PAX began a business writing services new focus in the Gospel of Matthew a couple of weeks ago. The idea is to take the Manifesto of Jesus, the sermon on the Mount (or Sermon on the Plain according to Luke) and use it as a telescopic lens to see the rest of the book. So for the next 8 weeks or so we are moving beatitude by beatitude through the life of Christ – who doesn’t merely tell us about the kingdom but who is, embodies, the Kingdom!
Matthew being a Jew doesn’t use the language used in some of the other Gospels when referring to the Kingdom. Where the others will use the terminology “the Kingdom of God” in order to connect with their intended audience, Matthew prefers to use “the Kingdom of Heaven”. The name of God, Yahweh, was held in such high sacredness that it was not repeated lightly among the Jews, which Matthew is and to whom he writes. Elsewhere in scripture we read about “the kingdom of Life”. All three of these statements are interchangeable in scripture. If you are part of the Kingdom of God you are a part of the Kingdom of Life, you are part of the Kingdom of Heaven. However you MUST be a part of the Kingdom of Life to be a part of the Kingdom of God- You are not automatically in because you are one of God’s creations. Why else does Jesus come preaching the Kingdom? There is a criteria, a standard, an entrance exam! But what is it? That’s what Jesus tells us and SO much more!
First though a quick background or if you want to call it the ‘Redemptive Historical Set-up’. Matthew has become the proto Gospel- the first among equals if you like, over time in Church History. The Gospel of Mark was most likely written first but the good news of the kingdom, preached by Christ came first to the Jews. For this reason, and many others, the book of Matthew became prominent as the first Gospel in the canon.
One of the greater reasons is also the place that it holds in the history of the redemptive promise of God. Old Testament: God creates out of the pleasure of His Triune person. The Creation, man and woman, choose to turn their back on this good pleasure poured out to them by their Creator and instead choose to follow after the desire, pleasure of self outside of God’s will they replace the Imago Dei (image of God) for the Ego Dei (Image of self as god). God, however, pours out grace, forgiveness and love as a response to his love for humanity, even as He acts in justice, and judgment as a response to His holiness. He promises to pursue, woe, and cause humanity to return to this great place of the pleasure of God. He promises (covenants), a redemption (a freedom bought back from rebellion), by His own good hand to a remnant who will turn to Him. This is the essence of the Old Testament, God is sending a Messiah (promise made to Adam and others), a King (promise made to David and others) who will bring in the Kingdom.
This Kingdom will be a place of rich provision, of God’s presence, to a group of people called His own. I would argue from this that the Old Testament ends in unfulfilled frustration, and even disappointment. The remnant of the nation is back in Israel, the country is still under disarray. The nation is being ruled by one who is from the line of David, but he holds not a kings position but rules only as a governor. The temple is being rebuilt to the chagrin and disappointment of those who had witnessed the former glory of the former temple, it was notably embarrassing. This is ‘the kingdom’ that Israel is left with in the Old Testament. They cling to, hope for, long for, pray for and still wait ……the Old Testament ends with a poor excuse for a kingdom with a dissatisfied ending.
Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”
Matthew breaks through the disappointment, the waiting, the waiting – Jesus Christ has come as the promised King Messiah!
Look at the rest of Chapter 1 – Matthew clearly states Christ is the Messiah King: The burden of proof is in your Scriptures; The burden of authority is in the Sovereign hand of God and the life of Christ Himself confirms that the King of the kingdom has arrived! Christ comes in fulfillment of the prophets, and in fullness of the Holy Spirit. Christ comes and like Adam is tempted (ch4) unlike Adam without sin. Christ comes through the water and enters the wilderness of temptation like Israel, yet unlike Israel He uses the book of Israel’s instruction, Deuteronomy, to defeat the enemy- Jesus is the second Adam the promised Savior. Jesus is the true remnant of Israel who will keep the covenant with God! JESUS is more then an example, more then a teacher, more then a good man – Jesus was and is the Christ (Messiah) saving King!