Matthew, A Lordship Gospel
Updated: Nov 11
The Scriptures are filled with incredible stories, themes, and characters. Yet, although some of them play major roles, without a doubt the Bible’s primary character is God himself. As Dr. John Frame states, “A way of summarizing the main content of the Bible: "God is Lord" is the message of the Old Testament; "Jesus is Lord" is the message of the New Testament.” The Scriptures emphatically state that the triune God, Yahweh, is Ruler over every square inch of the cosmos. The title “Yahweh” is normally translated in our Bibles as Lord, and thus, we find that title over 7000 times throughout the Scriptures. All of the major epochs of the Bible such as creation, fall, formation of a people, giving of the covenants, the law, the blessings and curses, judgements, the exodus, the life of Jesus, his ascension, and the consummation are all covenantal developments displaying the awesome power of his Lordship. Identifying his Lordship as a primary theme throughout all of Scripture will help the Christian see the unity of the Bible as it speaks of one Lord over all. As an exercise in this practice, let’s take a glance at the gospel of Matthew to see this fleshed out.
The Overarching Structure
Matthew wrote as a Jew who saw the world through Torah-colored glasses. Thus he also recognizes how Yahweh is the primary theme and character throughout the Old Covenant Scriptures. With that in mind, writing to a mostly Jewish audience, Matthew beautifully demonstrates how the same Lord that made the universe in six days (Gen. 1-2), the one who promised the world to Abraham (Gen. 17; Rom. 4:13), the one who brought about the exodus, the one who promised to build a house for King David (2 Sam. 7), is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Subsequently, all of the prophecies and promises of old are fulfilled in Him. The Messiah is the true confirmation of Torah (Lk. 24:25-27). Speaking of Torah, let’s recall that Moses wrote the first five pillar books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. In like manner, Matthew “just so happens” to record the five largest sections of teaching where Jesus speaks in an uninterrupted fashion (ch. 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25). These sections serve as five pillar discourses providing structure for all of Matthew’s gospel.  Dr. Peter Leithart mentions that in these sections of undivided teaching “Yahweh sends to Israel to call her to follow the covenant. Jesus is Moses (Mt. 5-7), Joshua (Mt. 10), Solomon (Mt. 13), Elisha (Mt. 18), Jeremiah (Mt. 23-25). When Jesus comes to Israel, all these leaders of Israel come back again, perfected.” 
Matthew continues building a case for the cohesiveness of the Lordship theme through the opening and closing of his gospel. He beautifully re-tells the story of Israel in the life of the Lord Jesus starting with Genesis, which is the book of beginnings. Interestingly though, our Old Testament which begins with Genesis ends in Malachi, unlike the Hebrew or Jewish Bible (only Old Testament) which begins with Genesis and ends with Chronicles. This is interesting because Chronicles ends with the story of King Cyrus, a gentile king, giving out a commission of sorts, he says: “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!” (2 Chr. 36:23). That’s how the Hebrew Bible ends! Now think about how the gospel of Matthew begins and ends. Similarly, it begins as a book of new beginnings like Genesis with genealogies (Matt. 1) and it ends like Chronicles with a Great Commission (Matt.28). Jesus is the new Adam, Jesus is the greater Cyrus, and Jesus is the true Israel. In Matthew 1:17, there is even an intentional arrangement in the names from Abraham to David to Christ, Robert H. Mounce observes that to arrange the names “in groups of fourteen to coincide with the three important stages of Jewish history: the account of God’s people leading up to Israel’s greatest king; the decline of the nation, ending in Babylonian exile; the restoration of God’s people with the advent of the Messiah.” 
The Birth Narrative
The first several chapters of Matthew continue to illustrate how the Lordship of Jesus provides the true meaning behind the exodus narrative in the Old and New Testaments. In Matthew 2:13-15, King Herod is killing the male children of Israel. Herod sees himself through a divine lens, and thus attempts to eradicate any opposition to his reign and rule, just as in Exodus 1-2 where another tyrannical figure, Pharaoh, attempts to kill the Jewish male children. Next, Jesus is rescued from Herod’s “Pharaoh-ish” rule, as Joseph and Mary flee out of Israel into Egypt to take refuge (Matt. 2:14). Just as Moses is rescued in Exodus 2 and flees from the hands of Pharaoh, Matthew hints that Israel has become a new Egypt of sorts. After the death-threats, Jesus returns to Israel once it is safe (Matt. 2:19-23), just as Moses returns to Egypt in Exodus 3-4. John the Baptist comes on the scene to confront and pronounce judgment upon the wicked leadership of the time (Matt. 3:1-12), just as Moses and Aaron pronounce judgment upon the wicked Egyptian leadership in Exodus 5-12. Jesus then passes through the baptismal waters just as the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea in Exodus 16 (Matt. 3:13-17; 1 Cor. 10:1-13). And just when you think the patterns of Exodus are finished, you find that the Messiah faces the devil’s temptations in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), as Israel was tempted in the wilderness in Exodus 17-19. Leading to perfectly coinciding parallels where Jesus calls his disciples just as Moses appoints rulers in Exodus 18 (Matt. 4:18-22). The sum of these Mosaic parallels in Matthew’s narrative are shadows pointing to the greater exodus where the Lord Jesus comes as the new and greater Moses to provide redemption from the oppressive Pharoah-like forces of darkness in the world. He leads those who come to him in faith and repentance through the waters of death unto a promised land full of life dripping with milk and honey. As Moses liberates the Israelites from physical slavery to physical freedom, Jesus liberates his followers from spiritual slavery to spiritual freedom to worship the triune God. 
The Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is Jesus’ longest section of undivided teaching and the echoes of Exodus continue to build. Christ, the greater Moses, is on a mountain again teaching the law of God, but unlike Moses He does not receive the Law by saying “thus saith the Lord''. Instead he claims to be Lord over the law and its author when he states, “but I say unto you”. Jesus teaches the law with authoritative clarity, correcting those who were twisting the Law of Yahweh for their own gain.
An additional facet to the Lordship theme in the Sermon on the Mount is illustrated by Jesus' continuation in his role as the new and greater Moses. This section points to Christ as Lord over the law but also Lord of a new kingdom, namely the long-awaited Kingdom of God (Matt. 4:17; Lk. 11:20). Hence chapters 5-7 lay out the blueprints to a new tabernacle being built, not with human hands but by living stones (Matt. 7:24-29; Ex. 25-40). These living stones are redeemed image-bearers called to permeate the earth with the culture of heaven just as Adam was called to do (Gen 1:26-31; Matt. 6:10). The construction of this spiritual tabernacle-kingdom was inaugurated by the King himself and it began like a mustard seed, but will gradually grow into the tallest tree amongst all the garden plants, providing shade and rest to all who will come under it (Matt. 13:31-33; 28:18-20).
Matthew 8 gives an incredible rapid-fire display of event after event demonstrating Jesus’ divine Lordship. He is revealed as one who has authority over disease by healing the leper (v. 2), over disability by healing the Centurion’s paralyzed servant (v. 5-10), over all ethnicities by acknowledging the faith of a gentile Centurion and inviting him into the covenant of promise at Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s table (v. 10), and over the demonic by speaking a mere word and casting out those who were demon possessed (v. 16). Jesus continues this pattern of Lordship when speaking to those around him, as Yahweh he commands full and unreserved allegiance to himself by teaching on the cost of discipleship (v. 18-22), he wants life-long commitment or no commitment at all. Even the natural world obeys his command (v. 23-27), and therefore his disciples should too!
The Olivet Discourse
The historical and redemptive flow of Matthew reveals how Christ is Lord of the Covenants. Matthew points to Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension as the initial process for the passing away of the Old Covenant world, with its physical temple, animal sacrifices and levitical priesthood (Heb. 8:13). Furthermore, Christ’s life inaugurates the long-awaited New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 26:28), where the temple would be spiritually built by living stones (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:4-12), where Christians are called to offer their bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), and where the Church is comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles who are the royal priesthood, God’s chosen people (1 Pet. 2:9; Rom. 2:25-29). Thus, Matthew presents a covenantal story which goes to great lengths in documenting Israel’s gradual apostasy as she rejects her Messiah to the point of murdering him, while simultaneously the Gentiles begin joining the covenantal family as result of their genuine faith in Jesus (Matt. 21:33-46).
At the climax of Jesus’ ministry in chapters 21-24, he speaks as the last true prophet, pronouncing a covenant lawsuit of judgment against Israel due to her unfaithfulness to the terms of her marriage vows with Yahweh (Deut. 28). In the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Lk. 21; Mk. 13), the Lord of the Covenant warns Israel of her impending doom due to her covenantal adultery and that within one generation she would see all of the signs he had just mentioned as a fulfillment that the end of her world had arrived (Matt. 24:34). 
The Great Commission
Finally, in Matthew’s gospel, the disciples are greeted by the resurrected Lord and are given instructions to wait for Jesus on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:9-10, 16). Matthew lays out another pattern to follow: mountains. This seems to be a place where great events occur and meaningful instruction is given. Recall the sermon on the mount or the Mount of Olives which is the mountain where Jesus gives his Olivet Discourse and is the same mountain where he ascends back to the Father. As Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry points out in his great work The Greatness of the Great Commission, “Mountains are significant in Scripture as symbols of sovereignty, majesty, exaltation, and power.” Framing this chapter contextually gives greater insight on the glorious declaration that follows. The Son of Man goes up to the Ancient of Days to receive dominion, glory, and a kingdom that all peoples, nations and languages should serve and praise His name (Dan. 7:13-14)! In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), Christ claims not only authority over the heavenlies but also over Earth. This is his coronation session where he received his inheritance, the nations (Ps. 2:7). Therefore, King Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, reigning and ruling on the Davidic throne (Gen. 49:10; Isa. 9:6-7; 2 Sam. 7; Acts 2:29-36), waiting until all his enemies have been put under his feet (1 Cor. 15:20-28; Heb. 10:13), this passage is a clear indication that Christ is the Sovereign Lord over earth’s history, Dr. Gentry again comments on the greatness of this event,
God's Lordship is unbounded in Scripture. And Christ lays claim to that boundless authority in the Great Commission. Hence, the divine nature of the Commission. It is not an authority bestowed ecclesiastically, traditionally, philosophically, or politically, but a divinely derived one. The Great Commission comes to us with a very bold statement: "Thus saith the Lord."
Every great story has a valiant hero engaged in a very costly mission against the enemy to save the person he loves most: kill the dragon, get the girl. To read the Bible biblically is to discover the origin of that great plotline. Matthew’s gospel confirms this, the hero has come (Matt. 1:18-2:23), he has conquered (Matt. 28:1-10; Jn. 19:30), he got the girl (Matt. 1:21; 27; Jn. 3:17), and now he is on a victorious globally expanding mission to let the whole world know there is a new sheriff in town (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 17:7; Rev. 19) which spreads his redemptive blessings to the world as far as the curse is found (Rev. 21:5; 22:2). Identifying this unfolding story on every page is to join the biblical authors with a loud voice in the heavenly song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12) So join and sing with Matthew, sing with the Bible, and sing with joy: Jesus is Lord, worthy is He to be praised!
1See John Frame’s The Doctrine of God, 21-115, as he explains the major components of God’s lordship, his control, authority, and covenantal presence. I highly recommend Dr. Frame’s complete study on Lordship in his four-volume set, A Theology of Lordship.
2Torah, is commonly known as the first five books of the Bible, on some occasions it can refer to the entire canon of Old Testament Scriptures.
3Peter J. Leithart, The Four: A Survey of the Gospels, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2010), 121.
5Cited in Kenneth L. Gentry’s, The Olivet Discourse Made Easy: You Can Understand Jesus’ Great Prophetic Discourse, (Draper, VA: ApologeticsGroup Media, 2010), 6.
6Peter J. Leithart, The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Vol. 1: Jesus as Israel (Monroe, LA: Athanasius Press, 2017), 15. I am leaning heavily on Dr. Leithart’s chart where he parallels Jesus’ account in Matthew with Moses’ account in Exodus.
7For a great study on this topic, I highly recommend Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson’s great work Echoes of Exodus:Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture.
8See the book of Revelation for John’s Olivet Discourse.
9Kenneth L. Gentry, The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian Enterprise in a Fallen World, (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), 30. On this page, Dr. Gentry recommends, and I wholeheartedly agree, seeing chapter 4 on the symbolism behind mountains in David Chilton’s incredible work Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion.
10Many Christians assume this passage in Daniel is alluding to the Second Coming, however, the verses establish how the Son of Man is going up to the Ancient of Days to receive his kingdom, not coming down. See R.T. France’s commentary on Matthew for an excellent discussion on this section.
11Ibid ., 43.