The writer of Matthew doesn’t identify himself explicitly, although we presume him to be the converted tax-collector (Matt 9:9), consistent with the early profane writings. Recent critics question the proximity of the gospel’s author to the events described. Ironically they reject Israel’s Messiah just as Matthew describes the Jewish nation doing. If only they spent the time understanding God’s Word instead of trying to undermine it. Soon the foolishness of their so-called knowledge will be openly exposed.

Matthew appears to have aimed his testimony at Jewish readers. The gospel shows the Lord Jesus as the promised king, the Messiah. To aid the acceptance and understanding of the Jewish reader, Matthew emphasises the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies and allusions. While the tally varies depending on the commentator, there are approximately 65 references to the Old Testament. As we, too, should be people of the Book, and finding these should provide a rich vein of inquiry for us as we traverse the gospel in the course of the readings.

Overview

Initial Revelation

Matthew 1 to 4 The King born, prepared and announced to the nation
Matthew 5 to 7 The royal proclamation and preaching
Matthew 8–11:14 Demonstrating and proclaiming his authority with miracles
Opposition Grows

Matthew 11:15–12:45 Judgement on the faithless as opposition commences
The limited understanding and faith of his family, the masses and disciples Matthew 12:46–14:50
Matthew 15–16:12 Opposition of Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees
Matthew 16:13–18:35 Teaching the faithful
The Passover

Matthew 19 to 20 Journey to Jerusalem
Matthew 21:1–17 Triumphant entry
Matthew 21:18–23 Teaching in the Temple and silencing all his opponents
Matthew 24 and 25 The Olivet Prophecy and discourse
Matthew 26 Betrayal and arrest
Matthew 27 Crucifixion
Matthew 28 Christ’s resurrection and revelation

Key Ideas

Matthew begins by asserting that Jesus was the son of David and of Abraham and continues this emphasis. Consistent with this opening are two of the key ideas in the gospel.

1 “The kingdom of heaven”

This phrase occurs 32 times in Matthew’s gospel. The Lord invited his nation to participate in the coming Kingdom and commanded his disciples to do the same. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”, was the pronouncement (Matt 10:7). However, as the gospel progresses, it is evident the nation will not accept their inheritance. Rather than be gathered under the wings of the Lord, the nation rejected him and as a consequence were judged and condemned.

The coming reinstatement of the Kingdom of heaven on earth will come as a shock to the world and the harlot churches. The Gentile world around us is increasingly full of hard ground where the seed of the Word cannot penetrate. Natural Israel continues in unbelief, ignorant of her true hope. However, we know the Kingdom of heaven will not be denied nor delayed. The opportunity we have to read the gospel enables us to heed the Lord’s warning and as wise virgins have oil in our lamps when he comes.

2 “The king”

Matthew commences by linking Christ back to David (1:1). Here is the Messiah, the promised seed who had the right to sit upon the overturned throne of David. The wickedness of the nation and her princes had led to it being overthrown (Ezek 21:25–27).

Matthew alone records the visit of the wise men and their testimony regarding the special child born “King of the Jews”. Through the record, the royal power of the Lord is recorded culminating in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the meek King (Zech 9:14). The Lord’s prophecy on Mount Olivet provides the balance to this picture with the Lord coming in power and great glory to judge the nations. However, in his first appearing as the rejected Messiah, he is crucified under the placard “King of the Jews”!

There is an aspect of Jesus’ kingship which seems to be particularly emphasised in Matthew. Nine times the phrase “son of David” is used concerning Jesus in Matthew (cp three times in Mark and Luke). The expression is usually included in a plea for mercy, specifically healing. One aspect of David’s throne is shepherding – that is, care and protecting of the weak. This emerges in Matthew in the following ways:

  • twice the Lord says he is sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel
  • he has compassion on the multitude who are like sheep without a shepherd
  • twice the Lord provides a miraculous meal for the multitude who had nothing
  • the Lord specifically refers to his death as the smiting of the shepherd
  • in judgement the Lord sits as a shepherd dividing sheep and goats
  • four times Matthew records Jesus as healing the multitude – like a shepherd caring for the weak in the flock.
  • The Jewish expectations of Messiah were for a warrior king, a son of David to free them from Rome. God provided instead a saviour shepherd, a son of David to save them from sin and death.

As we read through the gospel we see both aspects of the Lord. Before us is shown one made like us, who suffered and was tempted, but prevailed. We understand that as our high priest and shepherd he is able to succour and care for us – even as we wait for the day when he shall also appear as the great King.