Introduction to Matthew’s Gospel: Jesus, the New Abraham
Founding the New Israel
Truth Taught- Jesus is the new Abraham leading the new Israel of God
Jesus, as the New Abraham leads a new people to be worshippers of God.
Like Moses who was mightily used by God so to Abraham is a key figure in Israel’s history. Abraham is the beginning of the collective people of God. The Nation of Israel was special in God’s sight and He extended to them many blessings. In time Israel would reject God. In their disobedience throughout the centuries God would finally reject them as His people.
This fact is a significant emphasis in Matthew’s Gospel.
Through the OT God warned Israel that their sin would ultimately have grave consequences for the Nation…
Deuteronomy 28:15–20 (ESV)
15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
20 “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.
Did you see that to sin is to forsake God?
New Testament Scholars see the cleansing of the temple event in Matthew’s gospel as enacted prophecy of the destruction of the temple itself. The account of the withering fig tree is another prophetic picture of Israel’s ultimate demise as God’s people.
Probably the most important picture of Israel being rejected by God is found in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ parable of the wicked servants and the vineyard.
Matthew 21:33–46 (ESV)
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
Matthew understands that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from Israel and given to another who will make up a new nation being built of God’s elect from both Jews and Gentiles.
Abraham’s Call and Covenant
Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 15:1–6 (ESV)
15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Galatians 3:16 (ESV)
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
Israel was to be God’s people on earth calling the nations to God in faith and repentance. They never fulfilled their purpose. So, in Christ, God is working through His people now to be His spokesmen to the nations this New Israel was begun by Jesus Christ as He called His twelve apostles.
Matthew 10:5–7 (ESV)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
These twelve correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel who were supposed to be God’s messengers to the nations. So, Jesus regards His twelve apostles as the New Israel.
Israel as a people were chosen by God as a people. However, this does not include individual election. This was the nation of Israel as a collected people to be the ones who would receive the Law of Moses etc. They were to be the peculiar people who received the truth of God.
Deuteronomy 7:6–7 (ESV)
6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
What we must realize is the difference between National Israel and the true Israel of God. National Israel did receive special blessings etc but only true Israel, the remnant, would receive God’s salvation.
Romans 9:6–7 (ESV)
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
This is a radical refining of the definition of who Israel really is. Matthew captures this very well.
Matthew 22:14 (ESV)
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew presents true Israel as God’s elect. He does this to show us that Jesus is far superior to Abraham. Abraham was the founder of the Nation of Israel while Jesus, the New Abraham is founder of the true Israel, the elect of God. This is shown very clearly in Matthew’s Gospel especially in and around Chapter 24. Matthew presents the elect as a subgroup that is taken out of the larger group.
Let’s look at a few examples…
Matthew 24:22 (ESV)
22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Matthew 24:31 (ESV)
31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
In these verses and in other ones in Matthew’s Gospel we learn that the New Abraham is the founder of the New Israel who has been graciously chosen by God to be His for eternity this group elected by God will be saved for all eternity. This is the group Paul writes so much about reflecting Matthew’s account of Jesus’ teaching…
Matthew 25:34 (ESV)
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:3–4 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Matthew’s emphasis is that the New Israel includes believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews.
The first indication that Matthew highlights this fact can be found in the lineage of Jesus. Typically, we read the standard A was the father of B and B the father of C etc. Yet four times in this list Matthew writes A was the father of B by C or by and then lists the person’s mother. In all four cases the mother is a Gentile. Matthew wants us to see something very amazing. Gentiles are included in the lineage of Jesus. He truly is the Savior of the world.
From there, we have the account of the Magi in Matthew 2. These are the first to be mentioned of anyone coming to Jesus to worship Him and of course the Magi were foreign Gentiles.
Many other examples show us that the New Israel is made up of Gentile worshippers as well as Jewish worshippers.
Probably one account that stands out from among the others is the account of Jesus and the Roman Centurion.
Matthew 8:5–13 (ESV)
5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
Another example of a believing Roman Centurion is found at the cross. In contrast to the unbelieving Jews around the cross we see the Roman Centurion and his amazing claim…
Matthew 27:54 (ESV)
54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
God promised Abraham that all the nations on earth would be blessed through him.
The redemption for which Abraham trusted God came through his descendant, Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel opens by illustrating this point with a genealogy. The rest of Abraham’s descendants could only do so much, in terms of keeping the covenant. They could welcome strangers and sojourners into their gates and show them hospitality, but only Jesus could actually facilitate their adoption into His Father’s family, making them full heirs to the Kingdom of God. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).
In some supernatural way Abraham as God spoke to him about blessing the nations through him someday saw by faith through the centuries to the time this promise would be fulfilled. It came true in Jesus…
John 8:56 (ESV)
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
Israel had the task to be the light to the nations and to be that blessing.
Isaiah 49:6 (ESV)
6 he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
In Matthew’s Gospel we see that in an amazing way Jesus transfers the task of bringing God’s Good News, the light to the Nations to His disciples.
Matthew 5:14–16 (ESV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The New Israel led by the New Abraham will be a light to the nations. Matthew stresses the church’s role in sharing the Good News of the Kingdom of God to everyone. The Gentiles are included into the New Israel led by the New Abraham.
The Gospel of Matthew wraps up with Jesus’ Great Commission…
Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We must conclude that God has included us, as believers, into the New Israel, the Church (the ecclesia). Jesus has included us into His Kingdom and given us the task to make His name great among the nations. Our task is to share the Gospel with others.
We are commissioned to be the extension of Christ in this world. We are to proclaim the good news to others.
Matthew 24:14 (ESV)
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
We are called to proclaim the Gospel, to pray for Christ’s Kingdom to advance to the end of the earth. He will gather His people from the corners of the world as the Gospel is proclaimed.
We are given the task to spread God’s Gospel to all the world. Like any daunting task, it begins with one step. Ask God to show you one person that needs to hear the Good News that Jesus came to seek the lost.
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris
Blue Letter Bible