Matthew is the first and longest of the four gospel accounts. The author was Jewish by birth and called to be an apostle of Christ (Matthew 10:1-4). His Greek name is Matthew, his Hebrew name is Levi. Matthew worked as a tax collector for the Roman government among his own people until Jesus called him to be a disciple (Matthew 9:9).
Leon Morris, in his book The Gospel According to St. Luke makes an important observation:
Matthew must have been the richest of the apostles. We should not miss the quiet heroism involved in this. If following Jesus had not worked out for the fishermen, they could have returned to their trade without difficulty. But when Levi walked out of his job he was through. They would surely never take back a man who had simply abandoned his tax office. His following of Jesus was a final commitment.
After he began following Jesus, Matthew hosted a dinner and invited others to meet the Lord (Matthew 9:10-13).
The gospels are very similar in many ways, particularly the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). That said, each writer has a peculiar perspective about Jesus and a distinct audience whom their writing appealed to. Matthew’s work would appeal to the Jewish people. He presents Jesus as the promised Messiah who was to come. Thirteen times in the his gospel account Matthew speaks of the fulfillment of messianic prophecies in Jesus. A key phrased used in his writing is “…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet…” Matthew cites the Old Testament a lot, either directly quoting or alluding to the Law and the Prophets about 65 times.
Among the key items in Matthew’s gospel, we find:
- The genealogy of Jesus. Matthew begins at Abraham, the father of the faithful and works his way to David, the psalmist of Israel and first king from the tribe of Judah. From there, Matthew follows through the royal lineage, demonstrating Jesus’ right as heir to the throne of David.
- The sermon on the mount. Matthew has the longest of Jesus’ sermons on record in his gospel. The sermon looks at several topics (The Beatitudes; Salt & Light; I Say To You; Love & Prayer; Don’t Worry; Judge Not; Ask, Seek, and Knock; God’s Way), but throughout it serves as a great preview of the New Covenant.
- The kingdom parables. Matthew has more kingdom parables than the other gospels. Several times he records Jesus telling His audience, “The kingdom of heaven shall be like…”
- God’s ultimatum to the Jews. Since Jesus is the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for, Matthew’s gospel calls upon them to accept and submit to Him, otherwise they will meet Him in judgment. Matthew presents several judgment scenes in his gospel account.
Key words/phrases in Matthew’s gospel:
- Matthew used the word “kingdom” 50x
- Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of heaven” 33x;
- Matthew identified Jesus as the “son of David” 9x;
- Matthew used the word “king” about Jesus 14x;
- Matthew used the words “righteous” & “righteousness” 19x.
Our next book summary will be of Mark’s gospel…