The book of Matthew is the introduction of the entire New Testament. Matthew’s original audience would have been Jews who were very familiar with the Old Testament. While it certainly applies to all people today, it is certainly beneficial to keep the original audience in mind. Matthew is writing to these Jews to prove that Jesus Christ is the King that the Old Testament foretold.
Matthew can be broken down into seven sections discussing the Kingship of Jesus and His Kingdom. The following sections outlined came from the book, Illustrated Bible Survey an Introduction: Person of the King (Matthew 1:1-4:25), Proclamation of the King (Matthew 5:1-7:29), Power of the King (Matthew 8:1-12:50), Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:1-13:53), Presentation of the King (Matthew 13:54-23:39), Prophecies of the King (24:1-25:46), and the Passion and Triumph of the King (Matthew 26:1-28:20).
The Person of the King
Matthew begins his account by showing that Jesus’ Jewish heritage can be traced all the way back to Abraham. He also shows that Jesus is a direct descendant of Jewish royalty, calling Him “the Son of David (Matthew 1:1). Long before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied that a virgin would have a son, and His name would be Emmanuel; meaning God with us (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew wrote about the virgin birth in Matthew 1:18-25. They called His name Jesus “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
After the birth of Jesus, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem searching for Him. They came asking, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” in Matthew 2:2. Herod was king in Jerusalem at this time, and he was very concerned about this statement from the wise men. Being a king himself, he was threatened by the idea of another king of the Jews. When the wise men did not return to him with the location of Jesus, he became very angry, and put to death all the children in Bethlehem under two years of age. Jesus was safely in Egypt however; his family had escaped there after they were warned by the angel of the Lord to flee.
Moving forward into the adult life of Jesus, Matthew brings attention to the forerunner of the King, John the Baptist. Matthew quotes from Isaiah, referring to John the Baptist, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3). John not only prepared the way for Jesus by alerting the Jews to his coming, but also prepared the people for the kingdom that would soon be arriving by saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He was letting the people know that the coming kingdom would be a spiritual one, not an earthly kingdom as many of the Jews were anticipating.
Jesus after being baptized by John the Baptist, went into the wilderness to be tempted by the arch-enemy of His kingdom, the devil. One of the main components of the coming kingdom, would be “to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). For Jesus to be the King of this spiritual kingdom, He would have to prove Himself fit to lead. One of the ways He would prove his qualifications would be by never committing a sin, even though He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
After being tempted, Jesus began to go about preaching the same message as John the Baptist, saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus calls to Himself several fishermen, who will later become known as members of the twelve apostles. These men would follow the King throughout His life here on earth. He went about “healing all manner of sickness” (Matthew 4:23), and when great crowds gathered around Him, He took that moment to make His first great proclamation as King.
The Proclamation of the King
Matthew 5-7 is referred to today as “The Sermon on the Mount.” In this section of Scripture, Jesus makes His first great proclamation as King. Some will believe that what the King says on this occasion is impossible to live up to today. Others will look at His teachings as a challenge to live by throughout their lives. Matthew arranged the Sermon on the Mount in a way so that the reader could better follow and understand what Jesus had to say regarding specific subjects.
The King begins His speech by painting a portrait of the ideal disciple, or ideal citizen of His coming Kingdom. He says of the people who display these “Beatitudes” in their lives, that “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3,10). Jesus wanted the multitude to know that at the core of His kingdom, was the attitude of the heart. While He the citizens of His kingdom must obey His commands, their heart and their attitudes would be most important to the King. As Jesus will say later in Matthew, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Israel had become focused on the outward actions of the law, but they were neglecting the essence of the matter, their heart. The King desires not just the outward actions of obedience, but obedience from the heart as well.
After mentioning to the multitude that they need to be a light to the dark world and the salt of the earth, Jesus tells them that He did not come to destroy the Old Law, but that He was the fulfilment of the Old Law. Jesus is telling the crowd that He is the King for which they have been waiting! Remember, the Jews thought that the coming King, or Messiah, would establish an earthly kingdom and bring their nation back into power. If the crowd was listening to the words of Jesus, they should have started to realize that He was speaking of a spiritual reformation and revolution in Israel, not a physical one.
The King then makes a statement that must have been shocking to His audience, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees were considered the “Religious Elite” of the day. The crowds would have likely been shocked at this statement. In their minds, the scribes and Pharisees were their religious leaders and their teachers. Jesus points out that they are “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14). Jesus is contrasting the righteousness of His coming Kingdom and the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The King points out that followers of Him must not only avoid murder, adultery and other sins, but to avoid the causes of these problems, which generate in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26, 28-30, 33-37).
In summary of the Sermon on the Mount, the Proclamation of Jesus, “True righteousness is not merely a matter of external deeds but the attitudes and intentions of the heart.” (Hindson and Towns 355)
After Jesus makes His first proclamation as King, He then demonstrates the Power He has as King.
The Power of the King
The proclamation of Jesus would have been less effective if He was unable to display the power He had as King. Jesus preached many things to the multitudes that would have been very shocking for them to hear, going against many things the scribes and Pharisees had taught them. The King showed His power by working many miracles, thus proving that He has been sent by God.
Jesus demonstrates He has power over the physical ailments of the people. He had power over leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), palsy (Matthew 8:5-13), fever (Matthew 8:14-17), blindness (Matthew 9:27-34), and withered limbs (Matthew 12:1-14). The King shows that His power is greater than sickness and physical disabilities.
Second, Jesus shows that He has power over the elements. While the King and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, there arose a storm that produced great fear in His disciples. The disciples feared for their lives and awoke Jesus saying, “Lord, save us: we perish” (Matthew 8:25). It is interesting to note that they believed Jesus had the power to save them, that is evident in their statement. Jesus responds, however, by saying, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). Why would Jesus respond to their plea in this manner? Two thoughts: 1) If they truly believed Jesus could save them from the storm, then why were they afraid of the storm? 2) If they were confident in the King’s ability to deliver them, why did they wake Him? They should have known that He didn’t have to be awake to save them from the storm.
Third, Jesus demonstrate His power over the demons. In Matthew 8:28-34, Jesus comes into contact with two men who are demon possessed. Mark tells us that the demons were called Legion, because they were many. It is interesting to note that as soon as the demons realized it was Jesus, they referred to Him as “Thou Son of God” (Matthew 8:29). Christ’s power as king has already begun to encroach on Satan’s domain. Jesus sends the demons out of the men and into a herd of swine. A few chapters later in Matthew 12:22-37, Jesus once again heals a man possessed by a demon. This time the people observing what takes place say, “Is this not the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23) They recognized that the Messiah – the coming King, would have such power. The Pharisees said, “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matthew 12:24) Jesus then makes the obvious point that if a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand. He also asks them in whose name their disciples cast out demons. Jesus points out the hardness of their hearts in refusing to accept Him as their King. The Pharisees were too concerned with keeping their own power, and this attitude of corruption blinded them to seeing and believing the truth about the Kingship of Jesus.
Fourth, Jesus demonstrates that He has power over death itself. Matthew tells us about a ruler’s daughter who had fallen ill. The ruler came to Jesus pleading with Him to come and heal his daughter. While they are on the way, word reaches them that the ruler’s daughter has died. When Jesus arrives at the house, He says, “The maid is not dead, but sleepeth” (Matthew 9:24) The people who were at the house began laughing, they didn’t realize that this King had power even over death! Jesus reaches out, takes the girl by the hand, and she got up. Those who serve this King, will never have to fear death, He has conquered death!
Finally, Jesus shows He has power over man’s worst enemy, sin. A man with palsy was brought to Jesus to be healed. Jesus noticed the faith of the men who brought the man, and told the man, “Son, be a good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2). The scribes began to think that Jesus was blaspheming. After all, only God could forgive sins. Jesus knows the hearts of men however, and asked them if it was easier to say they sins are forgiven, or arise take up your bed and walk? Well, clearly it’s easier to say your sins are forgiven, the results cannot be seen! So, to prove that He could forgive sins, Jesus told the man to get up, take his bed, and walk; and the man did! Don’t miss the point of this passage: Jesus is sent from God; He proves that by working miracles. Now, if God did not approve of His claim to be able to forgive sins, we would not have been able to work this miracle. But Jesus shows that God approves of what He teaches by healing the man. The scribes knew these things, but sadly, many of them hardened their hearts and refused to believe what should have been so plain to them. Truly, Jesus is a king with great power who must be followed!
The Parables of the King
Jesus then begins to dial down the miracles, to make sure He remains on God’s timeline for the coming kingdom. He shifts to telling parables – many of them about His kingdom. His parables were an earthly story to which His audience could relate, that had a heavenly or spiritual meaning.
Jesus told parables to help his audience understand important principles about Him and His coming kingdom. Sometimes, the true meaning of the parable was difficult to understand. Hindson and Towns wrote,
“The Sower teaches that certain differences between people will produce different responses when the gospel is preached (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Wheat and Tares and the Net show that some people will be included and some rejected when the kingdom comes. The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl show that the kingdom is more valuable than all other possessions (Matthew 13:44-46).” (Hindson and Towns 357)
After Jesus goes through this period of telling the parables, He begins to increase the pressure on the religious leaders and being even more open in presenting Himself as the Messiah, the King that the Jews were anticipating.
The Presentation of the King
Jesus goes back to His home country and teaches in the synagogue. The crowd reacts by saying, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Whence hath this man all these things?” And they were offended in Him (Matthew 13:55-57a). While Jesus continues to do miracles, the tension between Him and the religious leaders continue to escalate. They were envious of all the attention He was getting from the multitudes, and refused to accept the evidence that He was the King for which they had been waiting.
During this time, Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter then makes the great confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus then promises that He would build His church on the rock; which is the confession of Peter. He said that Peter would be given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). This came to pass in Acts 2 when Peter preaches the first Gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost.
Jesus told his apostles on several occasions that he would be killed and be raised from the dead. He said, “The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again” (Matthew 17:22-23). Jesus has already demonstrated His power over death, He is now telling them that He has power over His own life.
In Matthew 21:1-11, we read of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. They were coming to keep the Passover as the Old Law stated. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the multitude gave Him a welcome fit for a king. They spread their garments and tree leaves in the road for the donkey He was riding to walk upon. The crowd began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). The Scriptures say in Matthew 21:10 that all the city was moved and wondered, “Who is this?” Some of the people believed and knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be – the Son of God, the Messiah for whom they’d been waiting. Others still believed He had come to set up and earthly kingdom and restore Israel to its former glory.
The Prophecies of the King
Matthew then records two main prophecies of the King in Matthew 24:1-51. Jesus tells his apostles that the temple would be destroyed, to the extent where there would not even be one stone left on top of another. This is such a catastrophic event in their minds, that they assume Jesus must be referring to the end of the world. Take note, they ask Him two separate questions, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming; and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). The remainder of this chapter is Jesus answering the two separate questions asked by His apostles.
Many people confuse what Jesus is talking about in this chapter so for the sake of brevity, Jesus answer can be summed up in the following 2 points: 1) Jesus is discussing in Matthew 24:4-35 the coming destruction of Jerusalem, 2) Jesus answers the second part of His apostles’ question about the end of the world in Matthew 24:36-51.
The Passion and Triumph of the King
The final section that Matthew discusses is the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the King. The religious leaders of the Jews had been plotting of how they could get rid of Jesus; they were burning alive in their envy of Christ. See, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, enjoyed great power and prominence among the Jewish people. They were viewed as great Holy men of God, and they were drunk on the power and attention that the people gave them. When Jesus came to earth and began teaching, not only did crowds follow him, but He called out the Pharisees for their sinful behavior of self-righteousness. They hated Jesus so much, that they came by night, arrested Him, had a mock trial, threatened the Roman governor by gathering a mob and threatening to riot, and finally, they got what they wanted when Jesus was crucified on a cross like a common criminal.
What the religious should have known, being the “Bible Scholars”, was that the death of Jesus was the plan of God all along. They were so blinded by their traditions and their false interpretations of the Old Law, that they couldn’t see the truth. After Jesus arose from the dead, three days after He died, the Jewish religious leaders continued to fight the growth of the Kingdom, but would ultimately fail.
Matthew concludes the book about the King and the Kingdom of Heaven by sharing to all readers of the Scriptures, what is simply known as The Great Commission. Before Jesus ascends back into heaven, Matthew records these words He spoke, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The conclusion is that the King has been given all power and authority and that His kingdom will never fall. Earthly kingdoms will rise and fall throughout time, but the church – the kingdom of heaven – will never fall until the return of our Lord, our King. And in that day, He will bring His church, His kingdom, to the home which He has prepared for them in heaven. And there, the faithful servants in His kingdom, will live with their King, for all eternity.
Hindson, Ed and Elmer L Towns. Illustrated Bible Survey, An Introduction . Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.
The Holy Bible KJV. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1999.