On Sunday, I mentioned that the story and the scriptures of the Old Testament are all throughout the Gospel of Matthew. Because of this, Richard Hays compares Matthew to an annotated study Bible.

Hays focuses on 13 places where Matthew points to the Hebrew scriptures in clear, can’t-miss terms. If in Matthew’s day they had invented sharpies and oversized print, he might have used them in these 13 places.

On Sunday, I pointed to 3 of those 13. The first is in Matthew 1.22-23, just after the angel tells Joseph who Mary is carrying in her womb. “All this took place,” Matthew writes, “to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

I then spent some time highlighting two others (Matthew 2.15, 17-18). That leaves ten more. All key passages, all beginning with some form of the phrase: This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet…. 

Matthew 2.5-6: Herod calls together the religious scholars to find out where Jesus had been born. They point him to Bethlehem, for this what we read in Micah 5.1-3.

Matthew 2.23: Though he was born in Bethlehem, he is raised in Nazareth – for this was spoken by the prophets, Matthew says.

So, five of the 13 references come at the beginning of Jesus’ life – indicating Matthew’s clear desire early on to connect this child Jesus to God’s Great Story. Jesus is clearly a vital part of what God is doing, and the wise reader will not simply gather around the nativity, but “read backwards” to better understand just who this child is.

Matthew 3.3: Along comes John the Baptizer, and Matthew wastes no time in tying him to the prophet Isaiah. John is the voice crying out: Prepare the way for the LordSo, before Jesus makes his first ministry appearance, Isaiah (through John) is letting us know: The Lord is coming.

Matthew 4.14-16: When Jesus begins his ministry in the region around the Sea of Galilee, Matthew again ties in the prophet Isaiah. He says that through Jesus a Great Light is coming, right in the midst of the darkness. So, this is the 7th of 13 clear references to the OT – and they all shine a spotlight on Jesus. Clearly, everything changes with Jesus.

Matthew 8.17: Jesus takes up our infirmities.

Matthew 12.17-21: This quote, again from Isaiah, makes it very clear: Jesus didn’t come for some limited, only-among-my-kind-of-people ministry. His coming brings hope to the Gentiles – the non-Jewish, outside-of-the-covenant people that fill the world. Jesus came among the Jews, but Matthew, relying on Isaiah, makes it clear that Jesus’ message is meant to reach every man, woman, and child across the globe.

Matthew 13.14-15: Jesus compares his disciples with the crowd. The disciples see and hear; the crowds do not. This has been prophesied, Matthew says – perhaps a glimpse at the way many of Jesus’ own people will not “see” who he really is.

Matthew 13.35: Those parables of Jesus reveal what has been hidden since the foundation of the world – which means: they are probably worth listening to, and learning from.

Matthew 21.4-5: Jesus is entering Jerusalem as a king, as THE king. The Messiah is coming, and within that pivotal week, those who have eyes to see will learn exactly what that means.

Matthew 27.9: The last “what was spoken by the prophet” is about Judas, and his betrayal of Jesus. Kind of interesting one to conclude with, but perhaps a clear pointer to the need for each person to decide: Who do I say Jesus is?

In fact, that’s the point of this season. Strip away the presents, the wrapping, the parties, the glitz & glitter of the season, and what’s left? Jesus. The one the prophets pointed toward. The one who has come to continue, and complete, the story that God is writing.


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