Christ the King
I cannot stress this fact often enough or forcefully enough. ― The Bible, the Word of God, is in its entirety a book about Christ. It is a Him Book. It’s all about Him who loved us and gave himself for us. I do not mean by that that the Bible is a Christ centered Book. I do not mean that Christ is the primary aspect of divine revelation in these pages. I mean that Christ is the message of Holy Scripture.
This is exactly what God the Holy Spirit tells us in Luke 24:27. Our Savior said to those two disciples on the Emmaus road, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (v. 25). Then, we read in verse 27, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The message of this Book is Jesus Christ and him crucified. This Book is not a book about history, or a book about morality, or a book about religious dogma. This is a Book about Christ and redemption by his blood. That is exactly what the apostle Peter tells us in Acts 10:43. The apostle Paul states exactly the same thing, declaring that the one message he preached, everywhere to all people, was Jesus Christ and him crucified. This message, he declares, is “all the counsel of God,” the whole of divine revelation (Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:1-2).
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-2. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Now, look at Acts 20. Paul is about to leave his brethren at Ephesus, never to see them again. They urged him not to go to Jerusalem for fear that the Jews would kill him. Yet he declares, “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem…that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus.” And he tells us exactly what his course and ministry were, which he had received from the Savior. It was “to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24). Now, look at verses 26 and 27. Here Paul defines what it is to preach the gospel. “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. (27) For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
The Book of God is a Book about Christ. In the Old Testament, the law, the prophets, and the Psalms declare, “Someone is coming.” When we open the book of Matthew, that blessed Someone steps onto the stage and identifies himself as the incarnate God, our Savior (Matt. 1:18-23).
One Object of Faith
The Old Testament saints believed God just as we do, trusting Christ just as we do, and were saved by grace, trusting the crucified Lamb of God in exactly the same way we are. Christ was not then fully revealed. He was not personally identified. Yet, he was known and trusted as God the Savior, the Christ, the Anointed One, the promised Seed.
Beginning with the Gospel of Matthew, we move from the realm of shadow, type, and prophecy into the full sunshine of the Sun of Righteousness, the Son of God.
As we have seen, the Old Testament speaks of him on every page, but speaks in shadows, in types, in symbols, and in prophecies, all looking forward to the coming of that Someone whom Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham trusted. You cannot read the Old Testament without a sense of anticipation, thinking to yourself, this Book is talking about Someone who is yet to appear, who is a woman’s Seed, an Ark of salvation, a sin-atoning Lamb, a man who is God, a Redeemer, a King like David, a Prophet like Moses, a Priest like Melchizedek, a divine Substitute, and a Savior.
Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John say, “Here he is!” When we come to read the four gospels, we say with Andrew and Phillip, “We have found the Messiah…the Christ…We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41-45). “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Here we see Christ as he is. Remember, what he was is what he is; and what he is, is what we have. All the fullness of his character and being and life and glory (John 17:22) is ours. That makes the four gospels uniquely important. They tell us exactly who our Savior is.
The Sun of Righteousness has arisen with healing in his wings (Mal. 4:2). In the 39 books of the Old Testament we have been watching the unfolding of the dawn of that day which Abraham rejoiced to see, the rising of that Star of whom Balaam spoke, and of the great Light promised in Isaiah. We have been watching one cloud after another dissipate by the rising Sun. Now, the King of Glory, of whom David sang, has come. “We have seen his star in the east” (in the Old Testament) “and are come” (in the New Testament) “to worship him.” We have “seen the Lord's Christ.” As we pick up the New Testament, we say with old Simeon, who waited for the Consolation of Israel, our “eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
Why Four Gospels?
People sometimes wonder why we have four gospel narratives. The reason is really very simple. ― Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show us our Savior’s full character, his full person and work from four angles. They do not give us four different pictures, but four different views of the same picture. Really, they present the Lord Jesus like a statue, each allowing us to view the statue from a different side. I say that because in some ways a statue is better than a picture. A statue allows us to see the image it represents from all sides. The four gospels have been compared to the four cherubim of Ezekiel and Revelation.
· Matthew shows Christ as the King, as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who has come to save his people from their sins.
· Mark presents him as Jehovah’s Servant, who has come to fulfil his Father’s will, the ox ready to serve and ready to be sacrificed upon the altar.
· Luke, the beloved Physician, presents him as the Son of Man, full of human sympathy and tenderness, as the cherub with the face of a man suggests.
· John, like the eagle soaring into the heavens, sets the Savior before us as the Son of God, with a majesty that transcends all our thought and imagination.
Christ the King
Let’s take a brief view of Matthew’s gospel, and worship the Lord Jesus Christ, our King. Here we see the royal majesty of our heavenly King and his great kingdom. Matthew, more so than all the other gospel writers, sets forth the Mosaic law, referring constantly to the Old Testament Scriptures, and shows that both the law and the Scriptures of the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Christ, the King.
Matthew 1:1-17 gives us our Lord’s genealogy, tracing it back to Abraham. We read in verse 1, “The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” He is set before us in verse 1 as the Son of Abraham to show us that he is that One with whom God’s covenant was made, and as Abraham’s promised Seed in whom all the covenant is fulfilled. He is set before us as the son of David (v. 6) to show us that he is the rightful Heir to David’s throne, and that he has come to take possession of David’s true kingdom and throne.
The Jews carped about many things, raised many questions, and made many accusations in their attempts to discredit our Savior’s claims as the Christ, as God’s Messiah; but never once did they question his genealogy. Why? Because it was a matter of public and biblical record that could not be disputed.
The Sinner’s Savior
There is something especially precious in our Savior’s genealogy that is commonly overlooked. Here, just before we are told that he came to save his people from their sins, three of his ancestral mothers are named who had a smear upon their names. Thamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, who played the harlot and committed incest. Ruth was a Moabitess, a woman of a cursed race, a race that came into existence by Lot’s incestuous behavior. Bathsheba was the adulteress wife of Uriah. Add to that the fact that our Savior is here identified specifically as the son of David by Bathsheba; and you can almost hear him saying, “Behold, I have come to save poor sinners!”
The Incarnation (1:18-25)
Our Savior’s wondrous divinity is immediately presented in Matthew’s record of the incarnation and virgin birth (1:18-25). Here is a picture of the New Birth. The Lord Jesus Christ was conceived in a sinner, conceived by the work of God the Holy Spirit, and conceived without the aid of a man. That is exactly how Christ is formed in us in the new birth.
Here is our Savior’s name ― “Jesus.” Here is his mission ― “He shall save his people from their sins.” Here’s the character of his people ― Sinners; and they were his people before he came to save them, chosen in eternal election, and given to him as a Surety. Here is his divinity, the certainty of his success. Our Savior is himself God in human flesh, Emmanuel!
Old Testament Prophecies
Matthew 1 and 2 set before us a number of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by our Savior’s incarnation. ― He is Immanuel, the virgin born Savior (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23). ― He is a Nazarene (Jud. 13:5; 1 Sam 1:11; Matt. 2:23). ― He fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy of weeping in Ramah (Jer 31:15; Matt. 2:17-18). ― He was called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:15). ― He was born at Bethlehem ―(Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:5-6).
Matthew alone describes the visit of the wise men (ch. 2:1-13). The whole world at this time was expecting the advent of some Great One. These wise men came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Their adoration of the newborn King foreshadowed his universal dominion (John 17:2; Rom. 14:9). Matthew alone tells us how Herod, the usurper of David's dominion, sought to slay the heir to David’s throne (2:14-23).
John The Baptist
In this Gospel John the Baptist appears preaching repentance and introducing the Lord Jesus as the mighty Judge who shall purge his floor with tremendous judgment (3:10-17). Our Lord Jesus Christ was immersed by John to fulfill all righteousness. At first John was reluctant to immerse the Savior because he recognized who it was that stood before him, and was humbled in his presence. But, when the Master said, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him,” and immersed the incarnate God in the Jordan River.
The question is sometimes asked, “How did Christ’s baptism fulfil all righteousness?” There can be but one answer. By his baptism, and by believer’s baptism today, righteousness is fulfilled symbolically. By our baptism (immersion), we symbolically testify how it is that sinners are made righteous before God. Our sins are washed away and we are made righteous by our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ, our Substitute.
This man is owned at his immersion as the Son of God. When our Lord was baptized John saw the Spirit of God descending and abiding upon him, thereby identifying him as the Son of God and the Messiah. And this is he in whom the Father is well pleased. When he came up out of the watery grave, the Father spoke from heaven, declaring, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” This same word from heaven was heard at the transfiguration (17:5). By these two things, the Lord God tells us that Christ, our ascended, exalted Savior, is that One in whom alone we find acceptance with God. As the Holy Lord God is well pleased with his Son, so he is well pleased with his elect in his Son, our Substitute.
Matthew's account of the temptation is detailed and instructive (4:1-11). He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. The devil came and found nothing in him. The word “tempted” would be more accurately translated “tested.” Temptations (tests and trials) do not make any change in anyone. They simply reveal what the person is.
There is some debate about whether our Lord’s temptations were real, and whether it was possible for him to sin. The temptations were real. Yet, there was no possibility of the holy, incarnate God sinning. The temptations proved that there was no evil in him (John 14:30). If you run a test on water, the test is real; but the fact that the test is real does not imply that there is impurity in the water. The test will simply show the water pure or corrupt. So it was with our Master’s temptations. They showed that he is, indeed, “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.”
Beginning in Matthew 4:17, our Lord began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The word “kingdom” appears fifty-three times in Matthew. Thirty-five times Christ’s kingdom is called, “the kingdom of heaven,” an expression found nowhere else in the Gospels.
Chapters 5-7 give us our Savior’s Sermon on the Mount. Here he tells us the nature of his kingdom. The Jews, because of their perverted understanding of the Old Testament, expected the Messiah to establish a physical, Jewish kingdom in the earth. Our Savior dispelled that notion at the very outset of his public ministry in this tremendous sermon.
He opens his sermon (5:3-13) with the beatitudes, declaring that those who are his servants, his people, those who enter into his kingdom are identified not by outward ceremonies but by inward grace (Phil. 3:3). The kingdom of heaven is inward, not outward.
The service of his kingdom (chap. 6) is inward, heart service, not an outward show. Every form of religion with which I am familiar tells its adherents to show their religion to men by outward deeds. The Son of God tells his disciples never to attempt to show their religion by outward deeds that are seen, approved of, and applauded by men. Our giving, our prayers, our fastings are to be things arising spontaneously, kept in strict secrecy, and performed for God and before God.
True religion is a matter of faith in Christ, a matter of the heart. The only thing our Savior tells us to show is mercy, love, and grace. That is what is discussed in the latter part of this chapter. The law of his kingdom is love; and love is best displayed in forbearance, forgiveness, and uprightness.
Chapter 7 continues with the same subject, teaching us to guard against rash judgment concerning others. We ought to embrace as brethren all who profess faith in Christ (who profess to believe the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in him), without doubtful disputations (Rom. 14:1). Then, our Lord brings his message to a pointed conclusion, urging us all to make certain we trust him alone, to make certain we have entered in “at the strait gate.”
In chapters 8 and 9 our Lord performed numerous, unparalleled miracles, displaying his omnipotent grace. He healed a leper, who came worshiping him, with a touch. He healed the centurion’s servant by the mere exercise of his will. He touched Peter’s mother-in-law and raised her from her sickbed. ― “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matt. 8:16-17).
He calmed the raging tempest by his mere word, healed a paralyzed man and forgave his sins, raised a man’s daughter from the dead, healed a woman who had been diseased with an issue of blood for twelve years, and gave two blind men their sight. There can be no question about it, this man was and is God the Son!
In chapter 10 our Lord names his apostles and sends them out to preach the gospel. In the 11th chapter he confirms himself to John the Baptist’s disciples. In chapter 12 he shows himself to be Jehovah’s Servant spoken of in Isaiah 42:1-4, that is the Lord of the sabbath, and declares that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Healing the man with a withered hand on the sabbath, he hints that the sabbath of the Old Testament portrayed the believer’s experience of grace, finding life and rest in him. Then, our Lord shows us that conversion is nothing less than his own entrance into a man’s heart, casting Satan out, and setting up his own throne in the heart by omnipotent grace.
We have seven parables of the Kingdom in chapter 13, each beginning with “The kingdom of heaven is like,” except that of the sower, where we have the word “kingdom” in verse 11. Numerous other parables are recorded by Matthew, all describing the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom, and the establishment of it by grace alone.
The parable of the sower tells us of the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work, making the heart as good ground to receive the gospel, and warns us of those things that rob men’s souls of the blessings of the gospel.
The parable of the tares teaches us that we must never try to separate the tares from the wheat. That work is performed by Christ himself, through the preaching of the gospel.
The mustard seed and leaven parables tell us that the kingdom of God grows secretly, almost imperceptively, but constantly until all God’s elect are gathered into it by his grace.
The parable of the treasure hid in the field speaks of Christ’s purchased dominion over and possession of the whole world as the God-man Mediator (John 17:2), that he might obtain the treasure of it, the church of his elect.
The parable of the pearl of great price teaches that we must forsake all for Christ, who is the Pearl of great price.
The parable of the great net, like that of the tares, tells us that as long as time stands the kingdom of heaven (the outward, visible kingdom and every local church) is a mixed multitude of good fish and bad, true believers and those who merely profess to be believers.
The parable of the lost sheep (18:10-14) portrays our Savior’s determination to save his elect and his joy in saving them. That of the wicked servant (18:23-35) portrays our Redeemer’s teaching (18:15-22) on the necessity and blessedness of believers forgiving those who offend them.
The parable of the laborers (20:1-16) is our Lord’s picture of grace, displaying the fact that all God’s elect are perfectly accepted in him. This parable is preceded by (ch. 18) and followed by (20:20) strife among the disciples regarding who shall be greatest in the kingdom of God. Because salvation is by grace alone, because there are no degrees of acceptance with God, because the whole of our salvation is bestowed freely for Christ’s sake, there can be no degrees of reward in heaven.
The parable of the vineyard (21:33-34) portrays the wrath of God to be visited upon the Jewish nation for slaughtering his Son.
The marriage supper parable sets before us the freeness of grace proclaimed by the gospel (22:2-14).
The parable of the ten virgins warns us of the danger of religion without Christ, outward religion without inward grace, and the great need of diligence in personally watching over our own souls (25:1-13).
The parable of talents (24:14-30) shows us our responsibility to be faithful stewards of that which the Lord God has put in our hands to use for his glory.
In all these parables the absolute sovereignty of God our Savior over all things is clearly exemplified. Our Savior declares that he has the right to do with his own what he will (20:15; Rom. 9:15-18). In this opening book of the New Testament he asserts that he came specifically to redeem and that he effectually calls the many in this world who are his own elect (20:28; 22:14; 1:21), and only them.
Promises To The Church
In Matthew 16 and 18 the Lord Jesus identifies himself as the only Foundation upon which his church is build, and that the building of his church is his work alone. Immediately after making this declaration, he tells us that the way he would build his church is by the merit, power, and efficacy of his sin-atoning sacrifice (16:13-21). Then in chapter 18 (v. 20) he promises that he is always with his assembled saints when they gather for worship in his name. This church, this kingdom that Christ builds, he protects, provides for, and shall make triumphant over hell itself.
Along with Mark and Luke, Matthew tells us of the unveiled glory of the King in his transfiguration, foreshadowing his resurrection glory as Zion’s King. He adds this touch, “His face did shine as the sun,” and these words, “in whom I am well pleased,” showing how perfectly our Lord fulfilled God's Law as a Representative Man (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36).
In the22nd chapter the Pharisees, Sadducees, and lawyers came asking meaningless questions about political matters, the resurrection, and the law. Their questions were made meaningless by the fact that they ignored the one great question ― “What think ye of Christ?” (v. 42). In chapter 23 our Lord condemns them and all who follow their path.
Chapters 26 and 27 give us a brief account of our Lord’s betrayal, his mock trial, and the agony of his crucifixion and death as our sin-atoning Substitute. Forsaken by heaven and earth, alone he endured all the wrath of God for us when he was made to be sin. Darkness covered the earth for three hours. Upon the cursed tree, he vanquished sin, death, Satan, and hell. As Paul puts it in Colossians, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them, and leading them behind him as a conqueror would lead a train of captives in open display before the people. When at last he gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was ripped apart, showing that he has opened the way for sinners to come to God; and many were raised from their graves, showing that the sentence of death can never be executed upon those for whom he died.
Substitution is beautifully portrayed in the fact that Christ died in the place of Barabbas. Barabbas went free because a Substitute died in his place; and God’s elect must and shall go free because Christ died in their place (Rom. 8:1; 33-34).
In his account of the resurrection (chap. 28) Matthew tells of the great earthquake, the angel whose face was like lightning, for fear of whom the keepers did shake and became as dead men, and of the Lord’s bodily appearance to his disciples after he arose. He was sent to the tomb as a guilty criminal, worthy of death. He was released as a free man, without sin, “justified in the Spirit” and “declared to be the Son of God” our Savior, because he had accomplished our justification by the sacrifice of himself (Rom. 4:25).
Finally, this Gospel gives us, as no other, our Lord's last royal commission. The risen Lord says to you and me, “Go tell the world what I have done.” ― “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).