The Gospel of Matthew was written by a former tax collector who, predictably, uses more terms for coinage in his Gospel than any of the other Gospel writers. The twice-repeated From then on, Jesus began . . . (4:17; 16:21) creates a helpful trifold framework for the book in which Matthew introduces Jesus (1:1-4:16), unfolds Jesus’ ministry of preaching and healing until Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ (4:17-16:20), and then transitions toward the death, resurrection, and final events of Jesus’ earthly ministry (16:21-28:20). Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised messianic King. The kingdom has drawn near (4:17) because the King is present!
Jesus as the Messianic king
Several features in Matthew emphasize Jesus as the Messianic king.
- The genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1 deliberately accentuates David. The genealogy is laid out in three sets of fourteen: from Abraham to David, from David to Babylon, and from Babylon to Christ (1:17). The structure suggests that Jesus Christ embodies the revival of David’s kingdom after its tragic collapse at the hands of Babylon.
- Jesus is referred to as the “Son of David” ten times, far more than in any other of the Gospels (1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42). Matthew even opens in a way that puts Jesus’ Davidic descent in the limelight (1:1).
- Matthew 2 depicts the birth of Jesus as the birth of the king of the Jews (2:1).
- Jesus calls Himself king in the Olivet Discourse (25:34, 40).
- Matthew uses Christ’s favorite self-designation “Son of man” 32 times, more than any other Gospel. This term “Son of man” comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel (7:13) and, somewhat surprisingly, occurs in a context of the Messiah’s receiving a kingdom. Jesus is Daniel’s Son of man who will receive a kingdom, and Matthew is not ashamed to quote Jesus’ allusions to Himself in this way. In fact, Matthew, most clearly of all the Gospels, identifies the angels as belonging to the Son of man (13:41; 16:27; 24:31), suggesting He is deity.
Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophecies
A key purpose of Matthew in writing his Gospel seems to be to prove to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah. Matthew repeatedly tells a detail in his Gospel, cites an Old Testament passage, and then explicitly comments on how the detail he mentioned fulfilled that passage. He does this far more than any of the other gospels. Some of the fifteen-plus examples one encounters in his Gospel include Christ’s virgin birth (1:22-23), His birth in Bethlehem (2:5-6), His exile in Egypt (2:15), His being called a Nazarene (2:23), His bearing our infirmities (8:16-17), and many, many others.
Jesus as preparing His subjects for His kingdom
Matthew includes five of Jesus’ discourses:
- Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7)
- Apostles’ commissioning (ch. 10)
- Kingdom parables (ch. 13)
- Assorted themes (ch. 18)
- Olivet Discourse (chs. 24-25).
Jesus’ authority is universal and encompasses all nations
Each of the four gospels has some form of the Great Commission but Matthew’s is the best known and most quoted. Matthew makes clear that the Great Commission rests upon Jesus’ universal authority. His consummate authority over heaven and earth is what gives us the right and duty to urge all nations to become His followers. And all these followers are to fully obey all that He has commanded. That’s authority. But after all, He is the King!
Christ’s promised presence (28:20) to those who make proclaiming His authority their primary business brings us as readers full circle. In Matthew 1, Christ’s birth is the coming of Immanuel--God with us (1:23). Matthew’s closing words are Christ’s: “And, behold, I personally am with you always until the end of the age.” Immanuel has not left us but is rather with us as our constant companion until the time to proclaim Him to the nations is over.
Have you experienced Immanuel’s presence in your Great Commission work?
- What was Matthew’s occupation before becoming a disciple of Jesus and how does his background manifest itself in his Gospel?
- What is the chief emphasis in His Gospel?
- What four themes in Matthew all work together to present Jesus as the promises messianic King?
- How does the term “Son of man” relate to Jesus’ claim to be the messianic King?
- Approximately how many fulfilled prophecies does Matthew record in his Gospel?
- In what ways is Jesus’ kingdom different from normal kingdoms?
- According to Matthew, the Great Commission rests upon what truth about Jesus?
- In what sense does Matthew bring his readers full circle? (Compare 1:23; 28:20.)
- Have you ever experienced Christ’s presence in your Great Commission work?