Servant and King

The theme of fulfillment is prominent in Matthew’s gospel. In Jesus of Nazareth, the promises of God found their fulfillment and intended applications. He was the Son of God sent to redeem Israel and rule the nations. Peter, for example, confirmed that he was the “Messiah.” Nevertheless, he failed to understand that he would undertake that role as the suffering “Servant of Yahweh” who came to “bear the sins of many.” His true identity was revealed in his sacrificial act.

In its opening passage, Matthew calls the Nazarene the “son of David, the son of Abraham.” Jesus was the royal descendant of David destined to rule the nations, and he was the heir of Abraham who would inherit and fulfill the covenant promises.

Dawn Light - Photo by Tadej Skofic on Unsplash
[Photo by Tadej Skofic on Unsplash]

Abraham was wealthy. David was a victorious warrior and king who reigned in Jerusalem. So, how could a poor man from an insignificant village in Galilee accomplish all that God had promised in the Hebrew Scriptures?

An angel informed Joseph that Mary was pregnant and commanded him to name the child Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins.” That name meant “Yahweh saves,” an indication of what God was about to do for His people.

However, the angel’s claims that he would “save his people from their sin” echoed the description of the “Servant of the LORD” in the Book of Isaiah, providing insight into just what kind of Messiah Jesus would be:

  • Behold, my servant shall deal wisely, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very highAnd Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all… Who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?... He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities Because he poured out his soul unto death and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

After he was baptized by John, the Spirit descended on him “like a dove,” and the “voice from heaven” called him “my Son.” Thus, God confirmed his status as the Messiah of Israel, and He also defined HOW he would fulfill that role, namely, as His “Servant” - (Psalm 2:7):

  • (Isaiah 42:1, 6-7) - “Behold, my servant whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations… I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nation

THE SERVANT


Jesus of Nazareth was the “Son” anointed by God’s Spirit appointed to rule the nations. However, he reigned as the “Servant of Yahweh,” and his sovereignty over the Earth commenced on Calvary. Later in Matthew, the same passage from Isaiah is cited again to describe his ministry, only more fully:

  • (Matthew 12:18-22) - “And perceiving it, Jesus withdrew from thence: and many followed him; and he healed them all and charged them that they should not make him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall declare judgment to the nations. He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; Neither shall anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, And smoking flax shall he not quench, till he sends forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the nations hope.

At his transfiguration, the same voice spoke once more, again echoing Isaiah - While Peter was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him - (Matthew 17:1-5).

The transfiguration was preceded by three incidents that prepared the disciples for it. First, Jesus asked them what others were saying about “who the Son of man is?” They responded, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, or one of the prophets.” Then he asked who they believed he was. Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” - (Matthew 16:13-20).

Second, he began to warn them about his suffering and death at the hands of the “elders and chief priests and scribes.” Peter found the idea intolerable and began to rebuke him.” His momentary revelation evaporated immediately - (Matthew 16:21-23).

Third, Jesus explained that if anyone desired to follow him, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow his path. “Whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.”

He then told the disciples that some of them would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” before they died. In the narrative, these words are followed by the transfiguration - (Matthew 16:24-28).

Afterward, the disciples asked him why the Scribes claimed that “Elijah must come first.” He responded: “Elijah” had indeed come, alluding to John the Baptist. To him, the Scribes, and the priestly leaders, “did whatever they would. Even so, shall the Son of man also suffer” - (Matthew 17:9-13).

Sun - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash
[Sunrise - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash]

SUFFERING BEFORE EXALTATION


Two themes become prominent in Matthew’s narrative. First, his coming suffering and death. Second, his disciples were summoned to follow him by engaging in sacrificial service for others and his Kingdom.

Later, two disciples requested high positions “when you come into your kingdom.” This displeased the others. However, Jesus used the opportunity to explain how “greatness” would be measured in his coming Kingdom:

  • (Matthew 20:25-28) – “But Jesus called them unto him and said: You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

The Messiah pointed to his sufferings and death as the ultimate example of what it meant “not to be served, but to serve.” In doing so, he echoed the description of the “Servant of Yahweh” - “Because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors. Yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

His death was the “ransom price” for the redemption of the “many.” Paul employed this same image when demonstrating how believers attain and manifest the “same mind, which was in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike Adam, Jesus did not attempt to seize the “likeness with God.” Instead, he “poured himself out and took the form of a servant… becoming obedient unto death, even, the death of the cross” – (Philippians 2:6-8).

Shortly before his death, Jesus broke bread and told the disciples to eat it, “for this is my body,” then he passed the cup, telling them to drink its contents, “for this is my blood of the covenant.” Once more, he was using language from the Book of Isaiah that described the “Servant of Yahweh”:

  • I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness and will hold your hand, and will keep you and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” – (Isaiah 42:6, Matthew 26:26-28).

After his resurrection, Jesus received “All authority in heaven and on earth.” He had become the Messianic King and began to reign over the Earth; therefore, he has been sending his disciples to proclaim the Good News to “all the nations” ever since.

However, his enthronement came only after paying a great price - his unjust death on the Roman cross. It is the suffering “Servant of Yahweh” who now sits on the Davidic Throne.

Thus, Jesus is the Servant of Yahweh who “gave his life as a ransom for many.” Neither his identity, his mission, nor his reign can be understood apart from his sacrificial act, and his life is the model and imperative for how his disciples must live in this sin-dominated world.



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