Introduction

TO THE GOSPEL OF

MATTHEW

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I set out to write this commentary for two reasons:

     First, because our Lord's prophecies concerning the last days in chapters 24 and 25, are very important to the study of eschatology (the study of end-time things) and are therefore very important to the understanding of Daniel and Revelation ... the two main books of the Bible that tell us what to expect to come in the future.

     Second, I'm attempting to write this commentary because the Gospels are so frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted in our day. This happens for two main reasons:

1. First, people fail to recognize that the events and words spoken in the Gospels occurred almost exclusively under the time period of the Law. Our Bibles tell us that Christ Jesus came into our world made under the law and was sent by his Father to his Jewish people who were under the law. As you have it in Galatians 4:4-5,

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

So, it is very easy to get Law and Grace "mixed up" when we read the Gospels and, when we do, we cannot help but misinterpret the Scriptures.

2. Second, because the Church did not yet exist during the days when the words and events of the Gospels took place. Christ's Church was not yet instituted. Therefore, although all of the words of Christ in the Gospels can have many wonderful applications to we believers who make up Christ's Church, we must remember that they were not spoken to the Church. They were directed at his people, Israel. One of the keys to sound biblical interpretation is to be careful to observe the fundamental rules of hermeneutics that state, Who said it? To whom was it said? When was it said? I hope to flesh these principles out as we go through the book. Sound hermeneutics are vital in order for a child of God to correctly interpret the word of truth. As we have it in II Timothy 2:15, 

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

     So, a fundamental understanding of the differences and times between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is indispensible to correctly interpret the Gospels. The Old Covenant, instituted under Moses, was abolished at the cross (2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 7-11) and, in its place, the New Covenant was instituted by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross. Both of these covenants were between God and his people, the Jews, by the way. When the Jewish people rejected their Messiah and the New Covenant he had given to them ... bought and instituted by his own blood ... Romans tells us that we who are non-Jews (Gentiles), were grafted into the Jew's New Covenant like a wild olive branch being grafted into a natural olive tree (Romans 11). Those who do not take into account these foundational and fundamental truths (or do not understand them) will invariably misinterpret many of the words and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. So, if you are a bit foggy or unsure about these things, I highly recommend taking some time to study the passages I have cited above and ask the Lord to open them up to you until they become clear. 

     Matthew is the first of three Gospels in the New Testament that are called the synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Synoptic means to see together. These Gospels are synoptics because, for the most part, they relate the same events and often record the same words of Jesus ... yet, each comes from its individual author's unique purpose and point of view. Reading them together, then, is like examining a rare and beautiful diamond and discovering that each of its different facets contribute a uniquely new brilliance to the whole. So, the synoptic Gospels have resemblances and they have differences. The problems raised are how to account for these similarities and differences. The answers, when discovered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are both exciting and eye-opening. Sometimes the differences can be explained merely by the fact that Jesus preached the same sermon over and over again to many different audiences. So, one gospel writer may be relating Jesus' words to one audience in one place ... while another gospel writer may be quoting the same sermon to another audience at another place. Therefore, Jesus' sermon quoted in a different synoptic Gospel may vary.

     Also, keep in mind that each individual writer of a synoptic Gospel had a different emphasis or theme he had chosen when he wrote his book. So, each writer chose the things that Jesus did or said that would best illustrate and advance his argument or theme. The writers of the Gospels had a lot to choose from, by the way. As you have it in John 21:25,

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

     Matthew was converted to Christ during the time when he was collecting taxes for the Romans (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). And, by the way, his was a very despised profession in that day. Then, one life-changing day, Jesus crossed his path. When he went to work that day, his name was Levi but, after Jesus called him, Christ changed his name to Matthew which means gift of God.

     Matthew identifies himself as the writer of his Gospel in chapter 10, verse 13. There, he calls himself, Matthew the tax-gatherer. Interestingly, Matthew's first written work was one which he wrote in Hebrew to the Jewish people attempting to prove that Jesus was their Messiah. Papias, leader of the church in Hierapolis in the first half of the second century, spoke of this work saying, Matthew comprised the Logia in the Hebrew tongue; and each one interpreted them as he was able. Irenaeus, Bishop of the church in Gaul (AD 202) also referred to this original writing from Matthew saying, Matthew also issued a written Gospel ... written almost exclusively in the Hebrew language. What became of Matthew's work, we do not know. Obviously, it was not the inspired Word of God, so it was not preserved by Christ for his Church. That's because it was written exclusively for the Jewish people but the Lord chose a much more exacting language ... Koine Greek ... for the writing of his New Testament documents (Did you know that Greek as 9 tenses for verbs ... as opposed to, say, English, that only has 3?).

      Around AD 45 or so, Matthew wrote the Gospel that now bears his name. This one, he wrote in Greek. As it turned out, it was indeed the inspired Word of God and has been recognized as such to this day. The early church fathers strongly testify to the fact that Matthew wrote this Gospel. Origen and others said that Matthew was its author and, in the second century, almost everyone recognized it as such.

     Matthew's theme echoes that which was posted on Jesus' cross: This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. So, Matthew's objective is to prove that Jesus Christ was and is indeed, the King of Israel. Mark, on the other hand, presents Christ as God's Servant. Luke presents him as a Man and John presents him as God of very God. These over-riding themes determine the individual stories and words that each writer selected when they wrote their Gospels. For example, Matthew and Luke give us the genealogy of Jesus along with detailed accounts of his birth. Matthew is concerned about these things because the lineage and birth of a king is important, you see. And, as far as Luke was concerned, the lineage and birth of Jesus as one who was fully man was also very important. That is why Luke traces Jesus' lineage all the way back to Adam, proving that He was truly one of us, a man among men, made of flesh and blood just as you and I are. Mark and John give us no genealogies or birth details, however. Why? Because, as far as Mark's theme ... Jesus, God's prophesied Servant is concerned ... who cares about the lineage or birth of a Servant? No one. John's theme is to present Christ Jesus as God. Therefore, he had no need to relate the genealogy of Christ either because, as God of very God, Christ Jesus had no beginning. You can read a bit further about these themes, if you like, at: www.biblebookofrevelation.com/ch4-5.htm. There, it is fascinating to discover that these great thematic truths about Christ are openly displayed in the actual physical faces of the living creatures that surround He and his Father's throne in Heaven (Revelation 4:6-7). 

     Last, for general orientation, content, locations and dates of the events in the synoptic gospels ... let me share a chart with you that I received as a student at Western Baptist Seminary from Dr. Stanley A. Ellisen, Th.D., Professor of Biblical Theology and author of The Life of Christ in Sterio. I have modified it only slightly for purposes of clarity. Dr. Ellisen was a dear man of God and scholar who loved the Word of God. He read his Bible through at least twice a year. His chart below is quite helpful as it shows us the three major stages of our Lord's ministry on earth and also correlates where each of the same events are related in the three different synoptic gospels.

                                                                             

The Synoptic Gospels Related by 20 Crucial Events


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Matthew            Mark         Luke

                                        1.  Genealogies and Announcements                                                                     1                                      1 & 3

                                        2.  Jesus' Birth and Growth                                                                                  1-2                                       2

        Jan. A.D. 27            3.  Baptism and Temptation                                                                                 3-4                   1                 3-4

                                                                                                                          

                                                                                      Jesus' Early Judean Ministry ... John 1 - 4 

                                      

         Jan. A.D. 28                                                             Jesus' Extensive Galilean Ministry

                                        4.   Imprisonment of John the Baptist                                                                  4                     1                  3

                                        5.   Sermon on the Mount and the Healing of the Leper                                     5-8                  0/1             6 & 5

                                        6.   Palsied Man's Sins Forgiven (beginning of conflict)                                      9                     2                  5

                                        7.   Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand (council to destroy Jesus)        12                    3                  6

                                        8.   The Call of the Twelve Disciples                                                                  10                    3                  6

                                        9.   The Blasphemy of the Leaders of Israel                                                        12                    3                 11

                                       10.   The Kingdom Program Given in Parables                                                     13                    4              8 & 13

                                       11.   The Preaching Mission of the Twelve                                                           10                    6                  9

                                       12.   The Feeding of the 5000                                                                                14                    6                  9

                                       13.   Peter's Confession and Christ's Transfiguration                                          16/17                 8/9                9

                                       14.   Jesus' Departure Back to the South (Judea)                                                   19                   10               9:51...

         

        April A.D. 30                                                               Jesus' Late Judean Ministry

                                       15.   The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem                                                              21                   11                19

                                       16.   Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple                                                                      21                   11                19

                                       17.   The Conflict with the Leaders in the Temple                                                21-23              11-12             20

                                       18.   The Prophecies of the Olivet Discourse                                                         24-25              13                21

                                       19.   Jesus' Trials and Passion on the Cross                                                           26-27             14-15          22-23       

                                       20.   The Resurrection of Christ                                                                             28                   16                24

 

 

     Throughout King's Work, Matthew's text, along with any other scriptures that are referred to are printed out for you. Everything is right there at the reader's finger tips. You will not need to look anything up or necessarily even have a Bible on hand. I use the New King James Version of the Bible here in King's Work and I have taken the liberty to underline and bold print it for added emphasis. For what it is worth, I have also consulted the NIV but, it being an equivalent translation rather than a literal one, I concluded that the NKJV was the better text to use for our study. When interpreting prophecy, each and every word is of vital importance, you see. One needs to know exactly what God said, not roughly what he said, as would be the case if we were using the NIV or any other equivalent version.  

     Also, throughout King's Work, where the latest Greek scholarship throws new light on the biblical text, the reader will find the designation "NU" which refers to two classic updated works on the original languages and manuscripts of the New Testament. The N stands for the twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and the U stands for the third edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, The New Testament Text. So, the reader of King's Work will be able to see where the latest Greek scholarship has clarified or improved on the translation of the New King James Version. This is in accordance with another sound principle of hermeneutics, by the way. It is the rule of the priority of the original languages. This rule states that when one is handling a translation from one language to another and doubt or questions arise, the only reliable way to discover the author's true meaning is to look to the original language he used for the answer. That would be Greek in the New Testament and Hebrew and a smattering of Aramaic in the Old Testament. NU helps us a great deal in that regard. 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Proceed to Chapter One