Transformation of Israel into the Church


How did the nation of Israel transform into the Church of Jesus Christ?


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The Presence of Christ within Israel



Matthew begins his Gospel with the simple, yet profound, introduction: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1). By identifying Jesus as both David's son and Abraham's son, Matthew is inserting Christ into the very heart of Israel. "The genealogy does not prove Messiaship, but vindicates for Jesus its prerequisite condition, viz. Israelitic stock traceable to the patriarch of the whole race, and, in particular, royal Davidic descent" (Orchard 855). He is not an outsider, wishing to overthrow Israel and its laws and practices. No, he is a true son of Israel, a member of the royal house of David, as well as a descendant of the father of faith, Abraham. He will be a king, like David's son, and will offer himself as a sacrifice, like Abraham's son.

Matthew then continues by detailing Jesus' genealogy, highlighting famous members of the race of Israel, such as Isaac, Jesse, and Solomon. He also structures Christ's genealogy within the history of Israel: "from Abraham to David...and from David to the deportation to Babylon...from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ" (Matt. 1:17). Jesus is an integral part of the history of Israel. As God has worked in history with His people, He now will work through Jesus.

Finally, Matthew ends his genealogy with the words, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ" (Matt. 1:16, emphasis added). By identifying Jesus as the Christ, Matthew is signaling that Jesus is the fulfillment of promises made to Israel about its destiny. Jesus is not an usurper of Israel; he is the one whom Israel for centuries has been awaiting. The transformation he will cause to happen to Israel was its destiny from the very beginning. Again Matthew is reminding his readers that the changes Jesus will fashion in Israel are part of the divine plan, and according to God's purposes. As A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture remarks, "Matthew sees both Kingdom and King not as unforeseen and unprepared phenomena, but as the supernatural climax of a divine plan announced and developing in the history of Israel" (Orchard 853).

Thus, before writing one word about his life or teachings, Matthew has established that Jesus of Nazareth is a part of Israel and part of God's divine plan. His presence does not come from without, but from within. What is the effect of his presence? The very transformation of Israel.

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