It is considered common historical knowledge that only two of the four Gospels were written by the apostles; Matthew being one, John the other. Though the writer of Matthew does not clearly identify himself at any point, we gather his identity through a combination of revealed fact (within the Gospel itself) and largely undisputed tradition. In modern times some scholars debate whether the writer actually is the apostle Matthew (some date this Gospel past Matthew’s lifetime). But one cannot doubt that the writer is a Jew, speaking to other Jews in the first century AD.
Matthew 1:1 says, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In this single sentence the writer discloses that it is of primary importance to firstly understand the genealogy of Christ. More than that, that in so doing we will find Jesus to be directly from the line of David, and directly the descendant of Abraham. A more Jewish history cannot be considered. To put this first and foremost in his book, the writer must have been addressing Jews (who would grasp the significance of that fact).
But there is even more in this first sentence. For to summarize Jesus as the son of David and also the son of Abraham, the writer (we’ll call him Matthew from here on) is making it clear that Jesus is in some way the embodiment of Jewish history. So while we might read Matthew as a Jewish book for Jewish people, we further understand that “Matthew also wrote as a Christian for Christians.” As the Baker encyclopedia of the Bibles notes, “Matthew takes the form of a theological textbook, a handbook for the church, to instruct the people of God concerning the person and work of Jesus. That these teachings may be more readily and firmly grasped, Matthew presents them in a highly organized and memorable way.” Speaking of a popular theologian, the same authors state, “According to Wright, Matthew is a revision of the story of Israel as understood in contemporary Judaism.”
Wow. “A revision of the story of Israel as understood in contemporary Judaism!” In other words, Matthew wrote his Gospel to purposefully reframe his people’s history so they might understand the significance of Jesus. He contextualized the Gospel of Jesus to his own people group, so that they might ‘get’ Jesus! A more significant lesson for us in our time could not be gained, most especially when you consider that this Gospel was written (at the earliest) ~60AD. That means that Matthew would have been an elder among his people. He therefore needed to write this down if his message was ever to transcend the limitations of his own physical age.
That means that from the very first verse, Matthew had the end goal in mind.
He understood the Christian’s calling to successfully communicate the wonderful news of Jesus Christ – not only to our own generation, but to the next generation and the generations after that.
Let us therefore know that to intentionally grow in the grace and knowledge of God is to also intentionally have God’s purpose’s in mind. Especially that we might bring the Jesus we found to others who do not yet know Him, and that we might do so in a way that they will understand. If they are a digital generation, we cannot communicate our message via a vinyl disc. We have to “speak their language” as it is. Just as Matthew does, even from the very first sentence.
“Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
APPLICATION: Prayer, Intentionality
Think about the next time you will communicate with someone of another generation. Who are you hoping and praying will one day come to faith in Jesus Christ?
How does their culture differ from yours? What can you use to bridge that difference?
Pray that God will use you to speak into their lives about Himself.