Week 37: The Gospel According to Matthew

“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.” Matthew 5:17

What’s Going On?

Four hundred years have gone by when we open the New Testament. The book of Matthew starts off with a long list of names showing the family lineage of King David. It may not be obvious at first, but this list of names actually contains all of the Kings of the southern nation of Judah that we read about in the Old Testament. When Israel and Judah divided, the southern kingdom passed the throne from father to son all the way down the line of kings. The names should sound familiar, even Zerubbabel who acted as the leader during the era of The Return. The line continues all the way to Jacob the father of Joseph who married Mary. This is an important distinction and it’s important that it was Matthew who recorded it. It was important because the Jews were waiting for a leader to rise up from the kingly line of David and this connected Jesus to that line. Even though you and I know that Jesus didn’t inherit the DNA of Joseph, he was the LEGAL heir of Joseph, who held the lineage of the kings. We learn that a young girl, Mary, is pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they were “together” Mary is pregnant after being visited by The Holy Spirit. Joseph does the honorable thing and marries her, but only after an angel comes to him in a dream and tells him that the child Mary is carrying is the child of The Holy Spirit and that child will save His people from their sins. Savior = Messiah. Matthew is the only author to mention the kings, or Magi, that came from far-away lands because they saw the sign in the stars that there was a new “King of the Jews.”

Matthew was a Jew. He knew his family history and when he tells the story of Jesus, he is talking as a Jew to the Jews. He quotes the Old Testament almost a hundred times and mentions the Kingdom, now referring to the Kingdom of Heaven, not just the Kingdom of Israel, over fifty times. As the story of Jesus unfolds, Matthew focuses on how everything that happened fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Matthew was an eye witness to many of the events he recorded as he was actually one of Jesus’ followers, also known as Levi the tax collector.  Tax collectors were thought of as traitors – Jews working for the Romans to collect taxes from the Jews, and pocketing extra cash from their own brothers. So, this unlikely traitor was called to leave his booth and follow Jesus, and in so doing, became an example of how Jesus takes us as we are and makes us into someone He can use for His Glory. Jesus would even be mocked for spending time with tax collectors and sinners after Matthew threw a banquet at his house and invited all of his friends to come and meet Jesus.

Matthew gives a brief description of Jesus’ early ministry, but then records in surprising detail what we now call The Sermon on the Mount. From there he seems to concentrate on the TEACHINGS of Jesus. While he does record some of the miracles, he focuses on the words of Jesus, the parables, the stories, the sayings. When we read about the Last Supper, the betrayal by Judas, the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, the trials before both the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling council, and Pilate – the Roman ruler, the mocking by the Roman soldiers, and the crucifixion of Christ we read the words of someone who was not only an eye witness, but someone who years later would recall the details of the events and carefully record them in hindsight, knowing that the cross was not the end of the story. When he recounts the resurrection story, he includes that the very earth shook as an angel came down, rolled the stone away, and then sat victoriously atop the stone, causing the guards who watched over the tomb to faint. He also remembers that the guards were paid by the chief priests and elders to spread false stories about what happened and that is why many of the Jews didn’t believe what really happened. Matthew shows a bitterness toward the Pharisees that is completely understandable. He saw that the Jews of his day were being given the answer to two thousand years’ worth of prayers and even with the Messiah right in front of them, they were missing it. He concludes his account with The Great Commission to go and make disciples – something we know that he took very seriously and was even willing to die for. Legend tells us he was martyred after becoming a missionary and carrying the Gospel message to what we now call Ethiopia.                                               

 “‘Follow Me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.” Matthew 9:9

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Matthew 1-4
  • Tuesday: Matthew 5-9
  • Wednesday: Matthew 10-13
  • Thursday: Matthew 14-18
  • Friday: Matthew 19-23
  • Saturday: Matthew 24-28
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