KING JESUS: Overview of Matthew's Gospel
This week we begin our new spiritual growth series in the Gospel of Matthew, called KING JESUS. Anytime you start into a new book of the Bible it can be very helpful to look at some sort of introductory or overview piece that helps you know what are the main themes and unique elements of this book.
The following is an excerpt from Crossway's Knowing the Bible Series on Matthew by Drew Hunter:
Matthew’s account of the gospel is placed first among the other New Testament books and was one of the most popular books in the early church. It presents a clear and thorough account of who Jesus is and what he accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. At the heart of Matthew’s account is the identification of Jesus Christ as the true King of the universe who ushers in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew’s Gospel also gives us a clear picture of discipleship, with all of Jesus’ radical demands on his followers amid a hostile world.
While each of the four Gospels draws attention to how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, Matthew’s account is the most explicitly and thoroughly Jewish. Additionally, while Matthew shares a lot of the same material with Mark and Luke, he organizes the material somewhat differently. While there is a broad chronological progression to Matthew’s Gospel, he intentionally groups various teachings and events together in order to create a more “thematic” presentation.
Placing It in the Larger Story
The story of the Bible is the story of the world. Beginning with the goodness of creation (Genesis 1-2), it soon progresses to humanity’s rejection of God and the subsequent curse of this world (Genesis 3). The Old Testament is largely focused on the development of God’s promise to reconcile sinners to himself and restore all that is broken. The Old Testament ends in the middle of this story, longing for a resolution and the fulfillment of this promise.
In their own unique way, each of the four Gospels demonstrates that Jesus fulfills these profound, ancient longings. Matthew’s Gospel is the one most explicitly focused on how Jesus is the long-awaited King who came to restore the goodness of creation by bringing in God’s kingdom. This long-awaited restoration is…
- Announced in Jesus’ words as he declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17)
- Pictured in Jesus’ works as he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, calmed storms, cast out demons, and restored people to God through the forgiveness of their sins.
- Accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection, for he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
- Promised to arrive in its fullness in the coming “new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne” (Matt. 19:28).
Looking backward, Matthew picks up the storyline of the Old Testament and shows how Jesus brings it to fulfillment in himself. Looking forward, Matthew ends his Gospel by propelling the church out into the world to take the gospel to all nations so that the reign of King Jesus is further expanded over all creation.
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17).
Date and Historical Background
It appears that the author was Matthew (also known as Levi), a former tax collector who became one of the 12 disciples (see Matt. 9:9). Matthew probably wrote this account of the gospel in the late 50s or early 60s AD. Since he was a Galilean Jewish Christian, he knew the Old Testament Scriptures well and was thus able to interpret the words and actions of Jesus in light of the Old Testament storyline and promises.
The Gospel was likely written for a number of reasons and addressed to various types of people. With its topical breadth and orderly presentation of Christ’s ministry, it becomes a basic course in discipleship for everyone who reads it, and clearly Matthew planned that it should. Because of the prevalence of Jewish themes, it was probably written with Jewish-Christians in particular in view.
For these Christians, Matthew’s Gospel provides instruction about who Jesus is and his Jewish antecedents, how he fulfills the promises of the Old Testament, what he accomplished in his death and resurrection, and how to live as his people. This account would encourage them in their identity as the true people of God who follow the true King of the world. Judging by the ending of the book, one of Matthew’s central purposes is also to encourage the church to be on mission, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations even amid great hostility.
For more helpful resources, make sure to pick up the Growth Group questions in Sunday's bulletin, be in a Growth Group and check back on the blog for guides and further information.