Matthew: The Voice of the King
Key Verse: Chapter 2:2
“Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”
The Author and His Peculiarities
It has long been beyond all doubt that Matthew, the disciple of Christ, was the author of this Gospel, even though there is no claim in the narrative that this was the case. Early Christian writers who had connections with the first generation of believers were quite clear on this matter and their testimony is credible. Therefore the title, attributing the work to Matthew is no mistake.
Matthew was the tax collector of Capernaum, whom Jesus called out of his office to be a disciple. While he is one of the less well known apostles his contribution to the Christian Church is immense. As a servant of Rome he would have attained a reasonable standard of education. As well as being fluent in Aramaic, the language of Judea, he would have been a Greek speaker, the international language of commerce and literature. As a tax collector, who probably was fairly senior being located in an office, Matthew would have been an accurate record keeper and note taker. This gave him valuable literary gifts which prepared him for the authoring of the first of the New Testament books. It is highly likely that Matthew was constantly making brief records of Jesus’ sermons and miracles keeping a diary or journal which he later made use of in the writing of the first New Testament book.
Matthew was a Jew, albeit treacherous in the eyes of his fellow countrymen. His Hebrew name was Levi but Christ gave him a new name, Matthew. While Mark and Luke use his Hebrew name when relating the story of his call, Matthew never once refers to himself as Levi. This is an indication that he left his past behind preferring to magnify the grace of God which was symbolised by the name Christ gave to him.
It should be no surprise that Matthew showed more interest in money than any of the other evangelists. Mark for example refers to three coins only; the mite, the farthing and the penny which were the smallest pieces of currency. Luke talks about the mite and the farthing and also pounds. Matthew, however, writes about the talent (worth 60 times the value of a pound) and refers to gold and silver. Indeed Matthew emphasises pieces of currency which were of greater value. He shows greater precision as one who was expert at handling money in his former career. In Matthew 22:19 he uses the word “tribute” whereas Mark uses the term penny (12:15). It is Matthew alone who records the miracle of the coin found in the mouth of the fish. Matthew also is the only evangelist to refer to debt (18:27-32), to account taking (word reckon 18:24) and to the exchangers (25:27).
Matthew’s Place in the New Testament
Matthew is almost certainly, by common consensus not the first of the Gospels to be completed. That accolade generally is given to Mark. If that was the case why did the Church place Matthew first in the annals of the New Testament? The answer lies in the strong Jewish nature of Matthew’s account. Of all the Gospels, it is this narrative which is most strongly linked to the Old Testament. While Malachi helps to detach the reader from the Old Testament, with the coming of the messenger prophesied, so Matthew draws the reader into the New Testament narrative from a strongly Jewish perspective.
Writing to a largely Hebrew readership, Matthew was concerned that he should in the first place prove that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. He did so by tracing the family tree of Joseph, the head of the home, into which Jesus was born. This genealogy shows plainly that Jesus was in the line of the Kings and was not only the son of Abraham but the son of David. In this, the only Gospel to begin with a genealogy, Matthew is instantly declaring that Jesus Christ is the rightful King of the Jews. As a mathematician, however, Matthew was also fascinated by the numbers which made this family up. The family lineage of Jesus could be traced through three sets of 14 generations. With 14 being a multiple of 7, the complete number, Christ was presented as one who alone can complete Israel and indeed humanity.
As one writing to win over the Hebrew people we would expect numerous Old Testament references in Matthew’s record. We are not disappointed. Graham Scroggie listed 56 direct Old Testament citations and further 76 occasions where a passage or incident is referred to. Matthew, therefore, is revealed as a man who is deeply familiar with the ancient manuscripts. From the commencement of the New Testament, therefore, we begin to realise that God’s word is being added to. The New is erected upon the foundation laid in the Old.
The Arrangement of Christ’s Parables
Matthew took great care when recording the parables of our Lord. In all he records 40 parables in total. What is evident about these parables is that they are drawn from virtually every aspect of life; domestic, marriage, agricultural, commercial and professional. Proof is it not, that the Church needs to be connected with society to reach society? Christ in his style reached the people in the place where they found themselves.
In the Sermon on the Mount, which Matthew alone records in its totality, there are 8 parables, which illustrate Christ’s teaching. From the mountain top, the King presents his rules for those who are the subjects of his kingdom. Yet we must follow its precepts spiritually allowing the Holy Ghost to imprint the truth upon our consciences.
“Hear the Sermon on the Mount, and do it, not from a mere teacher, but from the Saviour who died; not from a dead prophet, but ever anew from the living Lord” (Gresham Machen, “The New Testament”).
Chapter 13 contains a collection of 8 lessons which are the Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven. The parable of the sower introduces this discourse and it is apparent that our Lord is speaking of the Church and the power of the Word of God through its ministry. The Church is the Kingdom of God on earth today.
Matthew also includes in his account 7 parables of judgement which are exceedingly solemn, The Unmerciful Servant (18:23-25), Labourers in the Vineyard (20:1-16), the Wicked Husbandmen (21:33-41), the Guest without the Wedding Garment (22:10-14), the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (24:45-51), the Wise and Foolish Virgins (25:1-13) and the Talents (25:14-30).
The eleven parables which are found alone in Matthew’s Gospel are; The Wheat and the Tares (13:3-23), the Hid Treasure (13:44), The Pearl of Great Price (13:45-46), the Dragnet (13:47-50), The Householder (13:51-52)), The Unmerciful Servant (18:23-35), The Labourers in the Vineyard (20:1-16), The Two Sons (21:28-32), The Marriage of the King’s Son, (22:1-14), The Ten Virgins (25:1-13), The Talents (25:14-30).
The Presentation of Christ’s Miracles
It is clear that our Lord produced many more miracles than those described by the apostles. Matthew in common with the other evangelists, made a selection under the promptings of the Holy Ghost to illustrate the variety of our Lord’s astonishing works. Matthew recorded 20 miracles of which only 3 are unique to his record; Healing of the Two Blind Men (9:27-31), Deliverance of the Dumb Demoniac (9:32-33) and the Finding of the Coin in the Fish’s Mouth (17:24-27). The miracles recorded by Matthew can be classified using the following formula:
Christ’s Power over Human Sickness, 8 (e.g. Peter’s Mother-in-Law). Christ’s Power over Natural Laws, 7 (e.g. Raising of Jairus’ Daughter) Christ’s Power over Evil Spirits, 5 (e.g. Deliverance of Legion).
A Gospel for Everyone
Although Matthew’s Gospel was directed to the Jews there is clear teaching in his narrative that there is hope through Christ for the Gentiles also. As he compiled the list of Joseph’s ancestors he included three women by name. Two were Gentiles (Rahab and Ruth) and the other, Tamar, committed a terrible moral sin. A fourth woman is alluded to, Bathsheba. She too was guilty of a moral lapse. The breadth of the Gospel’s power therefore is depicted from the outset. Matthew alone tells about the wise men from the east (2:1), he writes about people coming from the east and from the west (8:11-12), he recorded the healing of the Centurion’s Servant (8:5-13) and we hear Christ’s praise, through his pen, for the faith of the Canaanitish woman (15:21-28). In the parable of the Great Feast there is a clear picture of the Church inviting the whole world to embrace the Saviour (22:9-10).
Matthew concludes his summary of Christ’s earthly ministry with the Great Commission where the apostles were sent into the whole world. This is truly a Gospel of Hope.
Chapters 1-4:11 The Preparation for Christ’s Ministry
Chapters 4:12-15:21 The Great Galilean Ministry
Chapters 15:22 – 20 The Retirement Ministry; taking Christ to Tyre and Perea, before returning to Capernaum. He prepared His disciples for His suffering and death at this time.
Chapters 21-27 The Passion Week
Chapter 28 Resurrection and Ascension