Summary: This is an introductory lesson on Matthewâ€™s gospel. It includes a lot of specific content analysis taken largely from Mark Allan Powellâ€™s book, The Gospels. It closes with an appeal to realize the gift of Godâ€™s love in Jesus as Emanuel.
Introducing Matthew’s gospel! The first book of the New Testament. (Not the first N T book to be written, but the first to appear in our Bibles). Matthew tells us where Jesus came from, who were his ancestors, how God caused a virgin named Mary to conceive and bear this One who is the Son of God, Emanuel, God with us! What immediate threats he faced and how God protected him from certain death as a child, the Herod story Matthew alone tells us. I realize this is not Christmas, and that is a good thing. We need to remember Godâ€™s gift of love in Jesus Christâ€™s birth and coming to us all through the year! Today is a great day to begin the gospel of Matthew and recall and reflect on its message. So letâ€™s begin by introducing Matthew and then look at his message about Jesus. Nowhere do we find Matthew telling us that he wrote this gospel. So how do we know it was him? Ignatius of Antioch is the earliest known writer to quote from Matthewâ€™s gospel in about 115 A.D. But a writer named Papius is the first account known to actually name the author of this gospel. Papius wrote about 160 A.D.
Why did Matthew write this gospel, and what is its message for us today?
This dual question deserves exploration. We believe that God inspired the scriptures, but to better understand Matthewâ€™ purpose and its message for us, we need to search carefully. We really have to read the whole book, and thoughtfully search out its purpose to give an informed answer to the questions. Before we begin, here are some things about Matthewâ€™s gospel that are defining. As I tell you various things about Matthew, ask yourself, how does this help me understand Matthew and how he communicates the gospel of Jesus?
Matthew is next to the longest book in the New Testament. It actually has more chapters than any other New Testament book: 28 to be exact. It is almost twice the length of Mark, but just about a page shorter than Luke, depending on the size print and page of your Bible. Matthew includes about 90% of the content of Markâ€™s gospel, a lot of it word for word, and Matthew has a good portion of material that Luke includes in his gospel that is not in Mark, and also, there is a large amount of information in Matthew that is unique to his gospel.
It has long been observed that Matthew arranges his gospel in five big chunks called the five great sermons or speeches of Jesus:
1. The Sermon on the Mount - chapters 5-7
2. The Missionary Discourse - 10
3. The Parables of the Kingdom - 13
4. The Community Discourse - 18
5. The End Times Discourse - 24-25
Another interesting thing about the arrangement of Matthew is that between each of these speeches or sermons of Jesus there is a narrative section of Jesus miracles and works.
Matthew has exactly 12 "fulfillment citations" which say: "this happened to fulfill what was written by the prophets."
Matthew is the only gospel to specifically mention Jesus talking about the church. In Matthew 16 Jesus speaks of building the church and in Matthew 18 he speaks of taking a matter of one that sins against you to the church as a final act of seeking resolution.
Matthew shows particular interest in Jesusâ€™ relationship with the Old Testament Law. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declares: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets, I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them! Truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or iota will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, I say to you, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthewâ€™s gospel puts more emphasis on the concept of the kingdom than the others. He mentions the term kingdom 55 times in his gospel, preferring the words â€œkingdom of heavenâ€ over â€œkingdom of Godâ€ as the other gospels put it. Probably, this reveals a Jewish influence and Matthewâ€™s respect for the name of God.
Someone wrote: Matthew is the gospel written by a Jew, to Jews about a Jew. Jesus Christ is the subject and Matthewâ€™s design is to present Jesus as the King of the Jews, the long awaited Messiah. His genealogy, his baptism, his messages, his miracles, and especially his death, burial and resurrection all point to the same inescapable conclusion: this Jesus is the King. He died for our sins, and now he lives and reigns as Lord over all.