Introduction to The Gospel of Matthew:
a commentary & meditation 
 

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God

Jesus chose one of the unlikeliest of men to be his apostle, Matthew the much hated tax-collector who worked for the Roman empire (Matthew 9:9).  Unlike most of the other apostles who were skillful fishermen, Matthew was skilled with the pen and with giving an account of facts and figures.  Papias, one of the earliest Church historians, records that "Matthew collected the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue."  Matthew the evangelist wrote some 1068 verses.  While the evangelist Mark wrote some 661 verses which focus on the "events" of Jesus' life and ministry, Matthew focuses on the substance of Jesus' teaching.  When did Matthew write his gospel?  Sometime in the last quarter of the first century, likely between 85 and 105 AD.

Matthew was responsible for the first collection or handbook on the teaching of Jesus.  His account of Jesus' teaching is arranged in five sections which focus on the kingdom of God: (1) the Sermon on the Mount or the Law of the Kingdom comprise chapters 5-7; (2) his missionary instructions to his disciples on the duties of the leaders of the kingdom in chapter 10;  (3) the Parables of the Kingdom in chapter 13; (4) the themes of "greatness" and "forgiveness" in the kingdom in chapter 18; and (5) the "coming of the King" in chapters 24-25.

Matthew's gospel is placed first in the canon of the New Testament, not because it was written first, some of Paul's letter's and the Gospel of Mark were written before, but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testament.  The main point and argument of Matthew's 28 chapters is to convince the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah King, the Anointed One, the Christ, the Son of God and founder of the kingdom of God.  Matthew's account uses the  word "kingdom" 50 times, and the "kingdom of heaven" 32 times.

Matthew's account emphasizes Jesus' kingly rule and divine authority. Jesus says to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19).  Jesus' last words to his apostles also speak about his kingly authority over all:  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always..." (Matthew 28:18-19)  Matthew uses the word "all" four times in this passage alone. Matthew also shows Jesus' authority over nature by  his miracles, his authority over sin by forgiving sins, and his authority over death by his resurrection

The Gospel of the Jews

Matthew writes as a Jew to his fellow Jews to present to them the evidence for Jesus' claim to be the King of the Jews.  He quotes extensively from the Old Testament prophets to show how Jesus fulfilled all that was spoken about the Messiah who would come to establish the reign [or kingdom] of God.  He frequently writes, "as it is written in the prophet..." or "this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophets..."  Nine times Matthew refers to Jesus as the "son of David".  The prophets had fortold that the Messiah would be a direct descent of David.  Matthew's gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing him back to David, King of Israel, and then to Abraham, the first Jew.  Matthew traces Jesus' lineage through Joseph, his foster father, rather than through Mary, his biological mother [as Luke's account does].  Matthew, the observant Jew, notes that according to Jewish genealogy, the father's lineage counted legally for royalty.


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 (c) 2002 Don Schwager