Some two years ago, I wrote multiple articles of the historicity of Pontius Pilate. To night on CNN in the United States at 9:oo pm and being repeated at 12 midnight on the show Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, CNN is revisiting the so-called Pilate Stone. This one keystone for a building, found in Caesarea Maritima not only proves the existence of Pontius Pilate but also supplies valuable information concerning his term of office in Judea and his correct title, and therefore his actual authority. I would recommend viewing this show.
David by Michelangelo
In our last blog, we began our exploration of the role of Jesus as King of Israel. We quoted at length 2 Samuel 7: 4-17. The kingship of David was built upon the foundation of the prophecies of Nathan. We will now explore that prophecy in depth.
As background, David has thought of building a house for the Ark of the Covenant. How does the Lord respond to this proposal? The Lord reminds David that the Lord has never dwelt in a house; the Lord has always dwelt within a tent and has moved from place to place with the Israelites. The Lord makes it clear that the Lord has never asked for a house to be built for Him. “Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
The Lord is not angry with David for having such a thought. In fact, God is pleased with David’s intention to give God a gift. To God, the intention to give God a gift is greater than the actual gift to be given.
Nonetheless, the Lord still makes it clear to David that the Lord is in charge of all things. This is made clear for the Lord reminds David of David’s humble and pastoral beginnings. “‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.’” In the last part of that verse, the Lord also reminds David of what he has become with the help of the Lord. The Lord has installed David as King. It is only through the Lord that David is King and he is King over God’s special, select, and chosen people. The Lord continues and reinforces that theme by stating: “I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.”
Why has the Lord done this? He has done this for two reasons. First, such that the people of Israel, that is the people of God under the Covenant, led by their King David, may have a place, a home of their own, a nation unto themselves. Second, such that wicked people, that is the people who are not of the Lord, will not be able to oppress the Israelites. Thus, the Lord says: “I will also give you rest from all your enemies.”
While the Lord does not need David to build the Lord a house, the Lord is well disposed to David and will do great things for David: “Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.”
Further, the Lord, being pleased with David’s intention to build the Lord a house, will grant David a house in return. But the house is not a physical house. The change in meaning is clear: The Lord will establish a dynasty for David. “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.” This promise is followed by another and perhaps great promise. The promise of the Lord is that, from David’s descendants, the Lord will choose one who will have great favor with the Lord. “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
Who is this one to be chosen? “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” David’s house and David’s Kingdom will be forever. “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
These promises from God have been foretold by other Prophets. For example both Jeremiah and Isaiah have utilized extremely similar language:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute righteousness in the earth. . . Now this is His name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. . . Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it . . . from that time forward, even forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Clearly, this does not fully delve into all that can be said on this topic, but I feel that I given the reader enough to pursue the matter more fully on one’s own.
Matthew clearly cites a prophecy of Isaiah in Chapter 1, verse 23. We will examine that prophecy in our next blog.
In our last blog, we began our exploration of Matthew’s Christology. We started to look at the terms, ‘son of David’ and ‘Messiah.’ We noted that these terms are mentioned quite often in the Gospel of Matthew.
As the ‘son of David’, Jesus is denoted from birth as being a descendant of King David, and thus of a kingly line. The title ‘son of David’ is also a popular Messianic title of that era.
As King, Jesus is recognized and honored by Jews, including, but not limited to his mother and father, but also the shepherds. He is also recognized as a king by non-Jews, such as the Magi, who came from miles away to honor him, and by King Herod, concerning whom many Jews of his era did not recognize as a Jew. The question of the Magi to King Herod leaves no doubt as to the Kingship of Jesus over the Jews: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Matthew leaves no doubt that Herod is advised that the birth of Jesus was foretold by the prophets, for Herod calls together all of the people’s chief priests and teachers who tell Herod of the prophecy of Micah. In addition, this question so inspires fear in Herod of the kingship of Jesus that he attempts to slay Jesus by killing all boys of his age in a certain geographic area. This is not the only prophecy of that Matthew states that the infant Jesus fulfilled and confirms his kingship: first, a voice was heard in Rama (Jeremiah 31:15) and second that Jesus is a Nazarene (Isa 53:3). Finally, in Matthew 4:15, Jesus is described as the light to the Gentiles. (Isa 9:1,2)
So Jesus is more than just a King to the Jews, He has come for the Gentiles too. This is a major expansion of the vision of what the traditional Messiah’s role is. It is now a universal role and a universal mission: Is Jesus to rule over Jew and Gentile alike?
Before we answer that question, we should explore more the concept of what a Jew of this era was thinking the ‘son of David’ would do for the Jews of that era. To do so, we need must explore the establishment of the kingship of David. That Kingship was built upon the foundation of the prophecies of Nathan. The most crucial of which is found in 2 Samuel 7: 5-17, were the Word of the Lord is delivered to Nathan, the prophet, one night:
5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?
6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.
7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”?’
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.
9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.
10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning
“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you:
12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.
15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”
17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.”
We shall dissect this important passage in our next blog.
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.
There are 32 verses in the Gospels which mention the word ‘tax’ or taxes. Fourteen of these verses are in the Gospel of Matthew. The following is a list of each of these verses. In comparison, the Gospel of Mark contains only five such verses and the Gospel of Luke has 13 such verses.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius,
One could argue that the frequent mention of the words tax and taxes in the Gospel of Matthew bolsters the argument that the author of the Gospel of Matthew was a tax collector. However, given the relatively high number of mentions of the same words in the Gospel of Luke, I do not believe that this argument is very strong. Of course, if one believes the chronology of the dates of authorship of the two Gospels, that is Luke being written after Matthew, the high frequency of the use of these words in the Gospel of Luke may be a solely the result of the author of Luke copying the Gospel of Matthew.
A comparison of the verses mentioning these words in both Gospels does not show as great an overlap as one might imagine would be the case. Thus, I do not believe that it is the case that the words were a result of copying.
Matthew 9:9 is almost the same as Luke 5:27. Likewise, Matthew 9:10 is paralleled by Luke 5:29, as is Matthew 9:11 to Luke 5:30. Matthew11:19 has an analog in Luke at 7:34. Finally, Matthew 22:17 is virtually identical to Luke 20:22. Thus, 5 of the 14 verses in Matthew and 5 of the 13 verses in Luke are alike. This means that Matthew contains nine verses which are not found in Luke and Luke contains eight verses not found in Matthew. The latter point is emphasized by the fact that Luke contains the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus of Jericho, who does not even appear in Matthew.
Next week, we will continue to analyze the Gospel of Matthew by beginning a discussion of the themes of the Gospel.