Matthew (Overview)

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Matthew 1-4: The New Israel
Matthew 5-7: Sermon On The Mount
Matthew 8-12: The Lost Sheep
Matthew 13-17: The Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 17-22: Toward The Temple
Matthew 22-25: Woe To Jerusalem
Matthew 26-28: Passion & Resurrection

Published around 38 A.D.

Introduction to Matthew

Matthew is the first book in the order of our New Testament canon, and also the first gospel to be published by the disciples. There are colophons (which are a publisher’s emblem at the end of a book) in some manuscripts that date the publishing of Matthew’s gospel to 38 A.D. This would place it just 8 years after the ascension of Jesus. There are also colophons that state that Mark’s Gospel was published in 40 A.D., The Gospel of Luke in 45 A.D., and The Gospel of John in 61 A.D. This of course matches the canonical ordering of the four gospels in our English Bibles.

Many commentators have pointed out that Matthew is the most Jewish of the four gospels and had an initially Jewish audience. As Paul says in Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” It makes sense then that this first gospel be a very Hebraic/Jewish book. There are around 100 quotations or allusions from the Old Testament in Matthew, which is far more than any of the other gospel accounts. Some of the church fathers even believed that Matthew was first written in Hebrew and then in Greek (although there is no manuscript evidence to support this).[1]“I am now speaking of the New Testament. This was undoubtedly composed in Greek, with the exception of the work of Matthew the Apostle, who was the first to commit to writing the Gospel of Christ, … Continue reading

One of the major themes of Matthew’s gospel is that Jesus is a New Israel, he is the True Jew. There are countless parallels in this gospel between the history of Israel as a nation, and the life of Jesus in his ministry. Some of the more obvious examples of this would be His baptism in the Jordan followed by his testing in the wilderness for forty days. This calls to mind Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea and their wilderness wandering for forty years. Where Israel fell into sin because of their hunger and thirst and complaining, Jesus endures these trials faithfully according to the Word of the Lord, for “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, Deut. 8:3). Jesus is the faithful Israel, succeeding where they fell short. Jesus keeps the covenant with perfect obedience where Israel broke God’s covenant time and time again. Jesus is the son of David and son of Abraham, the faithful son, the true Israel, and rightful heir to the throne of God.

Matthew’s gospel also emphasizes that Jesus is Himself a lawgiver. Where the Old Testament prophets would say, “Thus saith the Lord,” Jesus simply says, “but I say unto you.” This way of speaking is a direct claim to divinity. Jesus is God, and yet He is distinct from the Father. When Jesus opens his mouth, the God who created sound itself is speaking. This authority with which Jesus speaks is utterly unique. As the officers say in John 7:46, “No one ever spoke like this man!” Matthew presents Jesus as fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 33:22, which says, “For the Lord is our Judge, The Lord is our Lawgiver, The Lord is our King; He will save us.” Jesus is all three branches of government in one. He is the legislature, the judiciary, and the head of state. And because He is righteous, Jesus can be salvation for Israel. The very name of Jesus in Greek is Ἰησοῦς, and in Hebrew it is Joshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ), which means The Lord Saves. When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are confessing that Jesus is everything that the God of the Old Testament is. Jesus is the Lord we read about in Isaiah and the Psalms and Genesis and everywhere else. He is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, who are both equally God, but all three persons are wholly and completely the One True Eternal God. So not only does Matthew’s gospel reveal that Jesus is a True and Faithful Israel, it also reveals that Jesus is Jehovah God. The God who thundered the law from Sinai, is the same God who is now preaching the Sermon on the Mount. The God who rained down manna from heaven, is now feeding the 5,000. The same God who swore a covenant with Adam, and Noah, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, and David, has now come to keep the terms of the covenant Himself. This is the message of the gospel, a king has come, and that king is God-incarnate.

Who was Matthew?

Matthew was a tax-collector. He is known also as “Levi the son of Alphaeus” (Mark 2:14), who became a disciple of Jesus, one of The Twelve. He is mentioned only 9 times in the whole Bible, and half of those references are just his name in the list of disciples. So we don’t know much about him. What we do know is that Jesus walked by the tax office and told him, “Follow me,” and Matthew “left all, arose and followed Him” (Mark 2:14, Matt. 9:9, Luke 5:27). Matthew then gives a great feast for Jesus in his own house (Luke 9:29) and invites a bunch of his tax-collector buddies to eat with them. This feast at Matthew’s house becomes the occasion for the famous criticism by the Pharisees and even more famous response from Jesus: “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:30-32). Matthew was a sinner, and he know this truth deep in his bones, for his very vocation and identity as a tax collector was synonymous with the name sinner. And yet that is exactly who Jesus came to save and to turn into His disciples. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells the Parable of the Two Sons (Matt. 21:28-32), and he concludes that story saying, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.” Whatever you think about prostitutes, tax-collectors are named right alongside them. Matthew is living proof that the worst sinners in society can enter the kingdom of God, if only they will repent and believe. And while the scribes and Pharisees were stubborn in their pride, refusing to go into the feast, Jesus is there eating and drinking with outcasts who have been brought in to the kingdom of God.

Suggestion For Reading

#1. Look For How Jesus Picks Up and Continues the Old Testament Narrative

The story of Jesus is a retelling of the story of human history. Jesus is the last Adam who marks a new beginning. This is going to take some imagination and some memory work to recall all everything from the Old Testament, but I’ll give you a few hints and examples to get you pointed in the right direction.

Remember in Genesis there is that recurring phrase that appears ten times and it goes something like, “Now these are the generations of…” Or in some translations it reads, “This is the book of the genealogy of…Adam, Noah, Shem, etc.” This is called the toledoth structure of Genesis, and it literally means generations. Genesis is not just a book of beginnings but of generations (genealogies). Matthew’s gospel begins with a new toledoth, a new book of generations, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” (Matt. 1:1). In the Hebrew ordering of the Old Testament canon, their Bible ended with the book of 2 Chronicles. Chronicles as most of you know is a book of names that begins with Adam, the first man, and ends with Cyrus, a gentile King. There is also a connection here to Isaiah 45 where Cyrus King of Persia, is called God’s anointed (literally he is the Messiah). This was a prophecy made 150 years before Cyrus came to power, and the Hebrew Old Testament ends with a proclamation from Cyrus, that says, “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!” (2 Chr. 36:23). That’s how the Hebrew Bible ends. Now think about how Matthew begins and ends. It begins like Chronicles with a genealogy. And it ends like Chronicles with a Great Commission. Matthew is presenting Jesus as a new Adam, a new Israel, and a new Cyrus. The way the book begins and ends is itself a declaration that Jesus is God’s Messiah, Jesus is the anointed one who will tear down the temple brick by brick, and build a new temple by the Spirit of God. Jesus says:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
(Matthew 28:18-20)

When we read The Great Commission in light of Cyrus’ decree, suddenly it takes on a much fuller meaning. The command to make disciples is a temple building project. As the Apostle Peter says, you are “living stones, being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

So read Matthew, paying attention to these Old Testament allusions, references, and quotations. And when you have a little extra time, I would encourage you to lookup those references and try to understand why Matthew or Jesus or whoever is speaking chose that passage to make their point. That is probably the single best way to learn how to read and interpret Scripture, that is, study how Jesus and the New Testament author read and interpreted Scripture. There is an abundance of riches just waiting to be searched out as you meditate on God’s word.

Rulers During The New Testament Era

The Ceasars
-Augustus (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.)
-Tiberus (14 A.D. -37 A.D.)
-Caligula a.k.a Gaius (37 A.D. – 41 A.D.)
-Claudius (41 A.D. – 54 A.D.)
-Nero (54 A.D. – 68 A.D.)

The Herods
-Herod The Great (73 B.C. – 4 B.C.)
-Herod Archelaus, Ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea (4 B.C. – 6 A.D.)
-Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea (4 B.C. – 39 A.D.)
-Herod Agrippa (41 A.D. – 44 A.D.)
-Herod Agrippa II (48 A.D. – 92 A.D.)

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1“I am now speaking of the New Testament. This was undoubtedly composed in Greek, with the exception of the work of Matthew the Apostle, who was the first to commit to writing the Gospel of Christ, and who published his work in Judea in Hebrew characters.” -St. Jerome, Preface to The Four Gospels, 383 A.D.