Matthew writes his gospel to convince Jews that Jesus is the true Messiah, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, the son of David, the rightful king of the Jews and the establisher of God’s kingdom, indeed.
Matthew, or Levi (by his Jewish name), is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is a tax collector whom Jesus calls to be an apostle. Matthew – like all gospel writes – doesn’t directly state his name in his gospel. But many of the early church fathers (like Papias, Origen, Ireanaeus, Eusebius, Jerome and Pantaenus) unanimously identify Matthew as the writer of the first gospel.
Matthew – more than any other gospel writer – quotes the Old Testament frequently. By his quotes he addresses the burning questions Jews would have when confronted with the witness of Jesus: Is he a son of David? Is he the Messiah? What is his relationship to the Law? Did he establish God’s kingdom? The many Old Testament quotes and the answering of typical Jewish questions leave no doubt that Matthew is writing for Jews. He writes his gospel to assure and further teach Jewish believers in their faith and to evangelize and convince Jews who are still doubting.
Church history records that Matthew died a martyr’s death in 60 AD, so the gospel must be written before that, making it one of the very early gospels. Church history also records that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, even though only Greek manuscripts have been found up to now.
The Jews of Jesus time were holding on to the Jewish dream of being the chosen nation, securely holding the promised land, ruled by a son of David and dominating the surrounding Gentile nations. Yet reality for the Jews was very bleak in comparison: They were in their land but had to share it with many Gentiles. They were under a dominating, idolatrous Roman government, not self-ruled and definitely not being ruled by a son of David.
The religious Jews felt that nothing was as it should be. Some Jews turned more worldly and arranged themselves with Roman reality (like the Herodians and Sadducees). Others tried to bring God on the plan by pressuring everyone to live religious lives (like the Pharisees). Others felt that only a violent uprising would bring about a Messianic kingdom (like the Zealots). When Jesus came, lived, was crucified and resurrected, and his followers started claiming that he indeed was the Messiah, the Jews would have many doubts: If the Messiah had come, why then was he not victorious? Why did Rome still rule? Why was evil still happening? What had changed?
It is to answer these questions that Matthew writes his gospel. He shows that the real enemy is not ‘out there’ (dominating Rome, idolatrous Gentiles or half-secular Jews) but the real enemy is within: our sinful hearts, are broken relationship with God. And Jesus did take care of that. He revealed the Father. He changed people’s lives by his grace. He showed us how to live. He paid the ultimate price to achieve forgiveness, right standing with God, the removal of guilt and shame – and the removal of racial differences or pride. God’s kingdom has come, indeed. It has started to conquer human hearts and to change people’s lives, the lives of Jews – and of Gentiles. Racial pride as well as a reliance on one’s own righteousness must be let go off, or you will miss God’s kingdom. Don’t miss the kingdom!
Matthew or Levi (by his Jewish name, Mk 2:14, Lu 5:27), is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Jesus called him from being a tax collector to becoming an apostle. Matthew records the story of how Jesus called him in his gospel (Mt 9:9).
Matthew – as all gospel writes – doesn’t directly state his name in the gospel. But many of the early church fathers (like Papias, Origen, Ireanaeus, Eusebius, Jerome and Pantaenus) unanimously identify Matthew as the writer of the first gospel. There are also two details in the text that fit Matthew, the tax collector, being the author. He alone of all gospels includes the detailed story of Jesus paying the temple tax (Mt 17:24-27). Also the gospel writers typically include the ‘tax collectors’ with the ‘sinners’, but Matthew alone mentions them as two separate groups (Mt 9:10). Also, though the gospels did not originally have titles, very early manuscripts of Matthew include the title ‘Gospel of Matthew’, maybe as early as 125 AD.
As in most gospels, the readers are not mentioned directly in the text. But notice that Matthew is making very frequent use of Old Testament quotes in his gospel. He also addresses the burning questions that would rise in the Jews’ minds when confronted with the witness of Jesus: Is he a son of David? Is he the Messiah? What is his relationship with the Law? Did he establish God’s kingdom?
So we can conclude with certainty that Matthew is mainly writing for Jews, both to teach and assure Jewish believers of their faith and also to evangelize and convince Jews who have heard the gospel but are still doubting.
Church history records that Matthew died a martyr’s death in 60 AD, so the gospel must be written before that, making it one of the very early gospels. It was probably addressing Jews in the area of Judea, Galilee and beyond, before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the subsequent spreading out of the Jews. The church father Papias records that the gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, though up to now only Greek manuscripts have been found.
The Mindset of the Jews at the time of Jesus
The Jews of Jesus time – as the chosen nation – were holding on to the Jewish dream of
1. living in the promised land
2. being ruled by a son of David
3. dominating the surrounding Gentile nation
4. living holy lives according to the Law
Yet the reality was a lot more bleak than that:
1. After being exiled to Babylon in 586 BC, the Jews had been allowed to return to the promised land under the Medo-Persian rulers in 539 BC, just as Jeremiah had predicted. Yet only few Jews had returned, and they no longer owned the land as a single people. Rather they had to co-live in the land with many Gentiles.
2. From the time of the Babylonian exile the Jews had almost at all moments been ruled by a powerful, domineering, idolatrous empire (first Medo-Persia, then Greece and now Rome). The Jews were not an independent nation, and were definitely not ruled by a son of David. Actually, the ruling Herod family was not only mixed blood (Idumean-Jewish) but was a power-hungry, violent, corrupt dynasty that collaborated with Rome to stay in power. The Jews detested the Herodians.
3. The Jews were not even allowed to govern themselves. The current situation was a far cry from David’s time when Israel had been a strong, proud nation that dominated the surrounding peoples.
4. The reality of living for centuries under the domination of foreign powers and living as mixed Jew-Gentile communities had led to a ‘less than pure’ lifestyle. Some Jews had adjusted to a life not as ‘set apart’ as in the earlier times, but many Jews constantly felt that they were being compromised spiritually.
So religious Jews of Jesus’ time felt that nothing was as it should be. Why was God allowing this situation? Why was He not doing something? Maybe He will, soon. The Jews had a tenacious hope that God would send a Deliverer, a Messiah, basically a second David: One who would be personally pious and God-fearing. One who would support the temple. One who would be victorious in battle and shake off the yoke of foreign domination. One who would restore the Jews fully to their land, making them a strong nation dominating those around them. But how to convince God to finally send this Deliverer?
Some Jews (after many unsuccessful and bloody attempts to shake off the Roman yoke) had become disillusioned. They arranged themselves with the Roman reality, collaborating or at least tolerating the Romans to ensure a comfortable life for themselves. Examples of this mindset are the Herodians, the ruling priests called Sadducees and the tax collectors. Other Jews tried to induce God to take action by becoming the pure, holy nation they were supposed to be, by teaching, and also by pressuring everyone to live religious lives (like the Pharisees). Still other Jews felt that only a violent, armed uprising would bring about the hoped for Messianic kingdom and the defeat of the Romans (like the Zealots).
When Jesus came, lived, was crucified and resurrected, and his followers started claiming that he indeed was the Messiah, the Jews would have many objections: If the Messiah had come, why then was he not victorious? (Messiahs don’t die, Messiahs are victorious!) Why did Rome still rule? Why was evil still happening? It seemed nothing had changed, so why believe in Jesus as the Messiah? It is to answer these questions that Matthew writes his gospel.
Proving that Jesus is the Messiah after all
Matthew argues that Jesus – though different from what everybody expected – is the Messiah after all. He proves this by arguing the following points:
Jesus is indeed a son of David
Matthew starts his gospel in a very Jewish way, by giving Jesus’ genealogy (Mt 1:1-17). He shows that Jesus is a true son of Abraham, on whom is the promise and blessing (Ge 12:1-3). Jesus is a true son of David, on whom is the promise of eternal kingship (2 Sam 7:12-16, Ps 89:29-37). The Jews understood the Messiah to be a descendant of David (Is 11:1; 9:7; 11:16).
Matthew calls Jesus seven times by this Messianic title ‘Son of David’ (Mt 1:1,(20), 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9,15).
Jesus is the Christ
Matthew uses the phrase ‘Christ’ (which is Greek for the Hebrew ‘Messiah’, which means ‘Anointed one’) 12 times when referring to Jesus (Mt 1:16, 1:17, 2:4, 11:2, 16:16, 16:20, 22:42, 23:10, 26:63, 26:68, 27:17, 27:22).
Jesus is supportive of the Law of Moses
The Pharisees greatest concern about Jesus was that he didn’t seem to care that much about the Law or about ritual purity. Jesus indeed did not heed the additional ‘human traditions’ that had collected in the hope of ‘supporting’ the Law of Moses. But Jesus did keep the Law of Moses. He said ‘not an iota, not a dot would pass from the law until all is accomplished’ (Mt 5:18). ‘Those who did the commandments and taught them would be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5:19). He said that the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees who sat on Moses’ seat should be practiced (Mt 23:2). He pays the Jewish temple tax so as to give no offense (Mt 17:24-27). He says his disciples should fast (Mt 6:16), they should bring their offerings (Mt 5:23-24) and many times he even raises the standard of the Old Testament Law: ‘You have heard that it was said … But I say to you…’ (Mt 5:21, 5:27, 5:31, 5:33, 5:38, 5:43).
Jesus is the King
Matthew shows – as the prophets hinted – that the Messiah would unite in himself the three important offices of prophet, priest and king. He gives Jesus genealogy as ‘son of King David’ (Mt 1:6-11), the Eastern Magi ask for ‘the King of the Jews (Mt 2:2). When Jesus enters Jerusalem there is a kingly emphasis (Mt 21:1-11), Jesus’ kingly future reign is prophesied (Mt 25:31), when Pilate asks ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus accepts this statement (Mt 27:11) and Matthew is sure to record the sign nailed over the cross ‘Jesus, the King of the Jews’ (Mt 27:37). He ends his gospel with a final statement of Jesus’ kingship: ‘All authority is given to me’ (Mt 28:18).
In Jesus Old Testament Prophecy about the Messiah is fulfilled
No less than 18 times Matthew says ‘This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet…’
Mt 1:22-23 fulfilling Is 7:14
Mt 2:5-6 fulfilling Mic 5:2
Mt 2:15 fulfilling Hos 11:1
Mt 2:17 fulfilling Jer 31:15
Mt 2:23 fulfilling Is 11:1
Mt 3:3 fulfilling Is 40:3
Mt 4:14-16 fulfilling Is 9:1-2
Mt 8:17 fulfilling Is 53:4
Mt 11:10 fulfilling Ex 23:20, Mal 3:1
Mt 12:17-21 fulfilling Is 42:1-4
Mt 13:14-15 fulfilling Is 6:9-10
Mt 13:35 fulfilling Ps 78:2
Mt 21:4 fulfilling Is 62:11, Zech 9:9
Mt 21:13 fulfilling Is 56:7
Mt 21:43 fulfilling Ps 118:22-23
Mt 24:15 fulfilling Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11
Mt 26:31 fulfilling Zc 13:7
Mt 27:9-10 fulfilling Zc 11:12-13, Jer 32:6-9
Apart from the 18 direct quotations to show fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, there are many other direct quotations of the Old Testament:
1. Mt 4:4 quotes Deut 8:3 17. Mt 21:16 quotes Ps 8:2
2. Mt 4:6 quotes Ps 91:11 18. Mt 22:24 quotes Deut 25:5
3. Mt 4:7 quotes Deut 6:6 19. Mt 22:32 quotes Ex 3:6
4. Mt 4:10 quotes Deut 6:13 20. Mt 22:37 quotes Deut 6:5
5. Mt 5:21 quotes Ex 20:13 21. Mt 22:39 quotes Lev 19:18
6. Mt 5:27 quotes Ex 20:14 22. Mt 22:44 quotes Ps 110:1
7. Mt 5:48 quotes Lev 19:2 23. Mt 23:39 quotes Ps 118:26
8. Mt 9:13 quotes Hos 6:6 24. Mt 24:7 quotes Is 19:2
9. Mt 11:5 quotes Is 29:18 25. Mt 24:21 quotes Dan 12:1
10. Mt 12:7 quotes Hos 6:6 26. Mt 26:38 quotes Ps 42:6
11. Mt 15:4 quotes Ex 20:12 27. Mt 26:64 quotes Dan 7:13
12. Mt 15:8-9 quotes Is 29:13 28. Mt 27:34 quotes Ps 69:21
13. Mt 18:16 quotes Deut 19:15 29. Mt 27:35 quotes Ps 22:18
14. Mt 19:4-5 quotes Gen 2:24 30. Mt 27:39 quotes Ps 22:7
15. Mt 19:18-19 quotes Ex 20:12,16 31. Mt 27:43 quotes Ps 22:8
16. Mt 21:9 quotes Ps 118:26 32. Mt 27:46 quotes Ps 22:1
33. Mt 27:48 quotes Ps 69:21
In addition to the many quotations there are also many allusions, echoes, single words and phrases to be found. No other NT writer (including Paul) draws upon the Old Testament writings as much as Matthew. He quotes almost every book of the OT, but chiefly from Isaiah, the Messianic and evangelical prophet (one fifth of the quotes) and the Psalms.
The kingdom is coming, the kingdom has come
Matthew uses the term “kingdom” no less than 44 times in his gospel, 38 times he says “kingdom of heaven”. He stresses both aspects: That the kingdom has come and is present now (26 times) – but also that the kingdom will come in the future (13 times), and another 5 times he mentions both together.
Matthew asserts that with Jesus that Kingdom has come. The Kingdom of God is not a geographical place, also it is not a ethnic entity as expected by the Jews, but a reality in the lives of those that make Jesus Lord. It is also in confrontation with the kingdom of darkness (Mt 12:28). Hearts are ruled by either king, and people find themselves in either Kingdom. We come into the Kingdom when Jesus becomes our King. It is independent of political or economical power, of ethnicity, class, gender or situation. All who want the kingdom get the kingdom. The Kingdom is a growing reality in the hearts of people and expands by people’s free decision to make Jesus Lord.
A Call to the Jews to not miss the Kingdom
Towards the beginning there is a clear focus that Jesus has primarily come to the Jews. The prophecy says that Jesus ‘will save his people’ (Mt 1:21). Jesus instructs the disciples to ‘go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go to lost sheep of house of Israel’ (Mt 10:5-6). He says ‘you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes’ (Mt 10:23). He somewhat ironically says that he is ‘sent only to lost sheep of house of Israel’ (Mt 15:24). He promises that the disciples ‘you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Mt 19:28).
But as the Jewish people reject Jesus there is a shift and the warning of John the Baptist comes into effect: ‘Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance … Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’ (Mt 3:8-10). Jesus warns: ‘Many will come from east and west and sit at table in the kingdom, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness’ (Mt 8:11-12). When commenting on John the Baptist (Mt 11:11-19) Jesus adds the phrase ‘if you are willing to accept it”, (Mt 11:14), by which he asserts that the responsibility lies with the hearer.
Jesus also has various confrontations with Jews in general and Pharisees in particular: Confrontations over eating on the sabbath (Mt 12:1-8), over healing on the sabbath (Mt 12:9-14), over casting out a demon (Mt 12:22-32) and over the demand for a sign (Mt 12:38-42). Jesus tells the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28-34), a warning against outward religiosity but inward unwillingness. When telling the parable of the vineyard (Mt 21:33-34) Matthew adds this verse: ‘the Kingdom will be taken away and given to a nation producing the fruits of it’ (Mt 21:34), a sore insult to Jewish ears. Also the parable of the marriage feast (Mt 22:1-10) is a warning for the unwilling and unworthy invitees. The sorest challenges are in Matthew 23: Jesus says that God sent prophets, wise men and scribes, but they are rejected, flogged or killed by the Jews (Mt 23:43). This is followed by a ringing prophecy of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, for Jews an unthinkable event (Mt 24), reminding of the word of Jesus earlier: ‘something greater than the temple is here’ (Mt 12:6). The gospel finishes with the great commission (Mt 28:19-20), a call to make disciples of all nations, the Jewish nation but also any Gentile nation.
Actually, Matthew shows the universal nature of God’s kingdom throughout the gospel: The Gentile Magi come to worship Jesus (Mt 2:1-12), Jesus’ family takes refuge in Gentile Egypt (Mt 2:13-15), a Roman centurion has faith and receives Jesus’ blessing (Mt 8:5-13), Jesus praises the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Nineveh and condemns the Jewish cities of Chorazin and Capernaum. He records Jesus’ words ‘God’s chosen servant will bring justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope’ (Mt 12:21) and ‘The good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations’ (Mt 24:14).
Matthew painfully records that many Jews reject the message of the Kingdom when it comes to them in a way that challenges the pride of their heart. Matthew sorely warns his Jewish readers to not miss out because of misguided religiosity or racial pride. Matthew is the most ‘Jewish’ of all gospel writers, but he is in no way biased towards the Jews; in a sense Matthew challenges the Jews more sorely than any other gospel writer. Matthew is a Jew, and a thoroughly changed Jew: he now knows that no righteousness of our own will ever make it into the new Kingdom and he grieves for the Jews who are in danger of ‘missing the kingdom’ because of their pride.
He shows that the real enemy is not ‘out there’ (dominating Rome, idolatrous Gentiles or secular Jews), but the real enemy is within, our sinful hearts, are broken relationship with God. And Jesus did take care of that: He revealed the Father. He changed people’s lives by grace. He showed us how to live. He paid the ultimate price to achieve forgiveness, right standing and the removal of guilt, shame – and the removal of racial differences or pride. God’s kingdom has come, it has started to conquer human hearts and to change people’s lives, the lives of Jews – and of Gentiles. Racial pride as well as a reliance on one’s own righteousness must be let go off, or you will miss God’s kingdom. Don’t miss the kingdom!
Matthew disciples the believers
Writings of the early church show that Matthew’s gospel was the most frequently quoted and therefore perhaps the most widely read gospel. It records Jesus’ teachings in detail. Matthew organizes the material topically into 5 main sections with two parts each. First he gives an account of what Jesus did and then of what he taught:
Introduction Account Mt 1-2 Birth
1st Section Account Mt 3-4 Jesus’ early ministry
Teaching Mt 5-7 Sermon on the Mount
2nd Section Account Mt 8:1-9:34 Healing ministry
Teaching Mt 9:35-10:42 Mission of disciples
3rd Section Account Mt 11-12 Growing opposition
Teaching Mt 13:1-13:52 Parables of the Kingdom
4th Section Account Mt 13:53-17 Jesus with disciples and Pharisees
Teaching Mt 18 Church discipline & humility
5th Section Account Mt 19-22 Confrontation and teaching
Teaching Mt 23-25 Woes on Pharisees & Eschatology
Conclusion Climax Mt 26-28 Passion and Resurrection
Matthew places great emphasis on the fact that Jesus is teaching ‘And he opened his mouth and taught them saying…’ (Mt 4:17, 5:2, 9:35, 11:1, 13:54).
Matthew records the preaching of John (Mt 3:1-12), the long sermon on the mount (Mt 5:1-7:29), the sending of the apostles (Mt 9:35-10:42), the preaching on forgiveness (Mt 18:1-35), the direct denunciation of the Pharisees, the indirect denunciation of the Pharisees through parables (Mt 23:1-25:46) and the great commission of the disciples (Mt 28:18-20).
Matthew has also many teaching parables, among them eleven parables that are found in no other gospel: The parable of the tares, the hidden treasure, the net, the pearl of great price, the merciless servant, the laborers in the vineyard, the two sons, the marriage of the King’s son, the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats.
Matthew gives much space and emphasis to Jesus’ disciples and discipleship as such. Apart from the five main teachings, Matthew includes further incidences of Jesus teaching his disciples at various moments in the narrative: Peter’s confession and subsequent teaching (Mt 16:13-28), the transfiguration and subsequent teaching (Mt 17:1-27), the riches and kingdom of heaven parable (Mt 19:23-20:16), the nature of leadership (Mt 20:17-28), the example of faith (Mt 21:18-22) and the teaching after the last supper (Mt 26:20-35).
So Matthew is definitely evangelistic and apologetic, trying to convince doubting Jews, but he is equally committed to teaching and strengthening the foundations of the believers – just as Jesus was.
Color Coding Suggestions
- who also: Israel
- where also: Jerusalem, Holy City, Holy Plrace
- contrasts, comparisons, connectives, conditions …
- Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham, the Messiah, the Christ
- Old Testament quotes or half-quotes
- This is written to fulfill what was spoken by …
- law, law fulfillment, law keeping
- kingdom of heaven
- king, kingly line, rule, reign, …
- groups of 3, of 5, of 7 (triplets, quintets, septets)
- Interchange: Teaching <=> Narrative (sections concluded by “When Jesus had finished these sayings….”)
- Both Mark and Luke, when describing the call of Matthew use his Jewish name Levi (Mk 2:14, Lk 5:27).
- Only Matthew’s gospel calls him Matthew at his call (Mt 9:9), and in the list of the apostles (Mt 10:1-4). Maybe the author wanted to show that Levi the tax-collector, by the grace of God, became Matthew the apostle.
- Mt 9:10 … usually tax collectors are part of the group ‘sinners’ but in Matthew’s gospel they are differentiated: ‘tax collectors and sinners
- Mt 17:24-27 … Only Matthew includes Jesus paying temple tax with a coin from a fish’s mouth & teaching around that
- The attention to detail and the methodical arrangement of the material would make sense for someone who had been a tax-collector, accountant, recorder and government officer.
- It is interesting to note that Jesus called a tax collector (Mt 9:9) into his group alongside a zealot (Lu 6:16).
External evidence from Church History
There is a clear, consistent, unanimous witness for Matthew as author. No-one else ever claimed to have written it. No-one ever doubted Matthew’s authorship. Matthew was not a significant figure in the early church (somebody to quote to give your writing authority, like say Paul), so there would be no reason for claiming him as author, unless he wrote it.
- Though the gospel had no title originally (like the others) the first manuscripts including the title are very early on, perhaps as early as AD 125.
- Church father Papias said: Matthew composed the logia in Hebrew and interpreted them as he was able (quoted by Eusebius).
- Church father Origen said: The first Gospel was written by Matthew, who was once a tax collector, but who was afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew tongue.
- Church father Irenaeus said: Matthew also published a book of the Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the church.
- Church father Eusebius said: Matthew, who preached earlier to the Hebrews committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue and so compensated by his writing for the hours of his presence.
- Church father Jerome said: Matthew the tax collector is the first of all to have published a Gospel in Judea in the Hebrew tongue. It was produced for the sake of those Jews who had believed in Jesus and who were serving the true Gospel at a time when the shadow of the law had not disappeared.
- Church father Jerome said: Matthew who is also called Levi, and who was changed from a tax collector into an apostle, was the first in Judea to compose a gospel of Christ in Hebrew for those of the circumcised who believed. But who later translated it into Greek is not known. (Scholars today do not see Matthew as a translation of Hebrew but as written originally in Greek.
- Church father Pantaenus found that the Gospel of Matthew had preceded him to India, and was preserved there in Hebrew letters, having been left by Bartholomew.
Written to whom?
- Many, many Old Testament quotes. Sometimes introduced by the repeated phrase “this was to fulfill what was predicted by the prophet …” > proving that Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messiah.
- Also observing what themes Matthew stresses, sheds some light:
- Repeated Theme: Jesus Messiah, Son of David
- Repeated Theme: Kingdom of heaven
- Repeated Theme: What is Jesus’ relationship with the Law?
- Basic message: Jews, don’t miss it!
- Basic message: Jesus supersedes Jewish religion
- All this strongly point to Jewish readers, who need to be convinced, further convinced, grounded in their understanding of who Jesus was in relation to their Jewish faith and the Jewish Scriptures
- Church history It was first written in Hebrew > further pointing to Jewish readership
- Church history It was written for Hebrews / Jews
- To Jews or Jewish Christians? > Matthew is evangelistic, apologetic, discipling, so probably both.
- The date of writing is unknown, no direct evidence in the text.
- Church history: Matthew dying a martyr’s death in 60 AD > so: before that.
- Matthew is a gospel for Jewish believers or Jews, the need for this type of writing would have been immediate after Jesus’ death and resurrection, so an early date cannot be excluded.
- Most people say 50-60 AD, which would make it the earliest gospel (unless objections from the synoptic question)
Written where from?
- It would have been most needed where Jews and Jewish Christians co-lived. So Jerusalem? Judea? Galilee? Antioch of Syria? > unknown
Historical Setting of the audience (Jews or Jewish believers)?
- Jewish hope of being the chosen nation, special to God, securely holding the promised land, ruled by a son of David, dominating the surrounding Gentile nation.
- This is only very marginally true:
- Promised land? lost in 722 and 586 BC, even after the return of a small minority only partially self-governed, under Gentile superpowers (more or less persecuting), first Medo-Persia, then Greece, then Rome. They feel they are “still in exile” because they were never again truly self-governed, no son of David on the throne, Gentile overlords and hated half-local kings, no legitimate government in the eyes of the Jews. Dominating Gentile nations is a far cry.
- Living by the law is another difficult thing, if ruled by corrupt Gentiles and living in a racially mixed society where you cannot implement or push an environment conducive to law keeping (if there is such a thing).
- Different groups suggest different solutions, yet none of them fully convinces, none of them really seems to work:
- The zealot Messiahs attract followers, only they always prove themselves a fraud by being stamped out by Rome
- The Sadducces and Herodians who collaborate with the Romans can’t attract the normal Jews.
- The Essenes have withdrawn and escaped present reality
- The Pharisees would sound good, but in their self-righteousness are they not just as power hungry and corrupt as all the rest?
- Why is God not doing something about it? why does he leave his chosen people in this disgrace? Why do the godless rule over us and are victorious?
- All hopes of change focus on not really that clearly described Messiah figure, in Jewish understanding a man, that is raised up by God and empowered by God to establish what they hope for. He is a political deliverer, a son of David, bringing deliverance, victory and domination.
- How can Jesus be the fulfillment of this hope? Him being up-raided for not keeping the law? rejected by the spiritual leaders? not victorious but getting himself killed? Romans still being here?
- What would be the question in a new Jewish believer’s mind about Jesus? What doubts would have to be settled? What before thoughts challenged? What things understood in a new light? What would be the questions in a Jew’s mind, who is considering the claims of the Christians?
- This is what Matthew answers!
- mostly prose, many OT quotes are poetry
- gospel, arranged topically, in 5 blocks each containing narrative & teaching. Parallel to Pentateuch
- interchange (teaching – narrative), Old Testament quotes, parables
- Church history says that the gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew (as the only writing in the New Testament!), then it was translated. Today only Greek manuscripts exist, no Hebrew one. This speaks for a more local writing, maybe an early writing.
- Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, the true Messiah, the Son of David, the rightful king of the Jews, the establisher of God’s kingdom indeed
- Jesus came for the Jews & the Gentiles, for any sinner humbly entering the kingdom. By rejecting Gentiles & sinners, do not self-righteously and proudly forfeit your own access to the kingdom and lose your calling, Jew!
- Jesus established the kingdom of God, not a political kingdom but a spiritual and internal kingdom, wherever God is obeyed in faith, there the kingdom of God is extended
- to convince, to prove, to show the Jewish believers how Jesus fits and is the true fulfillment of all the Old Testament spoke about and the rightful Lord
- to teach them and disciple them further in the attitude and behavior that Jesus instilled in his followers
- to evangelize, to do apologetics, to challenge the attitude of Jews so that they believe and not miss out on the Messiah
The synoptic question
- The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark and Luke. There are great basic similarities in these three (John is quite different), though there are also different emphases due to the different writers, and even more: the different audiences.
- Mark has 661 verses
- out of these 661, 380 (57%) are in Luke
- out of these 661, 606 (90%) are in Matthew
- out of these 661, 631 (96%) are in Luke or Matthew
- Matthew and Luke have 250 verses in common that are not in Mark
- Matthew has 1071 verses, out of these 300 (33%) are only in Matthew
- Mark has 661 verses, out of these 70 (10%) are only in Mark
- Luke has 1150 verses, out of these 520 (50%) are only in Luke
- Presumably, one writer has used another writer as source, or both writers used the same source (which we don’t have any more).
- Luke 1:1-4 … Luke states clearly that he compiled many eyewitness accounts and possibly written accounts out of which he compiled his “Gospel of Luke” … so as early as 57 AD many oral or possibly written traditions are around.
- So who copied from whom? Usually it is assumed: first Mark (because it is shortest, others copied and added), but that is an assumption, a writer could well have ‘left away’ as easily as he could have ‘added’. Different opinions around. For dating reasons I think:
- first Matthew, a direct eyewitness, a natural recorder, probably the earliest gospel writer … 50-60 AD
- then Luke, clearly stating that he is using earlier sources, compiling for his writing while in Caesarea, with access to Judea / Galilee … 57-62 AD
- then Mark, cutting teaching and parables, adding other things to suit the need of his persecuted audience 64-67 AD
MATTHEW – BIG THEMES
How does one prove that Jesus is the Messiah?
You would have to show that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, fulfilling Old Testament predictions. A Jew would ask 3 questions:
- Was Jesus descended from David?
- Did he uphold the law?
- Had he come to establish the Kingdom?
In order to answer that question, Matthew puts great stress on the following Repeated Themes:
A Jesus fulfilling Old Testament Prophecy
18 times this sentence recurs: “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet….”
- Mt 1:22‑23 fulfilling Is 7:14
- Mt 2:5‑6 fulfilling Mic 5:2
- Mt 2:15 fulfilling Hos 11:1
- Mt 2:17 fulfilling Jer 31:15
- Mt 2:23 fulfilling Is 11:1
- Mt 3:3 fulfilling Is 40:3
- Mt 4:14‑16 fulfilling Is 9:1‑2
- Mt 8:17 fulfilling Is 53:4
- Mt 11:10 fulfilling Ex 23:20, Mal 3:1
- Mt 12:17‑21 fulfilling Is 42:1‑4
- Mt 13:14‑15 fulfilling Is 6:9‑10
- Mt 13:35 fulfilling Ps 78:2
- Mt 21:4 fulfilling Is 62:11, Zech 9:9
- Mt 21:13 fulfilling Is 56:7
- Mt 21:43 fulfilling Ps 118:22‑23
- Mt 24:15 fulfilling Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11
- Mt 26:31 fulfilling Zech 13:7
- Mt 27:9-10 fulfilling Zech 11:12‑13, Jer 32:6‑9
B Rootedness in the Old Testament
Besides these there are many other direct quotations of the Old Testament:
- Mt 4:4 Deut 8:3 17. Mt 21:16 Ps 8:2
- Mt 4:6 Ps 91:11 18. Mt 22:24 Deut 25:5
- Mt 4:7 Deut 6:6 19. Mt 22:32 Ex 3:6
- Mt 4:10 Deut 6:13 20. Mt 22:37 Deut 6:5
- Mt 5:21 Ex 20:13 21. Mt 22:39 Lev 19:18
- Mt 5:27 Ex 20:14 22. Mt 22:44 Ps 110:1
- Mt 5:48 Lev 19:2 23. Mt 23:39 Ps 118:26
- Mt 9:13 Hos 6:6 24. Mt 24:7 Is 19:2
- Mt 11:5 Is 29:18 25. Mt 24:21 Dan 12:1
- Mt 12:7 Hos 6:6 26. Mt 26:38 Ps 42:6
- Mt 15:4 Ex 20:12 27. Mt 26:64 Dan 7:13
- Mt 15:8‑9 Is 29:13 28. Mt 27:34 Ps 69:21
- Mt 18:16 Deut 19:15 29. Mt 27:35 Ps 22:18
- Mt 19:4‑5 Gen 2:24 30. Mt 27:39 Ps 22:7
- Mt 19:18‑19 Ex 20:12,16 31. Mt 27:43 Ps 22:8
- Mt 21:9 Ps 118:26 32. Mt 27:46 Ps 22:1
- Mt 27:48 Ps 69:21
- In addition to the many quotations there are many allusions, echoes, single words and phrases to be found.
- No other New Testament writer (including Paul) drew upon the Old Testament writings as much as Matthew. Most of the quotations are from the Septuagint (Translation of the Old Testament into Greek, 250 BC), but not all.
- He quotes almost every book of the Old Testament, but chiefly from Isaiah, the Messianic and evangelical prophet, and the Psalms. One fifth of the quotations are from Isaiah.
- With the Gospel firmly rooted in the Old Testament and showing beyond doubt through the prophetic passages that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) predicted by the prophets. He then shows how the kingdom was opened up to the Gentiles by the Jewish people rejecting Jesus.
- He quotes almost every book of the Old Testament, but chiefly from Isaiah, the Messianic and evangelical prophet, and the Psalms. One fifth of the quotations are from Isaiah.
C Jesus is the son of David
- Mt 1:1 Jesus Christ is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham (The two covenants). Any Messiah had to be a son of Abraham (Gen 12:1‑3) and Son of David (2 Sam 7:12‑16, Ps 89:29‑37). The Messiah was seen as a descendant from David (Is 11:1; 9:7; 11:16).
- “Son of David”, a Messianic name is used 7x in Matthew: Mt 1:1,(20), 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30‑31, 21:9,15.
D Repeated theme “The Messiah”, “The Christ”
- The Phrase “The Christ” = “The Messiah” is repeated 12 times. Occurrences: Mt 1:16, 1:17, 2:4, 11:2, 16:16, 16:20, 22:42, 23:10, 26:63, 26:68, 27:17, 27:22.
E Repeated Theme “King”
Matthew is ‘the Gospel of the King’. The Jews had a prophetic hope that the Messiah would unite in himself the three important offices of Prophet, Priest and King. Matthew shows that Jesus fufills all three functions:
- Prophet the lengthy discourses show his prophetic ministry
- Priest his atoning death on the cross, shows him to be both priest and sacrifice
- King 7 times evidence of a kingly theme
- Mt 1:6-11 Genealogy is kingly line
- Mt 2:2 Magi ask for King of Jews
- Mt 21:1-11 Kingly emphasis on the entry into Jerusalem
- Mt 25:31 Jesus’ kingly reign in future prophesied
- Mt 27:11 Acceptance of Pilate’s question “Are you king of the Jews?”
- Mt 27:37 Sign over cross, “Jesus the King of the Jews”
- Mt 28:18 Final statement, “All authority given to me”
F Repeated Themes “Kingdom of Heaven”
The “Kingdom of Heaven” is used 38 times, probably to avoid the more offensive “Kingdom of God”. The word “Kingdom” is used 44 times. “Kingdom of Heaven” is a Messianic statement. The Messiah was coming to set up his Kingdom.
- Mt 3:2 now announced ‑ John the Baptist
- Mt 4:17 now announced ‑ Jesus
- Mt 4:23 now confrontation of Kingdom
- Mt 5:3 now teaching
- Mt 5:10 now teaching
- Mt 5:19‑20 now/not yet teaching
- Mt 6:10 not yet prayer
- Mt 6:13 now prayer
- Mt 6:33 now teaching
- Mt 7:21 not yet teaching
- Mt 8:11‑12 not yet teaching
- Mt 9:35 now confrontation of Kingdom
- Mt 10:7 now announced ‑ disciples
- Mt 11:11‑12 now teaching
- Mt 12:28 now confrontation
- Mt 13:11 now secrets
- Mt 13:18 now teaching
- Mt 13:24 now/not yet teaching
- Mt 13:31 now teaching
- Mt 13:33 now teaching
- Mt 13:35 now/not yet teaching
- Mt 13:44 now teaching
- Mt 13:45 now teaching
- Mt 13:47 not yet teaching
- Mt 13:52 now teaching
- Mt 16:19 now teaching
- Mt 16:28 not yet teaching
- Mt 18:1‑3 not yet teaching
- Mt 18:3 now teaching
- Mt 18:23 now teaching
- Mt 19:12 now teaching
- Mt 19:15 now teaching
- Mt 19:23‑24 now/not yet teaching
- Mt 20:1 now/not yet teaching
- Mt 20:21 not yet teaching
- Mt 21:31 now teaching
- Mt 21:43 not yet teaching
- Mt 22:2 not yet teaching
- Mt 23:13 now teaching
- Mt 24:14 now teaching
- Mt 25:1 not yet teaching
- Mt 25:14 not yet teaching
- Mt 25:34 not yet teaching
- Mt 26:29 not yet teaching
- In summary: 26 times the “now” aspect of Kingdom is stressed, 13 times the “not yet” aspect and 5 times the “now / not yet” aspect.
- If compared to Luke where 19 times the “now” aspect of Kingdom is stressed, 10 times the “not yet” aspect and 5 times the “now / not yet” aspect.
- The kingdom of God, not a place but an authority (Mt 12:28). A believer comes into the Kingdom of God when Jesus becomes King of his or her life.
Repeated Theme – Jesus and the Law
Jesus’ attitude to the law
- Mt 5:18 “not an iota, not a dot would pass from the law until all is accomplished”
- Mt 5:19 “those who did the commandments and taught them would be called great in the kingdom of heaven”
- Mt 23:2 Jesus says that the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees who sat on Moses’ seat should be practiced
- Mt 17:24-27 Jesus the Jewish temple tax should be paid so not to give offense.
- Mt 6:16 His disciples should fast
- Mt 5:23-24 They should bring their offerings
- Mt 5:21, 5:27, 5:31, 5:33, 5:38, 5:43 ”But I say to you …”
Repeated Theme – Other Jewish References
- Mt 1:1-17 Genealogy traced from Abraham and arranged in 3 groups of 14 generations in true rabbinic style
- Jewish customs and phrases are included without explanation
- Mt 15:1-2 tradition of elders
- Mt 23:5 phylacteries
- Mt 23:27-28 whitewashed tombs
- Mt 27:62 the day of preparation
- References to the “Holy City” and the “Holy Place” Mt 4:5, 24:15, 27:53
- References to the Mosaic Law Mt 5:17-19,21,27,31,33,38,43, 7:12, 11:13, 12:5, 15:6, 22:36,40, 23:23
- 39 references to the prophets
- Mt 10:23 The towns are “cities of Israel”
- Mt 8:10, 10:6 The people are “Israel” or “House of Israel”
- Mt 15:31 God is the “God of Israel”
- Mt 2:20-21 The country is the “Land of Israel”
Repeated Theme – The Church supersedes the Jewish People
The Gospel does not have a slightly bemused “anti‑Jewish” tone as Luke, neither is it “anti‑Gentile”. Rather there is a blend and acceptance of both: The church (including Gentile believers will supersede the Jewish people as a nation).
There is an emphasis to start with of Jesus coming to the Jews
- Mt 1:21 He will save His people.
- Mt 10:5‑6 Go nowhere among the Gentiles, enter no town of the Samaritans, but go to lost sheep of house of Israel.
- Mt 10:23 You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes
- Mt 15:24 Sent only to lost sheep of house of Israel.
- Mt 19:28 You who have followed me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
- There is not as much emphasis of Jesus going to Gentiles as there is in Luke.
As the Jewish people reject Jesus there is a shift and the warning of John the Baptist in Mt 3:8‑9 comes into effect
- Mt 8:11‑12 “Many will come from east and west and sit at table in the kingdom, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness” is added to the description of the centurion’s servant’s healing, and addendum that Luke leaves out in Lu 7:1‑10.
- In discussion of John the Baptist in Mt 11:11-15, 11:16-19, he adds v14 “if you are willing to accept it”, referring to Malachi 4:5.
- Confrontations in chapter 12
- over Sabbath Mt 12:1‑8 (eating)
- over Sabbath Mt 12:9‑14 (healing)
- over exorcism Mt 12:22‑32
- wanting a sign Mt 12:38‑42
- The Parable of the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-34)
- The Parable of the Vineyard (Mt 21:33-34). The verse 43 is only in Matthew, “the Kingdom will be taken away and given to a nation producing the fruits of it”.
- The Parable of the Marriage Feast (Mt 22:1‑10), those invited are unworthy and so others are invited
- Chapter 23 after the woes concerning the Pharisees, verse 34 says “God sent prophets, wise men, scribes … all rejected or killed”
- Chapter 24 this is followed by the prophecy of the destruction of Temple and Jerusalem.
- In the great commission (Mt 28:19‑20), we are called to make disciples of all nations, but before Jesus had been “called to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:5).
- Maybe Matthew, who was an outsider as tax collector, was very personally blessed by Jesus’ inclusion of him (unlike the Pharisees who would have rejected him) > he has a heart for this issue
He shows that Judaism is superseded by Jesus and the Church
- The three big issues in Judaism are: 1 their being a chosen people, 2 the temple, 3 the law
- The People Kingdom will be taken and given to a people producing fruit of it Mt 21:43
- The Law “You have heard that it was said…but I say” 6x, Jesus proclaiming a new law Mt 5:21,27,31,33,38,43 … Mt 28:20
- The Temple “Will be destroyed” (Mt 24:2) and “something greater than the temple is here” (Mt 12:6)
- Also Jesus is pre-eminent over the Sabbath in Mt 12:8, the prophets (Jonah) in Mt 21:41, kings (Solomon) in Mt 12:42
The universal element of the gospel is seen throughout the book
- Mt 2:1-12 The Gentile Magi coming to worship Jesus
- Mt 2:13-15 Jesus’ family taking refuge in Gentile Egypt
- Mt 8:5-13 A Roman Centurion, seeking help, showed faith and received Jesus’ blessing
- Mt 11:20-24, 12:41 Tyre, Sidon, Sodom & Nineveh (Gentile cities) favorably contrasted with Chorazin, Capernaum and “this generation”
- Mt 8:11, 12:21, 24:14 World wide gospel
MATTHEW AS A DISCIPLESHIP MANUAL
Writings of early church show that Matthew was most frequently quoted and therefore perhaps the most widely read gospel. It is characterized by lengthy discourses. If you remove the passages in Mark from Matthew, only discourses are left, so Matthew is Mark plus Jesus’ detailed teaching.
Some of these discourses or detailed teachings
- Mt 3:1‑12 Preaching of John
- Mt 5:1‑7:29 Sermon on the Mount
- Mt 9:35‑10:42 The apostolic commission
- Mt 13:1‑52 The Parables
- Mt 18:1‑35 The Meaning of forgiveness
- Mt 23:1‑25:46 The Denunciation of Pharisees and Prophecy with Parables
- Mt 28:18‑20 The Great Commission
Great prominence is given to the teaching of Jesus, introduced by expressions such as
- Mt 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying ..”
- Mt 5:2 “And He opened his mouth and taught them saying ..”
- Mt 9:35 “And Jesus went about all the cities & villages teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom ..”
- Mt 11:1 “And when Jesus had finished instructing his 12 disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities …”
- Mt 13:54 “And coming to his own country, he taught in their synagogue ..”
Matthew has 11 parables not found anywhere else
- Tares Mt 13:24‑30 *
- Hidden Treasure Mt 13:44 X
- Net ‑ Thrown in sea Mt 13:47‑50 *
- Pearl of Great Price Mt 13:45 X
- Unmerciful Servant Mt 18:23‑32 +
- Labourer in Vineyard Mt 20:1‑16 +
- Two sons Mt 21:28‑32 +
- Marriage of King’s Son Mt 22:1‑14 +
- Ten Virgins Mt 25:1‑10 =
- Talents Mt 25:14‑30 =
- Judgment ‑ sheep & goats Mt 25:31‑46 =
Matthew is the only Gospel to mention the church
- Mt 16:18 “On this rock I will build my church”
- Mt 18:17 “If brother sins … if he refuses to listen, tell it to the church, if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be as a Gentile and tax collector”
Matthew uses extremes to make his point
- In examples of Jesus reaching out > 3 healings: a leper in Mt 8:1‑4, a Gentile in Mt 8:5‑13, a woman in Mt 8:14‑17
- In teaching:
- Mt 5:44 Love your enemies
- Mt 5:29-30 Pluck eye out, cut hand off
- Mt 6:3 Not let right hand know what left hand is doing
- Mt 7:6 Pearls before swine
- Mt 7:18 Forgive 70 x 7
Matthew gives much space and emphasis to Jesus’ disciples and discipleship
- Apart from the 5 main discourses, scattered in the narrative we have the following teaching of the disciples:
- Mt 16:13‑28 Peter’s confession and subsequent teaching
- Mt 17:1‑27 Transfiguration and subsequent teaching
- Mt 19:23‑ 20:16 Riches and Kingdom of Heaven, parable explaining lost shall be found and found lost
- Mt 20:17‑28 Creatures in Kingdom of Heaven
- Mt 21:18‑22 Example of Faith
- Mt 26:20‑35 Upper Room Discourse
- Although Matthew has the same basic geographical framework as Mark and Luke, Matthew arranges his material topically. There is not an exact chronology of events, but the events written in such an order as to teach lessons. Example: Jesus’ teaching when he sent out the Twelve (Mt 10:17‑23) or the Olivet Discourse after the destruction prophecy (Mt 24:1-51)
- The structural features of the Gospel point to the fact its purpose was a Teaching Document. Matthew has 5 main sections within an introduction and conclusion. The 5 main sections are each in two parts, firstly a narrative (account of what Jesus was doing), then the teaching discourses.
- Introduction Narrative Ch 1‑2 Birth
- 1st Section Narrative Ch 3‑4 Jesus’ early ministry
- Discourse Ch 5‑7 Sermon on the Mount
- 2nd Section Narrative Mt 8:1‑9:34 Healing ministry
- Discourse Mt 9:35‑10:42 Mission of disciples
- 3rd Section Narrative Ch 11‑12 Growing opposition
- Discourse Mt 13:1‑13:52 Parables of the Kingdom
- 4th Section Narrative Mt 13:53‑17 Jesus with disciples and Pharisees
- Discourse Ch 18 Church discipline & humility
- 5th Section Narrative Ch 19‑22 Confrontation and teaching
- Discourse Ch 23‑25 Woes on Pharisees & Eschatology
- Conclusion (Climax) Ch 26‑28 Passion and Resurrection
- Each section ends with formula “When Jesus had finished these sayings….” (Mt 7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). It has been suggested that the five sections was patterned on the five books of the Pentateuch, so that Matthew is in fact saying, ‘here is the new Pentateuch for the New Israel of God, the church’.
For facility in study and even memorization as a church manual for discipleship Matthew grouped his material into 3s, 5s, 7s. Dr. James Moffatt has pointed out the rabbinic nature of the teaching, structure, etc. into triplets. Typical of a Jewish teacher, memory would easily be facilitated by this division into numerical units.
- 3 divisions in the genealogy Mt 1:2‑17
- 3 angel messages to Joseph Mt 1:20, 2:13,19
- 3 temptations Mt 4:1‑11
- 3 fold mission (teaching, preaching & healing) Mt 4:23
- 3 healings (leprosy, paralysis & fever) Mt 8:1‑15
- 3 authority miracles (storm, demons, sin/healing) Mt 8:23‑9:9
- 3 restoration miracles (health, sight, speech) Mt 9:18‑34
- 3 “fear not” Mt 10:26,28,31
- 3 “is not worthy of me” Mt 10:37,38
- 3 questions “what did you go out to see?” Mt 11:7‑9
- 3 cities (Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum) Mt 11:20-24
- 3 attacks of the Pharisees Mt 12:2,10,24
- 3 parables of sowing Mt 13:1‑32
- 3 “Truly, truly, I say to you…” Mt 18:3,13,18
- 3 classes of eunuchs Mt 19:12
- 3 parables of warning Mt 21:28‑22:14
- 3 questioners (Pharisee, Sadducee, Lawyer) Mt 22:15‑40
- 3 warnings (teacher, father, master) Mt 23:8,20,23
- 3 righteous groups (prophets, wise men, scribes) Mt 23:34
- 3 parables against negligence (faithful & unfaithful servants, wise & foolish virgins, the talents) Mt 24:45-25:30
- 3 men in parable of talents Mt 25:15
- 3 prayers in Gethsemane Mt 26:36‑45
- 3 denials of Peter Mt 26:69ff
- 3 questions of Pilate (2 are the same) Mt 27:17‑22
- 3 mockeries of the crucified Mt 27:32‑44
- 3 women mentioned at the cross Mt 27:56
- 3 fold commission (make disciple, baptize, teach) Mt 28:19-20
- 5 discourses all ending “when Jesus had finished …” Mt 7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1
- 5 corrections to misunderstandings of the law “but I say to you …” Mt 5:22,28,34,39,44
- 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins Mt 25:2
- 5 questions about authority, tribute, commandments and Son of David Mt chapter 21-22
- 5 references to the Kingdom of God
- 7 loaves and 7 baskets Mt 15:34,37
- 7 and 70 times 7 forgiveness Mt 18:21
- 7 woes to Pharisees Mt 23:13-36
- 7 petitions in Lord’s prayer Mt 6:9-13
- 7 spirits Mt 12:45
- 7 brothers Mt 22:25
MATTHEW – CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
- Mt 1:1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
- Stating Matthew’s claims of Jesus upfront: He is the Messiah, and as a Messiah should he is a true Jew, a son of Abraham and of the kingly line, a son of David.
- The list is given in orderly rabbinic style of 3×14 names (ease of memorization), which required tweaking. The word ‘son’ can also mean ‘descendant’, similar to Bangla: brother also means cousin. Not in English.
- At least in the middle section the tweaking is clear: Joram (> Ahaziah > Athaliah > Joash > Amaziah) > Azariah = Uzziah
- Mt 1 vs Lu 3 It is assumed that one is the genealogy of Mary, the other of Joseph. The one line runs all the way through Jehoiachin, the other branches off right after David (son Nathan, not Solomon). One runs to Adam (Matthew), the other one all the way back to Adam (Luke).
- Mt 2:1-12 The famous story of the Wise men from the East. The story shows the greater reality of God as Creator of the cosmos and God of all nations and Jesus as Savior of all nations: a cosmic display, a witness that goes to Gentiles, the hope is for all.
- Prophecy The story shows again the theme of fulfillment of Scripture: Bethlehem (Mic 5:2), children killed (Je 31:15).
- Herod the Great It also shows the ruthless character of Herod the Great, having no pangs to kill all male children two years backward. The parallel to Pharaoh in Egypt is obvious. He also had two of his own sons killed. Emperor Augustus said about him: ‘I’d rather be his dog than his son’. Yet God holds control over history and though people feel weak and at the mercy of situations, God ensures his purposes going forward.
- Dating From history we know that Herod the Great left Jerusalem in 5 BC and died in 4 BC. There were several censuses, but the one mentioned here must be the one 8-7 BC. Jesus birth was therefore likely to have been 7-5 BC. When the Christian calendar was set in the Middle ages, archeological knowledge was less advanced, hence the gap.
- Star of Bethlehem. The following explanation is a hypothesis, and may or may not be accurate :-). Two things in the story seem to not make sense at first.
- Mt 2:2 How do the wise men conclude from seeing something in the sky to ‘a child born king of the Jews’? How did they come up with the message this special thing in the sky conveyed? Why not a king born to the Babylonians? Some say that maybe Daniel left the Babylonian astrologers some prophecies. Maybe.
- Mt 2:10 When they saw the star (has stopped), they were overwhelmed with joy. Why that if they had been following it all the way?
- Solar System Sun = own light (= star) … orbiting around the sun are planets, shone at by the sun. Planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto … the last three can’t be seen by eye
- Everything else seen in a night sky are objects much further away and must all be stars / suns with own light.
- Star sky We see the stars as dots on a black umbrella, the fixed star sky. It doesn’t rotate but we rotate under it. Maps can be drawn as these patterns are unchanged since millennia. Pictures were given arbitrary names > star constellations.
- The only thing that moves relative to the map are the planets, planeteo = Greek = I wander. So the stars are always the same, but the planets may move relative to the stars and wander into different places
- Scientific Laws The movements of stars and planets are by scientific law > don’t change > we can calculate back what the sky looked and where each planet was when you were born, when Yahya Khan signed the surrender, when Jesus was born. Program or apps that do that.
- Babylonians had very developed astrology / astronomy. Every planet they associated with something. The planet Jupiter was associated with kingship, the planet Saturn with a deliverer. They also believed that each star constellation represented a people on this earth.
- Some scientists did that: let the program run back and see whether there was anything special at the time of Jesus’ birth > indeed a special thing: a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
- Conjunction if two lights come within 2.5 degrees of each other, the two lights appear as one bigger light. A conjunction of two strong lights as Saturn & Jupiter would be impressive indeed.
- And it happened 3 times over the length of 9 months (from about mid May 6 BC to about Feb 5 BC). In front of what? The Southern Fish, a constellation they associated with the Jews, of all people.
- So this would explain how they came up with the message: Jupiter – Saturn in front of the Southern Fish … a king-deliverer is born to the Jews.
- Also it would explain why they were overwhelmed with joy: it was when when Jupiter & Saturn went into the 3rd conjunction. They must have taken months to travel West, and probably the 2nd conjunction had fallen apart by the time they reached Jerusalem. So they went were you expect a king to be born: the palace. But after their audience with Herod they see the two planets going into a third conjuction, which makes them overjoyed. The conjunction was visible over the Southern sky in the evening (they typical travel time), with Bethlehem being due South of Jerusalem.
- Mt 3:1-12 John’s preaching > a challenging, prophetic view. Strong metaphors: ‘you brood of vipers’. Escape judgment? > bear fruit worthy of repentance
- Mt 3:13-17 The Trinity displayed at the baptism
CHAPTER 4 TEMPTATION OF JESUS
- Mt 4:1-11 What exactly was Jesus’ temptation?
- Mt 4:1-4 First Temptation.
- Temptation to prove his identity as Son of God, a self-appointed action, proving his power over the physical world (which he indeed had as seen in the feeding miracles), to use his power for himself, to accommodate for his needs (true needs), to not obey the Father at this moment.
- ‘One does not live ‘ … trusting God to meet his needs rather than to manage it oneself. Physical needs are real and okay, but not decisive. To obtain God’s word is more important than to obtain food.
- He is the bread of life … for others. By obeying Satan he would provide for his physical needs but would cease to provide the bread of life for all. Rather I need to be the bread for all > selflessness. Focus on his mission
- Mt 4:5-7 Second Temptation:
- Temptation to prove his identity as Son of God, again self-appointed action, prove power over the physical world, to force God to act for him, to test / manipulate / force God, forcing God into a 2 options scenario, to use God’s word willfully, selfishly, against God, against the nature of the speaker.
- Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
- Mt 4:8-11 Third Temptation:
- Satan’s promise “all these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me”. Satan promises what he ultimately can’t give, and most surely won’t give. Lie. Pathway to power without the suffering, a short cut, and own way, ‘become like me’. Kingdom = where God reigns. But here kingdoms in rebellion to God’s rule. C.S.Lewis “you either serve in heaven or rule in hell”
- Mt 5:1-12 Sermon on the mount, or the ‘completely different kingdom’
- How do we understand this sermon? High impossible ideals? Moral superiority and high ground? Frustrating conditions to fail us all? Ironic contradictions to drive us from this world? Internal spiritual construct? Or real liveable truth, that really works (as least in the long run)? Jesus truly lived this. He was the truly meek one who truly inherited the earth. He was persecuted and reviled … and blessed. Weakness truly was victorious on the cross.
- Not just condemning, impossible conditions but live-giving paradoxes … the more you give the more you’ll have … leadership authority is by giving up rights … influence by meekness
- Or breaking Pharisaic interpretation. The reaction of the people mentioned at the conclusion of the sermon on the mount supports this interpretation:
- Mt 7:28-29 ‘Now when Jesus had finished saying these thins, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.
- How is Jesus differing from a normal Pharisaic view? It based on the law, with it’s choice and consequence (and rightfully so), but it is interpreted not with humility and self-evaluation but with comparison and competition.
- Mt 5:3ff Paraphrased: ‘Blessed are the rich, because God is obviously blessing them, otherwise they wouldn’t be rich. Blessed are those who do well now, because that is evidence of their rigteous living. Blessed are the strict, for they will be called righteous. Blessed are the self-righteous, because they busy pleasing God. Blessed are the righteous, for they will push up the standard for others. Blessed are the extreme, for they will push forward God’s kingdom. Blessed are the aggressive and victorious, for God obviously uses them to achieve his goals
- Mt 5:13 Salt metaphor … salt gives taste, it is invisible but essential, it preserves and prevents rotting, it needs to be distributed. Believers as a voice in the world, a flavor, a strength
- Mt 5:17-18 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.’ … Jesus does not abolish the law, he fulfills the law. The law is eternal, unchanging.
- Mt 5:19 ‘Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ … In God’s kingdom the law needs to be obeyed and will be obeyed. But who will be in God’s kingdom is not dependent on obeying the law (big & small both are in the kingdom). Yes one’s effectiveness, influence, success, greatness and honoring God is dependent on whether we kept the law.
- Mt 5:21-26 Jesus makes the standard of the Law higher … not only in action, but in the attitude behind the action, focusing not only on outward action but inward reality
- Anger ‘be angry but sin not’, ‘do not let the sun go down over your anger’.
- Anger is an emotional response, an automatic response, not preventable as such (as many emotions are). Anger is no sin. God is the most angry being in the Bible (by references). Anger is an appropriate emotion in the face of injustice, falseness, overstepping of boundaries, violation. Anger gives you the needed strength to prevent overstepping, to self-protect.
- But where do I go with the anger? How do I show anger? Do I show anger at the right issue? At the right person? … Or do I use anger to control others, to make them docile, to get my will, to get my way?
- There is also inappropriate anger, the emotion of a selfish person when their will is crossed, a domineering person who can’t get their way, impatience with a delay or interference. It may be wrong in measure and in addressee.
- In relationships remember: anger is a symptom of something. Do not ignore it or push it away, rather acknowledge, address, bring it into the light, make it discussable, not enthroning it but looking for roots (hurts, projections onto others). Say: ‘okay, I guess this really makes me angry, and I’m not even sure why it makes me so angry, … Lord, help us understand this.
- Mt 5:27-30 Adultery … again an internal higher standard. I can’t say “As long as I don’t …”.
- Looking at a woman to lust / with lust means not a ‘bad unwitting thought’, but an intention, acting on it, using somebody, selfishly.
- This is why pornography is not acceptable (besides addictive & destructive). This is also why masturbation leads nowhere > you are focused on yourself, you use the other to obtain a sensation or feeling. This will not help you in your real relationships.
- This is not an obligation to call a beautiful woman ugly, or a handsome guy unattractive. But is is a call to thought-hygiene, to throw thoughts out.
- Illustration: birds flying overhead can’t be prevented, but them building nests on my head can be prevented. Warning to men (pornography) and women (romance).
- Mt 5:29-30 Command to deal ruthlessly and thoroughly with things like this, to not let them linger. At the risk of being a bit overzealous, which is fine.
- Mt 5:31-32 Divorce … Do not read about the edges of the acceptable ‘What can I get away with?’. The very question reveals false god-concepts and wrong attitude of our hearts.
- Divorce has been handled too harshly by the church. See ‘FAM 03 Divorce & Remarriage’
- Mt 5:33-37 Word faithfulness
CHAPTER 6 TEACHING: SERMON ON THE MOUNT
- Mt 6:1-4 Displays of religiosity … alms, prayer, fasting, giving … dire warning for religiosity for any reason other than the love of God (self-gratification, pride, fear of God, competition, earning heaven, pleasing the boss, …)
CHAPTER 7 TEACHING: SERMON ON THE MOUNT
CHAPTER 8 NARRATIVE: MIRACLES
- Mt 8:1-4 healing of a leper
- Mt 8:5-13 Centurion’s servant
- Mt 8:14-17 many healed at Peter’s in-laws
- Mt 8:18-22 Would be followers
- Mt 8:23-27 Stilling the storm
- Mt 8:28-34 The Gadarene demoniac
CHAPTER 10 TEACHING: SENDING OUT THE DISCIPLES
- Mt 10:34-39 family is a very high vlaue, but not the highest. Do not obey or please family more than God > maybe this will lead to decades of conflict and being judged wrongly, but in the long run you will serve your family much more by obeying God now.
- This applies to all aspects … parents > obey God’s call. Spouses > put God first. Children > discipline. Generally > no nepotism
CHAPTER 11 NARRATIVE
- Mt 11:1 Witness of God’s promise for me in this Scripture
- Mt 11:2-15 John the Baptist. 11:5 is loose medley of Isaiah’s messiah prophecies (Is 61:1, 35:5-6, 42:6, …) minus the line ‘he shall set the captives free’
- Mt 11:16-19 rejection of John for being austere, rejection of Jesus for being a glutton … you are not happy either way
- Mt 11:20-24 rebuking Jewish cities, comparing them unfavorably with heathen cities (Tyre, Sidon) and famous evil cities (Sodom) … this is a smarting rebuke, breaking false security
- Mt 12:31-32 parallel to Mk 3 > the unforgivable sin … do not reject conscience! Respond to conviction!
- Mt 12:33-37 tree & fruit … truth can be known, do draw conclusions!
- Mt 12:38-42 asking for a sign … rather humbly draw conclusions from what God does reveal. Hang around for an hour and just listen and look. Arrogance is the demand.
- Mt 12:46-50 no security in blood relationship
- Mt 15:1-9 false religiosity continued … Jesus’ counter attack: ‘Corban’
- Mt 15:10-20 false religiosity continued
- Mt 15: 21-28 false religiosity continued … Sidonian woman’s faith, humility and understanding as a shining example
- Mt 18:2-9 occasions for stumbling are bound to come but woe by whom they come … Judas Iscariot, limits of predestination
- Mt 21:28-32 Parable of the two sons … Israel is the first son, the Gentiles the second
- Mt 21:33-34 Vineyard given to those who produce the fruit of it / deliver the produce
- Mt 21:42-43 Parable of the wicked tenants … link to Mt 3:10 John the Baptist: the axe is laid to the tree
- Mt 22:1-14 many are called, but few are chosen
- Mt 22:15-22 taxes to Caesar
- Mt 23 denouncing the scribes & Pharisees
- Parables not so that people won’t understand, but that they would engage, seek, inquire, remember … the willing & inquiring do get answers of Jesus