Heir of Abraham
The introduction to Matthew declares Jesus is the “Son of Abraham,” a declaration of far more significance than another name on a genealogical chart. He is nothing less than the heir of the Covenant promises made by the God of Israel to the Patriarch. His identification as Abraham’s “son” and heir points to the theme of fulfillment that dominates the Gospel of Matthew.
In this man from Nazareth, all the promises of God realized their “Yea, and Amen,” including all that Yahweh promised to the Great Patriarch, Abraham. Jesus is the Covenant heir, and his inheritance includes the Gift of the Spirit, the “promise of the Father.”
|[Photo by Seb Zurcher on Unsplash]|
The Book of Genesis traces Abraham’s lineage to the first man, Adam, a line that included many righteous men. Yet, in Matthew, rather than Adam, the starting point is Abraham, the line that culminates in the arrival of Israel’s Messiah - (Matthew 1:17).
Not only is the Patriarch pivotal to Israel’s history, not only did the Covenant begin with him, but the appearance of the true “Seed of Abraham” in “Galilee of the nations” is its climax.
Jesus is the anointed Son of God who now brings the promises of Yahweh to fruition – (Galatians 3:16 – “Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He says not, ‘and to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your seed,’ which is Christ”).
God promised to bless Abraham’s “Seed.” Nations and kings would come from him, and in him, “all the tribes of the Earth” would be blessed. From its inception, the Covenant envisioned the inclusion of the “nations of the Earth.” It was never limited to the tiny nation of Israel or the biological descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - (Genesis 12:1-3, 17:4-8).
In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel announces that God is about to fulfill His Covenant promises, especially those made to Abraham and David:
- “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God will give unto him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there shall be no end” - (Luke 1:31-33).
In Matthew, Jesus is also called the “Son of David,” the promised king who would reign forevermore on the Messianic Throne, not only over Israel but also over the nations and the “Kings of the Earth” - (Psalm 2:7-9, Revelation 1:4-6).
In her song celebrating what God did for her, Mary invoked the Abrahamic Covenant and linked it to the miraculous child in her womb:
- (Luke 1:47-55) – “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has looked upon the low estate of his handmaid… He has given help to Israel his servant, that he might remember mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, toward Abraham and his seed forever.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise “to Abraham and his Seed.” Mary’s reference to his “mercy being to generations and generations” echoes God’s Covenant with Abraham - “Your seed after you throughout their generations.”
Yahweh sent his Son as promised, and now he rules over all the nations of the Earth in fulfillment of that promise. As Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist confirmed in Luke’s account:
- (Luke 1:68-73) – “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; For he has visited and wrought redemption for his people and raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old… To show mercy towards our fathers and remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to Abraham our father.”
THE COMING ONE
But physical descent from Abraham alone does not qualify anyone for membership in the Covenant community. Ishmael was his biological son but did not receive the promise. Likewise, Jacob was accepted by God, but Esau was rejected. Being the true “Son of Abraham” entails much more than a biological relationship.
Famously, John the Baptist warned the leaders of Israel NOT to appeal to their descent from Abraham to validate their covenant status, as Matthew informs us:
- (Matthew 3:9) – “And they were being baptized in the Jordan River by him, openly confessing their sins. But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Broods of vipers! Who suggested for you to flee from the coming wrath? Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I say to you, God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”
Repentance and submission to the Messiah, the true “Seed of Abraham,” are mandatory to enter the Kingdom. Moreover, in John’s declaration, the term “stones” is metaphorical and refers to Gentiles that will be brought into the Covenant, just as Yahweh promised Abraham. Compare the following words of Jesus with those of Yahweh to Abraham:
- (Matthew 8:8-12) – “But the (Roman) centurion said, Lord! I am of no consideration that under my roof you should enter, but only say with a word and healed will be my servant… Now Jesus, hearing, marveled and said to them that were following him: Truly, I say to you, with no one in Israel such faith as this have I found. But I say to you, many from east and west will come and recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the darkness outside.”
- (Genesis 13:14-16) – “And Yahweh said to Abram: Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are; northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you are beholding, I will give to you, and to your seed to times everlasting. And I will make your seed as the dust of the Earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the Earth, your seed also may be numbered.”
The clause in the first passage, “east and west,” echoes Yahweh’s command to Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” and see the extent of the Promised Land. In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the term rendered “land” can refer to the entire “Earth.”
The Covenant always anticipated something larger than the small territory of Canaan and the biological descendants of the Patriarch, and this was confirmed by Jesus himself. Furthermore, the Spirit cannot be limited by geography or ethnicity - (Genesis 12:3, 13:14, John 4:21-24).
John also described the “Coming One” as the promised one who grants the Spirit to his followers. “I indeed baptize you in water for repentance: but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” – (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5).
Like its beginning, the conclusion of Matthew recalls the Covenant with Abraham and the messianic promises to the House of David:
- “And Jesus came 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” - (Matthew 28:18-19).
The Messiah’s departing command echoes the promise in the second Psalm to give him the “nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the Earth.” Likewise, the promise to “bless all the nations” in Abraham reverberates in his words. He is the True and Greater “Son of Abraham.” Therefore, he now has “all authority” in Heaven and on Earth.
Accordingly, he is sending his disciples as his envoys to announce his Good News and sovereignty. The Age of the Spirit, the time of fulfillment, arrived in earnest in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and his glorious message is now being heralded to the nations whenever and wherever his Gospel is preached.