Matthew: A Book for All Seasons

Can you believe another year has past. Here we are counting the days left till Christmas again. It seems like earlier and earlier the business community is beginning the Christmas rush. Hussle ‘n bussle. Darting here and there. Hearing all those carols in all kinds of musical arrangements. Yep! It’s Christmas.

What better way to end the year than look at Matthew, one of the two books that talks about the early life of Jesus, the other being Luke. Both have their specific audience to which they write their material. Their birth stories are different because they have different purposes in mind. Matthew’s major purpose was to produce a training manual for all those new converts which were entering the church at Antioch.

To Provide a Training Manual
One of the most important facts for a Jesus follower to understand is that the New Testament is literature which was written to answer problems within newly formed communities of faith. One of the most interesting things about Matthew’s Gospel is that he was struggling with many of the same problems that the church is struggling with today. The first century church was experiencing a basic shift in her existence. She had largely existed in Jerusalem where she was Jewish. Now she was faced with surviving in an arena with both Jews and Gentiles. The church, then and now, has to restate her sacred traditions. In Antioch, north of Jerusalem, the church had been almost stringently Jewish in origin and makeup. By the time Matthew writes his Gospel, the Jerusalem church (Jewish) was on her last leg, if not already destroyed (depends on dating: near the end equals ’60s; destroyed equals ’70s-’80s). The influx of Gentiles raised many problems for Matthew and his church. Questions needed answers. Ideas brought in to the church by Gentiles had to be reflected upon and discussed against her narrative. Jesus followers, new and seasoned, have a need to deepen their understanding of who Christ is and how he works in their lives.

A second reason Matthew wrote his book was to assist the follower of Jesus with the struggle regarding the person and work of Jesus. How does one theologize concerning Jesus? He was not only the Jewish Messiah, but also the King of the Gentiles and Lord of the Universe. Why was salvation through the Son of God? Why did he perform all those miracles? The new believers needed to understand the nature of the church and participate in the church’s mission . Also, as a new creation, how was he or she to live life as a member of the church? These same concerns absorb the church today, just as they did to the church Matthew was a part of and wrote to.

The end of the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 28.16-20) establishes the commissioning of the church. The eleven disciples, as representatives of the Church, we are told to make disciples. There are two parts to this commissioning. The responsibility placed on them is the same responsibility placed on all of us as Jesus followers.

They were told to make disciples by baptizing. This was the beginning of the process of transformation. The second part of the commission was teaching. This is the provision of information, so that the convert can understand who he or she is in Christ. This is the purpose of Matthew’s Gospel. He demonstrates for us that Jesus taught using the show and tell model.

For the purpose of seeing the Christmas story as Matthew presented it, it would be helpful to read an overview of Matthew’s Content.

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