Gospel Bookends: The Ever-Present King

We continue our study of Gospel bookends with the theme of Christ “with us” in Matthew. Chapter 1 introduces Him as “Emmanuel … God with us” (1:23)[1]; and He promises His disciples in Matthew’s final verse, “I am with you always” (28:20).

“With us” (1:23)

If Matthew is the Gospel of the King, what a beautiful royal portrait it is! It begins with a genealogy, something that’s so important to us as Christians, because our faith rests on true history. If the facts of Scripture are not historical, then we have no gospel and no hope.

We find many genealogies in the Old Testament – eight chapters straight at the start of 1 Chronicles – but there is only one Man’s genealogy in the New Testament. That final genealogy belongs to our Lord Jesus, the last Adam, who brings history to its fulfillment. All past history led up to Him, and any future history only has importance as it is linked to Him. His lineage and descendants are now the ones that matter – “Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Heb 2:13).

Matthew begins his genealogy with two titles that identify Christ as the ultimate heir of promise: “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” David and Abraham both received covenantal promises linked to their sons, and Christ inherits both those promises. Abraham’s son was promised the land and David’s son, the throne. Yet, Isaac and Solomon were only conduits through whom those promises flowed until they found their ultimate fulfillment in Christ.

These titles not only confirm Christ as the rightful heir of land and throne; they also hint at the path that He will take to receive that inheritance. As Abraham’s Son, He was miraculously born and beloved by His Father. He laid down His life on the mountaintop and, through Him, blessing flows to the entire world. As David’s son, He rises again to reign forever as the unrivaled King over a prosperous and peaceful kingdom. Indeed, “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God” (2Co 1:20).

Not only does He receive two great titles in this chapter, “son of David” and “son of Abraham,” but we also read of His being given two names. Isn’t it interesting that a chapter packed with supernatural events comes to its climax and conclusion with this simple statement: “He called his name Jesus” (Mat 1:25)? The crowning moment of this story is a baby being given one of the most ordinary names of His day, Jesus. What’s so amazing about that?

Matthew tells us that He was named before His birth by an angel (v21) and a prophet (v22-23). And here the careful reader discovers something especially interesting: Notice how similar Isaiah’s words are to the angel’s words. Isaiah said, “A virgin … shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel” (v23). The angel said, “She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus” (v21). Their statements are almost identical, except that they give different names. And now we have an intriguing question, because Matthew says that the angel’s command was given to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. How could naming Him “Jesus” fulfill a prophecy that said He would be named “Emmanuel”?

We find the answer in the angel’s explanation: “… call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” (v21). The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves.” So, in essence, the angel said: “Thou shalt call his name ‘Jehovah saves’ for ‘he’ shall save his people from their sins.” Do you see how the angel is identifying “he” (this baby) with Jehovah the Savior? When this baby saves His people, it is Jehovah saving them. He is “God with us.”

More than that, the angel appears to be quoting words that were written about Jehovah in Psalm 130:8. That lovely psalm celebrates the Lord’s forgiveness, mercy and plentiful redemption. It ends with this line: “He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” The angel takes up those words, written about Jehovah, and applies them to Mary’s baby, “He shall save his people from their sins.”

That long list of names of kings and heroes in Matthew’s genealogy isn’t a list of saviors. It’s a list of sinners who need saving, in a world that needs saving. Now, at last, someone has come who is able to do it. It is God Himself – the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal “God with us.” He shall save His people from their sins.

“With You” (28:20)

As Matthew traces the presentation and rejection of this matchless King, he gives us his latter bookend in what we call the Great Commission (28:18-20). It truly is great in scope. Notice the four “alls” in the Savior’s words. He gave them a daunting task – to go to “all nations” and teach “all things” that He had commanded. But He also promised a great provision: He was sending them with “all authority,” and He would be with them “always,” even to the end.

It’s in that final verse that we find our key word, “with” – “I am with you always.” What a precious promise! And it becomes even more precious once we realize the full identity of the One who made it. It was Emmanuel, “God with us,” who promised to be with them. This wasn’t an earthly king giving his servants a command and then sending them off on their own to do their best. This was “God with us,” not only commanding them, but also promising to work by their side until the task was done.

And so these four “alls” connect us to the limitless resources of His divine attributes. Who sends them with “all authority”? The Omnipotent One, and therefore no earthly power can thwart them. Who sends them to “all nations”? The Omnipresent One, who will be with them everywhere they go. Who calls them to teach “all things”? The Omniscient One, who will meet their every need for wisdom and knowledge through His Holy Spirit. Who will be with them “always”? The Eternal One, who never dies. He will be with them to the end.

These bookends reveal the secret of our mission. The One who is “with us,” as we go out into the world making disciples, is none other than “God with us” – Emmanuel! We go out in obedient faith, and He provides the power and resources we need to accomplish His work. With such a mighty King, ever-present by our side, the mission that He gave us cannot fail.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.