The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1, NASB)
We are citizens in the kingdom of God.
Do we know who our king is?
I’m asking that question seriously, because honestly, I think this is the number-one scandal in the church today. We’ve gotten so used to reading the Bible as “life’s little instruction book” that we forgot it’s a Story. A history. A history that centers around a person, a man who became king and who is sitting now on the throne of the kingdom of heaven.
A man with a family, a history, a mission, and a role in the universe that affects us all.
Several years ago I started teaching a Bible study through Matthew for our 1:11 team. I just wanna say this up front: the Bible is the most loaded book I have ever read. If you want to go in-depth, you can spend hours picking apart just one phrase.
Case in point, I spent over an hour on Matthew 1:1, and I only scratched the surface.
Matthew’s not wasting words here. Every word is dripping with significance: historical background, prophetic allusion, and declaration of who this man is and what he came to do.
Here, he says, is the historical record of the man Jesus. Born a Jew, into two particular lines of promise: the line of blessing and the line of kingship. The direct inheritor of two enormously significant covenants, promised first to Israel and through that nation to the entire world.
Right, I’m jumping ahead. Sorry.
“This is the record of the genealogy.”
Which means, right there, that Jesus is not like other gods. He’s not a myth, a fairy tale. He’s a man who could look up his family tree on genealogy.com. He was born in the real world, in a real place, at a real time, to a real family.
But then he’s called Jesus.
The Greek form of Yeshua (Joshua), which means “Yahweh saves.”
And Matthew calls him the Christ (Greek for the Hebrew “Messiah”)–the Anointed One.
In the Old Testament world that laid the foundations for Jesus’s coming, anointing signified authority in the service of God. Priests and kings were anointed to fulfill their roles with God’s power and blessing.
Jesus had a very specific mission that came with his anointing.
It remains his mission today — one we share as his body in the world.
(But that’s jumping waaaay ahead.)
He declared it himself when he began his ministry, reading the ancient words of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me,
because the LORD has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year
of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn
to give them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes
instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the LORD to glorify Him.”
(Isaiah 61:1-3, HCSB)
He is Yeshua HaMashiach, Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Yahweh who saves and who was promised. The man who has come into the world full of the Spirit of the Lord GOD to bring good news, to heal the brokenhearted, free the captives, turn mourning into dancing, and clothe the despairing human race in glory.
To make of you and me “trees of righteousness, planted by the LORD.” Full of God’s own life and manifesting that life in the world through the fruit we bear.
That is the Jesus Matthew announced.
But I do have to wonder if it’s the Jesus many of us know.
Because quite honestly, often I think we don’t really know what Jesus’s mission is at all–what he’s anointed, empowered, and desirous to do. Do we know that our faith is in one who has come to save? And before we scandalously overspiritualize that word until it doesn’t mean anything that really means anything, let’s break it down:
Our faith is in one who has come:
to bring good news
to proclaim liberty
to announce God’s favor and also his vengeance on his enemies (and ours)
to exchange beauty for ashes, joy for sorrow, glory for despair.
He has come to make us fully alive where before we were withering and all but dead. He has come to plant us by living waters and manifest his righteousness and his life through us.
(“Righteousness,” by the way, should not just be read as “morality”; in biblical terms, you might think of it as a power of life. It’s a creative energy, a force–the “right-making” of the world.)
Jesus was (and is) on a mission to meet all of the crying need of mankind, not to tell us we don’t really need that after all; to make our deepest heart’s desires come true (not to warn us against wanting things); and to glorify us so we will glorify him.
He isn’t “Yahweh sees what you’re going through but prefers to keep his distance; don’t worry, you can come to heaven when it’s all over”; he is YAHWEH SAVES.
If you’re going to serve a king, it’s good to know what he’s all about. What his mission is.
Not least because we need saving.
And not least because, when we get caught up with Jesus and become part of his kingdom, this becomes our mission too.