MATTHEW

INTRODUCTION

 

Predictions, projections, and best guesses—everyone likes to state what they think the future will hold. Meteorologists forecast the daily weather, sports journalists predict the outcome of a championship series, pollsters project the probable winner of an election, news commentators declare the direction of the nation, and futurists explain what the world will be like a few decades hence. In addition, our daily conversations are sprinkled with future talk: "Who do you think will win?" "What are your retirement plans?" "What will your son do after graduation?"

Often these amateur prophecies are not fulfilled exactly as stated: Partly sunny turns into a downpour, the underdog becomes an upset victor, a technological breakthrough changes the way we live, and an unexpected event alters our plans.

With biblical prophets, the story reads quite differently. Inspired by God, each of their predictions would come true, in exact detail.

The Gospel of Matthew provides amazing examples of the power and accuracy of God's prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah. From his humble birth by a virgin (see Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2), to his crucifixion (see Psalm 22:14, 16-17) with criminals (see Isaiah 53:12) and resurrection from the dead (see Psalm 16:10), Jesus did what the prophets had predicted—he fulfilled every prophecy and fit every description of the Jewish Savior.

As you read this Gospel, follow the dramatic story, predicted in detail centuries before, of Jesus, the Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords . . . and your Savior too.

AUTHOR

Matthew (Levi): former tax collector and one of the original twelve disciples

Although the text of this Gospel names no author, the early church nearly unanimously ascribed authorship to Matthew the apostle. The Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the writings of Ignatius (bishop of Antioch), Papias (the second-century bishop of Hierapolis), Irenaeus (the bishop of Lyons), Origen (third century), and Eusebius (fourth century) all attest to Matthew as the author of this Gospel that bears his name.

A unique statement in the book provides a clue to its authorship. After Matthew was called to be a disciple ( 9:9), the text states that Jesus ate a meal with tax collectors and sinners "in the house," which could also be rendered "in his house." Since the parallel passage, Mark 2:15, states that this was "Levi's [Matthew's] house," it seems safe to say that the author of the first Gospel was speaking of his own home.

Another hint of Matthew's authorship comes from the references to taxes. For example, 17:24-27 describes the incident when the temple tax collectors asked Peter whether Jesus paid taxes. This incident is found only in Matthew, and it is the kind of story that a former tax collector would include.

The content of this Gospel certainly points to a Jewish author, thus including Matthew as a leading candidate. The following evidence indicates that this book was written by a Jew primarily to a Jewish audience.

The vocabulary and style of writing. The term kingdom of heaven occurs thirty-three times, compared to kingdom of God which occurs only four times. Kingdom of heaven, a distinctly Jewish description, appears in no other Gospel. The phrase Son of Man refers to the prophecy in Daniel 7:13 and would have been understood and appreciated by Jewish readers. In addition, Jerusalem is called the "holy city" ( 4:5; 27:53) and the "city of the great King" ( 5:35), and the Jewish people are called "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ( 10:6; 15:24).

The highlighted topics. This book places great emphasis on the law, religious defilement, keeping the Sabbath, the kingdom, Jerusalem, the temple, David, the Messiah, fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and Moses—all of these would be highly interesting topics for Jewish readers.

The genealogy. Jesus' ancestry is traced from a Jewish perspective, from Abraham (the father of the Jewish nation) and through David (the greatest king of Israel).

Old Testament references. This Gospel is saturated with citations from the Old Testament Scriptures. Fifty-three of these references are quotations and seventy-six are allusions. Usually these references are used to prove a point, especially regarding Jesus as the Messiah who fulfills Old Testament prophecies.

Jewish customs. The book refers to a number of Jewish customs and leaves them unexplained; for example, the reference to ceremonial cleansing ( 15:2). The author knew that Jewish readers would understand these customs and need no explanations.

Emphasis on Peter. This Gospel tells much about Peter's calling, his interaction with Jesus, and his denial. Peter was known as the apostle to the Jews because that is where he concentrated his ministry. Jewish readers would have been very aware of Peter and would have appreciated the references.

Many scholars have disputed Matthew as the author of this Gospel, yet no strong evidence has surfaced to support any other candidate. Some say, for example, that an unknown, anonymous author used a collection of sayings compiled by Matthew, thus identifying Matthew with this work. But this is entirely speculative—there is no proof.

Matthew makes few appearances in Scripture. We first meet him when Jesus calls him to be an apostle: "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him" ( 9:9 niv). In the parallel accounts in Mark 2:14-17 and Luke 5:27-32, Matthew is called Levi. Luke reports that when Jesus called him, Matthew (Levi) "got up, left everything and followed him" ( Luke 5:28 niv). Some scholars think that "Matthew," which means "gift of God," may be a new name given by Jesus, just as he had renamed Simon, Peter.

As a "tax collector," Matthew worked for the hated Roman government, having paid Rome for the right to collect taxes from his own people; thus, he would have been seen as a collaborator with the enemy. In addition to make their living, tax collectors (also called "publicans") were allowed to add their commission to the taxes. Many were quite wealthy, having increased their personal worth at the expense of their countrymen. Thus, tax collectors were viewed as dishonest swindlers. Zacchaeus, another tax collector, came to Christ through a dramatic confrontation ( Luke 19:1-9). Scholars surmise that Matthew may have collected tolls and customs from those crossing the Lake of Gennesaret at Capernaum. When Jesus called him, Matthew immediately left this lucrative tax-collection career and followed the Lord.

Soon after this dramatic calling, Matthew hosted a dinner for Jesus and the other disciples. The dinner guests also included "many tax collectors and 'sinners'" ( 9:10 niv). Evidently Matthew wanted to introduce Jesus to his friends and associates. This disturbed the Pharisees and teachers of the law (the religious establishment), who wondered why Jesus would associate with such undesirables. Jesus answered that he had not come "to call the righteous, but sinners" ( 9:13 niv).

Matthew is next mentioned in the list of the twelve disciples, where he is called "Matthew the tax collector" ( 10:3—see also Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15). The only other reference to Matthew is in another list of the disciples in Acts 1:13. After Jesus' ascension into heaven, the disciples gathered regularly with others for prayer. At one of these gatherings, they chose a man to take the place of Judas among the Twelve. After this incident, the Bible records nothing more about Matthew, and nothing is known for sure about him. Tradition holds that he preached the gospel for eight years throughout Judea and then traveled to Persia, Parthia, and Ethiopia, where he died as a martyr in about a.d. 62.

DATE AND SETTING

Probably written from Antioch (in Syria) in about a.d. 60

Jerusalem was totally destroyed in a.d. 70 by the Romans. That there is no mention in Matthew of this terrible event having already occurred ( 24:1-22 is a prediction by Jesus of this event) clearly indicates that the Gospel must have been written before that time. On the other hand, it could not have been written much earlier if, as many scholars believe, Mark was the first Gospel to be written and Matthew and Luke relied on his writings and compared their records to his (see Luke 1:1-4). In this case, Mark would have written his account in approximately a.d. 55-60, with Matthew and Luke following soon thereafter in approximately a.d. 60.

The place of writing is also unknown. Many surmise that Matthew wrote from Antioch, but neither the Gospel nor Acts provides any clues. Some, such as Ignatius, chose Antioch, a Gentile city, over Palestine because Matthew wrote in Greek instead of Hebrew. It is difficult to know, however, whether the Gospel was originally written in Greek or written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek. Some scholars point out that because the book contains several untranslated Aramaic terms, it is unlikely that it was originally written in Aramaic (otherwise those terms would have been translated or explained).

The Jewishness of this Gospel suggests that it was written in Palestine. But many of the original disciples had migrated to Antioch ( Acts 11:19-27). Also, the great concern in the book for Gentiles tends to confirm this as the city.

AUDIENCE

Greek-speaking Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah

Matthew mentions no specific audience. It seems clear, however, that his primary audience was the Jews because, as stated above, the book has a distinctly Jewish flavor. Note especially the scores of references to words, statements, and stories in the Old Testament. The very first chapter sets the tone: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'—which means, 'God with us'" ( 1:22-23 niv). Throughout the Gospel, Matthew carefully pointed to Old Testament prophecies that had found fulfillment in statements, circumstances, and actions surrounding Jesus.

It seems, however, that the Jews to whom this book was written were expected to understand Greek because Matthew may have written in Greek, the common language of commerce, and not in Hebrew or Aramaic. Matthew doesn't take time to explain Jewish customs (for example, ceremonial cleansing and Passover)—that would be expected for a Jewish audience. But he does stop to interpret words like "Immanuel" ( 1:23), " Golgotha" ( 27:33), and Christ's prayer on the cross ("About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ' Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"— 27:46 niv). This also indicates that the primary language of these readers probably was Greek.

OCCASION AND PURPOSE

To prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King

Neither Matthew nor the other Gospels give any indication of a special occasion or specific incident that motivated Matthew to write. Early church fathers, Irenaeus (fl. c. 175-195) and Origen (c. 185-251), wrote that Matthew had been written for converts from Judaism, Jews who had embraced Jesus as their Messiah. Actually, until the dramatic conversion of Cornelius through Peter ( Acts 10) and the missionary journeys of Paul ( Acts 13-28), nearly all of the converts to Christianity were Jews. These new believers needed confirmation that Jesus had indeed met the messianic requirements and had fulfilled the ancient prophecies. Matthew's Gospel gave that confirmation.

In addition to encouragement and assurance of Jesus' true identity, Matthew's account helped believers to refute unbelieving Jews who would argue against them and persecute them. Matthew showed how Christ's death and resurrection fulfilled the promises made to Abraham and David.

While Luke and John clearly gave their purpose for writing (see Luke 1:4 and John 20:31), Matthew has no such purpose statement. But the very first verse provides a strong hint of the focus of the content of this book: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham" ( niv). Note that "Christ," the Greek word for Messiah, follows "Jesus" and that Jesus is immediately identified with the royal line of David and with Abraham, the father of all Jews. Matthew's Jewish readers would have immediately caught the significance of that reference to their great and revered ancestors.

In addition to the opening, Matthew's style and method indicate his aim. Throughout his Gospel, he presents the various incidents in the life of Jesus as fulfillments of messianic prophecies, providing a cumulative demonstration that Jesus was the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. Matthew, the Hebrew tax collector, knew how Jews thought and felt; he wrote for the Hebrew mind.

Matthew also wrote to explain Jesus' kingdom program. Surely these first-century believers who had left all to follow Christ must have wondered what would become of them and what would happen in the future. So Matthew explained how and why Jesus was rejected by Israel and God's program following that rejection.

In addition to being placed strategically at the beginning of the New Testament, the content of Matthew's Gospel makes an ideal historical connecting link between the two Testaments.

RELATIONSHIP TO THE OTHER GOSPELS

Although this is not an exhaustive list of all the events in the Gospels (see the Harmony of the Gospels), the following lists of miracles provide a good indication of what the Gospels have in common.

Miracles unique to Matthew:

healing the two blind men— 9:27-31

casting the demon out of the mute man— 9:32-33

healing the sick in Jerusalem— 14:14

paying tribute with money found in a fish— 17:24-27

Miracles common to Matthew and Mark:

healing in Galilee— 9:35; Mark 7:24-30

healing the Syrophoenician's daughter— 15:21-28; Mark 6:5-6

healing the multitudes in Galilee— 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37

feeding the four thousand— 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9

cursing the fig tree— 21:18-21; Mark 11:13-14

Miracles common to Matthew and Luke:

healing the centurion's servant— 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10

healing the blind and dumb man— 12:22; Luke 11:14

Miracles common to Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

healing the leper— 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 5:12-14

healing Peter's mother-in-law— 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39

quieting the wind and waves— 8:23-27; Mark 4:36-41; Luke 8:22-25

curing the demon-possessed man— 8:28-33; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39

healing the paralyzed man— 9:1-2; Mark 2:3-5; Luke 5:18-25

healing Jairus's daughter— 9:18-25; Mark 5:22-42; Luke 8:41-55

healing the woman with the bleeding problem— 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48

healing the man with the shriveled hand— 12:9-13; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

being transfigured— 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36

healing the demon-possessed boy— 17:14-18; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43

healing the blind men— 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43

A miracle common to Matthew, Mark, and John:

walking on water— 14:22-27; Mark 6:48-51; John 6:19-21

A miracle common to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:

feeding the five thousand— 14:15-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14

MESSAGE

Jesus Christ the King, the Messiah, Kingdom of God, Jesus' Teachings, Resurrection

Jesus Christ the King ( 1:1-2:12; 8:1-10:42; 11:20-12:13; 14:13-36; 15:21-28, 32-39; 17:1-13; 21:12-17, 23-27; 27:37; 28:16-20). Jesus is revealed as the King of kings: He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin ( 1:18-25); as a baby, he received gifts and worship from the kings of the east ( 2:1-12); he was endorsed and affirmed by God the Father ( 3:16-17); he defeated Satan ( 4:1-11); he taught with authority ( 7:28-29); he demonstrated his power over sickness ( 8:1-13), death ( 9:23-26), nature ( 8:23-27), and demons ( 8:28-34); he triumphed over death ( 28:1-10). These dramatic and profound incidents show Jesus' true identity.

Importance for today. Jesus cannot be equated with any person or power. He is above all as the supreme ruler of time and eternity, heaven and earth, humans and angels. He lives today, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and he will return as the Judge of all the earth ( 25:31-46). Too often we live as though Jesus were merely an impressive historical figure, or we treat him as just a traveling companion on our journey through life. Instead, we should give him his rightful place as king of our lives, our sovereign ruler to whom we give our total devotion and obedience.

Who sits on the throne of your life? Submit to your Lord and King.

The Messiah ( 2:14-15, 21-23; 3:1-4:11; 4:13-16; 12:15-21; 13:13-15; 16:1-4, 13-20; 20:29-21:11; 22:41-46; 24:1-35; 26:1-27:66). Jesus fulfilled the inspired predictions of the prophets concerning the Messiah, the one for whom the Jews had been waiting for centuries. Yet tragically, they didn't recognize their Messiah when he came because they were expecting a conquering king, one who would deliver them from Roman oppression. If they had read deeper, they would have realized that the "Son of Man" must first suffer and die ( 17:22-23) as the "suffering Servant" ( Isaiah 53) before returning in power and glory. They would have realized that the true purpose of God's anointed deliverer was to free people from sin's oppression, not merely to defeat the Romans and rule an earthly empire.

Importance for today. Because Jesus fulfilled the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament, we can see that the Bible is true and reliable. Because Jesus was sent by God, we can know that we can trust him with our lives. It is worth everything we have to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and give ourselves to him because he came to be our Messiah, our Savior. Jesus is the Christ! Jesus knows us totally and loves us perfectly. He became one of us to bring us to God. Now that's good news!

Do you understand and feel Christ's love? He wants only the best for you—trust him.

Kingdom of God ( 4:17, 23-25; 5:17-20; 9:35; 11:1-19; 12:22-37; 13:10-52; 16:24-27; 18:1-6; 19:13-20:16; 20:20-28; 21:28-22:14; 24:36-25:46). Jesus came to earth, as God in the flesh, the Messiah, to begin his kingdom. This kingdom, however, is not earthly, determined by geography, military might, political power, or financial influence. God's kingdom is a kingdom of the heart, and his subjects include all who submit to him and acknowledge Christ as their sovereign Lord. Eventually, God's full kingdom will be realized at Christ's return when he comes to annihilate the forces of evil and gather his loyal subjects to himself.

Importance for today. Because Christ's kingdom is first a kingdom of the heart, we enter the kingdom through heartfelt faith—believing in Christ as God's Son and our Savior, trusting in him alone to save us from sin and to change our lives. Once we belong to him, we must do the work of his kingdom, living for him and spreading the good news about Christ to others. And we must always be prepared for his return.

If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready? Live with the expectation that Christ might return at any moment.

Jesus' Teachings ( 5:1-9; 12:38-50; 15:1-20, 29-31; 16:5-12; 17:14-21, 24-27; 18:7-12; 21:18-22; 22:15-22, 34-40; 23:1-39; 28:20). Jesus was a master teacher, teaching with authority and reaching people at their point of need. Jesus taught the people through sermons, illustrations, parables, and personal example. Through these teachings, he revealed the true ingredients of faith, how to be fruitful, and how to guard against hypocrisy. Those who were listening and were open and ready understood Jesus and gladly received and responded to the truth.

Importance for today. We can know what God is like by looking at Jesus (see John 14:6-10). And we can know how God wants us to live by listening carefully to what Jesus taught. His teachings show us how to live for him right now and how to prepare for life in his eternal kingdom. Jesus lived what he taught, providing the perfect example for us to follow.

Take a close look at Jesus and check out his teachings: "He who has ears, let him hear" ( 11:15 niv).

Resurrection ( 16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 22:23-33; 28:1-15). When Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, he rose in power as the true King. With this incredible victory, the most important event in history, Jesus proved that he truly was the Son of God and that what he lived and taught was true. He also established his credentials as King with power and authority over evil. Jesus does not lie in a grave in Palestine—he is alive!

Importance for today. Christ's resurrection shows that not even death could stop God's plan of offering eternal life. Jesus is true and alive; we serve a risen Savior! The Resurrection also gives hope to all who believe in Jesus—we know that we will live with him and that one day we will experience a resurrection like his. No matter how bleak the outlook or difficult and painful our situation, we can hope in him. In the meantime, our role is to tell his story to all the earth so that everyone may share in his victory. This world is dying and passing away, but Jesus is alive and people can live forever.

What can you do to remember the Resurrection? To whom can you tell this glorious news?

 

 

VITAL STATISTICS

 

Purpose: To prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King

Author: Matthew (Levi)

To Whom Written: Matthew wrote especially to the Jews

Date Written: Probably between A.D. 60-65

Setting: Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who became one of Jesus' disciples. This Gospel forms the connecting link between the Old and New Testaments because of its emphasis on the fulfillment of prophecy.

Key Verse: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" ( 5:17 niv).

Key People: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, the disciples, the religious leaders, Caiaphas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene

Key Places: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Galilee, Judea

Special Features: Matthew is filled with messianic language ("Son of David" is used throughout) and Old Testament references (53 quotes and 76 other references). This Gospel was not written as a chronological account; its purpose was to present the clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior.

 

 

OUTLINE

 

Birth and Preparation of Jesus, the King ( 1:1-4:11)

Message and Ministry of Jesus, the King ( 4:12-25:46)

Jesus begins his ministry

Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus performs many miracles

Jesus teaches about the kingdom

Jesus encounters differing reactions to his ministry

Jesus faces conflict with the religious leaders

Jesus teaches on the Mount of Olives

Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the King ( 26:1-28:20)

 

LOCATION

 

Jesus' earthly story begins in the town of Bethlehem in the Roman province of Judea ( 2:1). A threat to kill the infant king led Joseph to take his family to Egypt ( 2:14). When they returned God led them to settle in Nazareth in Galilee ( 2:22-23). At about age 30, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and was tempted by Satan in the Judean desert ( 3:13; 4:1). Jesus set up his base of operations in Capernaum ( 4:12-13) and from there ministered throughout Israel, telling parables, teaching about the kingdom, and healing the sick. He traveled to the region of the Gadarenes and healed two demon-possessed men ( 8:28ff); fed over 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish on the shores of Galilee near Bethsaida ( 14:15ff); healed the sick in Gennesaret ( 14:34ff); ministered to the Gentiles in Tyre and Sidon ( 15:21ff); visited Caesarea Philippi, where Peter declared him as the Messiah ( 16:13ff); and taught in Perea, across the Jordan ( 19:1). As he set out on his last visit to Jerusalem, he told the disciples what would happen to him there ( 20:17ff). He spent some time in Jericho ( 20:29) and then stayed in Bethany at night as he went back and forth into Jerusalem during his last week ( 21:17ff). In Jerusalem he would be crucified, but he would rise again.

  [Bruce B. Barton (2016). (p. xix). Life Application Bible Commentary. Tyndale. Retrieved from https://app.wordsearchbible.lifeway.com]

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