The history of the world is that in many (most? all?) nations, the people want leaders and “kings” different from the ones they have. A few hundred years ago, the United States didn’t want England’s king to be our king. And a few thousand years ago, Israel didn’t want God to be their King (1 Kings 8:4ff). Those two nations — separated by culture, faith, distance, and time — were not so different.
But every country has a “king” (political leaders). No individual is autonomous; all of us are subject to someone, somewhere. And that is true for the believer as well. We not only have political rulers, but believers also have a spiritual King who demands full allegiance from us. But unlike in the civil realm, this is a good and gracious King, a gift to every follower of Jesus.
The book of Matthew unfolds the presentation of Christ as King — he answers the questions, “what kind of King is this Messiah?” and “what kind of Kingdom will He establish?” This is Matthew’s repeated emphasis; just listen to a few of the ways Matthew reveals the Kingship of Christ:
- The kingship of Christ is asserted from the very first verse: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). Cf. also 1:6, 16, 17.
- The kingship of Christ is alluded to in nearly the last verse of the book — “All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth…” (28:18) — who has all authority but the King?
- The Magi affirmed his Kingship: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (2:2).
- John the Baptist declared the arrival of His kingdom: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2); Jesus also would reiterate that declaration (4:17, 23).
- Jesus’ preached His kingdom (9:35) and He compelled the disciples to preach the arrival of His kingdom (10:7).
- Israel’s leaders (and ultimately all Israel, 27:17, 22) rejected the offer of Christ’s kingdom saying He was a “demonic king” (12:24); so the ability to receive the kingdom was removed from that generation — Jesus hid the Kingdom message from them while still giving it to the disciples and those who would follow the disciples (13:10-11; cf. vv. 24, 31ff).
- In His transfiguration, Jesus revealed something of the glory of His kingdom (16:28–17:2ff).
- Jesus’ kingdom was unique from other kingdoms because of those He invited to participate in it — the “marginalized” and “unworthy” (19:14; 21:31) and His exclusion of the so-called “worthy” and “important” people (19:23).
- The most important statement from the disciples about Jesus affirmed His Kingship: “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (16:16).
Over 80x in this Gospel, Matthew refers to Jesus as Messiah/Christ (King) or to the kingdom of God. He is presenting Jesus to a Jewish audience as the promised Messiah and King of Israel and all people. Matthew’s emphasis is on Jesus as the fulfillment of the covenants to Israel — so in that sense, when you read “kingdom” and “king” in Matthew, you can think “ultimate Kingdom” or “Millennial Kingdom.”
But he is also revealing what it takes for an individual (Jew) to be part of that kingdom — and how does God care for the people in His kingdom — and in that sense, this is personal and for us: how can anyone who is unrighteous be rightly related to God? And being rightly related to God, how should we live?
Over the next few weeks (through the end of the year), we are going to look at this great King, who is infinitely better and infinitely greater than the best worldly king.
Here is a remarkable King who doesn’t take, but gives. Here is a sovereign who saves and adopts. Here is a potentate who is paternal. This is our God. This is our King.
And if He is your King, delight in Him. Pursue the callings of kingdom living and rest in the provision of the King for you; this great King is not your enemy, will do you no harm, and is working for your benefit (which is also for His glory).