the story of God with us: Matthew
Matthew’s gospel occupies a unique space in the bible. It comes at the fold of history, it is the hinge between the story of God in the history of Israel and the way Jesus Christ fills and fulfills this story. Fulfillment is huge in Matthew—but not in the way most of us are used to. Jesus does not just fulfill the predictions of the Old Testament prophets. The way Matthew tells it, Jesus gathers up all the history and experience of Israel, all the law and characters of Israel, all the pain and promise of Israel, and fulfills them by re-living and re-enacting them perfectly, filling them with righteousness.
The gospel opens with Jesus as the Son of God, the new David, the new Abraham, the new Moses, the new Israel. Angels prepare his way in the first and last chapters. He is worshipped by Magi from the East and hunted by the king of Israel. Like Israel he flees to Egypt and when rescued goes to Galilee of the Gentiles. After baptism, he is driven into the wilderness where he re-lives the temptation of Israel, only now, as the faithful son of God.
This is fulfillment. Matthew shows us that since Jesus is God’s Son and God’s king, who has come to save us from our sins, we are gathered into this story as his disciples. It is, therefore, the story of God with us!
For the first time, this new community of disciples is called the ‘church’ and takes its character from the Son of God. The life of the kingdom of heaven among us is set ablaze by Jesus’ radical teaching on the Mount, by his healing, compassion, and by his rejection and resurrection. This new community is made up of people from East and West, who will sit at the table with Abraham in the kingdom. At its heart, Matthew shows us Jesus as God with us, which drives us to make disciples of all nations.
Most of the story of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew takes place in Galilee of the Gentiles, and the rejection of Jesus by Israel is ferocious. Jesus dies establishing the new covenant in his blood. His kingship and his kingdom are established by faithful submission to God the Father. All of the purposes of God, all the history of God’s people, come to realization through Jesus death and resurrection. All authority and government are now in Jesus’ hands. He uses his authority to be with us and to enable us to make disciples until he comes again.