I’m setting out to study one of the main themes of Matthew's gospel—The Kingdom of Heaven. The exact phrase “kingdom of heaven” only appears in Matthew’s gospel, and it does so thirty-one times. Twenty-nine of those times in red letters! Four more times Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God in Matthew, and Matthew records the word kingdom without either tag another twenty-four times for a total of fifty-five mentions of the word kingdom in this gospel.
It’s by far the strongest theme of Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus, so I thought we would spend some time digging into his story to see what we can find.
Matthew starts his telling with a genealogy. Every kingdom needs a king, and Matthew is out to prove that Jesus is the king of heaven.
I know, if you’re like me, your eyes glaze over as you read the first half of Matthew’s introduction. Much has been written and said about first lines. They tell me if you want to write a killer book, you need a great first line.
Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five(1969)
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. —God, The Bible
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. —The apostle John, The Gospel According to St. John
(For more first lines check this out.)
Matthew—not so much. In fact—judging by his introduction, you might think Matthew’s real theme was begetting! Begat is used thirty-nine times in the first sixteen verses of this book.
Why the boring front matter?
He’s going to be talking about a kingdom, so he needed a king.
Matthew, tax collector by trade, may have had a thing for records, but what he does in these first sixteen verses is give empirical proof that had Israel still sported a throne, Jesus should occupy it.
He traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham the father of the faithful to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly and legal father. The interesting thing about Matthew’s telling is all the colorful details he includes in this family tree. Nothing but names with two exceptions. There is one comment for time frame about when they were carried off into Babylon. The only other thing we learn is in verse six.
Jesse was the father of David the king. - Matthew 1:6 NASB
Matthew begins with this one fact—Jesus was (is) rightful king of Israel.
There’s an interesting article here about why Luke and Matthew have different genealogies for Jesus. I’ve always gone with the idea that Luke traces Mary’s line and Matthew traces Joseph’s line. Jesus was Joseph’s son as far as the law was concerned, so He stood to be his heir. Mary’s blood line—therefore Jesus’ blood line also goes back to David, making Him heir by blood and by law.
Jesus was King of the Jews!
But He said in John’s gospel,
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." - John 18:36 NASB
He is king of another kingdom—the kingdom of Heaven.
For the record, He’s also the King of me.
How is it with you friend. Is Jesus your King?
Come back soon,
For more on this Kingdom of Heaven series click here.