Matthew is the first Gospel and the first book of the New Testament. The word “Gospel” means “Good News,” and the Good News is, of course, the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Although the author of Matthew is not totally certain, most scholars agree that it was written by Matthew, the former tax collector and disciple of Jesus, who is also referred to as Levi.

Matthew is considered the most “Jewish Gospel” in that it was written by a Jew (Matthew) to Jews to show them that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. But though the book of Matthew was written to a predominantly Jewish audience, it keeps Gentiles, or non-Jewish people, in mind. There are several stories about Gentiles throughout Matthew’s Gospel to show that Jesus came to rescue all people.

Matthew is structured with an introduction and conclusion, with five main sections in between. These five main sections are a reflection of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.

Chapters 1 through 3 are designed to connect the Old and New Testaments. These introductory chapters set up Matthew’s “case” that proves Jesus is the Messiah.

In chapters 4 through 7, Jesus teaches on God’s Kingdom, including His Sermon on the Mount, which teaches what a relationship with God and others looks like in this Kingdom.

Then, in chapters 8 through 10, Jesus gives the people real-world examples of the power of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus performs healings and other miracles to show the transformative power of His grace. And He asserts that living in this Kingdom of healing and hope is only possible by following Him.

But following Jesus comes at a cost. Chapters 11 and 12 show that Jesus was accepted by many, but He also was rejected, especially by the religious leaders of the time. And in chapter 13, Jesus teaches others more about the Kingdom of God by telling several parables.

Chapters 14 through 20 mark a shift in Jesus’ ministry. Many people, including the religious leaders and even some of Jesus’ disciples, believed the Messiah was supposed to be a mighty, victorious king, who would strike down oppressive pagans.

But Jesus shows His disciples that rather than conquering evil by force, He must humbly serve, suffer and die so that sin and evil can be defeated. And He teaches that in God’s Kingdom, His followers must have the same, humble, others-focused attitude.

Chapters 21 to 25 give an account of Jesus’ last week before His death. The religious leaders plot to kill Jesus because they don’t believe He is the Messiah. In response, Jesus calls out the religious leaders for their corruption and hypocrisy and begins His final teachings, many of which are parables about the final judgment and the end of the world.

And finally, in chapters 26 to 28, Jesus shows the world how truly surprising God’s Kingdom is. His arrest, trial and death might have seemed like failures, but His death was the defeat of sin. And His glorious resurrection, the defeat of death.

The book ends with Jesus’ Great Commission, a charge to those who follow Jesus to go into all the world and share the Good News.

THEMES

Jesus is the Jewish Messiah: There is an ongoing tension in Matthew over whether or not Jesus really is the Messiah. The book sets out to confirm that Jesus is who He says He is.

Jesus is the “new Moses”: In the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the author draws several parallels between Jesus and Moses, like Jesus’ return to Israel after escaping to Egypt and the Exodus; Jesus’ baptism and Moses parting the Red Sea; Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness and Moses wandering in the wilderness for 40 years; and Jesus giving the law from a mountain and Moses receiving the law from God on a mountain. This parallel is further expounded in the five blocks of teaching throughout the book, which reflect the five books of the Torah.

Jesus is Immanuel: The name Immanuel comes from Isaiah 7 and is Hebrew for, “God with us.” Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shows through His teaching and miracles, and the ultimate miracle of His death and resurrection, that He is God come to earth to reconcile us to Himself.

KEY PASSAGES

Matthew 4:17, 11:28-30, 16:13-28 and

28:19-20

HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?

Matthew is the first account in the Bible of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it offers the perspective of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Though it was written with a Jewish audience in mind, Matthew’s Gospel reveals to all people that Jesus is the long-awaited Savior.