TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 1-4
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'” – Matthew 2:1-2
This is an excellent summary verse for the gospel of Matthew as it involves two kings and the worship of only one of them.
Notice carefully what the wise men from the east asked.
“Where is he who was born king of the Jews?”
They did not ask “Where is he who was born to be king of the Jews?”
If they would have asked where was Jesus who was born to be king of the Jews, then that would have meant that Jesus was not yet the king. This would have implied that Jesus was to become the king at a later point.
But, the wise men asked where was the one born king. That is, Jesus was the king of the Jews the very moment he was born.
This was an affront to Herod on two accounts. First, he was the acting king of Israel. The wise men’s question implied that they were seeking another king of Israel, a rival to Herod’s throne. Second, history shows that Herod was merely appointed to be king by his father. He was not born king.
Therefore, the wise men came to worship one that was born king not one that was appointed king. And, this is a wonderful example for us. For, Jesus is the only one who was ever born king. All other rulers of all other kingdoms, even Satan over all the kingdoms of the world, were merely appointed to be king.
So, Matthew is the gospel of the king. Everything in Matthew’s gospel gives an emphasis on Jesus being the king of the Jews. But, beyond that, Jesus’ closing words of this gospel reveal that he is more than the king of the Jews. He is also the king of all creation as he has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
Even the opening sentence of Matthew reveals that the gospel is about the king of the Jews.
Matthew 1:1 says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
The Greek word for genealogy is used only five times in the New Testament, but it is translated four into four different English words. One of the other English words is life. And, perhaps it would be better translated as life in Matthew 1:1. For, the gospel of Matthew is much more than a recounting of Jesus’ genealogy. Rather, it is a book of the life of Jesus Christ. Unless this first verse is only a summary statement for the genealogy to follow.
The term Christ is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word masiah, which is where we get the English word messiah. While masiah simply means anointed one and could be used of priests and prophets, it was mostly used of Israel’s kings. It came to be used and thought for the king that would come at the end of the ages. So, Matthew is stating that Jesus is the anointed one, the king that Israel has been waiting for.
Jesus was “the son of Abraham.” Abraham was the first person in the Bible to be called a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13). So, Matthew identifies Jesus as a Hebrew, as a Jew.
Jesus was “the son of David.” While David was not the first king of Israel, he was the epitome of the kings of Israel. Also, he was the king to whom God promised that he would always have a son sitting on his throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16). So, Matthew identifies Jesus as the son of David that was to be on the throne of David forever.
Therefore, just the opening sentence of the gospel of Matthew reveals that it is all about Jesus the king.
Matthew gives Jesus’ genealogy starting with Abraham. He summarizes the genealogy as three sets of 14 generations. The number three symbolizes divine completion of perfection. And, the number 14 symbolizes deliverance. So, in these three sets of 14 generations, we see Jesus, who was born king, as the king that divinely completes or perfects our deliverance from all those that were appointed king, which includes Satan and every king of this world.
Above we saw that the wise men came to worship Jesus, the one born king, not Herod, the one appointed king. In that passage, Herod and his kingdom can be seen as a representation of all the kings and kingdoms of this world. And, this leads to Satan’s final temptation of Jesus in the wilderness when he says that he will give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will only fall down and worship him (Matthew 4:8-9). But, Jesus says, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve.” No king or kingdom of this world is to be worshiped. Only God and his kingdom are to be worshiped.
While Matthew summarizes Jesus’ genealogy as three sets of 14 generations, which would be 42 generations, there are actually only 41 people listed from Abraham to Jesus. Therefore, Matthew only lists 41 generations.
What is the significance of this?
I believe to understand the significance of this we need to understand the meaning behind the numbers 41 and 42. This link provides an excellent understanding of these two numbers. Basically, the number 41 symbolizes separation and the number 42 symbolizes.
Jesus came to separate us from the world, from the flesh. This is why Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Jesus wasn’t saying he came to bring war and violence. He was saying that he was going to separate us from the things of the earth for a sword separates or divides. And, God creates by separating or dividing. Just read Genesis 1. So, Jesus makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) by separating us from the things of this world.
So, Jesus is the 41st generation that came to separate us from the things of this world. This is interesting because the first words of Jesus’ ministry are “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) Jesus did not say that the kingdom of heaven is here now. He said it was at hand, it was near, it was approaching. Jesus did not say that the kingdom had arrived.
That is the because the kingdom of heaven does arrive until it Jesus Christ is in you and you are in him. Therefore, we are the 42nd generation that actually completes Matthew’s 42 generations and brings the reality of the kingdom of heaven into the here and now. We are the 42nd generation that makes the kingdom of heaven a present reality. With Christ in us and us in him, the 42nd generation, the kingdom of heaven arrives.
The Pharisees asked when the kingdom would come. They wanted to know when the physical, tangible kingdom would arrive. But, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
This is why Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
So, everything we read in Matthew is meant to emphasize Jesus as king.