Christ Jesus the True Israel: Matthew 3:13-17

Christ Jesus the True Israel: Matthew 3:13-17. Another passage that presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the True Israel is Matthew 3:13-17, the Matthean account of Jesus’ baptism. The sequence of events at Christ’s baptism typologically echoes not only Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea but also the creation account. Gregory K. Beale comments:

Just as Israel was led by Moses and had to go through the sea at the exodus to enter the promised land, and just as the second generation had to do the same thing at the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership, as a miniature exodus, so again, now that Israel’s restoration is imminent through Jesus, true Israelites must again identify with the water and the Jordan and their prophetic leader in order to begin to experience true restoration….This is also in fulfillment of the prophecies of Israel’s restoration as a second exodus through water (Isa. 11:15; 43:2, 16-17; 44:27-28; 50:2; 51:9-11), especially through rivers (Isa. 11:15; 42:15; 43:2; 44:27; 50:2).[1]

He continues:

The picture of a separation of waters in conjunction with mention of God’s Spirit and of God placing people in a new land seems to go all the way back to Genesis. Genesis 1:2 refers to “the Spirit [rûaḥ] of God hovering over the face of the waters”….The later events of the exodus from Egypt and a second time through the Jordan and the prophecies of a future exodus are all also associated with and virtually equated with a new creation because apparently they are seen to some degree as recapitulations of the initial dividing of waters and placement of humanity on dry land in Gen. 1….Jesus’ baptism signifies not only the beginning of a new exodus but also a new creation, since he has come to reverse the curses of the fall (through his healings, cross, and resurrection), the first act of which is to defeat the devil during the wilderness temptations, two which both Adam and Israel had succumbed. After his baptism, Jesus steps directly into the land of promise to begin his new creation/exodus mission after baptism, which, as we will see later, is but a foreshadowing of the ultimate promised land of the new creation.[2]

Craig Blomberg similarly notes in Matthew 3:13-178 “…distant echoes may be heard of the creation out of a watery chaos (Gen. 1:3) and the adoption of Israel as God’s son at the exodus, including the crossing of the Red Sea.”[3]

Moreover, God the Father’s declaration to His Son appears to combine Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, reflecting “the heavenly Father’s understanding of Jesus’ dual role: one day a kingly messiah, but for now a Suffering Servant – both appropriate to his unique identity as the divine son.”[4] Concerning the Father’s statement, Beale writes:

There is debate about whether the Servant prophecies in Isa. 40-53 refer to an individual or to a group of faithful Israelites. However, together with the Ps. 2 reference to the individual “Son” and the echoes to corporate Israel, it seems best to see Jesus being identified with both: he is the individual royal won who represents the true sons of Israel, and this appears to be the way Isa. 42:1 is being used, especially since the Servant Songs of Isa. 49:1-8 and 52:11-53:12 are best construed in the same way….he was coming successfully to obey, in contrast to Israel’s former disobedience, as well as that ultimately of Israel’s progenitors, Adam and Noah.[5]

In other words, Jesus is the individual Israelite King, who perfectly fulfills and sums up Israel in His own Person and work. With reference to Jesus’ statement to John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15), Beale notes:

…“all righteousness” refers to Jesus’ obedience to God’s will and commandments throughout his ministry as the eschatological Adam and Israel, culminating with his obedience of suffering at the cross. His obedience formally begins with the baptism and the immediately following test in the wilderness.[6]

Thus, Matthew 3:13-17 also presents the Lord Jesus as the True Israel.


Footnotes:

[1]Gregory K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 412.

[2]Ibid., 412-3.

[3]Craig L. Blomberg, “Matthew” in Gregory K. Beale and Donald A. Carson,The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 14.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 415.

[6]Ibid., 416-7.

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