My year-long journey through The MANual, my NIV Bible for Men, continues with the Gospel of Matthew. In my prior post with an Introduction to The Gospels, I gave an overview of these first four books in the New Testament. As you read this post and the upcoming posts on the Gospels from Mark, Luke, and John, look at how each is written. See how each author addresses a different original audience from a different perspective to accomplish a different purpose.
Like many books of the Bible, the Gospel of Matthew is “officially” anonymous, meaning, the author never reveals his or her name directly in the text. This was a common practice in the ancient world that valued community more than individual achievements. That said, the early church and most scholars are unanimous in their acceptance of Matthew as the writer of the first Gospel.
Matthew, also known as Levi, was the despised tax collector who was one of the twelve disciples. I always loved how theologian John MacArthur described all the disples as “illiterate ignoramouses” (Twelve Ordinary Men, pg 27) based on the Greek text “aggramatoi…idiotai” that described how the people of Jerusalem perceived these men:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they have been with Jesus.”(Acts 4:13, NIV)
About Matthew‘s Gospel
The Gospel of Matthew is the longest of the four Gospels. It is the first book of the New Testament but was not the first written, having been scribed approximately 60-65 A.D.
This Gospel is not a chronological account; its purpose is to present clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the eternal King spoken about by the prophets. It contains 28 chapters and 1,071 verses and 18,345 words (which varies depending on the translation). There are numerous Old Testament references (53 quotes and 76 other references) so the author knew Scripture. The phrase, “Son of David,” referring to the Davidic line, occurs 9 times in Matthew, but only 6 times collectively in Mark, Luke, and John.
The key verse is Matthew 5:17: “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.” (NIV)
A Message to the Jews but Applicable to All of Us
After the 400 years of prophetic silence between the Old and New Testaments, the people of Israel were still looking for the Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression.
Matthew is the first of the “Synoptic” Gospels (meaning describing events from a similar point of view). Written especially for the Jews, Matthew doesn’t explain Jewish customs, which implies his audience already knows the traditions. Similarly, the Gospel of Mark was written for a Roman audience and the Gospel of Luke for a Greek audience. Each also explains their many traditions in detail. Contrast that to John, who writes to all the people of the world, and you find another reason why John is considered different from the three Synoptic Gospels.
The Blueprint for Matthew’s Gospel
Matthew opens his Gospel with the genealogy to prove that Jesus is a descendant of both Abraham and King David, just as the Old Testament predicted. From Abraham –the father of Issac, through Jacob –the father of Joseph and husband of Mary, Matthew covers fourteen generations of a lineage that traces directly to Jesus.
In chapters 2-4, Matthew then tells of Jesus’ birth and early years. Interestingly, Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions the magi in the birth story. He then writes about the holy family’s escape to Egypt to avoid the murderous plot of Herod and their return later to Nazareth. Matthew tells of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ arrival and baptism as an adult.
Matthew describes Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness before He began His ministry in Galilee. Matthew recalls how Jesus calls four fishermen as his first disciples: Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew; and James and his brother, John, telling them to become transformed into “fishers of men.”
God with Us
Verse 1:23 tells us the Virgin Mary will give birth to a son they will call Immanuel, which literally means “God with us.” The OT predicted God would “become flesh and make His dwelling among us” and will be with us always (John 28:20). It brings great comfort to know that God became one of us to show how to resist temptation.
- What verse can you memorize to remember that God is always with you in the “wilderness” moments of life?
- Why does God call us to also become a “fisher of men”?
Chapter 5 is the famous Sermon on The Mount, which is also known as “The Beatitudes.” Jesus preached on the hillside of Capernaum in a way that challenged the proud and religious leaders of the day, much like the prophets of the OT. Jesus proclaims He did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets, but to accomplish them. He proclaimed the Law was not as important in His new Kingdom. Jesus taught that heartfelt obedience over legalistic observance. He spoke about being salt & light in the world by showing people the unconditional love of Christ and being a witness to the truth of God’s Word.
Chapters 5 & 6 are about Jesus’ teachings about anger, adultery, lust, divorce, keeping oaths, revenge, and loving our enemies. He teaches about giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. He teaches about money and worrying. Chapter 7 includes a word about not worrying and judging others. His message about asking, looking, and knocking on the door of Heaven encourages us to persist through difficulties and pursue God. The chapter also includes the well-known Golden Rule: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (7:12). Jesus says this is the essence of all that is taught by the Law and the prophets. Matthew states that entering Heaven can only come through the narrow gate paved by a decision to follow Jesus.
Chapter 8 begins a section that describes the many miracles Jesus performed. These include healing a leper, Peter’s mother-in-law, and others. He calms a storm and sends demons into a herd of pigs. Jesus heals a paralyzed man, a bleeding woman, and the blind and mute.
Our #1 Priority-Follow Jesus
Buried in the middle of chapter 9, we learn a bit about Matthew as he reveals when Jesus said, “Follow me” and then ate dinner with all the tax collectors and sinners (9:9-10). Jesus proved that earthly status means nothing. When you are faithful, you carry out God’s will in your home, at work, and anywhere else He puts you.
- What does it look like to make following Jesus your first priority?
- Who can help you practice the mindset of the Beatitudes?
Chapter 10 lists all twelve disciples that Jesus called into ministry. In addition to the four fishermen and the tax collector, Jesus called a political zealot and other common men onto His team. He empowered each of them with the spirit to cast out evil spirits and heal diseases. He gave them specific instructions and knew they would make mistakes. But Jesus was preparing them to carry out His mission and how to face persecution by the opposition.
In chapters 12-15, Matthew teaches about Jesus’ parables before the time He begins to encounter differing reactions to His ministry. He continues by feeding five thousand people using only five loaves of bread and two fish (14:13-21). He walks on water (14:22-33) and asks Peter to do the same to demonstrate his lack of faith. Jesus teaches about inner purity (15:1-20), sends a demon out of a girl (15:21-28), and feeds four thousand(15:32-39).
Chapters 16-20 continue Matthew’s writings about how Jesus spoke of His imminent death and resurrection, yet continued to teach. Chapter 17 is about when Jesus takes His inner circle of Peter, James, and John up to the mountain where they Moses and Elijah and the transfigured Christ.
The self-centered disciples argue about who would be the greatest in chapter 18. Jesus warns them about temptations like pride and looking down on others. He teaches about how to treat a believer who sins, and about forgiveness using a parable of the unforgiving debtor.
- What is the one strong temptation you face in your life?
- When was the last time you prayed to God for help in that struggle?
- Which of your friends can help you take steps to having increasing victory in that area?
Chapter 19 describes the time Jesus begins to face conflict with the religious leaders. He predicts His death for a third time yet continues to heal and teach. Jesus warns against the religious leaders in chapter 23 and condemns them publicly for appearing outwardly upright and holy, knowing they were full of corruption and greed. In chapters 24 and 25, He began teaching the disciples on the Mount of Olives about the future. He told about what they could expect before His return and how to live until then.
In Matthew’s final chapters, he focuses on Jesus final days on earth: the Last Supper, His prayer in Gethsemane, the betrayal of Judas, the flight of the disciples, Peter’s denial, the trials before Caiaphas and Pilate, Jesus final words on the cross, and His burial in a borrowed tomb.
But the story does not end there as Jesus rises from the dead and gives the disciples a charge known as the Great Commission:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given and be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20)
God Buddy Focus
The main message from Matthew is that God is always with us and we are to follow Jesus as Lord of our lives. To know the Father and follow His son, we have to study God’s Word.
Recall these questions I gave in the Introduction to the Gospels:
- What does Jesus say about himself?
- Whom is Jesus talking to? (This is vital. Is he talking to his disciples, his enemies, a massive crowd?)
- What does Jesus say about God?
- How does Jesus react to different situations? What pleases Him? What upsets Him?
- What does Jesus tell people to do?
This week, read the entire Gospel of Matthew and write out how you would answer those questions.
My next post will provide an overview of the Gospel of Mark.