Filed Under (book excerpts) by dee dee on 18-06-2012
I am presently reading R.T. France’s Commentary on Matthew and as usual, I mined it for quotes I thought might be edifying to share here, and that I am keeping in my research archives. This is the third post of a series:
The True Israel
C.H. Dodd suggested that in Jesus’ view ‘The Messiah is not only founder and leader of the Israel-to-be, the new people of God; he is its “inclusive representation.” In a real sense he is the true Israel, carrying through in his own experience the process through which it comes into being.”
Matthew also seems to present this idea that Jesus himself is the true Israel. Perhaps it is already implicit in his presentation of Jesus as ‘King of the Jews,’ but it come to more obvious expression in some of the typological references to the Old Testament. The use of Hosea 11:1 in 2:15 makes sense only if Jesus, as God’s son, is equated with Israel as ‘God’s son.’ the same typology underlies the references to Deuteronomy 6–8 in the account of Jesus’ testing in the wilderness. The parable which most clearly speaks of the failure and replacement of Israel (21:33–43)concludes, with Jesus’ reference to Psalm 118:22, a passage about Israel’s unexpected vindication but now transferred to Jesus in his vindication over Israel’s rebellion.
In discussing Matthew’ typology above we noted his remarkable concentration in chapter 12 of Jesus’ sayings about ‘a greater than the temple/Jonah/Solomon,’ the effect of which is to place Jesus as the ‘fulfillment’ of the main pillars of the institutional life of Old Testament Israel. The implication is that the focus of the true Israel is not now in the cult, the prophet, or the king, but in Jesus.
But the theme of Jesus as the true Israel is not the dominant one in the Gospel. For the result of Jesus’ ministry was the creation of a community of those who responded to his message. There is evidence in Matthew that it was not only in Jesus himself, but also in this disciple group, in distinction from unbelieving Israel, that the true people of God was now to be found.
Jesus seems to have thought of them as a sort of ‘righteous remnant’ of Israel, such as the prophets often spoke of. Thus in 13:10–17 he speaks of the majority of his hearers in words taken from Isaiah’s call to preach to unresponsive Israel, but contrasts them with his disciples, to whom the privilege of understanding God’s secrets has been given. They are the ‘meek’ who in the Psalms represent God’s true servants (5:5). They are called to fulfill the special calling of Israel to be holey, as God is holy (5:48). They are the true flock of God, as described in Zechariah (26:31). They will constitute Jesus’ ekkleisa, a prominent Old Testament word for the congregation of God’s people (16:18).
The focus of Israel’s national life in the Old Testament had been the covenant made at Sinai, but now Jesus’ blood will seal a new covenant such as Jeremiah had predicted (26:28); and a new covenant means a new basis of existence for the people of God. In speaking of the temple destroyed and rebuilt (see 26:61 and the implication of the saying of 12:6 and the repudiation of existing temple worship in 21:12–13), Jesus looked forward to a new basis of worship for the true people of God, and one which envisaged the literal destruction of the old order.
Such pointers towards a new people of God are given further substance by Jesus’ deliberate choice of twelve disciples, as the leadership of his new community, and the implication is spelt out 19:28, which envisages them sitting ‘on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’
Matthew records no explicit description of the disciples as ‘Israel,’ ‘the true Israel,’ or the like, but the indication listed above point unmistakably towards the idea, as do a number of passages where the Old Testament prophecies relating to Israel are applied to the disciples of Jesus (8:11; 24:31).
Through its rejection of God’s final appeal the nation as such has forfeited its claim to be the people of God. Jesus now represents all that Israel should have been, and in those who belong to him the purposes of God for Israel find their fulfillment.