Matthew 1: “Introduction”

Welcome to the book of Matthew! With 28 chapters total we will be in this book for the next month together. Although we started this experience in January with reading the Gospel of Luke, it’s important that we don’t skip over anything due to Matthews unique perspective on the Jesus narrative.

Like before, below is helpful information I found in Fee and Stuarts Book, “How to Read the Bible Book by Book:”

Orienting Information for Matthew

  • Content: the story of Jesus, including large blocks of teaching, from the announcement of his birth to the commissioning of the disciples to make disciples of the Gentiles
  • Author: anonymous; Papias (ca. a.d. 125) attributes “the first Gospel” to the apostle Matthew; scholarship is divided
  • Date: unknown (since he used Mark, very likely written in the 70s or 80s)
  • Recipients: unknown; but almost certainly Jewish Christians with a commitment to the Gentile mission, most commonly thought to have lived in and around Antioch of Syria
  • Emphases: Jesus is the Son of God, the (messianic) King of the Jews; Jesus is God present with us in miraculous power; Jesus is the church’s Lord; the teaching of Jesus has continuing importance for God’s people; the gospel of the kingdom is for all peoples—Jew and Gentile alike

Specific Advice for Reading Matthew

You cannot easily miss Matthew’s way of tying the story of Jesus to that of Israel, since it is so direct and upfront. Jesus belongs to the genealogy of Israel’s royal line, and he fulfills all kinds of prophetic messianic expectations. Note how often (eleven times in all) Matthew editorializes, “This was to fulfill what was said [spoken] through the prophet(s).” Moreover, Jesus’ ministry and teaching presuppose the authoritative nature of the Old Testament law (5:17–48), and during his earthly ministry, Jesus focuses on the “lost sheep of Israel” (10:6).

This interweaving of themes suggests that the Gospel was written at a time when church and synagogue were now separated and were in conflict over who is in the true succession of the Old Testament promises. Matthew’s way of answering this issue is by telling the story of Jesus, who “fulfills” every kind of Jewish messianic hope and expectation: After his birth as “king of the Jews” (2:2), he is honored (worshiped) by Eastern royal figures; at his birth, baptism, and transfiguration he is signaled as God’s Son; his virgin birth fulfills Isaiah 7:14 that “God is with us” (cf. 12:6, 41,42; 28:20); he dies as “THE KING OF THE JEWS,” 27:37; and is acknowledged as “Son of God” by the Roman centurion (27:54). At the same time Matthew also recognizes Jesus as Isaiah’s suffering servant (20:28) and extends this recognition to include his whole ministry, including his healings (8:17) and the opposition (12:17–21).

For Matthew, Jesus is the center of everything, and those who follow him not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom—the coming of God’s mercy to sinners—but they are also expected to live like him (7:15–23). And when they have success in their own proclamation of the kingdom, especially among Gentiles, they are to make disciples of them by teaching them to observe the way of Jesus (28:19–20), both in their individual lives (chs. 5–7) and in their church communities (ch. 18). Matthew almost certainly intends his Gospel to serve as the manual for such instruction!

Reader’s Digest Bible

In 1982 the famed publication, Reader’s Digest, set out to create a more reader friendly version of the Bible. During their preparation they deemed some passages of scripture to be “unnecessary,” one of those being the genealogies of Jesus. Although for many of us the genealogies are boring and “just a bunch of names,” there is significant information communicated here about Jesus’ family tree.

Out of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke are the only two that include the genealogies of Jesus; they’re also the only two gospels that go back and start Jesus’ story from his birth. If we don’t read the genealogies of Jesus we forfeit the ability to notice that Matthew breaks with Jewish tradition and custom and mentions the names of four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (who is the one to whom the pronoun “her” in verse six refers). This may seem insignificant, but it was contrary to Jewish practice to name women in a genealogy.

So do yourself a favor today, read the genealogy, you just might see a name or a recall a story that is significant to the event of Jesus’ birth.