This is our last section in our ‘Introduction to the Bible’ series that started with Jesus from the Gospel of John who was the light of the world, and who was also the Word. This was our Jesus who was around from the first creative moment. John told us that Jesus became like one of us – flesh and blood and lived among us. We also studied the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel (section 6) – the social pioneer – who brings good news to the poor. We also understand Jesus to be God’s predicted chosen one – the Messiah.
In this section, through the Gospel of Matthew, we look at Jesus as the anticipated Messiah come to the people of Israel. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience and he focuses on the fulfillment of the prophecies from the Hebrew/Jewish scriptures. Matthew includes more Old Testament allusions and quotations than any other New Testament author. There are some key telltale signs of Matthew’s Jewish readership:
- Lack of explanation of Jewish customs.
- Use of Jewish terminology e.g., “kingdom of heaven” rather than “kingdom of God”. Jewish tradition avoids the use of the name of God. Compare Matthew 4:17 & Mark 1:15; and Matthew 5:3, 10 & Luke 6:20, 22
- Jesus’ role as “Son of David” follows God’s covenant to establish David’s kingdom – read 2 Samuel 7:11-13.
- Many references to Old Testament prophecies being “fulfilled”. Read some these prophetic Old Testament “fulfillment” verses:
- Matthew 1:22 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” / read the citation from Isaiah 7:14. Note that the other Gospel writers do not call Jesus Emmanuel – which means ‘God is with us’.
- Matthew 2:16 “When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.”/ Jeremiah 31:15
- Matthew 2:14-15 As Herod plans to murder all the babies, Joseph acts to follow God’s command. “Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.” / Hosea 11:1.
- Matthew 12:15-16 Jesus is a healer. “Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known.” / Isaiah 42:1-4
- Matthew 13:10-14 “Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, … ‘The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” / Isaiah 6:8-10
- Matthew 21:2 “Jesus said, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.” / Zechariah 9:9
Also, Matthew’s Gospel contains five great discourses:
- Chapters 5–7; The Sermon on the Mount – major teachings of Jesus starting with the beatitudes; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- Chapter 10; The Mission Discourse – Jesus instructs the Twelve Apostles
- Chapter 13; The teachings in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven
- Chapter 18; The Future church – with the general theme about the future community of followers
- 24–25. Discourse on the End Times – “When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them …” (Matthew 24:3) What follows is Jesus’ longest response to any statement or question. It includes “the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the End Times and Second Coming of Christ”. Note 2.
Each discourse concludes with, “When Jesus had finished saying these things,” or similar words (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). Why five discourses? Maybe Matthew structures his book on the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Jewish scriptures – Torah /Law) to show his Jewish readers that in Jesus there is a new Torah/Law and that Jesus is a new and greater Moses. Moses was one the major Jewish faith heroes who led the people from slavery to freedom. Matthew is saying that Jesus is the new faith hero for the Jewish people to lead them into a new freedom.
With the scriptures of old coming to fulfillment in Jesus the Christ, this is a fitting close to our ‘Introduction to the Bible’. Remember there is so much more in the Bible than we could cover in 11 sections with only 2 or three pages per section. Keep studying, keep reading. But most of all, share this story of God in Jesus – our savour. Hopefully with this introduction you might find the words if you encounter someone who is new to the faith and the bible. Remember the young man I spoke with who came to faith and was baptised a few months after I started talking with him about our sacred book.
References & Notes:
- Note 1: See Mark Shea’s blog
- Note 2: Five Discourses of Matthew
- The “Kingdom of heaven” versus the “Kingdom of God”… Two kingdoms, or one?
- Matthew -Introduction from the NIV Study Bible
- Matthew’s Use of the Term “Fulfilled” – By Wayne Jackson
- Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus Christ: by Rick Reinckens