The Gospels primarily seem to focus on Jesus Christ. What we must realize, however, is they focus on both His character and actions. Every action reveals His character. What we read describes Him. Knowing His character encourages us because we can trust, due to His immutability, that He is the same today too (even dwelling in flesh).
Focusing on His character, the Bible reveals Him to be fully God and fully man as communicated by these titles: the Son of God and Son of Man. Both are equally true. One never wanes over the other or dissipates. So, when we read about Jesus talking to the Centurion, the woman at the well, or His disciples, He does so as the Messiah – fully God and fully man, not 50% / 50%, but 100% / 100%.
Yet, we limit and strain the Gospels if we regard them as only about Jesus. The Gospels are about the Trinity. When we read about Jesus working, we remember He does the will of the Father (John 5:26-27; 6:38) while anointed in the Spirit (Luke 4:1). The Gospels are about the Trinity centered on the Messiah Jesus.
Matthew goes to great links to teach us this truth. The first three chapters reveal Jesus, is the Christ, the Son of God, and Son of Man come in the flesh.
First, Matthew reveals the Son. He begins his Gospel with the Christ’s lineage. What is the point of this lineage? “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Matthew shows us this Jesus is the promised seed given to both Abraham and David. God told Abraham, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:17-18). This promises relates to the Abrahamic Covenant made in Genesis 12:1-3. But the promise contains one offspring who will bless the nations. As Scripture unfolds, God provides more details about the seed, including that He will be king some day. God said to David, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sam 7:12). “Descendant” could be translated “seed.” This is the seed promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:15). OT saints would have longed for the seed to come in the flesh. Matthew opens the Gospel announcing the seed is here and then shows the lineage to prove it.
Second, Matthew introduces the Father. Matthew then proves to us Jesus is the Son of God. He emphasizes the Father / Son relationship. (Luke does this too, but he uses the story about Jesus staying in the temple while his parents traveled back from the Feast of the Passover to prove Jesus is the Father’s Son). Consider the following periscopes:
- Jesus is born in the flesh to a virgin. Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit (1:18) fulfilling the promise in Isaiah 7:14.
- After Jesus was born, the Lord sends foreign wise men to honor Jesus. Yet Israel’s leaders have no desire to worship the Christ nor does the Father appear to them to inform them. But this periscope sets up an important contextual point: Herod and the kings want nothing to do with Jesus so they will seek to destroy Him. Yet the Father will protect His child (and the wise men). The Father makes sure the Son is adored and gifted as a king deserves (Matthew 2:1-12).
- The Father continues to protect His child by sending Him to Egypt to avoid destruction from the evils of Herod (Matthew 2:13-15).
- Herod kills the children in Bethlehem, an unjust and evil act. The OT promises the King would come in a time of oppression, evil, and injustice (2:16-18).
- When Herod dies, the Father sends His Son back to Nazareth to grow up among His people (2:19-23)
While considering all these stories, who is the main actor? Jesus comes off as puppet (He’s not, but you get my point). He is too young to defend Himself or coordinate any of these moves. Herod wants to kill Jesus because he cannot have competition to the throne. Joseph, Jesus earthly “father” moves the family, but he is not the instigator or main actor either. He simply follows the Lord. At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, it is clear the Father in heaven is the main actor – the star of the show. He is Jesus’s father. This introduction and theme should not be forgotten when we continue to read this Gospel.
Finally, Matthew introduces the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s baptism is about the anointing of the Son to do ministry in the Holy Spirit. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him” (3:16). Jesus being anointed with the Holy Spirit fulfills Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor . . .” (for a more detailed account of this, see here).
The very next story in Matthew exemplifies and summarizes this truth. Satan tempts Jesus. This story is not in the Gospels to teach us how to overcome temptation. It is here to show us Jesus is the Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit. “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (4:1). Satan’s temptations are real and literally tempt Jesus because He is fully man. He really was hungry. Yet Jesus withstands Satan because He is fully God, empowered by the Spirit. Jesus obeys the Father withstanding the temptations. This is the first time we see Jesus acting. Before Matthew reveals anything else, he wants us to know this Jesus is fully God and fully man, lead and empowered by the Spirit, and doing the Father’s will.
Matthew focuses primarily on Jesus’s teaching (Matt 5-7; 10; 13; 18; 24-25) and His actions. We must remember, as we read, everything Jesus does, He does while anointed with the Holy Spirit. It is safe to say, when we hear Jesus talk and see Him act, we see the Trinity at work. The Father directing the Son in His will while empowered by the Holy Spirit. This does not make Jesus a puppet either. Jesus acts and works but in complete harmony with the Trinity. Something we should expect.
Matthew starts the Gospel focusing on the Trinity and ends His work in the same manner. He writes this Gospel to teach you about the Lord, so that we can be disciples who make disciples. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (28:19-20). We are to make disciples. But even in the end, Matthew reiterates the work of the Trinity — the character of Jesus.