By percentages, very few human beings ever have a book written about them. Fewer still have four books written about them. Even fewer than that have numerous books written to further expound upon the books written about them. And almost no one in the history of the world has been said to be a person whose life should radically transform the lives of every other human being who lives, has lived, or ever will live. And yet that is exactly what we have with Jesus Christ. What is it that makes the story of Jesus so special?
As you consider this question you might open up one of those books written about Jesus. And if you were to open up one of those books you very likely would start with the very first one, the Gospel according to Matthew. But the first chapter of Matthew may confuse you more than providing you answers. In introducing the story of Jesus, Matthew fires off a lengthy listing of the ancestors of Jesus. What’s the point in that? I think there are actually quite a few neat and helpful lessons in that long list of names and there are probably even more that I’m not learned enough to see yet, but there is one key lesson found in the genealogy of Jesus that helps us find a key answer to the question of “What makes Jesus so special?” The list of Jesus’s ancestors is a list of kings. David is the biggest name on the list as far as royalty is concerned, and then you have all of his kids and grandkids and so on who were all part of his royal lineage. And long before any of those guys, Abraham was promised to have a family of rulers (Gen. 22:17-18). When Jesus was born, he wasn’t an ordinary person by any stretch of the imagination. Jesus is the king of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God himself. Matthew is telling us that what makes Jesus so special is that Jesus is the king of heaven and earth.
The kingship of Jesus is featured throughout the first several chapters of Matthew. Chapter two tells us about how, after Jesus’ birth, the Wise Men from the East come searching for the Ruler of God’s people who had been foretold long ago (Mic. 5:1-5). In response, King Herod exterminates an entire generation of baby boys in an attempt to snuff out what he perceives to be a potential rival. Chapter three tells of John the Baptist heralding the arrival of the Messiah who was coming to bring about the world-changing, life-giving reign of God. And so when Jesus was baptized by John it turned out to be his coronation as the Son of God who would rule the nations (Psalm 2). In chapter four when Jesus himself fully arrived on the scene preaching and teaching, healing every kind of disease, and casting out demons he did so with this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
Matthew’s recounting of the story of Jesus is laser-focused on introducing us to the story of the king of God’s kingdom. Jesus is the king of God’s kingdom, which means that he’s ruling to overcome all the bad and evil that has filled the world. Ever since then God has been working through Jesus to make everything right that has been wrong. That’s makes Jesus someone special indeed.
But the interesting thing we learn from this introduction to Jesus, the king of God’s kingdom, is that the rule of God through Jesus doesn’t occur apart from the cooperation of subjects. God doesn’t force his ways upon his creation against their will. The goodness of the kingdom of God works through the people who repent at the word of King Jesus (Matt. 4:17), who follow King Jesus wherever he leads whatever radical sacrifices it may demand (Matt. 4:18-22), who trust in King Jesus for their flourishing in the present and for their hopes to be met in the future (Matt. 5:1-16), and who measure their conduct by the standard of King Jesus which is a much higher and greater standard than anything else in the world (Matt. 5:17-48).
Sometimes, I think, it seems like Jesus’s kingship isn’t really all that real or meaningful or special because we look around and see so much bad and evil still going on. Why should I care about the story of Jesus the king if the world is still wrecked like it is? It’s an understandable question but a misguided one. Maybe instead of being discouraged by all that’s still wrong, I need to submit myself to the king so that his rule can work through me for the good to set things right. If I would live like that more and more each day I would not only have a fuller, richer, greater life myself, I would soon witness just how special his rule can be for all the world.