Posts Tagged ‘Matthew


call his name jesus…

“… for he will save his people from their sins.” 

Jesus means ‘Yahweh the Saviour’.   Israel needed a Saviour – not from Rome but from her own rebellious heart.  She, like all of us, needed saved, from her ‘sins’.  Yahweh had always promised that he would be her Saviour. Indeed, he was her only Saviour, a fact proved from her youth in Egypt.

Hos 13:4 (ESV)
But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no Saviour.
(Cf. Isa 43:11)

Yahweh was,  ‘the hope of Israel, its Saviour in time of trouble’ (Jer 14:8).  He was, ‘The Holy One, your Saviour’ (Isa 43:3).  He is ‘a righteous God and Saviour and there is none beside him’ (Isa 45:21).

He himself would save… yet he would save by sending a Saviour

Isa 19:20 (ESV)
… When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a Saviour and Defender, and deliver them.

That Yahweh personally saves yet saves through the ‘sent one’ finds resolution in Jesus, Messiah, the one who is Immanuel, God with Us.

How this Saviour and Deliverer will save begins to unfold throughout the gospel.  It involves him in death and resurrection.  And it is a salvation that eclipses all expectation (then and often now).

Let’s celebrate and worship this ‘Great God and Saviour’ today.  Give him glory.


he shall save his people from their sins…

Matt 1:20-21 (ESV)
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew places right at the heart of the Christmas story or incarnation its purpose, ‘He shall save his people from their sins’.  A plea to all preachers this Christmas, don’t stop at the cradle… get to the cross and the resurrection.  Show with hallelujahs how he saves his people from their sins.  Nothing less is gospel.


out of Egypt have I called my son…

Matt 2:13-21 (ESV)
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:  ​​​​​​​​“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”  But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

Most modern commentaries will point out that part of the purpose of the gospel writers (especially the synoptics) is to show how Jesus recapitulates the history of the people of Israel in his own personal history.  Jesus, the commentaries will tell you, is the true Israel.  N T Wright has done much to highlight, popularise and resurrect this recapitulation perspective in recent times.  I say resurrect for it is by no means new to Wright.  Apparently it was outlined as long ago as Irenaeus.  Certainly it was a view with which I was familiar in youth long before Tom Wright had written a line.

As a view, of course, it is older even than Irenaeus, for it is clearly that of the gospel writers themselves – learned no doubt from Jesus who had taught them that he was the True Vine (Jn 15).  Israel was God’s Vine (Isa 5).  Yet as a nation, despite God’s great care of her, she produced only wild grapes – there was no joy or pleasure for God in Israel.  Christ, however, is the true Vine that produces fruit that satisfies God; Messiah is the true Israel.

This close identity between Messiah and nation is evident too in the OT.  Isaiah’s enigmatic ‘servant’ is Israel, but is distinct from Israel.  Ch 42-55 lay the groundwork for a Messiah who will be organically connected with his people’s history.  Therefore, it is no real surprise when we find in the NT parallels between the history of the nation and the history of her Messiah.

The Baptism of Christ in Jordan, for example, seems to parallel Israel in the Red Sea.  Just as Israel comes through the Red Sea to face the temptations of the wilderness (for forty years) so too Jesus’ baptism is immediately followed by his temptation in the wilderness (for forty days).  After the wilderness Israel enters the Land and sets about overthrowing all that polluted the land.  Likewise Jesus, the new Joshua and Israel, after his wilderness trials ranges through Israel overthrowing disease and demonic powers that pollute and destroy.  He is clearing the land of all that defiles and oppresses.

Other parallels are clear. Moses on Sinai receiving the Law and Christ on the mountain giving the ethics of the Kingdom.  The picture complicates as Jesus is in fact the progenitor of a new Israel of which his twelve chosen disciples paralleling the twelve tribes of Israel are the basis.  The Kingdom is to be taken away from Israel and given to a nation who will bear Kingdom fruit.  The twelve apostles are the rump of this new nation.

Israel’s history of disobedience inevitably results in the curse and catastrophe of exile.  She experiences the anathema of ‘forsakeness’ as she is handed over to the gentiles.  So too, the cross is the exile of Messiah, suffering like the nation at the hands of the gentiles, as God’s wrath-bearing judgement falls on him for the people on a gentile cross.

Exile, was for Israel a national death.   Humanly speaking her future as a nation was bleak. Only a miracle could make her a nation again, a miracle akin to resurrection .  The impossible must happen and long dead bones must live (Ezek 37).  Such a miracle could only happen by the power of the spirit of God and the prophets believed it would.  Messiah, like the people and for the people, finds life lies beyond judgement and death in resurrection, literal resurrection.  Messiah dies and literally and really rises from the dead to be the first of a new humanity – a humanity, an Israel beyond death, sin, law, Satan and all that destroys.

Thus Messiah embodies Israel’s story.  He is the King-Priest who experiences their experience and in the process delivers them from all their failure and its consequences.  God’s ‘Son’ par excellence is not Israel the nation but Christ. He is the true vine, the true son that God calls ‘out of Egypt’.

Thus in Matthew 2, in the text above we see the infancy of the nation in the infancy of Christ.  Just as ancient Israel moved to Egypt for protection and preservation in her infancy, so too does Messiah.  If the dreams of a Joseph took Jacob and his sons to Egypt so too the dreams of another Joseph will lead the Christ to Egypt for protection.  Ironically, if the danger for Israel’s male infants at the time of Moses lay in an Egyptian King then the danger for Israel’s male infants in the time of Christ lay with a Jewish King.  Satan is active in the heart not simply of a gentile King but of a Jewish King – his goal throughout history has never changed – he wants to destroy the ‘woman’s offspring’ (Rev 12).

The parallel is clear, but as is so often the case, ironies appear.  The enemy of Messiah is not the gentile nations (who have just visited to worship) but Israel herself.  For Messiah, the enemy will be within the gate.  He will be wounded in the house of his friends.  As N T Wright has well said – Israel is not simply part of the solution, she is also part of the problem.  She like all other nations is fallen and an enemy of God.

The immediate danger to the infant Christ passes with the death of Herod and Messiah like his people is called out of Egypt.  God’s ‘son’ travels like the nation before him to the land of Israel, the Land of Promise. For the moment the danger is passed.  The story has a happy ending.

But, of course, it is not the end.

Throughout Messiah’s life the serpent (Satan)  rages and seeks to destroy, and ironically, his primary instrument, is the nation.  While Herod, inspired by Satan, is unable to execute at Messiah’s birth, others will succeed some thirty or so years later when ‘the hour’ is come.  Instigated by Israel, the Romans (gentile nations) crucify the Christ.  The people will see placarded above his cross the crime for which he is crucified, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’.  The irony is exquisite and complete.

The Christmas story is not a pretty story.  It is not a gentle tale.  It is part of an epic and bloody saga, a tale of irrational hate, deception, intrigue, murder and unrequited love.  It is a huge story as big as history itself.  But above all it is an uplifting story, of love and betrayal, of blood and victory, of fall and redemption, of Homeric hope, herculean grace, and quixotic valour, not in imaginary tales but the love of God in Christ for a rebellious world.  However devalued by the Hollywood machine,  it is indeed, ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’.

And it is true.


following the star and finding the king

Isa 60:1-22 (ESV)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  ​​​​​​​​For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  ​​​​​​​​And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…  ​​​​​​​​Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you… ​​​​​ They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord… ​​​​​​  ​​​​​​For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful…

The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.  ​​​​​​​​Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.  ​​​​​​​​Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.

Isaiah 60 is a glorious vision of a future Zion.  Jerusalem was in ruins because she had been judged by God for her sins.  Israel was in exile.  Isaiah’s prophecy sees a day of coming glory and joy for Jerusalem, for Zion, for Israel.  It is a day when Jerusalem will no longer be despised and a disgrace but all the nations of the earth will bring their wealth to her like the Queen of Sheba brought her gifts to Solomon. Jerusalem will be glorious for the Lord himself will be her glory and her light.

Revelation shows us that the complete fulfilment of this prophecy awaits the Second Coming of Christ and the establishing of his final everlasting Kingdom.  John has a vision of this glory in Revelation 21.

Rev 21:1-27 (ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God…  Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal…

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day-and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

But Isaiah’s prophecy, like all OT prophecies that speak of the End, has a fulfilment in history.  For the End rightly began 2000 years ago.  The salvation of God that will result in a renewed universe suffused with the presence of God arrived with the birth of Immanuel, God with Us: then Israel’s light dawned; then the glory of the Lord appeared in her midst; and then the nations of the earth began to be drawn to this light and glory.

Matthew’s gospel makes this clear.  Matthew presents Jesus as Messiah, Israel’s King and Lover, the source of her glory.  In other gospels the Glory of Israel is first seen by Shepherds.  But Matthew does not mention the shepherds.  It is the wise men who are the first to come to Jesus.  It is the nations of the world who are first to recognise his arrival and come to worship.  Matthew writes,

Matt 2:1-12 (ESV)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

In fact, while Israel is poised to reject and kill him if possible, the gentiles come to worship and rejoice at the birth of Israel’s glory, of Zion’s King first indicated in a rising star.  They announce to Israel the ‘good news’ of his birth (Isa 60:6).  They bring their wealth to him… gifts of gold and frankincense… and they rejoice in his birth.

Matthew’s narrative is a template for the course of history.  For though he comes to his own, his own do not receive him.  They, like Herod, wish to kill him, and eventually succeed.  Messiah is first worshipped and adored by gentiles.  It is the nations of the world who today delight in Immanuel and place their gifts of homage at his feet.  Meantime his own people continue to reject him.  Only when the full number of gentiles has been saved will Israel turn again in faith and rejoice in her deliverer (Roms 11).  Then Jew and Gentile together, Israel and the nations of the world, will be part of that city, the New Jerusalem, the bride of Messiah radiant with the ‘glory of God’.

All this is the inscrutable wisdom of God who decides that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Let’s make sure that we like the first gentile converts, the wise men, make every effort to find and worship the new-born King for therein lies our joy, our glory, and our salvation.

the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.


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