ImmerseMessiah NLT - Page 323



I M MER SED IN M ATTHE W
A G E N E R AT I O N A F T E R J E S U S L I V E D , the
Jews living in northern Israel and
Syria who believed in Jesus as their Messiah faced a strong challenge.
During the Jewish-Roman War in ad 66–70, most Jews in southern Israel moved north, safely away from the fighting around Jerusalem. But
the subsequent destruction of the Jerusalem Temple raised troubling
questions for Jews. Without the Temple, what was the future of Judaism? Where would they find their focus and identity? Groups led by
the Pharisees argued that they should focus on a ­recommitment to
the Law of Moses as interpreted in Israel’s traditions. These Pharisees
saw the followers of Jesus as a threat to this renewal, especially since
Jesus offered new answers to their questions. So the Pharisees sought
to expel Jesus’ followers from the synagogues, cutting off their ties to
the Jewish community.
The Gospel of Matthew was written to help these followers of Jesus
meet this challenge and remain faithful. (Although later tradition identifies the author as the apostle Matthew, the book never names its
author.) Matthew’s message is that Jesus really is the culmination of all
that came before. Hence, Matthew highlights various ways Jesus fulfills
and continues the Jewish story as told in the First Testament.
First, Matthew presents a list of Jesus’ ancestors, organizing it into
three groups of fourteen generations each. The first group identifies
Jesus as a ­descendant of ­Abraham, whose calling launched Israel’s story.
The second group confirms that Jesus is also the descendant of David,
Israel’s great king. The third group of fourteen begins with Israel’s exile
in Babylon, highlighting that Jesus has come “to save his people from
their sins.” (The list can also be viewed as six groups of seven, presenting
Jesus as ­beginning the seventh seven, a special number of completeness in Judaism.) Matthew is presenting Jesus as the new beginning
God’s people have been waiting for.
Second, Matthew portrays Jesus as a “new Moses” by recording parallels between the two figures. As babies, they both escaped a pagan
king who was trying to kill Hebrew boys. In addition, they both lived in
Egypt for a time, brought the people instruction from God, and went up
a mountain just before departing (Moses by death; Jesus by ascension),
urging God’s people to go into the land and live under God’s reign.
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