We see the ash heaps of sin and death, the ruins of the Fall smeared on the earth. Humanity plunged in tragic depths. As pilgrims our hearts long for a New City. The First Adam was cast out of the Garden-Temple, and descended into the watery-abyss. But, in that dark-sea, stood God's radiant promise of a conquering Seed that would come from the line of David to crush the head of the Serpent as the victorious Last Adam to restore creation (Gen 3:15). The Shepherd-Kings of old have failed, the sheep have scattered, but there would come a Greater Moses in the person of Jesus Christ to lead us into Immanuel's Land.
The Gospel of Matthew weaves this magnificent thread of the Second Exodus motif when he depicts Christ as the True Israel who reenacts their history. Just as Israel came out of Egypt, went through the waters of the Red Sea, into the wilderness and to a mountain. Jesus comes out of Egypt, goes through the waters of baptism, into the wilderness in temptation and up a mountain. Where Israel failed to be a light to the nations; Jesus, the Light of the world is triumphant in the wilderness as the True Israel, and faithful Son of God obedient to the will of God.
In the cover art there is a dove, symbolizing the Spirit, hovering over the waters which communicate this idea of a Second Exodus. For where else do we see the Dove/Spirit hovering over the waters in Scripture? We see that the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters in creation, the dove hovered over the face of the waters in the flood, and the Spirit hovered over Israel in the Red Sea (Gen 1:2; 8:12; Isa. 63; Deut. 32:10-23; Isa. 63:11-14). In the account of creation, the flood and the Red Sea one can observe that there is a pattern of water as an obstacle for man enjoying God in His holy temple. So, what does God do? In creation, God divides the waters and brings man into the Garden, In the flood, God divides the waters and brings Noah and his household into a renewed earth. In the Exodus, God divides the waters of the Red Sea and brings Israel into the Promised Land. In the Second Exodus, the Greater Moses divides the water of sin and death and leads us into the New Heavens and New Earth. Jesus' flesh was torn like the sea with the sharp and flaming sword of God's justice that we may enter the Heavenly City to eat of the tree of life by streams of living water.
But, on wings of Divine love, the Son of God came down from heaven, went down to a lowly manger, went down to Jerusalem to face a gruesome death. The soldiers mocked Him saying, "If you are the Son of God, come down and save yourself" (Matt. 27:40). But, His food was to do will of God, so He stayed down in the deck of doom; the cross, for it was the Father's will to crush Him (John 4:34; Isaiah 53:10). The Divine Shepherd-King was struck with rod of justice like the ships of Tarshish, hurled into the raging sea of God's wrath, engulfed in the waters of judgment, and cut off the land of the living (Jonah 2:3-5; Zec. 13:7; Ps. Mark 10:38). But, on the third day the Greater Jonah rose victoriously from the depths of the earth and now is exalted at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 1:3).
The Gospel of Mark opens with the heavens being torn open in Christ's baptism (Mark 1:10), and closes with the heavens/veil torn open (15:38). In Isaiah 64:1 after the heavens were torn open, the mountains trembled. Strikingly, Matthew includes after the veil was torn, the "mountains trembled." The heavens are now open and God the Spirit descends like a dove and fills the Temple, the Church, and God our Father says to us, "You are my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Acts 2:2-4; 2 Cor. 6:16). So, when the arrows of temptation strikes, may we find comfort in the hurling shadows that fling from the bow of God's word. As pilgrims may we rest in Christ who swallowed up death forever, that we may feast with our True Shepherd-King at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!