Typology and the Mystery of the Kingdom in Matthew

By Christopher Cuddy

The following is a summary-outline of Edward Sri’s book: Mystery of the Kingdom, a study of Matthew’s Gospel. Scott Hahn is using this book in his New Testament class at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and I cannot recommend it highly enough! It’s a wonderful read. Edward Sri is one of Dr. Hahn’s former students, and he does a masterful job of unpacking several of the key themes found within Matthew’s Gospel.

While the Calvinistic theology I embraced as a Protestant stressed the need for Covenantal unity within the Scriptures, it wasn’t until I began reading Catholic theology that I began to see just how deep and rich the unity of the Scriptures really is. Once I began to read the Bible with “typological glasses”—seeing how the New Testament ties into the Old, and vice versa—everything fell into place. Typology made the Bible come alive for me. As a Protestant, it was extremely difficult for me to understand how the Catholic Church could claim to have a Biblical basis for its theological distinctives. There were just so many doctrines within Catholicism that seemed to be not only un-Biblical, but anti-Biblical. Everything from the Marian doctrines, to the Papacy and the Sacraments, seemed to be nothing other than heinous perversions of clear Biblical teachings. Once I began to see the typological unity of the Scriptures, however, everything made sense.

While not an exhaustive work in Biblical theology per se, Mystery of the Kingdom is a marvelous introduction to several of the typological themes found within Matthew’s Gospel. Sri’s writing style is clear and concise, and his book is a pleasure to read. As mentioned earlier, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Introduction Jesus’ life has not received proper attention: we cannot appreciate why Jesus died until we appreciate why He lived. Matthew has been referred to as the “Catechist’s gospel” because it explicitly brings together Jesus’ mission: the building of the kingdom.

Chapter One: Matthew 1-2 The opening genealogy of Matthew is extremely important, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Jesus is the “Son of David:” the promised King. The name “Emmanuel” (“God with us”) is both the climatic name for Jesus at the end of Matthew 1, and it is the culmination of the entire Gospel in Jesus’ last words to the Apostles (“I am with you always…”).

Chapter Two: Matthew 3 The Jordan River brought to mind all of the important things in Israel’s history: It was the unmistakable symbol of new beginning and new life. Elijah transferred his ministry to Elisha at the Jordan. Thus, Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan was extremely significant: it was his anointing and inauguration as king and Messiah. Just as Elisha would do greater works than Elijah, so Jesus would surpass John the Baptist. Elijah prefigured John the Baptist. Elisha prefigured Christ.

Chapter Three: Matthew 4 Jesus faces the ultimate worker of evil: Satan. This is extremely important. Jesus was king, but He did not come to defeat the Romans as the Jew’s originally expected. Throughout Biblical history, a king represented his people. This is interesting in light of the fact that Jesus’ three temptations parallel the three trials of the children of Israel in the Exodus: hunger, “putting God to the test,” and worshiping a false god. Unlike the children of Israel, however, He did not succumb to temptation. Jesus was representing His people.

Chapter Four: Matthew 5-7 Jesus presented the “agenda for the Kingdom” on the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wanted to redirect the nationalistic/revolutionary tendencies of the Jews by telling them not to hate their enemies, but to love them. In this Christ is depicted as the “New Moses” who, like the first Moses (Deut. 27:11—13), announced blessings and curses from two mountains (Mt. 5:3-12, 23:13-36).

Chapter Five: Matthew 8-9 Jesus performed miracles. In doing so he fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah concerning the restoration of Israel. He also forgave sins. This was critical because the forgiveness of sins is one of the chief signs of the new Covenant. Christ shocked the Pharisees by associating with “sinners.” Through this, Christ is symbolically restoring those who had been shunned and previously considered to be outside of God’s Covenant family.

Chapter Six: Matthew 10-12 By casting out the demon from within the mute man, Jesus was showing that He was fighting Israel’s most important battle (the battle against evil), and that He had power over Satan. By attributing Jesus’ ability to cast out demons to the devil, the Pharisees were blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The implication of Christ choosing twelve disciples, and sending them out with His authority, is extremely important. “Twelve” is a sacred number that brought to mind the “twelve tribes of Israel” that had descended from Jacob’s twelve sons. Thus, by choosing twelve disciples, Jesus was symbolically expressing His desire to rebuild Israel.

Chapter Seven: Matthew 13:1—16:19 Peter states who Jesus is, and Jesus, in turn, reveals who Peter is. Jesus does not stop there, however. He goes on to change Peter’s name, thus signifying a change in Peter’s vocation and person. Jesus establishes Peter as “the rock” (the foundation) of Christ’s new kingdom. The “keys of the kingdom” language is a reference to Eliakim who acted as the “Prime Minister” within the Davidic kingdom (Isaiah 22). “The key of the house of David” signified great administrative authority. Thus, when Jesus gives Peter the “the keys of the kingdom,” He is establishing Peter as the new “master of the palace” in Christ’s Kingdom.

Chapter Eight: Matthew 16:20—21:11 Before Jesus made His messianic identity know, He made great efforts to redefine the popular notion of “messiahship.” Jesus attempted to show that it was not through a military or a particular monarch, that the battle would be won. But rather the way to victory was through love and service. By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was intentionally fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, and received a royal greeting.

Chapter Nine: Matthew 21:22—25:46 For the Jews, the Temple was the symbol for the entire world. It also served as the center for Jewish government and culture. By overturning the moneychanger’s tables, Jesus was preventing the people from being able to purchase animals, and, subsequently, to make sacrifices. This prefigures how all sacrifices would soon end. Jesus also reemphasized the universality of God’s plan of salvation. When Christ spoke of “falling stars,” he was using traditional, Jewish, apocalyptic imagery that represented the “fall” of rulers and kingdoms. The end of the Temple signified the end of the Old Covenant world.

Chapter Ten: Matthew 26:1—27:26 In the parable of the vineyard, Christ rebuked the Pharisees and described Himself as the “Son of Man” (a reference to Daniel 7). Through this parable, He was pointing to Himself as the representative of God’s people, and the Jewish leaders as Gentile “monsters.” Shortly before Christ’s death, when He appeared before Pilate, Pilate gave the people a choice: Barabbas or Jesus. “Barabbas” means “son of the father,” and thus depicted the choice the people had to make: Which “son” do you want? They chose Barabbas.

Chapter Eleven: Matthew 27:27—66- Christ was the “new sacrifice.” He saved Israel by meeting them at their lowest point: Covenantal Death. Jesus entered into the curses of Adam: He experienced sweat (Gen. 3:19), thorns (Gen. 3:18), and a “tree.” Abraham and Isaac prefigured Christ’s sacrifice. Abraham offered his only-beloved son on Mount Moriah: God offered His only-beloved Son on Calvary (which is one of the hills of Moriah). Abraham and Isaac traveled to Mount Moriah with a donkey: Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Isaac carried the sacrificial wood up the mountain: Jesus carried the wood of the cross.

Conclusion: One of the most important themes in Matthew is Jesus’ authority as the Messiah. By performing miracles, casting out demons, and forgiving sins, Jesus revealed His authority. But the ultimate manifestation of His authority was His death and subsequent resurrection. The scope/range of the kingdom is now intended for all nations and all people. The book of Matthew opened with Jesus receiving the glorious title “Emmanuel” (“God with us”) and it closes with the statement: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.”