized, and taught (28:19-20a). What is more, Jesus states “Behold, I am [present tense!] with you all the days until the end of the age” (28:20b), a reverberation of Matthew 1:23, a rather fitting conclusion to Matthew’s testimony, and a message we must grasp today.

I find this book-end emphasis in Matthew’s Gospel quite intriguing, but even more so amazing, especially in its connection with Isaiah’s message. Throughout Isaiah, we find a unique theme concerning mount Zion. Zion lay in shambles as Isaiah preached to the rebellious Judah and Jerusalem (Isa 1:8; 3:16); however, such a desperate state did not hinder the Lord from declaring Gospel-promise, a coming day of redemption (2:2-3; 9:7; 52:8; 59:20; 60:14; 66:8). For Isaiah, Zion is the place where God dwells in majesty with his purified people, the throne of his appointed redeemer-king, and the place of refuge for all his children, even all the nations (2:3; 8:18; 14:32; 18:7; 24:23; 28:16; 35:10; 40:9; 46:13; 51:3, 16; 59:20). In this sense, Isaiah’s overall “Zion” message is nothing less than Gospel for his listeners. God will bring about a day of redemption through his appointed king who dwells with his people on Zion’s hill.

When we read Matthew’s Gospel in light of Isaiah’s glorious Zion motif we find something spectacular. Isaiah’s expected son, Emmanuel, is Jesus Christ, the son of David. He is God, and is indeed with us. He dwelt among us when he came humbly as a man–even more, a suffering servant. Having bore our iniquities on the cross, having been raised from the dead to ever reign as king, Zion’s King(!), he promises to be present with us, to dwell with us, until our faith becomes sight. God came to be among us in Christ; he still is among us in Christ, and for that reason we shall endure this age and press on in the faith, gathering the nations and telling them all to behold the King whom the Lord has seated on Zion’s hill.


Jeremiah, Jesus, and “Fishers of men”

November 10, 2007

Last week, during my morning prayer time, it became even clearer to me that Matthew 4:18-20 is not Matthew’s clever way of granting the coming generations a cute sermon illustration about what kind of bait we should use on the hook in evangelism efforts. Instead, he is showing us something far more significant in the scope of God’s redemptive history, especially in the mission of Jesus and his disciples.

I was reading through Jeremiah 16. In this chapter, Jeremiah is told that he cannot marry, grieve, or attend feasts with the people. This, of course, serves to separate him from the ways of the adulterous nation of Israel (16:1-9). The Lord then explains, that the next and only step forward for the nation’s restoration is through their suffering under his judgment in exile (16:10-13). However, brighter days await Israel with the hope of a new exodus, that is, of deliverance from exile (16:14-15). And just how will the Lord gather his own people, which he scattered abroad among the nations? He will do so with fishermen: “Behold, I am sending for fishermen (Grk. haleeis, LXX), declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of  the clefts of rocks” (16:16). Though none will escape the impending judgment, Israel’s salvation is secure and all the Gentile nations shall know the name of Yahweh (16:17-21). 

Now, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus walks by the sea of Galilee and sees two brothers, Simon (a.k.a. Peter) and Andrew, casting their net into the sea, and two others, James and John, mending their nets. Narrating the story, Matthew then calls his reader’s attention to the obvious fact that these men were fishermen (Grk. halieis), and next shows Jesus using such an incident to demand they follow him. In doing so, they will not become better commercial fishermen. No, these men will become a completely different kind of fishermen, ones who fish for people, not food.

This sounds very similar to Jeremiah’s prophecy (16:16). What is more, the “fishers of men” passage in Matthew immediately follows a text that interprets the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the ingathering of the nations: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentilesthe people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” What Matthew wants us to see is this: Jesus’ mission has inaugarated the new and final exodus, and those who follow him on the Calvary road and in the proclamation of the Gospel join him in gathering people from among the nations for his name’s sake.  

What were the responses of Peter, Andrew, James, and John? “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matt 4:20, 22). We should be quick to do the same. The final days of salvation have come upon us, and the ingathering of the nations into the people of God is readily before us. Through Jeremiah, the Lord promised to bring about this day, and doubtless Jesus understands it being fulfilled in his own cross-mission as Matthew so testifies. May we all follow Jesus in calling people from every nation to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17).

I. Becoming a Lamp on a Stand (Matt 5:13-16)

April 28, 2007

Blake Hicks kicked everything off with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. As kingdom people, Christians are salt and light, and play a valuable role in bringing saving and healing advantages to a world in need of Jesus. As salt we bring preservation where there is decay and flavor to what is tasteless. If we become bland oursleves (i.e. no longer salty), however, then there is no other use for us except to be trampled under foot by men. As light we shine forth the glory of Christ to others and, at the same time, expose the darkness which the lost love. Without doubt, when both of these things occur, people will insult us and persecute us; however, according to Jesus, this should be a cause for rejoicing (Matt 5:11-12). (more…)