What beautiful elements to this paragraph! “[The Holy Spirit was] coming down on [Jesus]….[says the Father]: ‘I take delight in Him!’
Matthew is unambiguous in his mention of the Trinitarian God. He not only mentions them, but he depicts them in a wonderful dance of inclusion and delight. The Spirit is happy to descend upon the Son; the Father delights in the Son; the Son joyfully welcomes both the Spirit and the Father!
The first thing that comes to mind in this passage is the sheer girth of the coming announcement. This is not a footnote–it’s the red carpet of the cosmos, and Jesus is walking across it.
In other words, this is a BIG deal, so pay attention to what God is about to say.
God the Father says something alright. He publicly identifies Jesus’ unique Sonship. This is not sonship as we might entertain–that of genealogical descent. This is God’s “proleptic enthronement” of Jesus to the highest status, the highest office, and the highest ministry (Keener). What ministry?
There is an Old Testament parallel in Ezekiel 1:1, where the prophet “asks God to tear the heavens and come down to redeem his people” (France). What Matthew is clarifying is that this is the unique expression of who God is. In other words, don’t send a man to do what only God can do; send God to become a man.
Here’s a paraphrase of Matthew by Dale Frederick Bruner:
“If we know this, we know the most important fact in the world. ‘Here,’ God is saying in so many words, ‘in this man, is everything I want to say, reveal, and do, and everything I want people to hear, see, and believe. If you want to know anything about me, if you want to hear anything from me, if you want to please me, get together with him.'”
Jesus is the only person who can fulfill the ministry of the Father in redeeming His people.
Not only does the Father make a big deal about Jesus (Trinitarian), and crown him as the hope of the world (coronation), but he then pronounces His personal delight in Him. Now stop for a second and let that sink in. Delight. With our modern, presuppositional lens of a far-off God who doesn’t get involved in much, but still requires good behavior–the way a CEO might expect of a cashier in a distant franchise, without caring for them personally–this should blow your mind. God delights in something. Not anything, but something specifically. He delights in his Son. The Fathers love of the Son was before the world’s creation (17:24), meaning that the love shared between them did not begin at a certain point, and not exist before that–it always was. And as Michael Reeves explains, there is a certain shape to that relationship. “The Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved.”
But why does this seem to be the climactic point that the Gospel writer, Matthew, ends on? Because of its implications for those who believe in Jesus! Reeves goes on to say, “Therein lies the very goodness of the gospel: as the Father is the lover and the Son the beloved, so Christ becomes the lover and the church the beloved.”
That the Father delights in His Son means that when we are united to His Son, the Father delights in us, too! Now, this doesn’t mean we are the same as Jesus–as Matthew clearly depicts, He is the unique Son of God. It means we are sons and daughters of God by adoption (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5; Eph 4:5), and only through union with Christ. So even if you are a murderer, an alcoholic, a tantrum-thrower, a failed entrepreneur, a recovering hypocrite, or a struggling mother–in Christ, you become the delight of God! This is the greatest story ever told, and the single most liberating truth on the planet.
The unique Son of God on a mission to find the downtrodden, and bring them into the delight He has known for all eternity.
I believe it. You should see a typical drive in the car with my wife and me. I’m usually the one working a maps application–of which I have plenty versions from which to choose–while she, with her photographic mind, is calling out directions on the go. She remembers details, I prefer to have them organized in Evernote, and dictated to me by Siri. She tells you to turn as the intersection is upon you, I like to know where that turn is before I even leave the house. Don’t even get me started on climate control. She like the car to resemble a sauna; I like icicles to form on the dashboard. We are so different in our approaches to driving that it’s easy to forget one thing…
In the second part of our series, Faces of Jesus, we encounter a promise for finding directions. But rather than getting a list of turns, street names, or miles, we get…a person.
Matthew 2:6 ~ “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel” (HCSB).
Everything you need to know about this post (or finding direction in your own life) is encapsulated in the word shepherd.
What does a shepherd do anyway?
1. They direct sheep.
Perhaps a better word is, he leads them. Check out this descriptive story from Lois Tverberg’s blog,
Judith Fain is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Durham. As part of her studies, she spends several months each year in Israel. One day while walking on a road near Bethlehem, Judith watched as three shepherds converged with their separate flocks of sheep. The three men hailed each other and then stopped to talk. While they were conversing, their sheep intermingled, melting into one big flock.
Wondering how the three shepherds would ever be able to identify their own sheep, Judith waited until the men were ready to say their goodbyes. She watched, fascinated, as each of the shepherds called out to his sheep. At the sound of their shepherd’s voice, like magic, the sheep separated again into three flocks. Apparently some things in Israel haven’t changed for thousands of years.
2. They were despised.
This is echoed in the words of Joseph, that “all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34). The Messiah comes as one of these, for “his rule is to be that of a shepherd. He will have no power but the power that comes from his love of the lost sheep of Israel” (Hauerwas, 39).
Jesus is the despised shepherd, who leads the lost sheep.
The verse in Matthew is a quotation of two passages in the Old Testament–the first half quotes Micah,
Micah 5:2 ~ Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity (HCSB).
The second half of Matthew’s verse quotes Samuel,
2 Samuel 5:2 ~Even while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led us out to battle and brought us back. The Lord also said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel and be ruler over Israel (HCSB).
You may notice a couple things. One, Matthew’s wording isn’t an exact quotation. Two, Matthew used both Old Testament passages when maybe one would have sufficed.
When Matthew quotes Micah, he alters the wording ever so slightly in a couple places; I just want to focus on one of those places. Where Micah says, “you are small among the clans of Judah,” Matthew quotes him, saying, “you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah.” So it goes from you are small to you are by no means the least. Matthew is simply inserting his theology into this Old Testament prophesy, because, having witnessed (through the Apostles) to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he knows Micah’s prophetic promise has been fulfilled. Bethlehem used to be small; it is now significant because it hosted the Ruler who’s “origin is…from eternity” (Mic 5:2).
R.T. France also observes that “the two Old Testament passages are closely related, 2 Sam 5:2 giving God’s original call to David, and Mic 5:2 taking up its language to describe the future roll of the coming Davidic king in fulfillment of his great ancestor’s achievements” (72).
At this point, let’s break from exegesis, and take in the sweeping power of the Psalmist’s poetry when he goes on about the Shepherd.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake (vv.1-3)
He lets us lie down in green pastures. Check out this four minute video I found on Lois Tverberg’s blog. Then join me in the next line…
Jesus is a ruler, but he’s also a shepherd. He leads by feeding us in green pastures, by directing us when we’re lost or out of food, by protecting us from wolves. This Savior (Messiah) came out of the lowly (Bethlehem) to be lowly (Shepherd). And he comes to a world of people who just want to know where they’re going. Many are so lost in the details of figuring out the directions, that their whole lives will be spent driving in circles.
If that’s you, stop the car.
Stanley Hauerwas. Matthew. (BTCB; Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006)
R.T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007)
Starting off with a genealogy, the introductory chapter of Matthew appears anticlimactic. No one starts off a book with an historical record! Well, no one today. But the Biblical authors did this often. If you put yourself in 1st century Jewish shoes while reading this chapter, you’ll get sucked into the drama instantaneously.
Socio-Rhetorical scholar, Craig S. Keener, points out that “The names in the genealogy — like Judah, Ruth, David, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Josiah — would immediately evoke for Matthew’s readers a whole range of stories they had learned about their heritage from the time of their childhood.”1 What appears tedious for contemporary readers is a type of literary device used by the author to open the eyes of the readers of his day, and to focus them, “by evoking great heroes of the past like David and Josiah, Matthew points his readers to the ultimate hero to whom all those other stories pointed.”2
In fact, genealogies usually list a person’s descendants, not ancestors (Gen 5:1; 10:1). “Matthew’s point here is profound: so much is Jesus the focal point of history that his ancestors depend on him for their meaning.”3
“Son of David” has messianic connotations, and is used by Matthew 17 times, more than any other book in the NT.4 The connection to David in these “boring” genealogies shows Jesus’ royalty. To see this, you have to go all the way back to an early royal prophesy:
2 Samuel 7:11-13 ~ The Lord declares to you: The Lord Himself will make a house for you. 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. (HCSB)
In this book, God makes a promise to King David, telling him that a king from his lineage will rule from his throne forever. In all of the Old Testament, this promise is left hanging in the void until Jesus is born; he claims every Old Testament promise for Himself, and promises to return again after his death and resurrection to rule the earth! In fact, all of history is poised in waiting.
Even the shape of Matthew’s first chapter has a distinct angle to it. You can separate it into different stages of Israel’s history. Verses 2-6 are the period between Abraham and David, which was largely an upward-moving highlight reel of their past. But verses 7-11 highlights the slow but sure downfall, division, and denigration that resulted from Solomon’s apostasy and ended with Israel in Babylonian captivity. Lastly, verses 12-16 brings us out of the exile and towards the birth of Jesus, which is the climax of the story of Israel. Think of it in visual terms:
Abraham –> David (up)
David –> Babylonian Exile (down)
Babylonian Exile –> Jesus (UP!)
Shape of Israel’s history is like a good story. With Abraham and David, everything starts out promising, but hits a conflict with the Babylonian exile, but meets its redemptive resolution in Jesus, who “is the climax of Matthew’s genealogical story of Israel’s past, at once representing Israel’s story while profoundly transforming the very categories of its existence.”6 As one author puts it, “We see the creative way that God the Father shaped history for the coming of his Son by his Spirit.”5
Jesus is the hero of the story, the protagonist of the narrative, and most importantly, the King on the throne of David, with all of history is set up to usher in this cosmic fireworks display of God’s glory in Him.
It means Jesus is King. And if he is King over your life, that means nothing in your life is hidden from allegiance to Him. There are no secrets, no breaks, and nothing off-limits from His rule. This is good to keep in mind, because it’s easy to compartmentalized certain parts of our lives as “ours.”
It also means that with that rule comes comfort from all other rulers, because Jesus Christ is the King of kings. Now, we are still to render to Caesar what is his (Matt 22:21), but we are not to fear Caesar or lend him our ultimate allegiance. We need not cower in our bunkers when we hear rumors of wars (Matt 24:6), or the latest threat to plaster the local headlines. Jesus is King. And that means he is in complete control, even when our life is out of control. So don’t worry about your life, or what you’re going to do tomorrow. The worst thing you can do is try to be king, when God knows, you aren’t one. C. Joy Bell cleverly tells,
I once knew a man who was heir to the throne of a great kingdom, he lived as a ranger and fought his destiny to sit on a throne but in his blood he was a king. I also knew a man who was the king of a small kingdom, it was very small and his throne very humble but he and his people were all brave and worthy conquerors. And I knew a man who sat on a magnificent throne of a big and majestic kingdom, but he was not a king at all, he was only a cowardly steward. If you are the king of a great kingdom, you will always be the only king though you live in the bushes. If you are the king of a small kingdom, you can lead your people in worth and honor and together conquer anything. And if you are not a king, though you sit on the king’s throne and drape yourself in many fine robes of silk and velvet, you are still not the king and you will never be one.
Freedom is truly experienced when people embrace that they are subjects, and Jesus as their King.
Craig S. Keener. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009). p.77
Leon Morris. Matthew. (PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans) p.20
Fredrick Dale Bruner. The Christbook: Matthew 1-12. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004) p.8
Stanley Hauerwas. Matthew. (BTCB; Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006) p.31
We will memorize and recite Matthew 28:1-7a (HCSB) as a church over the Santa Barbara coastlands on Easter morning! But we will start by working on it in bite-size chunks, starting this week with the first verse…
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb (Matt. 28:1).
If you’ve never memorized a large passage of Scripture, this is a great time to give it a shot, even if you are not part of this particular congregation. It may seem daunting, but I am about to show you how it can be done, and once you tackle a large passage, you will surely want to memorize more. The experience of retaining Scripture to dwell on in the heart brings with it eternal blessings to which no other spiritual discipline can compare. I wrote about some of these blessings here.
An immersion in Scripture (repetition) coupled with constant practice (review) is extremely effective in getting the word of Christ to dwell within you richly (Col. 3:16). And even if you do not feel like you’ve got a great memory, you can still do this. In fact, I implore you to try.
After a week, you’ll have deeply memorized a short text of Scripture. Now you’re probably wondering what happens when we start adding more verses. Well, more on that next week!
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (ESV)
For more on their series, The New Society, check out this short intro video, and join them at kingjesus.realityla.com