Loving Your King
Preparing for the Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 1-4
In 1804, Thomas Jefferson sat down in the White House with a copy of the New Testament in one hand and a razor blade in the other and proceeded to cut and paste a Jesus of his liking. Being a rationalist, Jefferson cut away the parts of the gospels that spoke of Jesus’ divine nature and miracles and left only what he believed to be the ethical teachings of Jesus. He called it the Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. According to Jefferson, the real Jesus was merely a man–a good man, an ethical man and a moral teacher, but merely a mortal man. The third president did then, what is so popular today–making God in our own image. Making up our own form of Christianity, one we agree with, one we can understand, and one we can control.
But there is a big problem–any God you can design is far too small to offer comfort during seasons of difficulty, far too small to give wisdom in crisis, far too small to answer our painful questions, and far too small to offer assurance in the face of death. The only God who can be trusted, embraced and followed is a big God–the One who has revealed his Sovereign character through His Word and the One who demonstrated His nature by becoming a perfect Man. The One who is so large, His teaching is unforgettable, His miracles are undeniable, and His love incontestable.
The only God who is big enough to demand our allegiance and require our obedience is Jesus Christ. As Lord, Christ did not give permission to anyone to redefine His person or nature. And because you need to see Him for who He really is, He foreordained four gospels to be written in order to see Him most clearly. And the one that stands first in our New Testament is Matthew’s gospel–where Jesus is presented as King, or as Peter shouts in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The phrase, “the Christ”, is another way of saying that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah–and according to Matthew 1, as the Messiah, Jesus is the King whom the prophets foretold would come to save the world. There has been a lot of attention on being a king of late, with the coronation of King Charles the 3rd. Some are enamored, others curious, a few are disgusted–but if you were meeting with genuine royalty, you would not just walk in and say, “Hey, Chuck!” You would respect the office. And if he were your king, you’d submit and obey. Matthew is presenting Christ as the Jewish King, and as your King.
Matthew wrote his gospel with a Jewish audience in mind to reveal Jesus’ true identity and nature–and to prove to Israel that Jesus was their Messiah and only King. Matthew demonstrates by lineage, miracles, fulfilled prophecy, character, and teaching that Jesus is the Sovereign God of the universe, the Lord we are to follow, the King we are to obey, the friend we are to treasure, and the only Savior from sin and the only being who can transform us inside out–from dead to alive, and from enemy to friend.
We will invest this next school year and exposit through the greatest sermon ever preached, by the greatest preacher there ever was–the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 to 7. But before we get there, I want to give you the background and setting found in Matthew chapters 1 to 4. Then next week, an overview of chapters 5 to 7. Some have called Matthew the single most important document of the Christian faith. Early Church historians tell us Matthew was the most widely read and most quoted book of the New Testament. While all four gospels are crucial, there is a reason why Matthew stands first.
After centuries of silence, around 25 years after Jesus had gone back to Heaven, the Spirit of God inspires and God speaks again through His chosen apostles and the New Testament begins with Matthew, the bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament–the Old Testament being a book of promise and the New Testament being a book of fulfillment. The Lord Jesus being the only One who fulfilled hundreds of prophecies (hundreds, even thousands of years before) of the coming Messiah.
Each gospel has its own emphasis–Mark presents Christ the servant, Luke presents Christ the Son of man, and John the Son of God. But Matthew shows Christ as Christ the King, the Messiah, the Ruler of all. Matthew shows us Christ as a doer and a teacher, showing us twenty specific miracles and six major messages in this 28-chapter gospel with a passion for the Kingdom of God. It’s also Matthew, though focused on the Jewish people, who is the one who introduces us to the coming Church and its make-up of all the nations, peoples and languages on Earth.
Matthew made it clear this new mission, made up of a new people, must not maintain any racial or social exclusivity, but that faith in Christ alone makes all believers and family one body, destroying differences and creating unity. Matthew himself is an example of God’s amazing grace found in true salvation. Matthew, or Levi the son of Alphaeus, was a tax collector. These are the most hated people in Jewish society. They were considered traitors for cooperating with Rome, and they were considered thieves because they often charged more than they needed to collect–making them wealthy as well as hated.
But the Lord Himself opened Matthew’s heart to become a new person. This was not an easy choice for him to make–after all, Matthew came from Capernaum, which was a city the Lord Himself had rejected. But God’s call is irresistible–and Matthew not only opened up his heart to Christ, but opened up his home for a great feast in order to introduce his tax collecting friends, Jews and Gentiles, to Jesus Christ.
Matthew was also personally used as a testimony to the grace of God–for when Jesus was criticized for eating with publicans and sinners, he responded that Christ only came to heal the sick not the well, to heal the unrighteous not the self-righteous. Little did Matthew know that he’d someday be the one who’d write the first gospel in our New Testament.
In the first four chapters, Matthew labors to clearly present the person of Christ. Chapters 1 to 2 present the birth of the King. Chapters 3 to 4 present the credentials of the King. Everyone one of us as believers continually needs to renew his love for, and loyalty to, the King. Every non-believer needs to submit to, and serve, the King.
#1 The King’s BIRTH Chapters 1 to 2
If a man shows up on the scene and claims to be king, the public will immediately ask for proof. What is his background? Is he of the right lineage? Anticipating these questions, Matthew opens his book with a careful account of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events that accompanied it, giving us four main answers. Warren Weirsbe came up with these 4 H’s firs.
First The Heredity of the King 1:1-25
My genealogy is not very important to me–partly because there is some mystery to my heritage, as I already told you. My grandfather is not Mueller, but a rich Irish politician in Chicago, who lived during the time of Al Capone. And my grandmother was a prohibition flapper. On my mom’s side, there were a lot of Belgian police chiefs from the DeSmet family. The other reason I don’t care is because I am in the family of Jesus Christ–I belong to Him, I am in Him, and I will be in His forever family in joy forever. Our family is a heavenly family and I will live forever on the winning team.
But genealogies to the Jews were more important than we can imagine–without a genealogy, they couldn’t prove their tribal membership, nor could they prove their inheritance rights. And anyone who claimed to be of the house of David had to prove it. Matthew’s genealogy is generally the Lord’s heritage through His foster father, Joseph. Whereas, Luke’s genealogy is generally the Lord’s heritage through His human mother, Mary. And both genealogies make it clear that Jesus Christ’s birth is different from any other Jewish boy named in any genealogy.
Matthew points out that Joseph did not beget Jesus—rather, Joseph was the “husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called the Christ.” Jesus was born of an earthly mother without the need of an earthly father, meaning a virgin birth. Every child born in the world is a new creature, but Jesus existed before Mary and Joseph or any earthly ancestors. If Jesus were conceived and born just like any other baby, then He would not be God. It was necessary for Him to enter this world through an earthly mother, but not to be begotten by an earthly father. By a miracle of the Holy Spirit– probably the greatest miracle of all–Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, who was a virgin at that time.
The Lord’s genealogy is not to be skipped, because it establishes Christ’s life in real history, celebrating God’s powerful providence, timing out his perfect plan, and forming a genealogy which is dripping with God’s grace–honoring both men and women. In the line of the King of kings are two ex-harlots, a pagan, and an ex-adulterer–Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. God redeems the most wicked and worst people, then uses them for His great purposes. People just like you and people just like me.
Second The Homage to the KING 2:1-12
The wise men were a group of unique, wealthy scholars–probably influenced by the person and writing of the prophet Daniel, who were awaiting the birth of the King. Knowing the timing from Daniel 9, they were summoned by God’s special star, and came to honor the true King, who was promised so long ago. We don’t know how many of these scholars came, but we know they brought three gifts.
We also know they did not arrive the night Christ was born, so all of your nativity sets are wrong. Take the wise men and set them on a mantle, because they’re coming to see Christ, but arrive later. The Bible clearly states when they find Jesus (in 2:11) He is in a house–not a manger. So here you have a group of Gentile scientists seeking to worship at the feet of the God man, born a child–the Child, the baby, an unspeaking infant who is the King. They came to honor the King, but Herod opposes the King.
Third The Hostility Against the King 2:13-18
The magi were seeking the King, but Herod was afraid of this magi-announced King and wants to destroy Him. This was Herod the Great, called a king by the Roman senate because of the influence of Mark Antony. Herod was a cruel and crafty man who permitted no one, not even his own family, to interfere with or threaten his rule or his desires. He was a ruthless murderer, who even had his own wife and her two brothers slain because he suspected them of treason. He was married at least nine times to fulfill his lusts and strengthen his political ties.
So when told about this other king by the visiting king-making magi–after doing the math, Herod determined to kill all the infants two years old and younger in Bethlehem. At that time, there would not have been hundreds of kids, but in a small village like Bethlehem, about ten to thirty two-year-olds. But regardless, it shows us what kind of man Herod was—plus it shows us the kind of hostility Jesus would face from the original murderer.
Remember John 8:44? “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Motivated by Satan, Herod lied, then murdered—but in contrast to the prince of the air, the true King is humble.
Fourth The Humility of the King 2:19-23
Joseph, Mary and their infant Son, the God Man, Jesus, fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. But they returned only to find Herod’s son, Archelaus on the throne–which moved them from Bethlehem to an even smaller and even less-known village, a dinky place in the middle of Israel, hanging off the northern rim of the valley of Megiddo–off the trade routes, but right in the middle of the fulfillment of prophecy. The despised city of Nazareth affirmed the Messiah’s lowly life of rejection.
Matthew will continually remind his readers that this King Jesus will fulfill Old Testament promise after Old Testament promise. He will prove to be the promised Messiah and God in the flesh by the hundreds of Old Testament promises Christ fulfills. Jesus is the King–the great King, King of all kings. Matthew makes certain his readers know that Christ has all . . .
#2 The King’s CREDENTIALS Chapters 3 to 4
Thirty years later, after chapter 2 comes chapter 3. In Nazareth, Christ grew up as a sinless boy, grew into a wood carpenter or a stone mason (mason is the same word for carpenter–plus, there is not a lot of wood around Nazareth). But the time arrived for Christ to begin his public ministry, which would culminate in His crucifixion on a cross, resurrection from the dead, and ascension to Heaven. Was Christ qualified to be King? He was, according to . . .
First The Forerunner of the King: John the Baptist 3:1-15
Preparing the way for the King was the precursor of the King. Israel had not heard the voice of a prophet for 400 years–then came John, declaring Christ as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. John prepared the populous by calling all people to repent of their sins. Repent is to change your mind, which always changes your behavior. The cousin to Christ, John the Baptist, was not content with regret or remorse over sin–he wanted to see genuine repentance, which is always accompanied by the fruit of repentance.
In 2 Corinthians 7:10 to 11, the fruit of repentance is described, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” True repentance manifests life-changing fruit and this is what the forerunner is calling for. Matthew 3:8, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
When you talk to those who don’t know Christ, you’re calling them to faith and repentance–and when they are regenerate, they will manifest both faith and repentance. And friends, repentance is not merely regret or feeling bad about sinful things you’ve done–it is a zealous change of heart to do what is right, a passionate hatred of sin, a fear of continuing in sin, and a longing to live obedient, pleasing your King as you seek to live uniquely holy. It didn’t matter if John was talking to the super religious traditionalists of his day (the Pharisees), or the wealthy, liberal, business-like Sadducees–he called them to repent.
So here is John, wearing a camel hair robe, eating locusts and honey–which by the way, if I had to eat locusts, I would dip them in honey too. A poor man, a prophet, preparing the way for the coming of Christ, the beginning of His public ministry. And when people did repent, real repentance, then John would baptize them in the Jordan River–which is different than our baptism, since he prepared people for Christ and presented Christ to the nation.
John mentions two other baptisms as well–the coming Spirit-baptism. When anyone is saved, they are immediately immersed by the Spirit into the body of Christ, the Church. John declared there was a coming new radical baptism, which would be by the Spirit. And John also warned of a coming baptism of fire, which describes the coming judgment, which will immerse you in eternal punishment forever, swimming in eternal torment. But all of this was to point to the coming King so He would increase and John would decrease. He would point to Christ, push others to Christ, and glorify Christ so that all men and women would be a part of . . .
Second The Affirmation of the King: the Triune God 3:16-17
Christ Jesus was also baptized–but not because He was a repentant sinner, but because He was not a sinner at all. John the Baptist actually tried to stop Christ from being baptized, but the Lord knew it was His Father’s will for Him to be baptized. By being baptized, Christ was giving approval of John’s ministry, identifying with the sinners he came to save–but mostly pointing to His future baptism on the cross, when the full force of God’s judgement for sin would cover Him like an ocean.
But the most important reason for Christ’s baptism was the affirmation of the other members of the Triune God. God the Spirit appears like some form of glorious dove and God the Father speaks a word of affirmation–intimate relationship and glorious purpose. You know the verses, Matthew 3:16 and 17, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”
The Spirit and the Father approve of God the Son. Here, the Triune God is manifested at one place and one time. The one true God in perfect triunity–yet each person equal yet distinctly God. The Father affirms the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ–not only at this moment, but the life Jesus lived in obscurity in Nazareth was also pleasing and perfect to God the Father. This is no ordinary man–this is God the Son, God incarnate, the second person of the Trinity being affirmed by the other two persons, each who are fully God, yet one God.
This is the greatest affirmation Christ could receive and was the reason for the baptism as Christ begins His public ministry. He is affirmed by God, as God. But is He truly perfect, sinless, and holy God? Yes.
Third The Character of the King: He is Impeccable 4:1-11
After the massive high and holy experience of the Triune God’s affirmation of God the Son, Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tested. This event is not primarily to show you His battle against Satan, or to show you how to deal with temptations–but to demonstrate Christ’s total victory over evil and sin, and complete victory over the master of deception and lies, a high rebellious angel, but just an angel, one that God Himself created, but who rebelled against Him. This is not a battle of equals–but like mankind, the creation in rebellion to its Creator.
Three different types of temptation are directed against Christ–very much like the temptations which Christians face. One was the temptation against the flesh, one a temptation from the world, and the last a temptation like the enemy himself, a temptation to proudly glory in oneself over God’s will. Christ exposes Satan and his tactics and defeats him in every single way. Christ proves He is sinless and unable to sin in every way and in any way. He is impeccable. Christ is unable to sin.
Like Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Because of His victory, you and I–if we are in Him–can be victorious over the tempter and temptation. And now, you and I can be a part of . . .
Fourth The Mission of the King 4:12-25
Matthew describes the Lord’s prophesied move to Capernaum, but he also clearly informs us that Christ had a mission. Christ Jesus proclaimed the Gospel, and proclaimed the same message as John the Baptist, calling all people to repent in chapter 4:17. Simply, turn from your sin and demonstrate repentance with a changed life.
The other three gospels then tell us during the same period as the time of Matthew 3 to 4, Christ proves His person and character by doing the first of His miracles, showing His abundant grace and unnecessary kindness at a wedding celebration, by turning water into the best wine. It is after this the Lord sets the Jewish world on fire by clearing out the Temple, which results in a nighttime meeting with the best teacher in Israel–Nicodemus (which is, as you know, where we get the phrase, Nic at Nite).
This leads to the Lord meeting the Samaritan woman at a well and evangelizing the village of Sychar, and the healing of a nobleman’s son. Then proving that a prophet has no honor in his hometown, our perfect Lord Jesus is rejected in Nazareth. And now this, His national rejection is clearly on the horizon, so Christ immediately calls the first four of His disciples. During the same time as Matthew chapters 3 and 4, the Lord also heals in the synagogue in Capernaum. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and ministers throughout the Galilee region.
The Lord then calls the second four disciples, after which He begins to push the external legalistic leadership of Judaism by healing a leprous man, then healing and forgiving a paralytic man. Then in the eyes of the population, Christ makes the worst mistake possible–what is it? Christ calls Matthew (the human author of this letter). Who is Matthew? A Roman-friendly, Jewish-swindling, traitorous tax-gatherer to now follow Him as one of His twelve.
This begins the year of popularity–Christ’s second year of ministry. Jesus heals a lame man, but does so on the Sabbath–which violates Jewish tradition, but not biblical law. Christ then declares to all that He is equal to the Father, right as His men pick grain like the poor were free to do, but on the Sabbath—which was frowned upon by the tradition followers. Then Jesus seals the hatred of the Pharisees by healing a man on the Sabbath, as Christ finishes selecting His disciples, appointing the last four of the twelve.
It’s at this point now that Jesus is back in Capernaum, with huge crowds following Him, on a slope overlooking the Sea of Galilee, a natural amphitheater with perfect acoustics–so good to this day you can whisper at the bottom and hear it spoken 100-plus yards away. Here at this location with a view, Jesus Christ preaches the greatest sermon ever preached. Matthew 5 through 7, a sermon which will strip away externals and elevate internals. A message which will destroy false religion and restore true faith. Teaching which will expose the phony, and plead with listeners to repent in heart. A discourse which will call you to Christ and transform His children. Are you ready? Are you excited? Then come back next week to be overwhelmed. But for now . . .
The Sermon on the Mount will focus on what is important.
A. Your genealogy is NOT important, but what’s important is being a genuine CHILD of God
Kids, students, collegians–you are not a Christian because Mom and Dad are. In the same way, being related to Al Capone doesn’t make you a gangster–so, being related to Christians doesn’t make you a believer. You’re not a Christian because you go to church, any more than going to MacDonalds makes you a hamburger.
You’re a Christian when, by faith, you surrender your life to Christ and His work on the cross. When you see yourself as a horrific sinner and embrace the historical fact that Christ suffered and died for your sin on the cross, then rose from the dead. You’re a Christian when you exchange all that you are for all that Christ is. Your friends and family do not matter as much as you being a true child of God. First John 3:1a, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” Are you?
B. Feeling sorry over sin is NOT important, but what’s important is genuine REPENTANCE
Second Corinthians 7:10 to 11 teaches that, 10—“the sorrow of the world produces death.” And 11–but genuine repentance produces earnestness, vindication, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, and avenging of wrong. That is all demonstrated, proven, real fruit. Genuine repentance is never merely a feeling and never merely talked about. Real, Spirit-produced repentance is demonstrated by fruit that is seen. Are you repentant?
C. Being tempted is not important, but talking to and trusting Christ, the IMPECCABLE, is
The very fact that Christ could not sin makes His understanding all the greater. When you are tempted, eventually you fall to the pressure. But when the devil threw everything at Christ, He continued to stand against the pressure of temptation longer than you or I ever will. Like four trees in a wind storm–one falls at 50mph, then another at 100mph, then the third at 150mph. But the fourth stands, even at 200mph.
The tree that felt the full force of the storm is the one which is able to stand firm. Christ is that tree. Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Talk to Christ and trust the impeccable One over your battles with sin. Are you?
D. Calling FBC your church is not important, but being immersed in Christ’s MISSION together is
Christ showed us what our mission is–calling sinners to repent and turn to Christ. Belonging to a church is vital, but that is not the end of your faith. You were left here to proclaim the Gospel, calling God’s enemies to become His friends and followers. Are you? And last . . .
E. Are you LOVING your King?