Matthew’s account of the gospel is placed first among the other New Testament books and was one of the most popular books in the early church. It presents a clear and thorough account of who Jesus is and what he accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. At the heart of Matthew’s account is the identification of Jesus Christ as the true King of the universe who ushers in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew’s Gospel also gives us a clear picture of discipleship, with all of Jesus’ radical demands on his followers amid a hostile world.
While each of the four Gospels draws attention to how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, Matthew’s account is the most explicitly and thoroughly Jewish. Additionally, while Matthew shares a lot of the same material with Mark and Luke, he organizes the material somewhat differently. While there is a broad chronological progression to Matthew’s Gospel, he intentionally groups various teachings and events together in order to create a more “thematic” presentation.
The story of the Bible is the story of the world. Beginning with the goodness of creation (Genesis 1-2), it soon progresses to humanity’s rejection of God and the subsequent curse of this world (Genesis 3). The Old Testament is largely focused on the development of God’s promise to reconcile sinners to himself and restore all that is broken. The Old Testament ends in the middle of this story, longing for a resolution and the fulfillment of this promise.
In their own unique way, each of the four Gospels demonstrates that Jesus fulfills these profound, ancient longings. Matthew’s Gospel is the one most explicitly focused on how Jesus is the long-awaited King who came to restore the goodness of creation by bringing in God’s kingdom. This long-awaited restoration is...
Looking backward, Matthew picks up the storyline of the Old Testament and shows how Jesus brings it to fulfillment in himself. Looking forward, Matthew ends his Gospel by propelling the church out into the world to take the gospel to all nations so that the reign of King Jesus is further expanded over all creation.
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17).
It appears that the author was Matthew (also known as Levi), a former tax collector who became one of the 12 disciples (see Matt. 9:9). Matthew probably wrote this account of the gospel in the late 50s or early 60s AD. Since he was a Galilean Jewish Christian, he knew the Old Testament Scriptures well and was thus able to interpret the words and actions of Jesus in light of the Old Testament storyline and promises.
The Gospel was likely written for a number of reasons and addressed to various types of people. With its topical breadth and orderly presentation of Christ’s ministry, it becomes a basic course in discipleship for everyone who reads it, and clearly Matthew planned that it should. Because of the prevalence of Jewish themes, it was probably written with Jewish-Christians in particular in view. For these Christians, Matthew’s Gospel provides instruction about who Jesus is and his Jewish antecedents, how he fulfills the promises of the Old Testament, what he accomplished in his death and resurrection, and how to live as his people. This account would encourage them in their identity as the true people of God who follow the true King of the world. Judging by the ending of the book, one of Matthew’s central purposes is also to encourage the church to be on mission, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations even amid great hostility.
Read over the outline above and take several minutes to flip through the Gospel of Matthew, scanning its contents. What are a few things you expect this account of the gospel to highlight from the life and ministry of Jesus?
Have you read through or studied the gospel of Matthew before? If so, what particular aspects are you looking forward to studying in more detail? If not, what are a few things you hope to better understand about Jesus?
After reading this introduction, what is your understanding of how Matthew’s Gospel relates to the Old Testament?
From your previous reading of Matthew or your initial exposure in this study, are there aspects of this book that confuse you? Do you have any specific questions that you hope to have answered through this study?
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Take a moment to ask God to speak to you through the book of Matthew, giving you fresh conviction, encouragement, and a transformed heart and life.