Matthew, one of the original 12 apostles, provides a view of the life and ministry of Christ. He helps the reader come to know Jesus as the promised Messiah.
The book of Matthew provides us with many long teachings of Jesus. Matthew’s record of the message and ministry of Jesus comes from a Jewish perspective as he demonstrates how Jesus was the Promised Seed, the Promised Messiah and the seed of King David. Matthew makes it plain that Jesus is the King of the Jews.
Matthew was a tax collector. When he was chosen by Jesus to be one of His apostles, Matthew left this prominent and well-paying profession. Those appointed to be tax collectors had a job for life. But Matthew was a wonderful and powerful example of leaving the old man behind and turning totally to follow Jesus Christ.
Matthew is referred to as Levi in Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27. It is likely that he was from the tribe of Levi. As a Levite and a tax collector, he would not have been a person the Jewish community looked up to with respect, since tax collectors more often than not exacted exorbitant taxes from travelers. Jesus mentioned tax collectors along with immoral people in Matthew 21:31.
Still Jesus chose Matthew to follow Him.
As a Levite and a tax collector, Matthew would have known and been conversant in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. He lived in Capernaum, a city on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee that had a major highway, the Via Maris, passing through it. People from many nations would pass through Capernaum, as this highway extended from the Middle East to Egypt. Commerce and, unfortunately, armies used the Via Maris for hundreds of years.
The book of Matthew is one of three New Testament books often called the Synoptic Gospels. Along with Mark and Luke, Matthew records a “similar view” of the life, ministry and message of Jesus Christ. Being similar, however, does not discount the important special features and records that each man was inspired by God to record.
As in the other three books known as the Gospels, Matthew provides several long discourses or teachings of Christ. His emphasis is the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was the representative of the Kingdom, which had its authority from heaven. The phrase kingdom of heaven is used 33 times in Matthew, and it establishes that Jesus’ message was about a Kingdom that had authority on earth through Jesus during His earthly ministry. That authority continues to this day through the Church Jesus is the Head of.
William Barclay writes: “First and foremost, Matthew is the gospel which was written for the Jews. It was written by a Jew in order to convince Jews” (The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, revised edition, 1975, p. 5). Although written with the Jewish community in mind, the Gospel of Matthew—like all books in the Bible—is for all people for all times. Matthew intended to show that the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the coming Messiah were being fulfilled in Jesus Christ and that all messianic prophecies would be fulfilled through Him.
Matthew’s account of the life and ministry of Christ has special emphasis on God’s law, prophecy and the Church.Matthew’s account of the life and ministry of Christ has special emphasis on God’s law, prophecy and the Church. Barclay writes: “Matthew is especially interested in the Church. It is in fact the only one of the Synoptic Gospels which uses the word Church at all” (p. 7). We can note Matthew’s references to the Church in Matthew 16:13-20 and 18:17.
Outline of Matthew
It is interesting to note the double outline found in Matthew.
One observed outline is biographical in nature and is similar in framework to Mark and Luke. It refers to how the Messiah (the Son of David) fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures. In Matthew the story flow changes from one part of Jesus’ life and ministry to another by the use of the phrase from that time (see Matthew 4:17 and 16:21).
A second outline in Matthew is topical. There are five blocks of material grouped around a dominant theme, and each block ends with the phrase when Jesus had finished. These blocks of material end in the following scriptures: 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1.
These five blocks, plus an introduction (1:1-4:11) and a conclusion (including the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ), make up seven divisions in this outline, followed by an epilogue.
Merrill C. Tenney provides a useful outline with the seven divisions in his book, New Testament Survey, 1953, p. 145.
1. The prophecies of the Messiah realized (1:1-4:11).
2. The principles of the Messiah announced (4:12-7:29).
3. The power of the Messiah revealed (8:1-11:1).
4. The program of the Messiah explained (11:2-13:53).
5. The purpose of the Messiah declared (13:54-19:2).
6. The problems of the Messiah presented (19:3-26:2).
7. The passion of the Messiah accomplished (26:3-28:10).
8. Epilogue (28:11-20).
Major discourses in Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew provides us with the following discourses vital to our understanding:
1. Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).
2. Commission to the 12 disciples before they were sent out the first time (chapter 10).
3. Parables of the Kingdom (chapter 13).
4. Spiritual necessity for humility and forgiveness (chapter 18).
5. Condemnation of religious hypocrisy (chapter 23).
6. Olivet Prophecy (chapters 24-25).
7. The commission to the Church—the Great Commission (28:19-20).
Matthew became a totally committed and converted man to God our Father and Jesus Christ His Son.
One powerful and insightful scripture that Matthew records for us to make a part of our own lives is given in Matthew 19:28-29: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.’”
Matthew and you
Matthew left his “old life,” as we have the opportunity to leave our past. Matthew will rule with Christ and inherit eternal life, and the book he wrote under God’s inspiration can be a major help and encouragement to us and to all who read, commit to and are converted to God and His way of life.
Learn more about this process in our free booklet Change Your Life!
For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” on the Learning Center.