Please take your Bibles and turn to . Two weeks ago I began preaching a message, which I really did think I could get through in one weeks time. Well today’s message is the third part of that one sermon. Of course being the fellow that I am I have kept studying the passage in question and seeking to deepen my understanding of it so that I can better communicate it to you folks.
Two weeks ago I began preaching a message, which I really did think I could get through in one weeks time. Well today’s message is the third part of that one sermon. Of course being the fellow that I am I have kept studying the passage in question and seeking to deepen my understanding of it so that I can better communicate it to you folks.
Today we are going to review the various fulfillment passages that we have already looked at in the Gospel of am taking the time to do this because these so-called “fulfillment formulas” are a peculiar aspect of the Gospel of Matthew, and as students of God’s Word we need to seek to understand the author’s intent. We will try to establish an understanding of the broad view or the purpose for which Matthew is so keen on these fulfillment passages. And then we will try to work from the broad to the narrow — in other words, what was Matthew’s purpose for this specific fulfillment passage in .
Let’s read the passage together first.
As we go over the various passages this morning they will all, or at least most, be found in the Gospel of Matthew. Feel free to flip through your Bible to each passage. But the passages in question will be on the screen for your convenience.
Let’s begin by talking about the purpose for the Gospel of Matthew.
One can argue that there are various purposes for Matthew’s written account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You may or may not recall that when we first started studying this book in December of 2013 I stated that the entire book is heading toward the Great Commission found in
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In order to get to this point in which all authority is given to Jesus, Matthew had to build the case that Jesus was the One whom God had intended from ages to past to receive this authority. Therefore, Matthew begins his account by stating that this is:
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Ever since the time in which David set his heart to build a house for God to dwell in, God began to promise that David’s son, or descendant, would be the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. He would be the One who would have all authority in heaven in on earth. Thus Matthew begins his written account with the genealogy of Jesus being traced back to Abraham, and through David. Jesus, in a legal sense, is the rightful heir to the throne of David. An interesting side note is that though there were many who had the legal credentials to be the heir to the throne, Jesus (and I suppose his half-brothers as well) may have been the last to establish the legal lineage since the documents that established the birthright to those in the line of David were most likely destroyed when Rome razed the Temple in A.D. 70.
Not only did Jesus have legal validation as heir to the throne of David, but He also had prophetic validation as well. Over and over again in this gospel account Matthew states something to the effect that “all this took place to fulfill what was spoken ...” As I stated earlier, there were many who could have had the legal credentials to the throne of David. It had been close to a thousand years since God made the promise to David, and so his descendants would be, for all practical matters, countless. But only One would have the prophetic credentials, and Matthew’s purpose seems to be to demonstrate that Jesus, and Jesus alone had the prophetic credentials. For the next several minutes we are going to briefly look at these various fulfillment passages, before we circle back to our text for today. As always, feel free to flip through the Gospel of Matthew in your own Bible, but the passages will be on the screen for your convenience.
The first passage is found in . This is set in the context of Joseph discovering that the woman who was betrothed to him was pregnant. It was a scandalous thing. He was trying to discern what he ought to do. Should he divorce her? Should he seek to have her stoned to death? But an angel appeared to him, instructing him to take her as his wife, for this was “a God-thing.” After the angelic announcement Matthew narrates:
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
This passage is taken from , and it is such an important, doctrinal point for it regards the virgin birth of Christ. If Jesus had not been born of a virgin then He would have had the same sin nature that you and I have, and therefore He would not have been a suitable substitute. He would not have been able to absorb God’s wrath that was intended for us.
In there are three fulfillment passages, all of which surround the early days of Messiah. The first in in regards to Joseph and Mary fleeing with their young child to Egypt to escape the fury of Herod the Great.
So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
This prophecy was originally spoken by Hosea, and was a reference to the of the nation of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. But it has its final fulfillment in Jesus when as a lad He moved back from Egypt and He and His parents settled in Nazareth of Galilee. I wonder how many of David’s descendants were also called out of Egypt?
The next fulfillment passage in this chapter has to do with Herod’s slaughter of the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger.
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.”
The final fulfillment formula in this chapter is found in the last two verses:
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Nobody really knows which passage Matthew was referring to in this verse, but we do know that since it was given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is a valid fulfillment.
All of these fulfillment passages in answer the question that would be natural to most Jews: How could Messiah be from Nazareth and not Bethlehem?
In the next passage Matthew informs us that Jesus had moved from the village of Nazareth where He had grown up, to Capernaum. Matthew again saw this as a fulfillment of a passage from Isaiah.
and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”
Matthew sees that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah because He and He alone brought light to this incredibly dark, and evil place within the nation of Israel.
Our next instance of the fulfillment formula being used is found in . This is set in the midst of the section in which Jesus had healed a leper, a centurions’ servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law. Matthew wrote:
When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”
Matthew seems to have seen the fact that Jesus healed all who came to Him as being a fulfillment of .
The next fulfillment passage is set in the context of which we looked at quite recently. The Pharisees were conspiring to destroy Jesus because He had dared to break their man-made traditions, and healed a crippled man on the Sabbath. Therefore Jesus withdrew from that particular place, and the crowds followed Him and He continued to heal all who came to Him. And Matthew sees this as a fulfillment of another passage in Isaiah that is about the Suffering Servant.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. “He will not quarrel, nor cry out; Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. “He will not quarrel, nor cry out; Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”
The final two fulfillment formulas that we will look at this morning are found in , the chapter that we have spent the last four weeks or so studying. The first of this is found in Jesus explanation to the apostles as to why He was teaching the crowds in parables.
That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.” Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’
All of the other fulfillment passages we have looked at this morning are narrated by Matthew as he is telling us the account of Jesus of Nazareth. But this one is a part of what Jesus spoke, rather than being Matthew’s narration. Jesus’ purpose in using parables was two-fold. First, it was to fulfill what had been written by Isaiah the prophet. Second, it was so that only the intended audience could understand the message that was being given.
All of this brings us to our passage for today, .
There is a sense in which this fulfillment formula is used as a segue from the parables that were told to the crowds to the parables and explanations that were told to the apostles in private.
Notice that the text says that He did not speak to them without a parable. As I have said before, there was a decided shift in the ministry of Jesus after the confrontation in when the Scribes and Pharisees claimed that Jesus cast out demons in the power of Beelzebul, thereby committing the unpardonable sin — blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
By virtue of His authoritative teaching and the miracles that Jesus performed He authenticated His claim to be the Son of Man. And yet the religious leaders of Israel were so blinded by their sinful reliance on the doctrines of man rather than the doctrine of God that they did not recognize Jesus for who He was. As a matter of fact they refused to recognize Him as Messiah.
Of course Jesus was not at all surprised by their rejection. It was prophesied of old that they would reject Him.
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
Jesus knew all along that He would be rejected, that He would be pierced. Isn’t it amazing that in spite of His certain knowledge of these facts that He still was willing to be found in appearance as a man, and become obedient to the point of death on the cross?
The fulfillment passage found in verse 35 actually comes from rather than from the prophetic writings. This lengthy psalm that comprises 72 verses was written by Asaph. Some may question the reference in to a prophet, but Asaph is referred to as a seer in . The term “seer” is a more ancient reference to a prophet. In this lengthy psalm Asaph “recounts the history of Israel for the next generation. The psalm stresses Israel’s unbelief, which led to God’s discipline. In spite of this, God continues to manifest His faithfulness to Israel through powerful acts and by choosing David to shepherd them. In Matthew’s view, Jesus is the son of David who fulfills the Davidic role as Israel’s ultimate shepherd” (Turner, pg. 346). The pattern of hard hearts and unbelief were just as prevalent in Jesus’ time as it was in David’s. And, unfortunately it is still prevalent in our own time.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with how people can continue to refuse to see God at work in this world. But that is because of the blinded hearts of man. As Paul wrote, quoting the psalmist:
as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
Why did Asaph style his historical narrative as parabolic? “He does this because events well known by his contemporaries would be ancient secrets to the coming generation. Also, his recounting of the past historical events reveal the story of God’s faithfulness to His people in spite of their sin. His faithfulness is manifested in powerful redemptive acts.”
So why did Matthew choose to site ? There is an obvious connection with the term “parable” that the psalmist used, and the parables in which Jesus told the crowds. “Matthew finds in Asaph’s words a precedent providing a pattern that Jesus fulfills. Just as Asaph utters profound truths for the next generation, so Jesus reveals the ultimate secrets of the kingdom of heaven to His own generation. Just as Asaph discerns the pattern of God’s faithfulness to His people that overrides their disobedience so Jesus’s parables lay out for His disciples the pattern of kingdom reception and rejection util the day of ultimate judgment and reward” (Turner, pg. 347).
Personally I find this study of the fulfillment passages to increase my understanding of how the Holy Spirit directed the various authors of Scripture to write the God-breathed document that we call the Bible. The term “inspiration” which is often associated with this process is somewhat of an unfortunate term to use. There have been times when I have been in church and heard a pastor say something which in turn inspired me to write a song. That is not the same thing at all. It wasn’t like Matthew woke up one morning and said I think that I will write my own account of the time I spent with Jesus. No! The Holy Spirit drove him to write with a purpose, which was to show to the Jews that Jesus was what He claimed to be, the son of David, the Messiah. The Spirit directed Him to begin with the genealogy, to point out the way in which Jesus fulfilled O.T. prophecy, and to drive toward the Great Commission.
Can you and I receive such special revelation today? We cannot be moved by the Holy Spirit to pen words that become Scripture — the Bible is a finished product in that sense. But we can hold the Bible in our hands, read it from cover to cover, study and meditate on its meaning, and hide it in our hearts.
Closing Song: 408 — HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION