Portraits of Jesus: King (part 1)

Have you ever compared memories with others about someone you love? The holidays give opportunity for this. I’m thinking now of conversations I have had with my sister, my nephew, and my daughter about my father who died in 1998. To my sister, he was her Daddy; to my nephew, he was the father figure he never had; to my daughter, he was Grandpa; and to me, he was the man who taught me to believe in God and be honest with myself. Though our memories are similar,  what surprised me was the difference in our perspectives. It was a reminder that personalities are complex requiring many perspectives to get the picture right.

I believe this was God’s purpose in giving us four accounts of Jesus’ life. One Gospel couldn’t possibly capture the multifaceted nature of His grace. Each of the Gospels was also written with different readers in mind in hopes of inspiring faith in our Messiah. Matthew was written to the Jews presenting Jesus as their long-awaited King; Mark was written to the Romans picturing Him as the humble yet all-powerful Servant of God; Luke was written to the Greeks depicting Him as the Perfect Man; and John was written to prove His deity. In the next several posts, I intend to focus on these portraits with the goal of increasing our love for Jesus and thereby making this the most meaningful Christmas we’ve ever had. In this post, I focus on two proofs of His Kingship as presented by Matthew.

1) His Royal Lineage. Not everyone who wants to be king is qualified to be one. Consider Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Though he has been near the throne for 64 years, he will never be king because he wasn’t born in the royal line. Elizabeth’s right to rule by contrast has been fully authenticated. She can trace her family tree all the way back to William the Conqueror in 1066 A.D.

This is why Matthew’s Gospel begins the way it does. Many who set out to read the New Testament are stymied at this point, running into a long list of names extending all the way back to Abraham. He writes, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” It may be boring to us Gentiles, but this genealogy is here for good reason. Knowing the Old Testament prophecies, the Jews would never accept a King who was not descended from Abraham, born of the tribe of Judah, and able to trace his ancestry back to King David. For that reason, Matthew demonstrates that on this basis the credentials of Jesus are impeccable.

2) His Royal Birth. This is why Matthew also describes the prophetic and miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth. Josh McDowell insists in his book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, “If God were to become a man, we would expect Him to have an unusual entrance into life.” This Jesus clearly had, the most impressive aspect of which is His fulfillment of prophecy. Babies have no control over when and where they are born. Yet Matthew chapters 1-2 record His fulfillment of 8 prophecies including His virgin birth “in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.” (Matt. 2:1) Josh McDowell estimates the odds of 8 prophecies like these being fulfilled in the life of one person at 100 quadrillion to 1.

Two of these prophecies are worthy of special attention. One is His virgin birth. Many Christians mistakenly believe that the virgin birth is what protected Jesus from inheriting a sin nature. While it is true that there was no sin in Jesus (1 John 3:5), this fails to take into account Mary’s sin. What protected Him from sin was the holiness of God’s Spirit by whom He was conceived. (Matt. 1:20) Then why does the virgin birth matter? (1) A supernatural birth heralds the birth of a Supernatural Person – God the Son! (2) It fulfilled the most ancient prophecy of all! In cursing the serpent for tempting the woman, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He shall crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” (Gen. 3:15). This was the first hint that just as sin first made its made into the world through a woman, God in His amazing grace would work through the Offspring (Jesus) of another woman to strike the mortal blow against evil and thereby bring salvation to the world.

The second event worthy of mention is the visit of the Magi, for not only did it fulfill prophecy (Psa. 72:10) and announce the birth of Someone special, it also foreshadowed His ministry to come. Gold is a gift fit for a king. Frankincense is a present for a priest; and myrrh, used to relieve pain (Mark 15:23) and  anoint the dead (John 19:39), is a gift for someone about to die. These 3 gifts remind us that Jesus is our King, worthy of our worship, our High Priest who lives forever to make intercession for us, and our Savior who gave His life to pay for our sins.

(Later this week –  part 2 of “The King”)

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