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The New King Among the Old Kings

December 23, 2014

The fathers of Israel listed in Mt. 1 lead to a focus on “David the king” (Mt. 1: 1,6,17), and the kings that descended from David (1: 6-11). The other focus then becomes “the exile to Babylon” (1: 11-12,17), God’s punishment for all the disobedient kings and their kingdom.

The climax of that genealogy, however, is the new king, “the Christ” (1: 1,16-17). After all the generations of fathers and sons (in 1:1-16), the final son is not conceived via an earthly father; the Christ is conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit (1:16,18). This anointed one will not be just another earthly king.

In Mt. 2, the new king quickly runs into trouble with king Herod, who rules in the city of David, Jerusalem (2:1). The news from the “wise men”–about a new king being born–leads Herod to gather all the chief priests (who rule over the temple) and scribes (who rule over the synagogues) in order to discover where the Christ was to be born (2:1-6). So all Jerusalem is troubled about this news, especially their wary rulers: Herod, the chief priests, and scribes.

Although the Romans were the highest authorities over Israel at that time, they allowed lesser rulers like Herod (and later his sons), the chief priests, and the scribes of the Pharisees to rule over most daily matters in Israel. The Jewish chief priests and scribes might not like Rome, but they compromised since Rome allowed them to wield significant power in Israel. Thus the new conflict, with the arrival of a Christ, pits heaven’s promised king–conceived by the Spirit from heaven, and fulfilling Old Testament prophecies–over against Israel’s compromised kings.

The new king from heaven must escape to Egypt due to the suspicions of the old kings of Israel. But this early trouble and conflict are only the beginning of what Jesus will face throughout his later ministry. The Son of God will face the sons of Herod and the other Jewish rulers as he begins to gather his new kingdom. He has come to save his people from their sins (1:21); but “his people” turn out to be “his disciples” (as in 5:1); his new kingdom will be an international kingdom of disciples who obey him through the grace of his empowering Spirit.

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