1. Jesus as the Messianic king
Several features in Matthew emphasize Jesus as the Messianic king. One is the genealogy in Matthew 1 that so deliberately accentuates David. The genealogy is laid out in three sets of fourteen: from Abraham to David, from David to Babylon, and from Babylon to Christ (1:17). The structure suggests that Jesus Christ embodies the revival of David’s kingdom after its tragic collapse at the hands of Babylon. Second, Jesus is referred to as the “Son of David” ten times, far more than in any other of the Gospels (1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42). Matthew even opens in a way that puts Jesus Davidic descent in the limelight (1:1). Third, Matthew 2 depicts the birth of Jesus as the birth of the king of the Jews (2:1). Fourth, Jesus calls Himself king in the Olivet Discourse (25:34, 40). Finally, Matthew uses Christ’s favorite self-designation “Son of man” 32 times, more than any other Gospel. This term “Son of man” comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel (7:13) and, somewhat surprisingly, occurs in a context of the Messiah’s receiving a kingdom. Jesus is Daniel’s Son of man who will receive a kingdom, and Matthew is not ashamed to quote Jesus’ allusions to Himself in this way. In fact, Matthew, most clearly of all the Gospels, identifies the angels as belonging to the Son of man (13:41; 16:27; 24:31), suggesting He is both royalty and deity.
2. Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophecies
A key purpose of Matthew in writing his Gospel seems to be to prove to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah. Matthew repeatedly tells a detail in his Gospel, cites an Old Testament passage, and then explicitly comments on how the detail he mentioned fulfilled that passage. He does this far more than any of the other gospels. Some examples include Christ’s virgin birth (1:22-23), His birth in Bethlehem (2:5-6), His exile in Egypt (2:15), His being called a Nazarene (2:23), His bearing our infirmities (8:16-17), and many, many others. You should find at least fifteen examples of these kinds of fulfilled prophecies as you read Matthew.
3. Jesus as preparing His subjects for His kingdom
Matthew includes five of Jesus’ discourses: Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7), Apostles’ commissioning (ch. 10), kingdom parables (ch. 13), Assorted themes (ch. 18), and the Olivet Discourse (chs. 24-25). Since Jesus was the King, the kingdom really had drawn near when He arrived (3:2; 4:17; 10:7). But His kingdom operated on different principles than earthly kingdoms, and His discourses brought out some of those differences. For example, His kingdom citizens are characterized by righteousness, humility is the pathway to greatness, and His followers must wait patiently and expectantly for His return.
4. Jesus’s authority is universal and encompasses all nations
Every gospel has some form of the Great Commission but Matthew’s is the best known and most quoted. Matthew makes clear that the Great Commission rests upon Jesus universal authority. His consummate authority over heaven and earth is what gives us the right and duty to urge all nations to become His followers. And all these followers are to fully obey all that He has commanded. That’s authority. But after all, He is the King!
Christ’s promised presence (28:20) to those who make proclaiming His authority their primary business takes us full circle. In Matthew 1, Christ’s birth is the coming of Immanuel--God with us (1:23). Matthew’s closing words are Christ’s: “And, behold, I personally am with you always until the end of the age.” Immanuel has not left us but is rather with us as our constant companion until the time to proclaim Him to the nations is over.
Have you experienced Immanuel’s presence in your Great Commission work?