By Kyle Rapinchuk
When I entered seminary in 2006, I knew the Lord was calling me to ministry, but I didn’t yet know what that looked like. I was fairly confident, however, that I would focus my attention on the New Testament. In fact, the first class I enrolled in when I began in May of 2006 was New Testament 1. I was also enrolled that summer for Old Testament 1 in July, but Karis was due during the course, so I decided to drop it. Besides being the obviously good choice because of the birth of my daughter, I think it also changed the direction I was headed. By the time I took Old Testament 1 my second year in seminary, I had already been awakened to the beautiful picture of the gospel in the Old Testament through my Church History class. As we walked through the preaching of the apostles in Acts through the teaching of the early church, day after day I found that God’s promises and actions in the Old Testament were the foundation for the church and the apostle’s teaching in the New. Halfway through my first Old Testament course that next fall, I was firmly set on a path toward not only an MDiv emphasis in OT, but also a PhD. I knew that proclaiming the gospel from the OT was my passion, and I wanted others to see and experience the beauty of what I had seen in the OT.
I think Matthew has the same passion. He wants to proclaim the Gospel from the OT, so he begins by telling us how Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT message. But Matthew’s purpose goes deeper than simply telling us that prophecy has been fulfilled. Matthew’s point is that the promised King of the OT is here. He’s here! Now! The one they have been waiting for, hoping for, longing for, has finally arrived. And with the arrival of the king, he has inaugurated (begun in the present) his kingdom. The kingdom that we look forward to has already dawned in the present, and he is calling his people to live like it. He wants us to be kingdom people now, not only then. This realization means that we do not spend our life now simply going to church and avoiding really bad sins so we can go to heaven later; it means that we spend our lives as servants of the king, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom, and begin practicing, as well as we can, the virtues that will mark our life in the everlasting kingdom. It is a call not only to “Believe in Jesus,” but also to “Follow Jesus.” And that is what the Sermon on the Mount is really about—following Jesus and becoming kingdom people in the present.
So what, then, are we supposed to do as kingdom people with the realization that the king is here? Matthew 2:2 gives us an answer. When the wise men from afar saw the star, they knew that it was a sign of the coming of a great king. They followed the star and inquired of Herod where they might find this king, because they had come to worship him. Worship him! That is, was, and always will be the most appropriate way to respond to Jesus. So as we read Matthew 1-3 and come to learn that the king is here, let us go forth and practice this proper response: worship him because he’s here!