Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 5 - Usurper King

  One of my favorite scenes is from Disney’s Robin Hood. It is a classic retelling of the Robin Hood myth. The whole movie centers around the cowardly Prince John taxing the people of England while King Richard is off fighting in the crusades. When John arrives in Nottingham he comes into conflict with the our hero Robin Hood. The Disney twist on the story is that they’re all animals playing the parts of the characters. Of course our hero Robin wins and eventually marries Maid Merriam. It’s at their wedding, as they leave the church building, that we see that the true king of England, King Richard, has returned and has blessed the marriage. It’s in this final scene where he echoes an earlier statement in the movie, “Friar Tuck, it appears that I now have an outlaw for an in-law.” 

I love the whole movie because it speaks to a spiritual truth. We tend to think that we would be like Robin Hood, the gallant hero of the story, but in our spiritual lives, we tend to be more like Prince John the usurper of the kingdom. Prince John was an overseer while his brother was a way, but in the story, John seeks to take the throne from his brother and make himself king. 

And it’s this idea of usurping a rightful king that bring us back into our Matthew series where we’re going to pick it back up in chapter 2, starting in verse 1. As we open up to Matthew 2:1, let’s take a look at what we’ve covered so far. 

In the previous weeks, we have discovered the overall purpose of Matthew’s Gospel. By the Holy Spirit’s guiding, Matthew is helping us see the connections between Jesus’ work and the Old Testament. Matthew is shows us how Jesus is the fulfillment of the work that God had done in the Old Testament. We saw this is the structure of his writing, the genealogy of Jesus, the use of dreams, and the parallel between Jesus and Moses. 

Throughout the rest of Matthew, we’ll continue to see these connections, and we’ll see how these connections come into our lives as well. With that brief look at the first four weeks of our series, let’s dive into Matthew chapter 2, verse 1. 

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

“3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”’

“7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

“9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

“13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’

“14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’

“16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

There’s a lot going on in this passage, and we tend to focus on the Magi and star. Since that is the usual Christmas story, we’re going to instead focus on the first prophecy that we are given.

Now in this passage we see how Matthew connects Jesus back to the Old Testament. These connections are made by Matthew pointing to the fulfillment of prophecy, which are found in verses 6, 15, and 18. It’s the fulfillment of the second half of verse 6 that we’re going to focus in on, that being the statement “…for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” This statement is a combination of quotations from two Old Testament sources. The first source is Micah 5:2, which reads, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (e-fra-tha), though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” 

The second part of Matthew’s quotation, instead of following the rest of Micah’s quote, “who origins are from old, from ancient times…” has been interpreted for us by the priest and teachers. Instead of finishing Micah they instead say, “who will shepherd my people Israel.” This second quotation is a paraphrase from 2nd Samuel 5:2, where David is told by God, “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.” The priests and teachers in Matthew’s account interpret the “ancient times” of Micah 5:2 with David, who 2 Samuel 5:2 is referencing, and thereby they draw an Old Testament parallel between King David, and the coming Messiah; which Matthew is showing us to be Jesus.

This is important for us to understand, because 2nd Samuel 5:2 is the inauguration passage of David, and this passage is now being applied to Jesus, which in turn, like we saw last week in the parallels between Moses and Jesus, shows us that this passage is drawing parallels again. So let’s look at some of these parallels real quick. 

First, David was called the Shepherd King, because he was a shepherd by trade, and is called by God to shepherd his people Israel in 2 Samuel 5:2. Therefore we need to be on the look out for shepherd imagery within Matthew’s Gospel. And sure enough, three times in Matthew, Jesus is referred to as a shepherd. In Matthew 9:36, Matthew makes this commentary note, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

In Matthew 25:32, Jesus makes this statement about the judgment at the end of time, “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Finally in Matthew 26:31 Jesus makes this statement to his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion, “…This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

This shepherd language connects to Jesus being a guide and protector to the nation of Israel, as was David before him. This is also Messianic language pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. 

Now when the scribes make this connection between King David and the coming Messiah, they inadvertently make more connections than they probably realized. Because not only is the Messiah taking the role of David as King, but if we look at the situation that surrounds Jesus’ birth, we can see another parallel between David and Jesus. This parallel is the kings that proceed their coronation. 

Let’s take a quick look at the two kings that proceed the coming of both David and Jesus. The king at David’s anointing is Saul, and because the Magi brought gifts for the King of the Jews, the king at Jesus’ coronation is Herod.

Both these kings did not rule Israel by God’s order. We’re told in 1 Samuel 8:1-22 that Saul was chosen, not by God, but by the people of Israel so that they could be like the other nations. This went against God’s intention for Israel to be a nation where he was their King. Now God used this for his greater plan to bring about Jesus, but we see that prior to David, there was a king in place who’s reign would not last. In the case of Herod, he was not a Jew by birth, nor found in the genealogy of David. Instead, his family were converts to Judaism and he was crowned King of Palestine by the Roman Senate in 37BC (

Second, Both Saul and Herod fell into madness towards the end of their lives. Starting in 1st Samuel 14:24-30, Saul starts cursing the people. Then in the following chapter he blames them for him not obeying God (1st Sam 15:24). Finally we see Saul lashing out at David because he had been given up by God to evil spirits (1st Samuel 16:14-23). Similarly, Herod wanted to keep control over his kingdom so badly that in his later years, he began murdering family members who might usurp his throne. He killed his second wife, her two sons, her brother, her grandfather, and her mother ( 

Finally, we know from Matthew 2:16-18 that Herod slaughter innocent children to get to this coming king. But did you also know that Saul murder innocent priests to get at David? Both unjustly slaughtered innocents to stop the reign of God’s chosen king (Saul in 1st Samuel 22:6-23, and Herod in Matthew 2:16-18).

So not only was Jesus a parallel to David in his shepherding role, but also in his role as a ruler who was anointed under another king who were parallels of each other. 

But there is more to the story. One of the most important insights that we are given is in Matthew 2:3. This verse speaks to, not only the state of the world Jesus was born into, but also our spiritual lives. Matthew 2:3 reads, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him”

Why were they disturbed? It’s because a new King, who’s kingdom is righteous, it’s over all people, and it’s forever, was coming. That was a challenge to their own mini-kingdoms. And the reality is, Jesus as King is a challenge to our mini-kingdoms as well.

It doesn’t matter if we are or we’re not disciples of Jesus. The proclamation of Jesus overriding our own personal kingdoms can disturb us.

Because Jesus’ kingship means that we cannot even begin to believe that what we have is ours. Listen to the start of Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…”

We must realize that the proclamation that Jesus is King is not a simple, yeah he’s a king, rather it means that our idea of control over any facet of our life is illusionary. No, the reality is, all things are his. Listen to some of the things that are said about God throughout the Old Testament. 

Isaiah 44:6 states, “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”

God states in Exodus 34:13-14, “13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

And this is the description we get of Jesus in Revelation 19:13-16, “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’”

If we are disturbed at the idea that Jesus’ reign is absolute over us; that every thing in our possession is his, and can be called upon at a moment for his use, then we need to reevaluate our understanding of Jesus as King.

Say what you will about Herod and all of Jerusalem being disturbed, they at least realized what it meant that the Magi were proclaiming the Messiah had come. Herod and the ruling class of Jerusalem had their own mini kingdoms; Herod had his over Palestine, and other’s had their own realms of wealth and prestige. And when they heard the Messiah was being born they new that his reign would be an end to their mini-kingdoms. 

If we have called on the name of Jesus, we must realize that everything we have is his. We are not a kingdom unto ourselves, but a kingdom of his to be used for his glory as he so choses. 

He is the Shepherd King who will rules over us. Listen a fresh to the words of Paul in Philippians 2:10-11, “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is what Herod and Jerusalem feared. A king who’s reign is complete, and where no others can rule apart from him.

But at the name of Jesus, those who have put their trust into him as their Savior have nothing to fear. Those who have given up their kingdoms for the Kingdom of God have gained so much more. 

So my challenge to this week, is to make a brief outline of all that you own or have control over. Go through that list this week seeking God, asking him, “Have I given this up to you, or is there still a remnant of my own kingdom here?” This very issue is what Jesus will deal with in Matthew chapter 13 with the Parable of the Hidden Treasure. That if we truly understood the greatness of God’s kingdom in our lives today, then everything we have would be given up in a moment to gain what he has offered up for free.

Let us be a people who seek after the eternal kingdom of God in its totality and not in our own fleeting kingdoms. Amen.

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