Reflections on Scripture, Spiritual Growth, and Personal Transformation
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Introducing Matthew's Gospel
In addition to our daily readings from the book of Genesis, we are also reading the first book of the New Testament - Matthew's gospel. Before I begin my comments on Matthew's gospel, let me first say a few words about the genre of literature we call gospel.
The word gospel comes from the Greek word meaning "good news." The gospels of the New Testament have as their subject the "good news" of Jesus Christ. Therefore, these books were not written strictly as historical documents or even biographies, since they aim to articulate a specific theological message, the message that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ) and that through his death and resurrection we have received forgiveness of our sins and been made citizens of God's Kingdom. It is important to recognize, however, that the gospels do, in fact, narrate a historically and biographically accurate protrayal of Jesus and his ministry, but their primary intent is to communicate the theological message of salvation and redemption.
Now back to Matthew's gospel. There are two important distinguishing characteristics of Matthew's account of the "good news" of Jesus:
Jesus the Jewish Messiah
More than the other three gospels, Matthew works hard to demonstrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One). In just the first two chapters, there are several quotations from the Old Testament regarding Jesus as the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies. As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law; therefore, Matthew's gospel has a higher regard for the law than the other gospel accounts.
Jesus the Teacher
Matthew's gospel also presents the clearest and most comprehensive record of Jesus' teaching. In the Old Testament, Moses is regarded as the great teacher of the law and the first five books of the bible are traditionally attributed to Moses. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus presents five great topical sermons, linking him to the tradition of Moses. These five sermons or teachings are as follows: