The first book listed in the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew is, like the other Gospels, named after its human, God-inspired author. The early church had no disputes to speak of over the canon or suitability of this book, nor its authorship. Some scholars place the book as written as early as 50 A.D., while some place it around 70 A.D. Wherever it was actually written in this range, it is a very early document, written in the immediate decades after the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
Matthew (also called Levi) was one of the 12 Apostles. He was a tax collector by trade—a profession hated by his countrymen, who (often rightly) saw tax collectors as symbols of greed, theft, avarice, and collaboration with the hated Roman occupiers. How very like Christ to redeem this man, to use him not just as one of the Apostles, but to have his name linked to the holy inspired recording of the life, parables, and sermons of Christ. In fact, Matthew’s presumed need for writing and accurate accounting in his previous profession likely afforded him advantages in documenting and recording the words of Christ. (For more on Matthew’s calling, read Matthew 9:9-13).
Matthew’s biographical look at Christ emphasizes not only Jesus as the Messiah and King, but is also deeply concerned with the Kingdom of Heaven—using this phrase over 30 times. Time and time again, the recurring theme is how Jesus fulfills the promise of a Savior and the coming of God’s Kingdom. The initial primary audience of the Gospel was Jewish—possibly the scattered Jews of the Greek world—and Matthew, a Jew himself, is writing to this audience to show that Jesus was indeed their long-awaited Messiah and Savior. When we see Matthew referring back to the Jewish Scriptures, or recounting genealogies, we are reminded everything in God’s Word, being inspired by God, is there for a purpose—there are no excess or idle passages.
As we at Restoration Church prepare to spend the next 31 weeks in the Gospel of Matthew, we can look for several things. We can appreciate the meticulous, thorough approach Matthew uses in writing (much as we would expect of a tax collector, perhaps!). We can see the many references back to the Old Testament, showing time and again how Jesus fulfilled prophecies from hundreds and thousands of years before. We see how Matthew’s recounting is sensitive to this original Jewish audience, while also not shying away from condemnation of the hypocritical religious leaders of the time. We can enjoy the rich parables of Jesus, many of which appear in no other Gospel. Above all, we may thank God for preserving His Word for countless generations to study, that may see, as Christ says in Matthew 28:20, that He is surely with us always, “even to the end of the age.”