Hey, everyone! I’m sorry for the long hiatus in posting here on the blog. These past few months, I feel like I’ve been pouring all my energy into my job as a library services specialist at my local library as we finished renovating and reopened our branch for the first time in 6 months, right in the middle of the summer. To say it’s been busy at my library would be an understatement, and I’ll be honest that I’ve not done much writing outside my Bible study time each morning, which made me think, “Why don’t I share some of the things I’ve been learning over the past few months about Matthew?” It’s something I’ve wrestled for over a month now, because I don’t have a doctorate and spend more of my days helping people attach documents to emails than pouring over lexicons and commentaries.
I think I began my study of Matthew this May, not realizing how deep the dive would be into this rich and incredibly exciting book. I’ve wrestled with end time prophecy, hurt with the anguished Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and been amazed right along with the crowds as I meditated on the upside down nature of what Jesus’ kingdom of heaven entails. I know that I’m barely scratching the surface of the rich complexity of the Old Testament passages woven throughout the entirety of this book, and I know I could probably read this book every single day of the rest of my life and never understand it completely.
So despite the lack of knowledge and my hesitancy in sharing my thoughts, I decided I am going to do so anyway in hopes that at least I make people take another closer look at this first book of the New Testament and try to learn more about Jesus so that we can follow Him better.
So the book of Matthew – who wrote it?
It might seem obvious to those of us who have been Christians for a long time, but it’s important to remember the author of Matthew is in fact Matthew (also known as Levi), one of the twelve disciples called to follow Jesus. We don’t know too much about Matthew beyond the fact that he was once a tax collector who was employed by the Roman government to collect taxes from his fellow Jews and was therefore hated as a traitor by his own people. I can’t help but imagining a 2019 Matthew as being a wealthy billionaire CEO, willing to exploit his fellow Americans to satisfy his own greed. This was the man that Jesus saw sitting on the side of the road, and He loved him and sought this tax collector to be own of His special twelve followers and later a founding Apostle of the early church.
When was the book of Matthew written?
The date for the book of Matthew is a highly contested debate in the scholarly circles, and I’m not going to go into all their reasoning here. (Here’s a good place to start if you’re interested though.) Based on my limited study of the topic, I’m going to say it’s very likely it was sometime in the 60s AD, around 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Why was the book of Matthew written?
Matthew is very upfront about his goal for this gospel narrative. He states that this is the genealogy (the genesis, the source, or origin)of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew is seeking to prove that Jesus is the promised deliverer of His people promised throughout the Old Testament from Genesis 3:15 onward. The word Messiah means “anointed” or “chosen one.” In ancient times, people consecrated for a specific task, like a king, prophet, or priest, would be anointed with oil Matthew specifically narrows in on Jesus being the “son of David,” which fulfills multiple promises made to David and prophecies made to Israel about a king reigning on David’s throne forever. (More on that later!) Matthew also wants to establish that Jesus is the promised son or seed of Abraham through which “all the families of the earth would be blessed.” (Genesis 12) In addition to all this, Matthew wants to demonstrate the response of Israel to their Messiah coming to deliver them in a different way than they anticipated. He highlights the responses of the disciples, the crowds, the chief priests, and several other important characters – with the overall response being the Jews sinfully failed to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and their ultimate rejection of Him by sentencing Him to die on a cross. Finally, Matthew seeks provide teaching and examples for His followers on how to live their lives in the reality of God’s upside down kingdom of heaven, even when the culture around us discourages us or hates us. Following Jesus is more than following a list of moral instructions for life; it is a radical change of heart that upends all your priorities and desires as the Son of Man unshackles your heart from the clutches of the evil one.
What words/phrases should we be paying attention to?
When I did my initial read-throughs of Matthew, I think I had nearly 50 words I saw repeated throughout the book. As I read through the book in more detail, I’ve found even more words and phrases repeated in the gospel narrative to make the author’s point. Narrowing this down to 15 words has been incredibly difficult, but I’ve tried to pick the ones I think have the most overarching impact on Matthew’s book and emphasize the message that Jesus had for the world. I’m sure that I’ve missed some important ones, but these are the ones I plan to emphasize throughout my blog posts:
- Fulfilled in the Scripture/Written/Spoken of by the prophet
- Kingdom of Heaven
- Teach or Preach
- Son of Man
- Father/Father in Heaven
- Crucified/Rise Again
So that’s my feeble introduction to Matthew. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts for the book of Matthew with you all, and I hope that I’m able to encourage you in your own walk with our utterly amazing Savior and Lord Jesus as we seek to know Him more and love Him deeply. Thank you for reading my post, and I’ll be back soon with some notes from chapter 1 soon!