The answer to all this has its roots down in that tragic break. In the old picture of the Messiah there are two distinct groups of characteristics of the coming king, personal and official. He was to have a direct personal relation to men and an official relation to the nation, and through it to the world. The personal had in it such matters as healing the sick, relieving the distressed, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, easing heart strains, teaching and preaching. It was wholly a personal service. The official had, of course, to do with establishing the great kingdom and bringing all other nations into subjection. Now, it was a bit of the degeneracy of the people and of the times, that when Jesus came the blessings to the individual had slipped from view, and that the national conception, grown gross and coarse, had seized upon the popular imagination, and was to the fore.
Jesus filled in perfectly with marvellous fulness the individual details of the prophetic picture. Of course filling in the national depended upon national acceptance, and failure there meant failure for that side. And, of course, He could not fill out the national part except through the nation’s acceptance of Him as its king. Rejection there meant a breaking, a hindering of that part. And so Jesus does not fill out the old Hebrew picture of the Messiah. He could not without the nation’s consent. Man would have used force to seize the national reins. But, of course, God’s man could not do that. It would be against God’s plan for man. Everything must be through man’s consent.
Out of this perplexity there came to be the four Gospels. They grew up out of the needs of the people. Mark seems to have written his first. He makes a very simple recital, setting down the group of facts and sayings as He had heard Peter telling them in many a series of talks. It is the simplest of the four, aiming to tell what he had gotten from another. But it offers no answer to these puzzling questions.
Matthew writes his account of the gospel for these great numbers of perplexed, earnest Jewish questioners. They are Palestinian Jews, thoroughly familiar with Jewish customs and places. Sitting backward on the edge of the Hebrew past, thoroughly immersed in its literature and atmosphere, but with his face fastened on Jesus, he composes out of the facts about Jesus and the old prophetic scriptures a perfect bit of mosaic. There is the fascination of a serpent’s eye in turning from the prophetic writings to the Gospel of Matthew. Let a man become immersed and absorbed in the vision of the Hebrew prophetic books and then turn to Matthew to get the intense impression that this promised One has come, at last has actually come, and—tragedy of tragedies—is being rejected.