“Here Comes the King”
A number of years ago, I went to see a fast-pitch softball game. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. In fact, it was quite exciting, and the one thing that made it most fun was a man named Eddie Feigner. He was the pitcher for his team, which had only four players. Eddie was known as "the greatest softball pitcher of all time," and his team was known as "The King and his Court." Other individuals have had that same title and people surrounding them whom they may even call their court. Yet, there is one King who is in a completely different category. His name is Jesus Christ. He too has a court. It consists of many more than just four people. It is even called a kingdom. That kingdom is made up of people who submit themselves to King Jesus. The first book of the New Testament part of the Bible is called the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew's purpose in writing his gospel is to tell us his story about the King. He writes about Jesus being the one who fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. He shared some of the main events of Jesus' life and ministry: Matthew even includes a detailed account of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Most importantly, however, he tells us some great news; and that is, here comes the King. I hope you will join us now as we open up the Gospel of Matthew, study about King Jesus, and about how we can become a part of His kingdom.
We live in a world where people constantly compete for power and authority. It seems someone always wants to be in charge and to have that power or authority over other people. In the midst of all of that struggle for power and authority, we need and look for someone to follow. We want someone who will be our leader. We look for a president, a prime minister, a ruler, one that we can follow after and feel confident that he or she will lead us in the right direction. Well, we look for someone who won't lead us astray. We look for someone who will make good decisions on our behalf, and we will benefit from his or her leadership. Oh, most nations on the Earth go through that process of selecting a leader, and sometimes that person is hard to find. Some leaders are great. Some leaders do a wonderful job of leading people, or an entire nation, and we can trust them and follow them. However, on the other hand, there are some leaders who are not good leaders. And as a result the people go downhill; perhaps, even an entire nation goes backward. No matter who the leader is, there is one thing every leader does. That leader establishes a kingdom. They seek to make rules and laws and changes. They then surround themselves with people who believe in them and who believe in their way of doing things. Well, the bottom line is, leaders look for people to follow them. The story Matthew tells is about a King, named Jesus, who came to establish His kingdom. Written some 30 or 40 years after Jesus lived upon the Earth, Matthew wrote down some things that he wanted people to remember. He wanted to preserve what he knew about Jesus' life and ministry and make sure it would not be lost. As one of Jesus' twelve closest followers, Matthew had a front row seat to Jesus' ministry. He saw what Jesus did. He heard His teaching. He witnessed the way He became involved in people's lives and changed them for the good and the better. Before all of that, however, Matthew was a tax collector, and he had lots of money: he enjoyed a good life. The problem came, however, when Matthew gained all of that money and that good life in a dishonest fashion. Now, Matthew was a Jew and yet he worked for the Roman authorities, and that was the evil enemy in the mind of all of the Jews. And Matthew's role was this, he was assigned to collect taxes from his fellow Jews and then pay it to the Romans; but, he would collect extra tax that was not due to the Romans, and he lined his pockets with that money. That's why he was so wealthy, and he was despised by his own fellow countrymen. They didn't like him. They could not trust him. So, Matthew was not a well-liked person. He had very few friends. He was not popular at all. But then one day Jesus came along, according to Matthew's story in chapter 9, and He said, "Matthew, I want you to follow me." And that is exactly what Matthew did. He left his tax collecting business, he put behind his past, and he began to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ; and, he witnessed Jesus' ministry. And through all of that, Matthew's life was changed. Yes, Matthew saw Jesus was one who was worth following. He saw Him as a great teacher and preacher. He saw Him as one who was concerned about other people and who healed the sick. He saw Jesus as a man of love and compassion; but, perhaps most importantly of all, Matthew saw Jesus as God's representative here upon the Earth. Jesus was someone special. He was someone unique; and, Matthew devoted the rest of his life to following Him. And so, Matthew left this book for our benefit, in hopes that we might see Jesus the same way. He wrote in a way so that we can know his King just a little bit better. Yes, he wanted us to know of Jesus' great love for us and His desire to bring us into His kingdom. I suppose we could say it like this: Matthew wants his King to be our King, too, and he wants us to be a part of Jesus' kingdom. As we open the pages to the first book of the New Testament, the book of Matthew, we are introduced to Jesus as a baby. He is identified as Immanuel -which means "God with us," in chapter 1, verse 23. Yes, Jesus is introduced to us as coming into the world by being born of a virgin by the name of Mary. A teenage girl brings Jesus into the world, but yet God the Father, in heaven, is responsible for all that. He comes into the world in a very humble way. There is no place for Mary and Joseph to stay in city of Bethlehem; and so, they go out to the barn where the animals are kept, and there Jesus is born. He is laid in a feed trough, or in a manger, and Jesus enters into the world totally unlike kings entered into the world in that day and time. Jesus came without any kind of publicity. He came without any kind of special announcement, except that which was made by the angels to the shepherds out in the field. And as Jesus arrived in that way, He did so perhaps so that other people, no matter whether they are wealthy or poor, could relate to Him. Jesus would be the new King and He could relate to all people from all different walks of life. Well, Matthew focuses on things like this, which Jesus did, to let his readers know that He indeed was the Messiah; that, He was the Christ. He is the One who had come from God, and He was the One who everybody was looking for and anticipating. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament 53 times and refers to it another 76 times, far more than any other writer of any other book in the New Testament. Jesus is the One the people had read about in the Old Testament. They were anxiously awaiting His arrival into this world; but, they did not know for sure what He would look like, or when He would come, or where He would show up. Yet now, Jesus had arrived. He was there, and the people were excited and they welcomed His arrival. As Jesus did that, He fulfilled the prophecy of the Old Testament. He also reminds us, Matthew does, that whatever Jesus did, it was a direct response to what His Father told or directed Him to do. Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus never acted on His own authority. He was in tune with Almighty God, and He was obedient as His one and only son. Yes, Jesus was an extension of His Father, here upon the Earth, and what He said and did were reflections of the relationship that He had with His Father. The Father gave Him all kinds of power and authority, and Jesus demonstrated it well. And as He did, He always gave and reflected that attention and glory back to His Father, the One who had given it to Him in the first place. Let's look at a few examples of that power and authority which Matthew identifies for us. Jesus had power over sickness and disease, chapter 14. He controlled the wind and the waters and the waves out on the Sea of Galilee in chapter 8. He cast out demons in chapter 17. He forgave people's sin in chapter 9. He opened the eyes of those who were blind, and He made the lame to walk again. Jesus even healed one who had leprosy in chapter 8. Matthew also includes stories that identified Jesus as both ruler and judge in chapter 24. He is the One who gives rest to those who are weary and burdened down by the problems of life in chapter 11. Jesus is even identified as the Lord of the Sabbath in chapter 12. Yes, Jesus' life was full of much activity which blessed many people. A good summary of Jesus' ministry is found in Matthew chapter 11, verses 4 and 5, and these are the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples: <"Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor."> That's what Jesus did: He ministered to and He blessed the lives of those who are overlooked and neglected and less fortunate, and He made a difference in their lives. Another summary statement is found in chapter 9, verses 35 through 38, where we read that Jesus went throughout all of the towns and villages, preaching in their synagogues and teaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of sickness and disease. And when He saw the crowds, He had compassion upon them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Oh, Jesus taught; He showed compassion; He healed; He blessed; He even raised people from the dead. Oh, it is true; Jesus saw the many problems of people throughout the world. He recognized those who were neglected and cast aside by their friends or by their family members. But the bottom line is this, Jesus touched people's hearts and He changed their lives. As a result of that, many people began to follow Jesus. They recognized He was someone very special. And as those people followed Him, Jesus began to gather people into His kingdom. He gathered those people who would submit to Him as their King and as their Lord, and who would do as He taught them to do. Something else that attracted people to Jesus was the fact that He taught with great authority. Oh, He was unlike the teachers and scholars of the day. His teaching was unique. He gave deeper insights into the Old Testament. He taught what it actually meant to have a close walk and relationship with the Lord God Almighty. Jesus taught in their synagogues and in their homes. He taught His disciples as they walked with Him along the road. Jesus sat in a boat and taught the people who stood there on the seashore at the Sea of Galilee. Oh, Jesus was a great teacher. In fact, Matthew divides his message into five major teaching sections, and each one of them teaches us something special about Jesus and life in His kingdom. He warns about God's coming judgment upon sin. He announces that Jesus will come back again and reclaim all of those who belong to Him. One of the most famous teaching sections of Matthew's gospel is found at the beginning, in chapters 5 through 7. It is called the "Sermon on the Mount," and it is perhaps some of the most important teaching material that we find in all of the Bible. Jesus addresses a number of things that teach people to not only have a better relationship with God but one that will allow them to have a better relationship with the people that God puts into their life. For example, He encourages one to make their righteousness real and not fake. And that was something that the religious leaders of the day were not doing, at all. At the end of his "Sermon on the Mount," we find these words in chapter 7, verse 28. <When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.> Yes, Jesus was a great teacher. He ministered to and blessed the lives of all those who came to Him. If we were to offer a one sentence summary of Matthew's gospel, it might go something like this: Matthew's gospel is full of stories and examples of Jesus teaching people what it means to follow Him as their King and to be a part of His kingdom. There is one thing in Matthew's gospel which I believe deserves some special attention. I would like for us to spend the rest of our time looking at this particular passage. It is found in chapter 16. Jesus and His disciples are walking along and they arrive near Caesarea Philippi. And as they arrive, Jesus asks them an important question and they have a conversation. Let's read that conversation as it is recorded in the 16th chapter, beginning with verse 13. <When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He warned His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.> Jesus asks His disciples a question, "Who do people say I am?" And, Jesus did not ask that question seeking information. He knew what the people were saying about Him. But, the disciples responded by saying, "Oh, maybe one of the Prophets from the Old Testament, maybe even John the Baptist;" and, Jesus well knew that. Then Jesus asks them a question: "What about you? Who do you say I am? What has your time following me taught you about me?" And it was Peter who responded by saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yes, you are the Messiah, you are the Anointed One who we read about and heard about for so long. You are the One who has come from God himself." It was then that Jesus said, "Well, upon that confession, upon that statement that I am the Christ, then I will build my church and there will be absolutely nothing that will stand up against it, not even the gates of Hades." It was then that Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. In essence, he now had the authority to go and to unlock the door of the church to both the Jews and the Gentiles, wherever he went; and, that's what Peter did. In Acts chapter 2, we find that thousands of people were gathered in the city of Jerusalem on Pentecost, and Peter got up and he shared the story of Jesus Christ. He told the people about Jesus' life and ministry upon the Earth and how that they were guilty of crucifying the Son of God, because many of them had rejected Jesus. He also told about Jesus dying on the cross, being buried in a tomb, and then rising again from the grave. And once the people recognized that they were guilty of rejecting Jesus, they asked the question, "What shall we do?" It was then Peter gave that answer, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin." And on that day, some 3000 people were immersed into Jesus Christ. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and their sin was forgiven. Later on, in chapter 10, we find that Peter then goes to Cornelius, who is a non-Jew, or a Gentile, and he tells him basically the same story about Jesus, and Cornelius and all of his family respond by believing in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit comes upon them and then they too are immersed, or baptized, into Jesus and they become a part of His kingdom. Oh, that is great work that was done by Peter, and it was initiated by Jesus and that conversation that they had there in the 16th chapter. Jesus' question and statement, and Peter's activity, is all still important for us today. And as I think about the significance of that, for you and for me, I think about five specific things that we can learn from it. Number 1: Jesus is still the King of kings; and, no other king who has ever lived, or who will live in the future, will ever take His place. No matter who sits in the chair of the presidency, or the prime minister, or the ruler of any nation, no king, or president, or prime minister, will ever be greater than Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Number 2: Jesus' rule continues throughout the world. He reigns over all. He always has and He always will. Number 3: Jesus' church is still standing. Oh, many have opposed it and have tried to destroy it, but it continues to stand, and thrive, and flourish, today. Number 4: Jesus' kingdom is ever growing. Millions of people throughout the world recognize that indeed Jesus is the Christ. They recognize that He is the King and they want to be a part of His kingdom; and, they are! And here's Number 5: Jesus invites us to be a part of His kingdom. And when we accept that invitation, we know what it's like to enjoy all the blessings and benefits and promises that belong to those who submit to Jesus and who are a part of His kingdom. As we think about Matthew's gospel, today, we recognize that he focuses on Jesus. He is the King. He is the One who was promised in the Old Testament, who has come and established His kingdom. And now, He invites you, and me, and everybody else, to submit to Him, be a part of His kingdom, and to know what it's like to live under the reign and the rule of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. My encouragement and my prayer for you today is that if you have not made Jesus the King of your life that you will; and, that you will become a part of His kingdom and enjoy the blessings and promises of living under His kingship.
Well, what is the message of Matthew's gospel? Matthew records many stories about Jesus changing people's lives: It began with his very own. He encountered One who cared enough to help him change. Matthew followed Jesus. He became one of His disciples and knew the joy of living a transformed life. People still recognize Jesus as one who is worth following. He is still in the business of changing people's lives. He does it every day. It happens when we submit to Him as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He would like nothing more than for you to do that, just like Matthew did, to become His follower and to know the joy of doing so. That is why Matthew wrote his story.
Thank you for spending some time with us as we worked our way through the gospel of Matthew. He did a great job of outlining so many important things about Jesus, the King of all kings. If you would like to hear or view this message again, you can do so through our website, keytothekingdom.com. It can be downloaded in a variety of formats without any charge or obligation. While visiting the website, please take a few minutes to look at some of the other things we offer. Short video messages and previous lessons are easily accessible. You might even be interested in downloading a free Bible study. It's all there, and I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about Jesus. A toll-free number is also available if you would like to receive your free Bible study by mail. Simply leave your name and address and we will send it to you in the next few days. It is a self-guided study and contains six lessons. We offer these lessons in hopes they will be of benefit as you seek a deeper walk with the King, Jesus Christ. Please know how much we appreciate you taking time to watch this episode. I hope you will join us each and every week at the same time for another message from God's Word. Again, thank you for tuning in to today's program; and, I hope you will join us next time as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."