Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sermon on the Mount-2

In introducing John the Baptist as the promised forerunner of the Messiah, Matthew continues to establish Jesus’ credentials as King. It’s clear that throughout the OT the Kingdom uniquely belongs to “Israel”. From the time of the “birthing” of Abraham’s “seed” as God’s “son” in the great redemption from Egypt (“Tell Pharaoh to let My son go”), God has been using “Israel” to teach the people of the earth (including the ethnic people of Israel) about the King and the Kingdom. Matthew understands that the nation itself was prophetic (see the Abrahamic Covenant and its fulfillment in Christ) and spoke of the true “Israel” to come. The Kingdom uniquely belonged to Israel, as God’s “son”; but it also belonged to all who would join themselves to Israel through circumcision. The universalism of the Kingdom is shown in that all who participated in “Israel” by circumcision were considered to be the people of God. Matthew uses the ministry of John (including his baptism of Jesus), the Temptation episode, and Jesus’ calling of His disciples to help him communicate to his readers that Jesus really is the King because He is the One to whom the Kingdom belongs. Jesus is the true “Seed” of Abraham and the true “Israel”, the true “Son” of God to whom the Kingdom belongs. And Matthew stresses all of this before recording Jesus’ words in The Sermon so that his readers would know that it's only by participation in Him that a person enters the Kingdom of God (Heaven).

John’s message of repentance (to be echoed by Jesus Himself) was directed to the self-righteousness of the people who thought that they were “children” of God by virtue of their ethnicity as “sons of Abraham”. John rebukes them by stating that God could raise up sons for Himself from the very stones that they were walking on! Ethnicity was of no advantage when it comes to entering the Kingdom of Heaven. But because the Jews didn’t understand the nature of the Kingdom that was promised in the OT, they were in danger of missing it by believing that it was theirs simply because they were biological descendants of Abraham. They were relying on their heritage, not on the One that their heritage spoke of. If they had realized that even the nation of Israel itself was prophetic, then they would have recognized the true Israel when He arrived. This is why John’s and Jesus’ rebuke was so strong. This is why Jesus’ condemnation of them was so severe. The people didn’t understand their own history, let alone their own Scripture which both painted the portrait of this King to come.

We’ve already seen that Matthew presents Jesus as the Son of David and the Son of Abraham, in his recounting of the genealogy; and also as the “true” Son of God, “Immanuel” (God with us!) in the flesh, in his recounting of the birth episode (all in Part-1). Related to the birth of Christ, Matthew recounts the episode of the visit of the Wise Men so that his readers would see that, as David’s royal covenant Son and in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Jesus was the Shiloh of their father Jacob’s prophetic blessing. The Kingdom will come to the One to whom it belongs. Matthew is inundating his readers with prophetic material covering the full scope of their Scripture, all designed to lead them to the understanding that Jesus is their King.

When Matthew records the episode of John the Baptist’s baptizing of the King, he does so not to simply identify Jesus with Israel, but primarily to show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel itself. As I stated above, “Israel”, as with all the Scripture, was prophetic; and as with all the Scripture, Israel also finds its own fulfillment in Christ. This is how Jesus can say that all the Law, the Prophets and the Writings spoke of Him. And this is how He can say in the context of The Sermon, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”

As hinted at in Part-1, Matthew presents Jesus as the “true” Israel, as the fulfillment of Israel itself, through the use of recapitulation; Jesus takes upon Himself the "life" of Israel. We can understand that Israel was prophetic when we look at the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s promise to Abraham was that in his seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. God had promised to Abraham a royal lineage that would rule over God’s Kingdom. Abraham’s “seed” would be both a King(s) and a Kingdom; and through this Kingdom, God would bless the nations of the earth. Abraham’s seed was to be a light to the nations around them, telling of the glory of God and proclaiming His majesty over all the earth. Abraham’s seed was to bring the light of the knowledge of God to the world, and in this way the people would come to know God through the “seed”. This is basic OT theology, and the NT writers understood it perfectly.

Israel the nation “failed” to be God’s covenant “son” because the true seed of Abraham is Christ, the true Son of God. Paul not only understands Jesus as the “seed” spoken of in the Abrahamic covenant, but he also calls all who have come to Him by faith the “true” circumcision and the “true” sons of Abraham and, therefore, heirs of the promise! Everything about Israel was prophetic and can be seen most clearly, perhaps, in the priesthood. I won’t go into that at the moment because (hopefully) all of us who claim to know Christ already understand the prophetic nature of the priesthood.

The point is, Matthew (as with all the NT writers) understands the prophetic role of “Israel” and recognizes that the true Israel has come in the Person of Jesus Christ. And with His baptism, as with His flight in and out of Egypt, and in the “testing” of our Lord immediately following His baptism, Matthew presents Jesus as the true Israel, the true Seed of Abraham in whom all the world would be blessed. To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, a person really does need to join himself to “Israel”—the true Israel, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Well…I didn’t quite get to the specifics of the baptism of our Lord with this post. In the next installment I’ll briefly discuss our Lord’s flight into and out of Egypt, His baptism and His testing in the wilderness. In all three of these episodes, Matthew shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel by “presenting features of His life as a recapitulation of Israel’s national life as the ‘son of God’” (Christopher Culver, Notes on Matthew).


satire and theology said...

This may interest, and I may post on it:


Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks for the link. This is just another example of Man's blindness. Obvioulsy, as can be seen in the many cults in existence, the Scripture can be used to support many different conclusions. This is why our knowledge of God must begin (and end?) with Jesus, who is the exact and perfect representation of God (John 10:30, 14:9; Col 1:15ff; the whole book of Hebrews, esp.1:1-3ff; etc.) Rightly did Jesus rebuke the Pharisees of His day and rightly does the Scripture rebuke their offspring today!

If we take Jesus at His word, we can see that there is a tight unity of agreement within the Scripture, both OT and NT. And of course there should be since Jesus is the object of all of God's promises; all of God's promises are "Yeah" and "Amen" (only) in Christ. The OT is simply the record of God's work in redemptive history to fulfill His promise in the garden. This OT record progressively paints the portrait of this promised Seed. The NT is simply the record of the fulfillment of the OT, of God's fulfilling His promise(s) in the Person and Work of His (only) Beloved and Begotten Son--Jesus Christ. Throughout the NT, it's writers are using the warp and woof of the OT to show, to prove that Jesus is the One that the OT spoke of and promised.

If the Jewish people would just recognize what the Scripture (OT and NT) proclaim, that all the Scripture including Israel itself was prophetic, then they may begin to understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of all things. Maybe they should start reading my blog? :-)

This whole article just proves Jesus' point as He was confronting the Jews of His day regarding the Kingdom--they think that it's something that it's not! They didn't (and still don't) recognize the Kingdom because they didn't (and still don't) recognize the King!

This guy (rabbi?) doesn't get it--Judaism is no more. The Jewish people, for all their "orthodoxy", don't practice the only religion that Yahweh instituted. And they can't because Yahweh brought it to an end with the coming of Messiah. The veil was rent in two; and when the people sewed it back up, as if to make His point crystal clear, God then destroyed the Temple. God has told them that it is finished! And it's finished because it is complete in Christ. This guy is the one who is guilty of idolatry--he doesn't worship the One true God in the way that he claims the Scripture teaches.

And before anyone reading this accuses me of anti-semitism--I'm not. Everyone outside of Christ is in the same boat and under the same judgment of God. The Jews didn't put Jesus to death and neither did the Romans. God put Jesus to death for our redemption (Jew and Gentile) and the restoration of all things (Rom. 8:1-4ff; John 10:11-18;).

This is why John Hagee's outfit is so dangerous; not only to the Jewish people, but also to the church. Hagee doesn't seem to understand that the Jewish people are under God's judgment along with all nations and peoples who don't "kiss the Son and do homage to Him", who trample underfoot the blood of Christ. In Hagee's effort to bring support to Israel, he's leading the church and the Jewish people away from Christ. I'm sorry Hagee, but if a person doesn't have the Spirit (per Rom.8), he's not a child of God and he's no brother of mine--whether he's Jew or Gentile!

BTW--our church meets every Sunday morning at a Jewish synagogue! Obviously not the same place where this "rabbi" goes!:-) But still, if we Christians are committing idolatry by worshipping Jesus, then they really shouldn't be letting us practice blasphemy in their building. Hopefully, we are a gospel witness to them and they will come to see that Jesus Christ is their Messiah and King.

Man...when I get going I just keep on going...and going...and going...and...

Thanks for the link Russ.

jeleasure said...

I apologize. I thought I had installed real time updating links for you on my site. I now have your link on both of my pages.

Jeff said...


I don't quite follow the logic of the claim that Jesus is the true 'Israel.'

To me, the true 'Israel' are those who have the circumcision of the heart...those who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. The nation of Israel are still God's Chosen, in a national sense (and will be the 144,000 in Revelation who will finally come back to Him), but Gentiles who have been (or will be) regenerated have been grafted in by adoption.

Jesus..Yeshua the promised Messiah; the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets; the Second Adam. He fulfilled the Law perfectly, because we never could. He fulfilled the Law perfectly, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is the Head of the (invisible) Church, and believers are His Bride. But I see the Bride as the true Israel, not the Head. Christ Jesus is God the Son, and the true Israel are the ones who follow Him, and who are called the children of God.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Jim,

I've been informed by Russ that the link wasn't functioning properly, so I'll try to re-link and see what happens.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for commenting. I was going to just respond to you, but I thought that others readers may also have questions, so I decided to make a "post" to try to clarify my position. It's not a thorough examination, but I hope it at least helps you and others see where I'm coming from.

Also, when you say that Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly, I agree. But I believe He did so in His very "being", more than through what He did. I believe that He is the fulfillment of the Law in His very person--He is the "true" Israel that the Law defined and spoke of.

The Law did more than set forth a series of commandments to follow. The Law (as the covenant) defined for Israel who it was. I believe that the Scripture teaches that Israel failed to be the covenant son (because it was only typological) and therefore a "new" Israel was needed. Jesus Christ, as the true Israel, fulfilled the Law because He was the "son" that the Law defined. He was truly who the Law spoke of, so He fulfilled the Law in His very person--which, of course, manifested itself in His character, words and deeds.

I'll be sure to keep this subject in mind for a future series of posts. I hope this (with the post) clarifies for you what I mean. I don't know if you'll agree with me, but I at least want you to know what I mean by what I say as much as humanly possible.

Thanks again for visiting and commenting!