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I have heard it stated that the Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as, specifically, the King of the Jews, rather than the Messiah, the Incarnate Word, or anything else.

What is the basis for this assertion?

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The Gospel of Matthew is written for a Jewish audience, especially Palestinian Jews who were at the time oppressed by the Romans. One of Matthew's main goals in his gospel was to prove that Jesus was the true Davidic Messiah--the king the Jews were expecting, who will deliver them from oppression.

Jewish scripture foretold that the Messiah will be like a Star out of Jacob and the Scepter that rises out of Israel in Numbers 24:17. He is the One who sits on David’s throne in Isaiah 9:7. He comes with the clouds of heaven to reign over a kingdom where all people, nations, and languages, will serve Him in Daniel 7:13-14. In His kingdom the nations will no longer lift up the sword against one another in Isaiah 2:4, and His reign, we’re promised, will have no end in Isaiah 9:6-7.

And hence Jesus Christ is presented as the “Son of David, the Son of Abraham” in Matthew 1:1 and the “King of the Jews” who wise men seek to worship in Matthew 2:2. Forty times He speaks of the kingdom of heaven and says that the day would come when He would return in the clouds to establish His kingdom on earth in Matthew 26:64.

Even Jesus is presented being asked directly, “Are you the King of the Jews?” to which He replies, “I am” in Matthew 27:11. This infuriated the religious leaders who demanded He be crucified. As He hung on the cross a sign was put over His head that read, “This Is Jesus, The King Of The Jews.”

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Perhaps Matthew has a theme of Jesus as King of the Jews, but certainly no more so than, for example, John's Gospel. While there are only about 5 actual references to Jesus as King of the Jews in Matthew, I also count 5 in Mark and 3 in Luke, with at least 11 such references in John, including the dramatic account of Pontius Pilate insisting on this being placed on the sign at the crucifixion:

John 19:19-22: And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

Matthew's genealogy shows Joseph as being descended from King David, but so also does Luke's slightly variant genealogy, with neither portraying Jesus as king because of his descent. The wise men from the east, coming to look for the new-born king of the Jews, provide the strongest support for seeing Matthew as defining Jesus as King of the Jews.

More than anything, Matthew seems to portray Jesus as Son of God beginning with his conception by the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 1:18: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

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