Several months ago, I posted an article that introduced the subject of patterns and types in St. Matthew’s gospel. Particularly, I pointed out how Matthew portrays Jesus as the beginning and the end, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. You can read part one here, if you like.
Matthew begins his gospel with “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,” a Greek phrase that literally means “the book of the genesis of Jesus Christ.” Matthew is writing a new Genesis or a book of the new creation, and it begins with Jesus, the “firstborn” of this new creation (Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:15-18, Revelation 1:5).
The gospel ends with the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) in which Jesus declares His authority over heaven and earth, commanding His people to disciple the nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” – a command that sounds much like Cyrus’ declaration at the end of 2nd Chronicles (which, notably, would be the last book in the Hebrew canon) – “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” Cyrus was the king of “all the kingdoms of the earth,” but Jesus declares His reign over all earth and heaven.
Jesus as Moses & Israel
And those are just the bookends. The internal structure of Matthew’s gospel proves just as interesting. The whole structure of Matthew seems to follow the whole structure of the Old Testament, not just in the beginning and end.
Beginning with a genealogy not only hearkens back to the genealogies of Genesis, but the content of Matthew’s genealogy connects us back to the entire Old Testament, providing one possible explanation of why he included the names of several women in the genealogy. While the inclusion of women would have been unusual in that time, Matthew would find it quite helpful in that these women were important figures in key Old Testament events. It would also explain why he skipped some names that rightly would have fit in the genealogy, but were not significant to the retelling of the Old Testament.
Following Christ’s genealogy, the gospel moves into the story of His birth – the unexpected and miraculous giving of a Son. This should remind us of the story of Isaac, the unexpected and miraculous son given to Abraham and Sarah, particularly since Matthew connected Jesus to Abraham in the genealogy.
At the end of Matthew 1, Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, has a dream and his obedience to that dream brings great blessing, to the Jew first and to the whole world – the birth of the Messiah, perhaps hearkening back to the Joseph of Genesis who was also a dreamer and brought great blessing, to the Jew first and to the whole world.
In chapter 2, Matthew records the visit of the Magi and their visit to King Herod. A familiar story, often we miss the humor of the Magi telling King Herod that they have come to see the real King of the Jews. Afraid of losing his throne, Herod has all of the male children two years and under put to death; exactly as Pharaoh did in Exodus. Herod’s attempt fails like Pharaoh’s because, like Moses, the Christ Child is protected and taken out of harm’s way.
Note that Matthew has moved from Genesis to Exodus. Jesus is the new creation (Genesis), the new Abraham, the new and greater Cyrus, and the new Moses. And the Moses typology continues in the gospel – particularly in events like the temptation of Jesus, where He wanders for 40 days, and is tempted in the wilderness; as the Hebrews wandered and were tempted in the wilderness. But, notice that here too, Jesus is both Moses and Israel.
Another particularly interesting comparison can be found with Matthew 2:15 and Exodus 4:22-23. The passage in Exodus says, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me…”’” Matthew 2:15 refers to Jesus being sent to Egypt so He could be protected from Herod, then brought back home out of Egypt – “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” Israel was the “firstborn son” that was to be delivered from Egypt in the Exodus, but the fulfillment was in Christ.
So, Jesus is Israel. He is the people of God, the firstborn of the new creation – the new Genesis that Matthew is writing about; the new mankind. Jesus is everything that God has promised. He is the Messiah, He is the new creation, the firstborn of the new creation, the new Abraham, the new Moses, the true Israel, the Son brought out of bondage in Egypt, and even the new Cyrus (emperor of heaven and earth) – yet He is greater than them all. He is the fulfillment.
As Paul said, in Colossians 1:15-18:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”