Matthew 1: The Family of the King
Matthew begins his Gospel account by working through a selected number of ancestors in the genealogy of Jesus. While there are questions about why Matthew chose these specific people and in this grouped number of fourteens, the purpose of Matthew is to focus on the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic promise (see 2 Sam 7:12). Mary, the mother of Jesus, was betrothed to Joseph when the angel appeared to tell her that she would miraculously bear a son by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, uncertain of the situation, was going to put her away until the Lord let him know that this was from God and that he should proceed with plans to marry her. They were told to name the boy Jesus, a name indicating that Yahweh is the Savior: “for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this was to fulfill God’s purpose to save the world from sin, and we are blessed to participate in this promise today.
Matthew 2: Wise Men Search
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as Micah had foretold (Mic 5:2). Wise men from the east came searching for Jesus since they had learned of his birth. When Herod the Great found out about it, he wanted to know where this king would be born. The wise men found Jesus and worshipped Him, and as they departed they were warned not to return to Herod. Joseph was also warned that Herod would be seeking the life of Jesus, so he took his family down to Egypt and waited for Herod to die. In the meantime, Herod, jealous and furious, killed the male chidren in that region two years and under. After he died, Joseph brought Jesus back. Matthew saw this coming back out of Egypt as a fulfillment (2:15). The new Exodus had begun under Christ! The family went to Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus would grow to adulthood. We are grateful for what Jesus does for His people now, and if we wish to be wise, we, too, shall seek Him and worship Him.
Matthew 3: John Prepares the Way
John the Baptizer came in fulfillment of prophecy as well (Isa 40:3-5). His task was to prepare the path for Jesus and become a witness to verify who Jesus was (John 1). While John baptized in preparation for Jesus, he also rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy and unwillingness to hear. John’s baptism pointed to Jesus, but especially so in that Jesus Himself came to John to be baptized. While Jesus was never guilty of sin, His purpose was to identify Himself with His followers and demonstrate His identity. John had been told that the Holy Spirit would make Jesus known so that John could point to Him. In Jesus’ baptism, “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” John did his work well, which means that the primary focus needed to turn to Jesus as the One who would reveal God and bring salvation. Today, Jesus is still to be our primary focus. Look to Him!
Matthew 4: Temptation!
Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After 40 days, the tempter came to Jesus and tested Him. On record are three temptations to see if Jesus would use His power and authority in ways that were self-serving rather than God-glorifying. After each temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture (from Deuteronomy). By doing so, Jesus was identifying Himself with the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings, showing Himself to be the true fulfillment of what God intended all along. Jesus began His ministry after his baptism and temptations. He went to Capernaum, which was like a second home to Him, and He is said to have fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah 9 about the people in that region seeing a great light. Jesus called His disciples, telling them that they would become fishers of men; the disciples immediately followed. Jesus carried out His work, teaching and proclaiming the kingdom while healing diseases and afflictions as signs of His greater work in healing people spiritually. Great crowds began to follow because they saw in Him what we ought to see: Jesus is the only One who can heal us.
Matthew 5: Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5-7 provides Matthew’s account of what we call the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus begins with is often referred to as the beatitudes. These are blessings that are characteristic of those in the kingdom. In this lesson, we learn that His people are to be poor in Spirit (humble), mourning sin, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and willing to be persecuted. They do not revile others, but rejoice in suffering for Christ. Jesus also tells disciples that they are to salt and light, with righteousness exceeding the Pharisees, and recognizing that their attitudes and desires (like anger and lust) can lead to more overt sins. They are to be true to their word, unwilling to retaliate, and loving their enemies. There are a great many lessons to be learned in these chapters, and God’s people today need to pay attention to the way that Jesus describes those who would follow Him.
Matthew 6: Needs, Prayers, and Anxieties
Jesus warns against practicing a merely outward form of religion like praying only to be seen by others. True prayer needs no audience but God, and it ought to be from the heart, not merely speaking many words. Jesus gives an example of what prayer ought to be, giving praise to God, praying for His kingdom and will, praying for daily provisions, and seeking forgiveness, something that is also seen in how we forgive others. Even fasting should be done in way that is private and seen by God rather than others. The disciples’ attitude is that of laying up treasure in heaven rather than seeking worldly treasures, for no one can serve two masters (God and mammon). Instead of being anxious about what is happening in the world or how we will be cared for, disciples need to turn it all over to God who knows what we need. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. The world is filled with anxieties, even today, but we need to trust God and cast our cares upon Him.
Matthew 7: Judging, Fruit, and Foundations
Jesus teaches that disciples need to be careful about how they judge others, for “with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” If we want mercy, we will be merciful. Further, disciples are told to ask, seek, and knock as they serve the Lord, knowing that He gives good things to those who ask Him. Herein we find the “golden rule” of treating others as we want to be treated. As disciples follow the Lord through the “narrow gate,” they will beware of false prophets who would lead them astray. They would know these teachers by their fruits, for healthy trees bear good fruit. Followers of Christ are careful to to do His will, knowing that not doing God’s will lead to rejection. Instead, they seek to build on the solid foundation of Christ’s authority. As those who heard Him recognized the Lord’s authority, so we should, too. Only by following His will can we build on the rock instead of the sand.
Matthew 8: Jesus, Faith, and Following
Great crowds began to follow Jesus, and now we begin reading about a variety of miracles that Jesus worked. The healings in this chapter include a leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, some who were demon possessed, and those with other illnesses. These miracles fulfilled what had been spoken in Isaiah 53:4: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Jesus also calmed a storm on Galilee. These miracles were confirmation that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. We also read of the great faith demonstrated by the Roman centurion regarding Jesus’ ability to heal his servant. In the middle of all this, Jesus tells disciples how they need to follow Him. The identity of Jesus, the nature of faith, and our need to follow Him are all highlighted in this great chapter.
Matthew 9: Forgiveness, Healing, and Workers
Jesus first demonstrates His ability to forgive sins by healing the paralyzed man who was brought to Him. We then read about the calling of Matthew, the tax collector, and how that was seen as scandalous by some (because tax collectors were looked down upon). Then Jesus answers a question about fasting, followed by more miraculous healings, which here include a resurrection of a young girl, healing a hemorrhage, and healing the blind and a demon-possessed mute man. As Jesus was healing all of these afflictions, He had great compassion and saw helpless people as sheep without a shepherd. He then told His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” These words are still true; many workers are still needed.
Matthew 10: The Twelve
Jesus calls His twelve apostles and “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” He then sent them out on a limited commission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in order to proclaim that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” He warned them that they would be “as sheep in the midst of wolves,” and that they would be persecuted and beaten. However, the Spirit would be speaking through them, and what they were to say would be given to them. Because God was with them, they did not need to fear. Jesus also taught that the nature of the gospel was such that it could actually divide families when some are hostile to the message. Jesus told them, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” This message is still true. Are we paying attention to the message of the kingdom?
Matthew 11: Greater than John?
John the immerser had been put into prison by this time, and he sent some of his disciples to Jesus in order to verify that He is indeed the One they were expecting. Jesus turns to the crowd and begins talking about the nature and work of John. What were the people expecting to see with John? Yes, John was a prophet, but he was more than that. He was the messenger who was sent before the messiah (cf. Mal 3:1). Yet as great as John was, Jesus said, “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Jesus then pronounces woes upon the cities that refuse to repent. Mighty works had been done in these places, yet people were not listening. Even so, Jesus continues to invite people into His rest. That invitation is still open now. We can enter His rest if we will but follow Him.
Matthew 12: Lord of the Sabbath
According to the Pharisees, Jesus and His disciples were breaking the Sabbath. The disciples had plucked heads of grain to eat, and Jesus was performing miracles on the Sabbath. Neither of these violated the Law, but they did violate traditions set in place by many. Further, Jesus taught, “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” If only they understood and believed who Jesus really is, they would never have accused Him. Yet Jesus continued on in His work, healing people and pointing to the kingdom of God. The Spirit was certainly with Jesus, just as Isaiah had prophesied. However, some began to accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil, a charge that was blasphemous against the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them that a tree is known by its fruit, and careless words would be the cause of condemnation. Still, some continued to demand signs, to which Jesus responded that the sign of Jonah would be it. This would ultimately be Jesus’ own resurrection. As always, there are those who listen and those who refuse. The comfort for disciples is that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 13: Parables!
A parable is a story that is meant to teach a greater lesson. Jesus used parables to teach about the kingdom, God’s rule. By using the parables, He made it so that those who really wanted to understand would have to dig in and really listen. Those not so inclined would not understand, “because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Jesus quoted Isaiah on this to show how parables worked (Isa 6:9-10). Yet the true disciples would be blessed; they would see, hear, and understand. These parables took several forms. For example, the well-known parable of the sower shows the seed, the word of God, was to be spread everywhere, though only a few would receive it. Or, the kingdom was like hidden treasure, valuable enough for one to sell all that he has in order to buy the field in which the treasure was hidden. Jesus told many such parables, and they gave light to the nature of God’s kingdom. Still, those who rejected Jesus would be offended by what He taught. Today, the situation remains the same. We accept or we reject Jesus, and it is incumbent upon us to hear Him.
Matthew 14: Miracles!
John the immerser had been arrested and beheaded by Herod over Herod’s marrying his brother’s wife. When Jesus began to do His mighty works, Herod thought perhaps John had been raised from the dead and these miraculous powers were at work in him. Herod had no idea who he was really dealing with. Matthew then records more miracles worked by Jesus. He feeds the five thousand, walks on the water, and heals the sick. As with all the miracles, they, like the parables, taught significant lessons about the nature of the kingdom of God. The feeding of the five thousand, for example, shows how God has power over nature and ultimately cares for His people. Jesus Himself is the bread of life come down from heaven (John 6), and He is more than able to supply all that is needed. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would find satisfaction. This lesson is still vital for God’s people now. God supplies all our needs.
Matthew 15: Tradition!
The Pharisees charged the disciples of Jesus with breaking the tradition of the elders because they had not washed their hands when they ate. Jesus, however, asked why they broke the commandments of God for the sake of their tradition. It is one thing to break tradition when that tradition is not commanded; it is another to actually break God’s commands. The Pharisees had a tradition that essentially nullified their caring for mother and father through their saying that what might have been given to them was given to the temple instead. Jesus then quoted from Isaiah 29, showing that though they said they honored God, they really did not because their hearts were not in it. Jesus taught that what really defiles a person is what comes from within, and this includes a number of overt sins. Then, in contrast to the lack of faith shown by the Pharisees, a Canaanite woman demonstrated great faith in Jesus, and He healed her daughter of demon possession. Jesus continued healing many and performing many more miracles, all of which glorified God. This Scripture reminds us how important it is to pay attention to what God actually teaches instead of defending our own self-made traditions.
Matthew 16: The Great Confession
The Pharisees demanded signs of Jesus and showed themselves to be evil in doing so. Jesus warned the disciples of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (i.e., their influence and teaching). Then Jesus and the disciples went up to the district of Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asked who men say that He, the Son of Man, is. There were a few answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. Jesus then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded with that great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus told Peter he was blessed for this and, “on this rock I will build My church…” The foundation for the new temple, Christ’s church, is seen here (see also Eph 2:19-22 and 1 Pet 2:4-8). Jesus then proceeded to tell His disciples that He would have to go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, and rise again. Peter objected to this and was rebuked for it. Jesus told His disciples that they, too, would have to take up the cross in order to follow Him. Today, all disciples are still called to deny themselves and take up the cross with Jesus.
Matthew 17: Transfigured!
Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him up on a high mountain where He was changed before them. His face shone and His clothes became white as light. Moses and Elijah then appeared and spoke with Him. Peter wanted to make three booths for them, but a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” The disciples fell on their faces, terrified, then looked up saw only Jesus. Jesus was indeed the One to whom they needed to listen. Jesus would again foretell His resurrection after suffering and death. He also continued working the miracles that would demonstrate that He was whom He was claiming to be. Today, we are on the other side of these events happening to Him, and we need to listen to Jesus.
Matthew 18: Greatest?
Jesus continued His teaching about the kingdom by showing that the “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven would be as a child who humbles himself. Children are to be received, and anyone who would cause a child to sin would be judged for it. The world is full of temptation to sin, and it is vital that His disciples take whatever measures necessary to keep from succumbing to sin. The “little ones” are precious in God’s eyes, and God would, like a shepherd seeking for one sheep, seek His child. Further, as one’s relationship with God is vital, so is one’s relationship with others. If a brother sins against another, then the one sinned against is to go to this brother and seek reconciliation. If he won’t listen, then further steps are to be taken. The Lord will be with those who follow this process. The chapter ends with the parable of the servant who owed his master more than he could pay. The master forgave, but this servant went out and demanded repayment from another who owed much less. When he would not forgive, the original master called him back to pay his debt. Forgiving others is a vital part of serving the Lord.
Matthew 19: Marriage and Commitment
As crowds were following Jesus, He was constantly being tested. Some Pharisees asked Jesus about marriage. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” Jesus responded by going back to the beginning of Genesis to show that divorce was not God’s plan. They wanted to know why Moses allowed it, and Jesus said it was for the hardness of heart. Yet the Lord’s will is stated: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Though it is a hard saying, Jesus stood His ground. Then children were brought to Jesus and He proclaimed that “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Next, a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he was missing in his quest for eternal life. Jesus told him he needed to sell what he had to follow Jesus, and the man was unwilling. Yet, Jesus taught, if disciples would give up their lives now, they will gain their lives in eternity. This chapter reminds us of how important it is to stay focused on God’s will and to remain committed, even when it gets difficult.
Matthew 20: The Laborers and the Kingdom
Jesus tells the parable of laborers in the vineyard. A landowner hires workers and they all agree to a particular wage. By the end of the day the landowner has hired more laborers who worked fewer hours but were given the same pay. Those who worked longest felt cheated, even though they were payed the wages upon which they agreed. God’s generosity is clear, and His people should be grateful for what God does, whether working short or long. Once again, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection as the time was quickly approaching. The mother of James and John then approached Jesus and asked that her sons have a special place in the kingdom. Jesus told her that they would drink the cup He drank, but giving special place was up to the Father. This request made the other disciples indignant, and Jesus reminded them that, really, this was not the way things worked in the kingdom. The chapter ends with Jesus giving sight to two blind men. Perhaps this sent a message about the disciples needing to see better as well.
Matthew 21: Triumphal Entry
We come to the final days before the crucifixion in this chapter. Jesus told the disciples to go to the village near the Mount of Olives and get a colt. This would fulfill prophecy. They did so and Jesus rode into Jerusalem while crowds began cheering and shouting “Hosanna” (save, we pray). This was the King riding into His city. He went to the temple where He overturned tables of moneychangers, again citing prophecy. He healed the lame and the blind there, again something the prophets had pointed to. Then He cursed a fig tree as a sign of judgment, particularly against those who were outwardly righteous but inwardly dead. At the temple, chief priests and elders challenged the authority of Jesus, and Jesus showed that they could not answer a simple question about authority without indicting themselves. He then told two more parables, both of which pointing to the evil attitudes and actions of those who opposed Christ, and “they understood that He was speaking about them.” They tried to seize Him then, but were too afraid fo the people. Jesus was in complete control of the timing of these events. This ought to tell us something about why we need to listen to Him.
Matthew 22: Come to the Feast
Jesus tells the parable of the marriage feast and compares it to the kingdom of heaven. A king gave a wedding feast for his son and servants were sent out to gather those who were invited, yet who refused to come. Other servants were sent out to invite others, who also would not listen, but instead mistreated and killed the servants. The king responded by sending soldiers to destroy the murderers. Then he sent out servants into the highways and byways to invite others, and the hall was filled with guests. Yet one man was unprepared, and he suffered judgment. The Pharisees responded to the parable by seeking to trap Jesus. A series of confrontations between Jesus, the Pharisees, and Sadducees ensues, each time resulting in the embarrassment of those who would challenge Jesus. Those who opposed Jesus were so intent on destroying Him that they ended up destroying themselves. These were the ones who were invited to the feast, but who mistreated the servants. May we all learn the lesson to listen to the Son so that we may properly respond. All things are ready; come to the feast!
Matthew 23: Lamentable Hypocrisy
Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by showing how they were taking on positions of authority but not even willing to lift a finger to do what they tell others. They accepted lofty titles for themselves, loved to seen, and loved the praise of others. Yet their righteousness was dead. Jesus pronounced a series of woes upon them, reminiscent of the prophets. Prophets would indeed by sent, but they would kill and crucify these spokesmen of God. Consequently, they bore the “guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth.” Jesus then laments over Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is HE who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Perhaps this helps us understand why Jesus insisted that righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (cf. Matt 5:20).
Matthew 24: Judgment upon Jerusalem
As Jesus had just wept over Jerusalem, so now He pronounces judgment upon the city. The disciples pointed to the temple, and Jesus said it would be torn down. The disciples asked about it all: “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus responded by speaking to a series of events that would first occur and showing that they needed to be prepared. Historically, these events would culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Yet, Matthew 24-25 also point to a final judgment. As with all judgments, the judgment upon Jerusalem would typify the final judgment in which God would finally separate the faithful from the unfaithful. The times leading up to the destruction of the city would be perilous and treacherous, but disciples who were ready would be able to withstand it. Above all, we can count upon the promises of Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
Matthew 25: Talents and Judgment
Jesus had already prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, a judgment that also had typological implications for the final judgment. Jesus then indicates how important it is to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. In this chapter, tells parables that show the importance of preparation and work. He speaks of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish. The wise virgins prepared themselves with enough oil for their lamps; the foolish did not. When the time came, the wise virgins were vindicated and able to enter the marriage feast before the door was shut while the others had to go buy more oil. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Jesus then tells the parable of the talents in order to show, once again, the need to utilize what the Lord gives and to prepare for His return. This serves as the prelude into the final judgment scene, where discipleship is measured by caring for the sick, the needy, and those in prison. The result, in the end, is the division of the saved and lost: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Let us make sure that we are ready, too, so that we may firmly stand on the Lord’s right in judgment.
Matthew 26: From Anointed to Betrayed
After Jesus’ judgment discourse, the chief priests and elders of the people gathered together in order to plot out the arrest and death of Jesus. Jesus was nearby in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper when a woman (Mary) came to him and poured very expensive ointment on His head. Though the disciples were upset by this, Jesus affirmed what she did as something for which she would be remembered. Judas then received thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus and waited for an opportune time. Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples and there identified Judas as His betrayer. He also gave instructions for the Lord’s Supper so that they would remember His death continually, something disciples continue to do today. Jesus also predicted that Peter would deny Him, followed by His sorrowful prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Soon, Judas brought a crowd with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. He was taken to Caiaphas the high priest and shortly was condemned to die. He was spit upon, beaten, and slapped. The chapter ends with the sad account of Peter’s denials of Jesus. Today, disciples need to keep these events in front of them to remember that Jesus did all of this for us.
Matthew 27: Let Him be Crucified!
Jesus was condemned to die. He was brought to Pilate the governor. Meanwhile, Judas, upset by what he did and seeing that Jesus would be condemned, he threw the money back and went out to hang himself. Before Pilate, Jesus was asked if He as indeed the King of the Jews, to which He responded, “You have said so.” Yet Jesus was not defending Himself at this point at the many charges. Pilate knew it was because of envy that Jesus was delivered to him. He brought out to the crowd Jesus and Barabbas, a known criminal, to see which one they would release. They choose to release Barabbas. “‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’” Pilate finally gave in and said, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” They took the responsibility and Jesus was delivered over to be crucified. Once again mocked and beaten, He was first scoured then nailed to the cross while people mocked. After speaking a few words, and after about six hours on the cross, Jesus “yielded up his spirit.” The events that followed convinced the centurion that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. He was taken down, wrapped, and buried by the women closest to Him. The chief priests and Pharisees, with Pilate’s aid, made sure the tomb was guarded and secure. Read and reflect on what Jesus did because of our sins.
Matthew 28: He is Risen!
On the third day after being crucified, some of the women came back to the tomb. Upon arrival, they saw the stone had been rolled away from the opening. The guards appeared like dead men, and an angel there told the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen.” With joy, they departed to tell the disciples. Jesus, appearing to them, told them, ““Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Meanwhile, some of the guard told the chief priests what happened. They told the guard to say that the disciples stole the body, and they would take care of the situation with Pilate. Jesus did appear to His disciples, and Matthew here stresses the commission that Jesus gave them: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” May we today carry out this same mission based on the authority of the risen Lord Jesus Christ!