Introduction to Matthew

December 1, 1991
Scott L. Harris

Jesus the Messiah
Introduction to Matthew


This morning we begin a new course of study. We begin an examination of the Gospel according to Matthew. I do not know how long it will take us to go through this wonderful book though I suspect it will be some years. There are too many precious truths in this book to rush through it, and it will take some time to mine out some of the marvelous jewels contained within it.

What is the book about?

It is the Gospel according to Matthew. It is about the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The bad news is that man is separated from God because of his sin and condemned to death. The good news is that Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, came to redeem us from our sins and give us eternal life. The book of Matthew is about Jesus Christ. Who He was and is, how He came, why He came, what He taught, how He lived, how He died, and how he conquered death to break the bonds of sin for us. The book of Matthew is about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Who is the author?

A hundred and fifty years ago this would not even have been a question that would have been asked for it was universally accepted that it was Matthew the Apostle. However, the authorship of most books have been questioned since the rise of German Higher Criticism in the 19th century. It has become popular among liberal Bible Scholars to play guessing games about who wrote or said what in the Scriptures – especially the gospels. The culmination of all this is a group led by Dr. Robert Funk which gets together semi-annually to vote on the authenticity of specific sayings and parables attributed to Jesus. They plan to publish a Bible in which words they believe Jesus said will be in red, those they think He might have said will be in pink, those that they think He may not have said will be in gray, and those they do not believe He said will be in black. While this may represent the more extreme end of things, even many conservative evangelical scholars have bought into the assumptions that have led to this travesty against truth by saying that the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke are based on the Gospel of Mark and some unknown source of traditions referred to as “Q” (for Quelle). The result has been that Matthew is denied authorship and it is instead attributed to some unknown editor(s) who complied from various sources.

We could spend a long time discussing just this issue, but that is not our purpose this morning. If someone is keenly interested in this subject, I would be happy to give you the pertinent articles. Let me just briefly mention a couple of things to stress that Matthew is the author of this gospel. 1) The so called Synoptic Problem is not solved by the two source theory or giving Mark priority for that leads to the same supposed problems that they want to solve. 2) The title given to the first gospel account as well as the other Gospels are traced back to the earliest scripture manuscripts (Vaticanus, IV) and to the earliest collections of apostolic writings and the apostolic fathers (Irenaeus – 185AD). If the early church had no hesitation in attributing the book directly to Matthew, then neither should we. Christian Historian Eusebius (263-339) indicated that Matthew was the first to write. 3) The wide spread usage of Matthew’s gospel by the early church fathers (the Didache, 110 AD; The Epistle of Barnabas, 120 AD; Ignatius, 110 AD) also indicates an early writing and acceptance of authorship.

Matthew (also called Levi) was one of the apostles. His calling by Jesus is listed in Matt 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27,28. Matthew was a tax-gatherer and as such was hated by the people. Rome demanded a tax from every country they ruled over and high-ranking Romans would bid for the right to collect toll taxes from specified regions at a fixed rate for a fixed time. These were the publicani (publicans). They could keep whatever was above the amount Rome demanded. The publican in turn hired tax-gatherers to work for him under a similar arrangement. The tax-gather would keep any amount above what was demanded by the Publican for whom he worked. The tax-gatherers were usually citizens of the country being taxed and so they were hated as both extortioners and as traitors. The Jews ranked them with the lowest elements of society – sinners and prostitutes (Matthew 9:11; 21:31).

As Jesus was passing by the tax office in Capernum where Matthew was at, (this was usually a table by the side of the road where they collected the toll tax), He called to Matthew and told him to “Follow Me.” Scripture says that Matthew arose, left everything behind and began following Jesus (Luke 5:27,28).

When did he write?

The predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 AD are clearly prophetic so Matthew wrote prior to this date. The phrase “to (or until) this day” occurring in 27:8 & 28:15 indicate that it was sometime after the resurrection, so we conclude it was between 50 and 70 AD, and if Eusibius is accurate about Matthew being the first to write, then it is probably toward the earlier end.

Who was he writing to?

Each of the synoptic gospels was written to a particular audience. Luke wrote to his Greek friend Theophilus. Mark wrote to gentiles (Romans), and Matthew wrote to the Jews. Throughout the book there is an assumption that the reader is familiar with Jewish customs because they are not explained as they are in the other gospels. It is because Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience that we understand why he wrote the book.

Why did he write it?

Matthew documents that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Jesus is the greater son of David that would rule upon His throne. And Matthew presents Jesus’ kingdom program. John MacArthur states the theme and purpose very well in the introduction to his commentary on Matthew.

“The message of the book of Matthew centers on the theme of Jesus’ kingship. Just as virtually every paragraph of the gospel of John points to something of Christ’s deity, so virtually every paragraph of Matthew points to something of His kingship.”

“Matthew presents the Messiah King who is revealed, the King who is rejected, and the King who will return. Jesus is painted in royal colors in this gospel as in none of the others. His ancestry is traced from the royal line of Israel; His birth is dreaded by a jealous earthly king; the magi bring the infant Jesus royal gifts from the east; and John the Baptist heralds the King and proclaims that His kingdom is at hand. Even the temptations in the wilderness climax with Satan offering Jesus the kingdoms of this world. The Sermon on the Mount is the manifesto of the King, the miracles are His royal credentials, and many of the parables portray the mysteries of His kingdom. Jesus identifies Himself with the king’s son in a parable and makes a royal entry into Jerusalem. While facing the cross He predicts His future reign, and He claims dominion over the angels in heaven. His last words are that all authority has been given to Him in both heaven and earth (28:18).”

“Yet Matthew also focuses most uniquely on the rejection of Jesus as King. In no other gospel are the attacks against Jesus’ character and Jesus’ claims so bitter and vile as those reported in Matthew. The shadow of rejection is never lifted from Matthew’s story. Before Jesus was born, His mother, Mary, was in danger of being rejected by Joseph. Soon after He was born, Herod threatened His life, and His parents had to flee with Him to Egypt. His herald, John the Baptist, was put in a dungeon and eventually beheaded. During His earthly ministry Jesus had no place to lay His head, no place to call home. In Matthew’s gospel no penitent thief acknowledges Jesus’ Lordship, and no friend or loved one is seen at the foot of the cross–only the mockers and scorners. Even the women are pictured at a distance (27:55-56), and in His death Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (27:46). Only a Gentile centurion speaks a favorable word about the crucified One: “Truly this was the Son of God!” (27:54). When some of the soldiers who had stood guard over the tomb reported its being empty, the Jewish authorities paid them to say that Jesus’ body was stolen by His disciples (28:11-15).”

“Yet Jesus is also shown as the King who ultimately will return to judge and to rule. All the earth one day “will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (24:30), his coming will be “at an hour when you do not think He will” (v.44), and He will come in glory and in judgement (25:31-33).”

“No reader can fully immerse himself in this gospel without emerging with a compelling sense of both the eternal majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ and the strong power that sin and Satan held over the apostate Israel that rejected Christ.”

“No gospel is more instructive to those who are the Lord’s disciples and who are called to represent Him in the world. The lessons on discipleship are life-changing for the committed reader, as they were for the eleven who were Jesus’ first followers. Thus, with all its great themes of majesty and glory, rejection and apostasy, the book of Matthew lacks no practicality. Woven though all that is the constant thread of revealed instruction for those who are His representatives among men.”

An outline of the Gospel of Matthew is as follows:

A. The King’s Ancestry – His genealogy (1:1-17)
B. The King’s Arrival – His virgin birth (1:18-25)
C. The King’s Adoration – The worship of the magi (2:1-12)
D. The King’s Anticipation – fulfilled prophecies (3:13-17)
E. The King’s Announcer – John the Baptist (3:1-12)
A. The King’s Affirmation – His baptism (3:13-17)
B. The King’s Advantage – His defeat of Satan (4:1-11)
C. The King’s Activity – His ministry and miracles (4:12-25)
D. The King’s Address – His manifesto: Sermon on the Mount (5-7)
1. The Beatitudes: Character of a Kingdom Citizen 5:3-20
2. Jesus Corrects Six Moral Teachings; 5:21-48
3. Jesus Corrects Three Religious Practices; 6:1-18
4. Jesus Gives Three Prohibitions Concerning; 6:19-7:6
5. Prayer for strength 7:7-11
6. Entering the Kingdom 7:12-27
A. The King’s Power to Heal (8,9)
B. The King’s Ambassadors (10:1-11:1)
A. The King’s Conflicts (11,12)
B. The King’s Secrets (13)
C. The King’s Withdrawal (14)
D. The King’s Concern (15)
E. The King’s Testing (16:1-12)
A. The King’s Surprise (16:13-28)
B. The King’s Glory (17)
C. The King’s Rebuke (18)
D. The King’s Instructions (19:1-15)
E. The King’s Demands (19:16-20:34)
A. The King’s Judgments (21:1-22:14)
B. The King’s Defense (22:15-46)
C. The King’s Denunciation (23)
D. The King’s Return (24,25)
E. The King’s Preparation (26:1-56)
F. The King’s Trial (26:57-27:26)
G. The King’s Suffering and Death (27:27-66)


And so it is we begin our journey into the Gospel according to Matthew. Jesus is Messiah, the Christ, the king.

The first thing Matthew does is establish the genealogy of Jesus. This accomplishes three things. First, it provides a transition between the Old and New Testaments. Second, it shows that Jesus is the Son of the Promise, and third, it proves Jesus is the Son of David and has a legal right to his throne. This was extremely important to the Jews, for the Messiah must fulfill certain criteria which included being a direct descendant of King David.

Notice verse 1 begins by stressing that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham. It then traces from Abraham all the way to Jesus.

Genealogy of Jesus Christ

1:1 (NASB) The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers; 3 and to Judah were born Perez and Zerah by Tamar; and to Perez was born Hezron; and to Hezron, Ram; 4 and to Ram was born Amminadab; and to Amminadab, Nahshon; and to Nahshon, Salmon; 5 and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse; 6 and to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon by her [who had been the wife] of Uriah; 7 and to Solomon was born Rehoboam; and to Rehoboam, Abijah; and to Abijah, Asa; 8 and to Asa was born Jehoshaphat; and to Jehoshaphat, Joram; and to Joram, Uzziah; 9 and to Uzziah was born Jotham; and to Jotham, Ahaz; and to Ahaz, Hezekiah; 10 and to Hezekiah was born Manasseh; and to Manasseh, Amon; and to Amon, Josiah; 11 and to Josiah were born Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon, to Jeconiah was born Shealtiel; and to Shealtiel, Zerubbabel; 13 and to Zerubbabel was born Abihud; and to Abihud, Eliakim; and to Eliakim, Azor; 14 and to Azor was born Zadok; and to Zadok, Achim; and to Achim, Eliud; 15 and to Eliud was born Eleazar; and to Eleazar, Matthan; and to Matthan, Jacob; 16 and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 Therefore all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to [the time of] Christ fourteen generations.

Now the genealogy seems pretty matter of fact at first glance. It certainly transitions us from the Old Testament to the New Testament because it shows us the link between the two in Jesus the Messiah. (By the way, “Christ” is simply the Greek term for “Messiah.” They both mean “the anointed one.”

The genealogy lays the ground work in showing that Jesus is the Son of the Promise. The Lord’s Covenant with Abraham promised that “in [him] all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The Abrahamic Covenant was to be carried through Isaac (Genesis 17:19), not Ishmael, and then through Jacob (Genesis 28:14), not Esau. The genealogy starts out with Abraham and traces through Isaac and Jacob. In Genesis 50:10 we find that it would be through Judah that the future king would come, and the genealogy traces through him as well. It will be seen as we continue through Matthew that Jesus is the one in whom all the nations would be blessed, but the genealogy gives foundation. Jesus has the correct lineage.

The genealogy also stresses that Jesus is in the line of David. In fact the manner in which the genealogy is put together double stress is placed upon this fact. Notice in verse 17 that Matthew says that from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the time of Christ fourteen generations. 14 + 14 + 14 = 42 generations, but there are only 41 names. Matthew breaks the genealogy into three groups of 14, but David is repeated twice. 14 generations from Abraham to David, and 14 generations from David to the deportation, and then 14 from the deportation to the time of Christ. The stress is upon Jesus being the Son of David.

Now the genealogy is not all inclusive for there are omissions, several of which are known (Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, and Eliakim/Jehoiakim). But omissions in Biblical genealogies is not unique to this case and the Jews are known to have done this freely and a memory aide. This is apparently what Matthew has done while stressing as well the centrality of David in Jesus’ genealogy. Possibly the Davidic emphasis is further enhanced by the number fourteen in that it is the sum of the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in the name David. To us this might seem overly subtle, but to the ancient Semitic mind to whom Matthew was writing it would be more obvious.

But there are some things that Matthew’s genealogy bring up that must be dealt with. First of all notice in verse 11 & 12 that Jeconiah is in the genealogy. This poses a great problem for turn to Jeremiah 22. Verse 13-23 speaks of the wickedness of Shallum (Jehoahaz) and his brother Jehoiakim. Verse 24 picks up on Jehoiakim’s son who is here called Coniah, [this is Jehoiachin (2 Kings) or Jeconiah (Matthew).], and tells how Nebuchadnezzar would conquer him and take him to Babylon. Then a curse is given against him starting in verse 28 “Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out And cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper Sitting on the throne of David Or ruling again in Judah.'”

Jeremiah’s prophecy is that no descendant of Coniah (Jeconiah) would sit on David’s throne or rule again in Judah, yet this man is in the direct lineage of Christ according to Matthew’s genealogy. How can this be?

There is another problem in the genealogy when you compare this one with the one in Luke 3. They run the same up until Solomon, then there is a change. Luke traces the line through David’s son Nathan instead of Solomon. How could both genealogies be true?

There is one answer to both problems. The genealogy in Luke is that of Mary. Luke 3:23 starts off the genealogy with a parenthetical phrase concerning Joseph as supposedly being the father of Jesus. It would read, “Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed of Joseph) of Eli…” In the Greek text Jospeh’s name is the only one without the article (note that the “the” before Joseph should be in italics or in brackets in your Bible – it is added in and not in the original). This agrees with Luke’s account of Jesus’ conception through the Holy Spirit and that Joseph was not Jesus’ physical father. Jesus was Eli’s grandson through Mary. This also agrees with Luke’s emphasis on the humanity of Jesus in tracing back His physical descent, and note here as well that it is back through David.

The genealogy in Matthew is that of Joseph which brings about Jesus’ legal claim to the throne. Remember that the curse against Jeconiah is that he would not have a physical descendent of his on the throne of David. His lineage still had the legal right to the throne. God moved around this obstacle by giving Jesus a physical decent from David through Mary and a legal claim to the throne through Joseph. Look at Matthew 1:16. Notice here that the claim is that Joseph is the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus (Greek = h|” ). The “whom” here while ambiguous in English is clear in Greek. It is feminine and therefore must refer to Mary. So verse 16 says in full, “and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom (Mary) was born Jesus.” And this all fits in again with Matthew’s emphasis that Jesus is the Messiah. He has a rightful claim to the throne of David, and his genealogy as the legal, though not physical, son of Joseph traced back through King David and to Abraham proves the claim.

But notice one other thing in the genealogy that speaks of the graciousness of God that in Jesus all nations would be blessed as stated as part of the Abrahamic covenant. There are four women mentioned aside from Mary, and all of the them were outcasts.

The first is Tamar in verse 3. Tamar was the Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah whose sordid story is in Genesis 38. God had taken the lives of her first husband Er and the next brother Onan because of their wickedness. She was to be given to the third son, Shelah, by whom she was to raise up children in Er’s name (according to Biblical custom), but Judah continually delayed and would not keep the promise. To make a long story short, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and tricks Judah into have sexual relations with her with the result she bore twin sons, Perez and Zerah. God’s grace fell on all of them despite incest and prostitution and Judah, Tamar and Perez are in the line of the Messiah.

The second is in verse 5. “And to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab.” Rahab was also a prostitute, but unlike Tamar, it was her profession. She was an inhabitant of Jericho. Because she helped the Hebrew spies she was granted safety. God spared her life and the lives of her family when the army of Israel utterly destroyed that city. Her people were under a curse for complete destruction, but God not only spared her life, but brought her into the Messianic line through her marriage to Salmon. She was the great, great-grandmother of King David.

The third is also in verse 5. “And to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse.” Ruth the Moabites who came to Israel when Naomi returned after the death of her husband and two sons. Ruth’s character was upright which is shown by her deeds and willingness to follow the God of Israel. Her people worshipped Ashtar-Chemosh, and they were specifically excluded from taking part in the assembly of Israel. Deuteronomy 23:3,4 says, “No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their [descendants,] even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, 4 because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.” Yet God in His grace not only allowed her into Israel, but through Boaz she was brought into the Royal line. She was the great-grandmother of King David.

The fourth is not mentioned by name but by relationship. Verse 6 – “And to David was born Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” This is of course Bath-sheba with whom David committed adultery and then arranged to have her husband killed in battle. The child of that union died, but David then married her and the next child was Solomon. Luke’s genealogy goes through Nathan instead of Solomon, but according to 2 Sam. 5:14 (1 Chronicles 3:5; 14:4) he was also the son of David and Bath-sheba. Again we see God’s graciousness and mercy extended to men.

This was why Messiah was to come. He did not come for just the Jews. That was never the intent even going back to the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12 as already mentioned. He came to be a blessing to all peoples. And within His veins flowed Gentile as well as Jewish blood. He came to redeem all mankind – Gentile and Jewish; men and women; slave and free; you and I.

This morning we are going to celebrate communion. Jesus’s genealogy qualifies Him to claim that He was Messiah, but His death, burial and resurrection from the dead proves the claim.

I pray you have recognized Jesus, the Messiah, the King, and have given your life to Him. If not, do it today and find peace with God.


1 Chronicles Ruth

Abraham         Abraham
Hezron            Hezron


Amminadab        Amminadab
Amminadab        Amminadab
Nahshon           Nahshon


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