Who wrote it?
This book is known as the gospel of Matthew because it was written by the apostle of the same name. The style of the book is exactly what would be expected of a man who was once a tax collector. Matthew has a keen interest in accounting (Matthew 18:23-24; 25:14-15). Matthew is very orderly and concise. Rather than write in chronological order, Matthew arranges this book through six discussions.
As a tax collector, Matthew possessed a skill that makes his writing all the more exciting for Christians. Tax collectors were expected to be able to write in a form of shorthand, which essentially meant that Matthew could record a person’s words as they spoke, word for word. For example, the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in chapters 5-7, is almost certainly a perfect recording of that great message.
When(ish) was it written?
As an apostle, Matthew wrote the gospel of Matthew in the early period of the church, probably in AD 55-65. This was a time when most Christians were Jewish converts, so Matthew’s focus on Jewish perspective in this gospel is understandable.
Why was it written?
Matthew intends to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. More than any other, the gospel of Matthew quotes the Old Testament to show how Jesus fulfilled the words of the Jewish prophets. Matthew describes in detail the lineage of Jesus from David, and uses many forms of speech that Jews would have been comfortable with. Matthew’s love and concern for his people is apparent through his meticulous approach to telling the Gospel story.
Some Key Verses
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
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
– Matthew 5:43-44
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
– Matthew 6:9-13
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
– Matthew 16:26
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:37-40
And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
– Matthew 27:31
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
– Matthew 28:5-6
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
– Matthew 28:19-20
A quick Summary
Matthew discusses the lineage, birth, and early life of Christ in the first two chapters. From there, the book discusses the ministry of Jesus. The descriptions of Christ’s teachings are arranged around “discourses” such as the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 through 7. Chapter 10 involves the mission and purpose of the disciples; chapter 13 is a collection of parables; chapter 18 discusses the church; chapter 23 begins a discourse about hypocrisy and the future. Chapters 21 through 27 discuss the arrest, torture, and execution of Jesus. The final chapter describes the Resurrection and the Great Commission.
Old Testament Ties
Because Matthew’s purpose is to present Jesus Christ as the King and Messiah of Israel, he quotes from the Old Testament more than any of the other three gospel writers. Matthew quotes more than 60 times from prophetic passages of the Old Testament, demonstrating how Jesus fulfilled them. He begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Him back to Abraham, the forefather of the Jews. From there, Matthew quotes extensively from the prophets, frequently using the phrase “as was spoken through the prophet(s)” (Matthew 1:22-23, 2:5-6, 2:15, 4:13-16, 8:16-17, 13:35, 21:4-5). These verses refer to the Old Testament prophecies of His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), His return from Egypt after the death of Herod (Hosea 11:1), His ministry to the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2; 60:1-3), His miraculous healings of both body and soul (Isaiah 53:4), His speaking in parables (Psalm 78:2), and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9).
What does this mean?
Matthew is an excellent introduction to the core teachings of Christianity. The logical outline style makes it easy to locate discussions of various topics. Matthew is especially useful for understanding how the life of Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
Matthew’s intended audience was his fellow Jews, many of whom—especially the Pharisees and Sadducees—stubbornly refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. In spite of centuries of reading and studying the Old Testament, their eyes were blinded to the truth of who Jesus was. Jesus rebuked them for their hard hearts and their refusal to recognize the One they had supposedly been waiting for (John 5:38-40). They wanted a Messiah on their own terms, one who would fulfill their own desires and do what they wanted Him to do. How often do we seek God on our own terms? Don’t we reject Him by ascribing to Him only those attributes we find acceptable, the ones that make us feel good—His love, mercy, grace—while rejecting those we find objectionable—His wrath, justice, and holy anger? We dare not make the mistake of the Pharisees, creating God in our own image and then expecting Him to live up to our standards. Such a god is nothing more than an idol. The Bible gives us more than enough information about the true nature and identity of God and Jesus Christ to warrant our worship and our obedience.
Take a few minutes to read aloud Matthew 4:1-11. What questions do you have? What “next step” are you considering as a result of your interaction with God’s Word?
How do you see the baptism of Jesus (especially the declaration of his sonship) and his temptation in the wilderness linked? In what way is the Holy Spirit involved in both?
Reading verses 3-9 again, identify as a group the three key ways in which the devil tempted Jesus. What is at the heart of each of these temptations? How do we see the same type of temptations manifest in our lives?
Identify as a group how Jesus responded to each of the temptations. Identify and discuss each of the Scriptures that he quotes to the devil.
How might we better equip ourselves with the Word of God so that we are ready to respond in the face of temptation?
Finally, please spend some time specifically praying for spiritual protection.