Question: Why would you want to beat a dead horse? If it’s already dead, then why beat it?
Well that’s kind of the point. To beat a dead horse means you repeatedly address a topic or subject long after your point has been made. So what does this have to do with Matthew? I’m glad you asked. Matthew is about to beat a dead horse, (figuratively speaking), and in this case it’s going to be a good thing.
Remember that Matthew was writing to the Jews to show Jesus was the promised Messiah. He went through great pains through Jesus birth, (see genealogy blog), and his life to show Jesus was the Messiah the Jews were waiting for.
Enter the dead horse, stage left. In Matthew 1:18-2:23 the word or idea of “fulfilled” is used five times in 30 verses. Methinks there’s a trend here. (Journalistic note: Anytime you can use the word “methinks” it’s a good thing). Matthew is making an important point to his Jewish readers, i.e. Jesus’ life is a fulfillment of the promises about the Messiah. He continually uses the word “fulfilled” or “fulfillment” over and over and over and…well, you get the idea.
A prophecy was made in Isaiah about the virgin conceiving and bearing a child. You know any other virgin born guys besides Jesus? (Matthew 1:22-23). Prophecy = fulfilled.
Micah prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Guess where Jesus was born? (Matthew 2:5-6). Prophecy = fulfilled.
Mary and Joseph had to run away to Egypt for a while to escape persecution. In Hosea God said, “Out of Egypt I called my son,” (Matt. 2:15). God’s son was called out of Egypt. Prophecy = fulfilled.
Herod killed all the little baby boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus as Jeremiah foretold in Jeremiah 31:15. Prophecy = fulfilled. Anyone sensing a theme here?
Finally, Jesus’ parents brought him back to Nazareth to live and be raised, fulfilling the prophets, who said, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” (Matt. 2:23).
Fulfilled, fulfilled, fulfilled. Matthew is redundant, but it’s on purpose. He’s trying to make a point. He’s saying, “Hey you guys! Look at how Jesus fulfills these prophecies. Look at his life. Can’t you see he’s the promised Messiah? Look, believe, and be saved!”
You and I may read these verses and think Matthew needs to stop talking about fulfillment. We may think he should just move on to the important stuff like Jesus’ miracles, caring for the poor, and making a Sam’s club out of a sack lunch. However, to Matthew and the Jewish readers these “fulfillment” details were just as important in proving the identity of the Christ. Like a lawyer Matthew is carefully crafting his case to the jury. He knows the Jews are skeptical, so he takes great pains to lay out the evidence so they can be persuaded, believe, and be saved.
Matthew is redundant, but he’s doing it purposefully. He is careful and thoughtful in his efforts to get his audience to believe in Jesus. For his redundant evangelistic efforts I hereby award Matthew with the “Beating A Dead Horse Award”. May we all be so thoughtful and persistent in our efforts to lead people to Christ.