Jesus Is the True Israel
“When Jesus is a child, Joseph and Mary take him to Egypt to protect him from Herod’s persecution. Matthew comments: ‘So was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet, out of Egypt I called my son’ (Matt 2:15). Some commentators suggest that this is an unprincipled use of Old Testament prophecy. The quotation is from Hosea 11:1, which is not a messianic promise referring to an individual. The original context makes it very clear that it refers to the exodus of the nation of Israel. But Matthew is neither naive nor unprincipled. He knows exactly what he is doing. He is deliberately identifying Jesus with Israel. But Jesus is different. He too is tempted, as the Israelites were in the wilderness, but–unlike them–He does not fall (Matt 4:1-11).
“He then calls his first disciples. His choice of twelve is no coincidence; it is a deliberate statement. He is calling together a new Israel, with twelve disciples as a foundation, rather than twelve tribes (4:18-22). The old Israel rejects Jesus and will, in turn, be rejected by God. Jesus says, ‘…the kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a people who will produce its fruit’ (Matt 21:43). He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem as the awful expression of that judgment (Luke 19:43-44). It is carried out by the Romans in AD 70. From now on the true Israel is not focused on the land of Palestine and does not consist of those who are physically descended from Abraham. It rather consists of his spiritual descendants: those, both Jew and Gentile, who follow his example and place their trust in God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus: ‘…the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only those who are of the law [i.e. Jews] but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all’ (Rom 4:16).”