In a sense, Christ began the study of Christology when He asked the question: “Who do you think I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Each of the four Gospels answer this question, but there are differences in the answers, while the core remains the same. The answers are, of course, filtered through the lens, so to speak, of the minds of the authors of the Gospels.
For example, the Gospel of Mark reports Jesus as saying, “Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.'” This verse should be contrasted with what Matthew records in Chapter 5, Verses 1-3: “When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,’ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'”
Mark’s statement bespeaks a Jesus who has come to help the poor; whereas, Matthew’s Jesus has come to comfort the poor in spirit. The addition of the words “in spirit” alters the meaning and the focus from outward physical needs to inner spiritual deficiencies.
So how does Matthew view Christ? There are at least two main themes which Matthew uses to answer this question: 1) Jesus is the Son of David and 2) Jesus is the New Moses. Both of these characterizations are ways of explaining Jesus to the Jewish world. Matthew’s focus is not, unlike Luke, the Gentile world. This is not to say that Matthew’s Jesus is not the Son of God for all men, for he is: Matthew has Jesus give his disciplines the great commission to go forth to all men in all corners of the world. “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20) Matthew’s Jesus has come as a Jew, as the Son of the greatest King, and as the new Moses, who leads his people out of their enslavement and gives them their new law.
Let us look at these two themes in greater depth. First, turning to Jesus as the Son of David. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the first theme front and center: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:…” (Matthew 1: 1) Within the genealogy of Matthew, David is mentioned five (5) times, in verses 1, 6, and 17. Later, the angel, in announcing to Joseph the impending birth of Jesus, addresses Joseph as ‘son of David’, which emphasizes that the earthly father of Jesus is of the lineage of King David. The sheer number of times that David’s name is mentioned alone emphasizes the importance of Jesus and the identity of Jesus with David. David, arguably, was considered Israel’s greatest King. Jesus by being only defined as the ‘Son of David’ is the heir of David, and also as being the next in line for the throne of David.
One also can not escape noting that Jesus is identified from the very beginning of the Gospel as being the Messiah. (Matthew 1:10. The title of Messiah is repeated at least eighteen times throughout the Gospel of Matthew. Another title which is a Messianic title is Son of God, which is repeated eight times, whereas the title King of the Jews is applied to Jesus four times. Throughout history, Jews were looking for, hoping for and waiting for the King who would deliver them from their oppression; their Messiah. The utilization of all of these titles by Matthew unequivocally defines Jesus as being that Messiah.
We shall further explore what it means to be a King in the place and stead of David in our next blog, as well as further exploring the term Messiah.