Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 4 - Parallel Prophet

  Throughout history parallel’s can be made about many different figures. Take Abraham Lincoln and JFK for example. 

Both were elected to congress in [a year ending in] ’46 (Lincoln was elected in 1846 from Illinois, and Kennedy was elected in 1946 from Massachusetts).

Both were elected to the presidency in [a year ending in] ’60 (Lincoln was elected in 1860, and Kennedy was elected in 1960).

Both have seven letters in their last names ("Lincoln" and "Kennedy").

Both were concerned with civil rights (Lincoln with slavery and Kennedy with Civil Rights).

Both married in their 30s to women in their 20s (Lincoln was married on November 4, 1842, Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, making him 33 years old at the time of his wedding. Lincoln's bride, Mary Anne Todd, was born on December 13, 1818, making her 23 years old at the time of the wedding. Kennedy was married on September 12, 1953,Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, making him 36 years old at the time of his wedding. Kennedy's bride, Jacqueline Bouvier, was born on July 28, 1929, making her 24 years old at the time of the wedding).

Both lost a son while living in the White House (Lincoln lost his 11-year-old son, William, and Kennedy lost his infant son, Patrick).

Both sons' names, have 21 letters each (William Wallace Lincoln and Patrick Bouvier Kennedy) with each having 7 letters each [of their own] (first, middle and last name).

Both were shot on a Friday (Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, and Kennedy was shot on Friday, November 22, 1963).

Both were killed with a bullet to the head. (Lincoln and Kennedy).

Both were shot in the presence of their wives. (Lincoln and Kennedy).

Both were assassinated by Southerners (Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth from Maryland, and Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald from New Orleans, Louisiana).

Both of the presidents' successors were named Johnson (Lincoln was succeeded by Andrew Johnson, and Kennedy was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson).

Both were succeeded by Southerners (Andrew Johnson was from Tennessee, and Lyndon B. Johnson was from Texas).

Both successors were born in [a year ending in] ’08 (Andrew Johnson was born December 29, 1808, and Lyndon B. Johnson was born August 27, 1908).

Both assassins, are known by their three names (John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald).

Each assassin's full name is composed of fifteen letters.

[And each assassin was killed] before [they could be tried] (On April 26, 1865, after refusing to surrender, John Wilkes Booth was assassinated by Sergeant Boston Corbett. On November 24, 1963, on his way to the county jail, Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated by night club owner, Jack Ruby.)” (Quote take from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln–Kennedy_coincidences_urban_legend) (Additional article - https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/06/fact-check-1964-lincoln-kennedy-comparisons-only-partly-accurate/5311926002/)

Parallels between people’s lives can be interesting to see. These parallel’s are events that we can look back on and wonder at the happenstance of it all. But what if the parallels between two lives was on purpose? What if one of the people actually predicted that there would be another who who would parallel their life? And what if later we could find someone that so closely does parallel their life, that there would be no doubt that it was a fulfillment?

This idea of parallel lives is what brings us back into our Matthew series. Where, instead of opening to Matthew first, we’re going to be opening to Deuteronomy chapter 18, starting in verse 15. And as we open up to Deuteronomy 18:15, let’s look back on our previous weeks. 

In our first week, we talked about understanding the human author that God used to bring about this Gospel. We walked away from week one with the understanding that when we better understand the human author God used, the better we understand some of the details and purposes of the writing as we read. We’ll see some of this today on how Matthew connects us back into the Old Testament.

In our second week we walked through some of the names in the genealogy that Matthew gave, and we noticed two things about it. We noticed that Jesus’ genealogy shows us the scope and connection of God’s salvation work. We saw this in who God used in Jesus’ genealogy to bring it about. We also saw the fulfillment of prophecy within the genealogy, both a blessing and a curse.

Then last week, we looked at the Old Testament way in which God communicated through dreams, noticing that Matthew lets us know that God was still using these in the life of Jesus. We walked away from last week with an understanding that dreams are still an important vehicle for God’s communication with humanity. In fact, God still uses dreams today to give insight to humans into divine revelation of his established salvation work. 

Now as we open up to the Scriptures this week, we’re going to be doing a lot of flipping around.  This is because, before we start moving our way through the rest of the book, we need to see one of the overarching themes in which Matthew is tying his writing to the Old Testament. If you remember, I had mention in our first week how there is a parallel between how Matthew structures his Gospel, and that of the book of Deuteronomy.

In Deuteronomy the structure of the book is made up of six speeches by Moses. Matthew structures his Gospel similarly by structuring it around five sermons of Jesus.  In addition to this, both Deuteronomy and Matthew both have an opening that is roughly four chapters long that gives us an introduction to how we got to our first speech/sermon. In Deuteronomy, it’s the history of Israel up to that point; while in Matthew we get how Jesus ties into Israel and how he begins his ministry.

But there’s more going on than Matthew simply tying together through the structure of his writing to Deuteronomy. There are two passages from Deuteronomy that Matthew shows fulfilled in his Gospel. First, let’s look at these two passages and then we’ll see how Matthew shows that they have been fulfilled. 

In Deuteronomy 18, we’re halfway through the book, and Moses is coming to the end of his life. Starting in verse 15, Moses gives hope to the people who are concerned about the future. Let’s start reading in Deuteronomy 18, starting in verse 15. “15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ 17 The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.’”

This is an important passage because it gives the people an understanding of the future, that there’s a prophet like Moses to come. The implication of God’s Word here is that the prophet will be comparatively similar or an equivalent to Moses. This is a prophecy of a life that will be parallel to another. 

But even though Joshua was to take over for Moses, we get these final words at the end of the book in Deuteronomy 34:10-12, “10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” This is important stuff, because no where in the Old Testament does another prophet arise that is given parallel status with Moses.

Now when we come to the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew shows us throughout his book that Jesus is in fact the prophet that Moses spoke about. He does this through a couple of different ways. The first way is by showing the observant reader these parallels through the actual life of Jesus. The second is by presenting the question, is Jesus the prophet, and then answering it. Let look at these two ways.

First, we’ll look at six parallels that Matthew shows us about Jesus, and how a Jewish person reading these words, would connect them back to Moses. We’re going to go in order of where they occur in the book of Matthew, and not necessarily in Moses’ life, so that we can see how many fall just within the first several chapters of the Gospel.

First, Matthew shows us in chapter 2, verses 13-15, that Jesus was carried away to Egypt to grow up for a time. Moses, as recorded in Exodus 2:1-15, also grew up in Egypt. Therefore both spent their young lives in the land of Egypt.

Next, in Matthew 2:16-18, we get the passage where King Herod sends out a proclamation that all the boys in Bethlehem and it’s surrounding region, who are two years and younger, are to be put to death. This parallels the situation in Exodus 1:8-2:10 that Moses was born into in Egypt, where the Pharaoh called for a similar killing of the Israelite male children. In both cases, both escaped the king’s infanticide.

Thirdly, at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17, we learn that the audible voice of the Father gives his stamp of approval on Jesus in front of the crowd. This parallels God’s stamp of approval on Moses in the presence of the nation of Israel, when God spoke from Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:16-20:21. So both were approved by God’s audible voice in front of others.

Right after this in Matthew 4:2, we find out that Jesus fasted for forty days. Moses did the same on Mount Sinai in Exodus 34:28. Now, this one isn’t a big parallel, but we must see, even in the little details, how Jesus’ life parallel’s Moses’. Matthew is being led by the Spirit to help us understand these connections, no matter how small.

The last two are big ones. In Matthew 5:1-7:29, we find out that Jesus goes up onto the side of a mountain and takes the people through a ten commandments like sermon. Moses of course did something similar in Exodus 34:29-35:1. Therefore a monumental moment in Moses’ ministry is paralleled in Jesus’ as well. Both speaking the commands of God from a mountain.

Finally, like Moses, Jesus performed miracles. This isn’t something that should be overlooked. And though there are many miracles that booth either performed or were perform by God in their presence, there is one that I think is extremely substantial. One of the major ones is done twice by Jesus. Once in Matthew 14:13-21, and later in the next chapter of 15:32-39. This miracle was the feeding of the 5,000 and later the 4,000. This bread miracle is a parallel to the miracle that happen as Moses led the Israelites in Exodus 16:14-15. This mana or bread from heaven is given to the Israelites and Jesus would actually pick this up in John 6:35 in his teaching. And so a miracle of bread occurs with both of these lives.

Now there are a lot more of these parallels throughout Matthew. And if we’re not paying attention, we might miss these parallels because we’re not as versed in the Old Testament as a Jewish reader would be. Nor is Moses as much of a significant figure in our minds as he would be to a Jewish person. But as a Jewish reader made their way through Matthew’s Gospel, they would pick up on these parallel between Jesus and Moses. And even though we might not be attuned to these parallels, we must make the effort to be observant of them.

In addition to these parallels, Matthew shows us a question that to a Jewish reader would be starting to form in their minds. He does this because the question was asked of Jesus in Matthew 11:3. Notice how a lot of the parallels we covered happen before the question. In this verse, the disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus and ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Now, we’ll get into the whole situation when we come to it, but the one who is to come that they were looking for, was the prophet who was like Moses. We would better understand the word Messiah at this point, because that is the role of the prophet, to be a Messiah like Moses. But this next prophet or Messiah was to be greater than Moses, because he would be the Messiah. In answering this question, Jesus puts it back on the questioner to answer, by saying, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” In the same way, it is the reader that must answer the question, is Jesus really the prophet like Moses?

And as Matthew brings along his Jewish audience, he reveals the answer through another moment in Jesus life. This time it’s in Matthew 21:11, where Jesus is entering into Jerusalem, and the crowds cry out, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” With this proclamation, the answer is yes Jesus is the prophet like Moses. The prophet that who was prophesied about has now arrived and we must follow him.

But these are just some of the parallels that Matthew shows through his writing, there are much more. And not just in Matthew’s work, but throughout the New Testament, this parallel between Jesus and Moses is brought to the forefront. This is why Peter, in his second sermon brings up Moses’ prophecy in Acts 3:22 “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.’” Peter does this in the context of referring to Jesus.

These parallels and recognization of Jesus being the prophet that Moses spoke about confirms, in part, Jesus’ identity.

And it’s here where we need to tread lightly. Though Matthew helps us see that Jesus is the prophet that Moses spoke about, Matthew also reveals that Jesus is more than just a prophet in line with the other Old Testament prophets. This is one aspect of who Jesus is, he is the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy, but Jesus is more than it. We must not fall into the trap that others, such as Islam has done, where Jesus is a mere prophet. No, in fact, in Jesus final words to his disciples in Matthew, Jesus reveals just who he is. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All authority is Jesus’. Jesus’ name is equal with the Father and Spirit’s. It is Jesus who gives the commands, and it is Jesus who will be with his disciples to the very end of the age. These all give us a greater insight into who Jesus is. He is the prophesied prophet, the Messiah, but he is also the eternal Son the God come down to humanity. He fulfills all prophecies about his first coming, and he is coming to fulfill all the prophecies of his second coming. And we must recognize who he is, just as Matthew is trying to help us do. Because if we don’t, we miss him. We miss out on his salvation work. We miss out on the life he died to bring us into. We miss out on his grace. And Matthew writes his Gospel, so that we will not miss out on who Jesus is.

And so, as we make our way through Matthew’s writing, we must see Jesus’ true identity. Each aspect, is shown by Matthew, to help us fully realize who Jesus is, and at the end do as his disciples did, bow down, worship him, putting our trust in him as our Savior and then following him for the rest of our lives.

So, my challenge for you this week is to look up three groups of passages. These are just some other parallels between Jesus and Moses. These groups of passages are: Numbers 13 & Matthew 10:1-15; Exodus 34:29-35 & Matthew 17:1-13; And Exodus 32:30 & Matthew 20:28. I want to challenge you to see how Jesus is a prophet like Moses. So that as we make our way through the rest of Matthew’s Gospel you will be better prepared to see Jesus’ work in light of the Old Testament.

Let us be a people open to the work of the Holy Spirit that brought about Matthew writing down God’s Word. Let us see it, as God intended it to be seen, as best we can. So that we can be solid in our footing, as we stand on the Word of God. Understanding the full identity of Jesus, the Messiah. Amen.

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