Good Bible study is hard work. The truth is if we want to understand what God has communicated to us through his word we need to give effort to studying it (2 Tim. 2:15). I believe many honest people want to study the Bible, but they open it, read a few verses and get lost. Then there are those who read chapter after chapter, only to forget what they have read in fifteen minutes. How can we fix this? If we knew more of what was going on in each book of the Bible, I believe it would help us to better understand each book’s place in the entire story of God. If I picked up Harry Potter (I never would) or The Hunger Games and started in the middle of the book without any background knowledge of characters setting or the point of the author, I could learn some cool things and context clues may help some, but overall I would be lost. The same is true concerning scripture. If we just jump into various texts without knowledge of the author’s purpose and the main characters of the book, we will be lost. With these thoughts in mind, we will be periodically releasing posts on this site giving an overview of Bible books with the hopes of helping you as you study the Bible. We’ll begin with the Gospel of Matthew.
There are four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Each one of the accounts tells the story of the life of Jesus from a different perspective and is aimed at a different audience. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience. The Gospel of Matthew has more Old Testament references than any other New Testament book. Matthew is writing to assure those with a Jewish background that their promised Messiah had come, and Jesus was that Messiah. (By the way, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, Christ simply means Messiah, Deliverer, or anointed one of God.) Matthew also gives hints to the reader that Jesus would be the savior for the Gentile people as well (Mt. 8:11). Matthew, like the other Gospel writers, takes readers on a journey from the birth of Jesus, his life and teaching, and finally his death and triumphant resurrection.
There are a few themes throughout the Book of Matthew that are unique. Matthew presents Jesus as King throughout his account (Mt. 2:2-3, 21:5, 27:11). Also, the fact that Jesus was coming to establish a kingdom (of course every king has a kingdom) is a common topic in the gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom that Jesus was coming to establish was the church he built, and not some earthly power structure to destroy all the Jews national enemies (Mt. 4:17, 16:18-19). Jesus, to be the Messiah, had to fulfill prophecy (Old Testament predictions about the Messiah), so Matthew continually will say, “This was done to fulfill what was written by the prophet” (Mt. 1:22, 2:17, 4:14, 12:17, 21:4, 26:56). So, while you may not have a Ph.D. in Old Testament studies, you can dip back into some of the passages Matthew references to get a better idea of what he is talking about concerning Jesus.
Right away we are introduced to Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ earthly parents) in the first chapter but they both fade into the background thereafter. Jesus is obviously the main character of the book, as the Gospel points to him as savior. Also, Jesus selects twelve men to be his disciples (Mt. 10:1-4). These men are seen throughout the book, traveling with Jesus, asking him questions, and saying questionable things causing Jesus to rebuke them occasionally. The enemies of Jesus in the book are the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees and Sadducees are Jewish religious groups that are too stuck up to tolerate the righteousness of Jesus and his new way of doing things (read Matthew 23 as Jesus puts them in their place). The chief priest and the scribes are also described as enemies of Jesus in the Book of Matthew that want Jesus dead.
All of Scripture is important, however, there are certain verses in each Bible book that are keys to understanding the book. In the book of Matthew, some of the key verses are:
- Jesus born of a virgin (Mt. 1:18-25)
- The golden rule of righteousness (Mt. 7:12)
- Kingdom parables (Mt. 13)
- The promise to build the church/kingdom (Mt. 16:18-19)
- The greatest command (Mt. 22:37-40)
- The purpose of Jesus’ death (Mt. 26:28)
- The announcement of the resurrection (Mt. 28:6)
- The great responsibility of discipleship (Mt. 28:18-20)
Matthew makes sense
The book of Matthew is the first book in the New Testament. The twenty-eight chapters cover the greatest life ever lived: Jesus Christ. I hope that you take the brief overview here and dive into the book with a new appreciation. See Jesus not just as a New Testament Savior, but as the long-awaited deliverer spoken of in the Old Testament. Read of his encounters with his adversaries, and how he always took the high road. When you see words like “king” and “kingdom,” I hope your antennas jump up and you put the pieces together. Matthew writes the best news ever. Jesus came, lived, died, but most importantly, he is risen (Mt. 28:6)!