Intro to the Gospel According to Matthew | Live the Word


Hey everybody this is Steve and this is a
brief introduction to the Gospel according to Matthew. Matthew is, of course, one of the 4 Gospel
accounts we find right at the start of the collection of 27 books and letters that make
up the New Testament canon. Though the author of Matthew isn’t recorded
anywhere in the Gospel account itself, at least in the earliest texts that we have,
the received tradition of the Church identifies the author as “Matthew the tax collector,”
whom Jesus calls to be a disciple in chapter 9 of the Gospel account. Matthew himself seems to have been born in
Galilee, and probably knew both Aramaic and Greek. And though he was Jewish, the people would
have hated him because he was a tax collector: someone who gathered money for the Roman Empire
which had conquered them and occupied their land. The earliest evidence we have concerning who
wrote this Gospel is an account by Papias, who was the bishop of Hieropolis in the 2nd
century. The Church historian Eusebius quotes Papias,
who said that Matthew collected stories about the life of Jesus in the Hebrew or Aramaic
language and then translated them into Greek. But scholars don’t think the text that we
have is a translation. It seems it was simply written in Greek. So it’s hard to tell exactly what the connection
is between the text that Papias described and the text we have. A majority of contemporary scholars date the
Gospel according to Matthew to around the year 80AD, and sometime after Mark’s Gospel
account. In fact, Matthew’s account draws heavily from
Mark; you can even describe it as a sort of revision or reorganization of Mark’s Gospel. The Gospel according to Matthew also shares
some common traditions with Luke, yet it also includes details that are unique to Matthew: Things like the coming of the Magi, the slaying
of the innocents, the guard placed at Jesus’ tomb, and the appearance of the resurrected
Jesus to disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Many Fathers of the Church call Matthew’s
account “the Queen of the Gospels,” and it’s no surprise that the Church places it as the
very first book of the New Testament canon. It’s a beautiful, thorough, and intentionally
designed book that’s meant for the Church to read when Christians assemble for worship. Matthew’s Gospel account begins with a genealogy
and Jesus’ birth, and ends with the Great Commission He gave to His disciples after
the resurrection. The entire book is organized into 5 major
parts: Jesus’ commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, a discourse on authority and discipleship,
parables, teachings about the Church, and teachings about the last days. And these major discourses are broken up by
miracle stories and encounters that Jesus has with His disciples and others. It’s probably not an accident that Matthew
is divided into 5 major parts; paralleling the Torah, the Law, which is the first 5 books
of the Old Testament. In fact, everything about the Gospel according
to Matthew suggests that it was written in the Church and for the Church. One of the earliest descriptions of Christian
worship comes from St Justin Martyr, writing around the year 150 AD. And he describes the Church’s worship as having
basically the same two-part structure that services in Jewish synagogues had, and that
we still have today in the Orthodox Church. First, there would be a reading and a sermon
to explain it. And second there would be prayers. Of course, if you’ve ever celebrated the Divine
Liturgy, this two-part structure is very familiar. The first part of the Liturgy leads up to
the reading and sermon. And the second part is made of the prayers
that lead up to Holy Communion. In the Church, these readings are what Justin
called “the memoirs of the Apostles,” what we today call the Gospel accounts: which both
describe the life of Jesus and help us understand what our own lives, as Christians, should
look like. Matthew’s Gospel account seems specifically
written to meet that need: to be a book that Christians could read when they gathered together
for worship. A book to teach us about the life of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ, and inspire us to act in a way worthy of our calling as Christians. As we wrap it up, here are 4 things to keep
in mind when you read to help give you a bit of context and better understand the Gospel
according to Matthew. First, each of the 4 Gospel accounts is traditionally
represented by a particular image in iconography, which helps explain that Gospel account’s
overall theme or focus. And Matthew’s Gospel is represented by a person
with wings. This represents Christ’s human nature. The Gospel account begins with a genealogy,
a list of Jesus’s ancestors beginning with Abraham. And it also focuses on ways we’re called to
live up to that human nature, to become truly human in Christ, to live a righteous and holy
life. Second, Matthew focuses a lot on Jesus’s ethical
teachings, the practical advice that we need to live as His followers. We mentioned earlier that the Gospel is divided
up into 5 basic discourses, where Jesus offers us instruction on our common life in the Church
as well as our personal lives as Christians. These “commandments,” as Jesus calls them,
are so important that they’re a part of the Great Commision he gives His disciples at
the very end of the Gospel account: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching
them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Third, Matthew shows how the New Testament
is both consistent with and pushes beyond the Old Testament. For example, during the Sermon on the Mount,
Jesus tells us that we’ve all heard the commandment to not kill. Yet Jesus tells us that we need to go a step
further: to avoid anger, to even avoid calling another person a fool. Just like it’s not enough to simply not fall
into the act of adultery: we need to avoid even having lust in our hearts. Jesus is, in a sense, raising the bar. Asking us to push the boundaries the Law of
the Old Testament even further: to see people as God sees us; to love unconditionally, to
even love our enemies; to cultivate pure and compassionate hearts like our Father in heaven. And fourth, Matthew focuses on the incredible
meekness and humility of Jesus Christ. Frequently in Matthew’s Gospel account, we
see that people are confused by Jesus. In chapter 13, for example, we read that Jesus
didn’t work any miracles in His hometown of Nazareth. Because the people saw Him as nothing but
the son of a poor carpenter, and didn’t believe. When He enters Jerusalem for Holy Week, in
chapter 21, he does so while riding a donkey, not a war horse or great chariot (as you might
expect from the Messiah, coming to free His people). But Jesus wasn’t the glorious, conquering
hero some people expected. In fact, He describes Himself in a totally
different way when He invites us to turn to Him for rest and comfort: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are
carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” That’s why, when offering us the Beatitudes
in chapter 5, Christ tells us that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven….[and] Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Because *He* is poor in Spirit. *He* is meek and humble. And Matthew’s Gospel is written for us, the
Church, who await His Second Coming and, in the meantime, are called to be like Him. To imitate Him: our humble and loving Lord. As you read the Gospel according to Matthew,
keep these four points in mind: 1. The emphasis on Christ’s human nature, which
we share with Him; 2. The highlighting of Christ’s ethical teachings;
3. The continuity between the Old and New Testaments;
and 4. The incredible meekness and humility of Jesus
Christ. Tell us in the comments how you notice these
four things as you begin to engage with the Scripture; and then join us in our weekly
video series, Live the Word. Most importantly, I hope you’ll celebrate
with us this Sunday and every Sunday, to hear the beautiful Scripture readings proclaimed
during the Divine Liturgy and to learn how you can Live the Word. Thanks for watching. You can click on our logo to subscribe to
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