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Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: Matthew

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*** it-2 pp. 352-354 Matthew, Good News According to ***


Matthew, Good News According To

The inspired account of the life of Jesus Christ written, doubtless in Palestine, by the onetime tax collector Matthew, or Levi. It is the first book in the Christian Greek Scriptures and has since ancient times been viewed as the first Gospel written. Matthew’s account commences with the human ancestry of Jesus, followed by his birth, and concludes with Christ’s postresurrection commissioning of his followers to go and “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Mt 28:19, 20) Hence, it covers the time between Jesus’ birth in 2 B.C.E. and his meeting with his disciples just before his ascension in 33 C.E.
Time of Writing. Subscriptions, appearing at the end of Matthew’s Gospel in numerous manuscripts (all being later than the tenth century C.E.), say that the account was written about the eighth year after Christ’s ascension (c. 41 C.E.). This would not be at variance with internal evidence. The fact that no reference is made to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy respecting Jerusalem’s destruction would point to a time of composition prior to 70 C.E. (Mt 5:35; 24:16) And the expression “to this very day” (27:8; 28:15) indicates a lapse of some time between the events considered and the time of writing.
Originally Written in Hebrew. External evidence to the effect that Matthew originally wrote this Gospel in Hebrew reaches as far back as Papias of Hierapolis, of the second century C.E. Eusebius quoted Papias as stating: “Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language.” (The Ecclesiastical History, III, XXXIX, 16) Early in the third century, Origen made reference to Matthew’s account and, in discussing the four Gospels, is quoted by Eusebius as saying that the “first was written . . . according to Matthew, who was once a tax-collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, . . . in the Hebrew language.” (The Ecclesiastical History, VI, XXV, 3-6) The scholar Jerome (of the fourth and fifth centuries C.E.) wrote in his work De viris inlustribus (Concerning Illustrious Men), chapter III, that Matthew “composed a Gospel of Christ in Judaea in the Hebrew language and characters for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed. . . . Moreover, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea, which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected.”—Translation from the Latin text edited by E. C. Richardson and published in the series “Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur,” Leipzig, 1896, Vol. 14, pp. 8, 9.
It has been suggested that Matthew, after compiling his account in Hebrew, may have personally translated it into Koine, the common Greek.
Information Unique to Matthew’s Gospel. An examination of Matthew’s account shows that more than 40 percent of the material contained therein is not found in the other three Gospels. Unique is Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:1-16), which takes an approach different from that set out by Luke (Lu 3:23-38). A comparison of the two indicates that Matthew gave the legal genealogy through Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph, while Luke apparently gave Jesus’ natural genealogy. Other incidents mentioned only in Matthew’s account are: Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s pregnancy, the appearance of an angel to Joseph in a dream (Mt 1:18-25), the visit of the astrologers, the flight to Egypt, the slaughter of the young boys in Bethlehem and its districts (chap 2), and the dream of Pilate’s wife regarding Jesus (27:19).
At least ten parables, or illustrations, found in Matthew’s account are not mentioned in the other Gospels. These include four in chapter 13, those of the weeds in the field, the hidden treasure, the “one pearl of high value,” and the dragnet. Others are the illustrations of the unmerciful slave (Mt 18:23-35), the workers in the vineyard (20:1-16), the marriage of the king’s son (22:1-14), the ten virgins (25:1-13), and the talents (25:14-30).
At times Matthew provides supplementary details. Although material from the Sermon on the Mount also appears in Luke’s account (Lu 6:17-49), Matthew’s Gospel is far more extensive in this respect. (Mt 5:1–7:29) Whereas Mark, Luke, and John mention the miraculous feeding of about 5,000 men, Matthew adds “besides women and young children.” (Mt 14:21; Mr 6:44; Lu 9:14; Joh 6:10) Matthew mentions two demon-possessed men encountered by Jesus in the country of the Gadarenes, while Mark and Luke refer to only one. (Mt 8:28; Mr 5:2; Lu 8:27) Matthew also tells of two blind men being healed on an occasion, whereas Mark and Luke mention only one. (Mt 20:29, 30; Mr 10:46, 47; Lu 18:35, 38) Of course, all the writers were correct in that at least one person was involved in each incident. But Matthew was often more explicit as to number. This perhaps is to be attributed to his former occupation as a tax collector.
Matthew’s Use of the Hebrew Scriptures. It has been estimated that Matthew’s Gospel contains about a hundred references to the Hebrew Scriptures. About 40 of these are actual quotations of passages. These include Christ’s own quotations from and allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures, among which are the following: a man’s enemies to be persons of his own household (Mt 10:35, 36; Mic 7:6); John the Baptizer identified as the “Elijah” to come (Mt 11:13, 14; 17:11-13; Mal 4:5); Jesus’ and Jonah’s experiences compared (Mt 12:40; Jon 1:17); commandment on honoring parents (Mt 15:4; Ex 20:12; 21:17); rendering lip service to God (Mt 15:8, 9; Isa 29:13); need for two or three witnesses (Mt 18:16; De 19:15); statements on marriage (Mt 19:4-6; Ge 1:27; 2:24); various commandments (Mt 5:21, 27, 38; 19:18, 19; Ex 20:12-16; 21:24; Le 19:18; 24:20; De 19:21); the temple made into “a cave of robbers” (Mt 21:13; Isa 56:7; Jer 7:11); rejection of Jesus, “the stone” that became “the chief cornerstone” (Mt 21:42; Ps 118:22, 23); foes of David’s Lord put under his feet (Mt 22:44; Ps 110:1); disgusting thing in the holy place (Mt 24:15; Da 9:27); Jesus’ disciples scattered (Mt 26:31; Zec 13:7); Christ apparently forsaken by God (Mt 27:46; Ps 22:1). There are also Jesus’ statements used in resisting Satan’s temptations.—Mt 4:4, 7, 10; De 8:3; 6:16, 13.
Interesting, too, is Matthew’s inspired application of Hebrew Scripture prophecies to Jesus, proving him to be the promised Messiah. This aspect would have been of particular concern to the Jews, for whom the account seems to have been originally intended. The prophecies include: Jesus’ being born of a virgin (Mt 1:23; Isa 7:14); his birth in Bethlehem (Mt 2:6; Mic 5:2); his being called out of Egypt (Mt 2:15; Ho 11:1); the lamentation over the death of slaughtered children (Mt 2:16-18; Jer 31:15); John the Baptizer’s preparing the way before Jesus (Mt 3:1-3; Isa 40:3); Jesus’ ministry bringing light (Mt 4:13-16; Isa 9:1, 2); his carrying of illnesses (Mt 8:14-17; Isa 53:4); his use of illustrations (Mt 13:34, 35; Ps 78:2); Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass (Mt 21:4, 5; Zec 9:9); the betrayal of Christ for 30 pieces of silver (Mt 26:14, 15; Zec 11:12).
An Accurate, Beneficial Record. Matthew, being a close associate of Christ during Jesus’ later years of life on earth and thus an eyewitness of his ministry, could understandably record a moving and meaningful Gospel. This we possess in the former tax collector’s record of the life of Jesus Christ. He was enabled by God’s spirit to recall in detail what Jesus said and did on earth. (Joh 14:26) Hence, Matthew accurately portrayed Jesus of Nazareth as the beloved Son of God having divine approval, as the one who came “to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many,” and as the foretold Messianic King who was to arrive in glory. (Mt 20:28; 3:17; 25:31) When on earth, Jesus pointed to his works and could truthfully say: “The poor are having the good news declared to them.” (11:5) And today multitudes, both natural Jews and non-Jews, greatly benefit from such Kingdom good news as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.—Mt 4:23, ftn.

[Box on page 353]

Highlights Of Matthew

The apostle Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life; written primarily with the Jews in mind, this Gospel demonstrates that Jesus is the foretold Messianic King
The first Gospel written, it was likely composed initially in Hebrew about eight years after the death and resurrection of Christ

Details of Jesus’ life fulfill Messianic prophecies

Jesus is born of a virgin, an offspring of Abraham in David’s line, at Bethlehem (1:1-23; 2:1-6)
Baby boys are slaughtered; he is called out of Egypt (2:14-18)
He grows up in Nazareth; John the Baptizer prepares the way for him (2:23–3:3)
He proves to be a light in Galilee (4:13-16)
He performs many miraculous healings (8:16, 17)
He gladly helps the lowly ones (12:10-21)
He teaches, using illustrations; the hearts of many people are unreceptive (13:10-15, 34, 35)
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass; he is hailed as the Son of David by the crowds but rejected by Jewish “builders” (21:1-11, 15, 42)
Judas betrays him for 30 silver pieces, which money is later used to buy a potter’s field (26:14, 15, 48, 49; 27:3-10)
His disciples are scattered (26:31)
Jesus is in the tomb for parts of three days (12:39, 40)

Jesus proclaims the good news of God’s Kingdom

After John’s arrest, Jesus proclaims: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near” (4:12-23)
He visits all the cities and villages of Galilee to preach the good news of the Kingdom (9:35)
He instructs his 12 disciples and sends them out to preach about the Kingdom (10:1–11:1)
He reveals truths about the Kingdom, telling the parables of the sower, the wheat and weeds, the mustard grain, the leaven, treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of high value, a dragnet, workers in a vineyard, two sons, wicked cultivators, and a marriage feast for a king’s son (13:3-50; 20:1-16; 21:28-41; 22:1-14)
He answers his disciples’ question about the sign of his presence, including in his answer a forecast of global preaching of the Kingdom good news (24:3–25:46)

Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders

He shows that they misrepresent the purpose of the Sabbath and that their traditions invalidate God’s Word (12:3-7; 15:1-14)
He exposes their lack of faith, their murderous spirit, their hypocrisy and pride (12:24-42; 16:1-4; 21:43-45; 23:2-36)
He lays bare their utter disregard for justice, mercy, and faithfulness (23:23, 24; 9:11-13)

Jesus gives fine counsel to his followers

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows why his disciples would be truly happy; he warns against wrath and urges them to make peace with one another and to love even their enemies; he tells of the danger of adulterous thoughts; he counsels against hypocrisy, teaches how to pray, warns against materialism, and advises seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness; he cautions his hearers not to be overcritical, tells them to pray constantly, and urges them to realize that the road to life is narrow and that they should produce fine fruits (5:1–7:27)
Jesus encourages humility and warns against stumbling others; he shows how to settle differences (18:1-17, 21-35)
He states the Christian standard for marriage and divorce (19:3-9)

The death and resurrection of God’s Son

On Passover night, Jesus institutes the Memorial of his coming death (26:26-30)
Betrayed and arrested, he is judged worthy of death by the Sanhedrin (26:46-66)
He is examined by Pilate, then whipped, mocked, and impaled (27:2, 11-54)
Jesus is buried; he is resurrected and appears to his followers; he commissions them to go and make disciples of people of all nations (27:57–28:20)


*** si pp. 177-180 Bible Book Number 40—Matthew ***


Contents Of Matthew

11 Introducing Jesus and news of “the kingdom of the heavens” (1:1–4:25). Logically, Matthew begins with Jesus’ genealogy, proving Jesus’ legal right as heir of Abraham and David. Thus, the attention of the Jewish reader is arrested. Then we read the account of Jesus’ miraculous conception, his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the astrologers, Herod’s angry slaying of all the boys in Bethlehem under two years old, Joseph and Mary’s flight into Egypt with the young child, and their subsequent return to dwell in Nazareth. Matthew is careful to draw attention to the fulfillments of prophecy to establish Jesus as the foretold Messiah.—Matt. 1:23—Isa. 7:14; Matt. 2:1-6—Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:13-18—Hos. 11:1 and Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:23—Isa. 11:1, footnote.
12 Matthew’s account now skips down through nearly 30 years. John the Baptizer is preaching in the wilderness of Judea: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:2) He is baptizing the repentant Jews in the river Jordan and warning the Pharisees and Sadducees of wrath to come. Jesus comes from Galilee and is baptized. Immediately God’s spirit descends on him, and a voice from the heavens says: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (3:17) Jesus is then led into the wilderness, where, after fasting 40 days, he is tempted by Satan the Devil. Three times he turns Satan back by quotations from God’s Word, saying finally: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—4:10.
13 “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” These electrifying words are now proclaimed in Galilee by the anointed Jesus. He calls four fishermen from their nets to follow him and become “fishers of men,” and he travels with them “throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people.”—4:17, 19, 23.
14 The Sermon on the Mount (5:1–7:29). As crowds begin to follow him, Jesus goes up into the mountain, sits down, and begins teaching his disciples. He opens this thrilling discourse with nine ‘happinesses’: Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need, those who mourn, the mild-tempered, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peaceable, those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those reproached and lyingly spoken against. “Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens.” He calls his disciples “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” and explains the righteousness, so different from the formalism of the scribes and Pharisees, that is required for entering the Kingdom of the heavens. “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—5:12-14, 48.
15 Jesus warns against hypocritical gifts and prayers. He teaches his disciples to pray for the sanctification of the Father’s name, for His Kingdom to come, and for their daily sustenance. Throughout the sermon Jesus holds the Kingdom to the fore. He cautions those who follow him not to worry about or work merely for material riches, for the Father knows their actual needs. “Keep on, then,” he says, “seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—6:33.
16 The Master counsels on relations with others, saying: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” The few that find the road to life will be those who are doing the will of his Father. The workers of lawlessness will be known by their fruits and will be rejected. Jesus likens the one who obeys his sayings to the “discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass.” What effect does this discourse have on the crowds who are listening? They are “astounded at his way of teaching,” for he teaches “as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.”—7:12, 24-29.
17 Kingdom preaching expanded (8:1–11:30). Jesus performs many miracles—healing lepers, paralytics, and the demon-possessed. He even demonstrates authority over the wind and waves by calming a storm, and he raises a girl from the dead. What compassion Jesus feels for the crowds as he sees how skinned and thrown about they are, “like sheep without a shepherd”! As he says to his disciples, “the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”—9:36-38.
18 Jesus selects and commissions the 12 apostles. He gives them definite instructions on how to do their work and emphasizes the central doctrine of their teaching: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” He gives them wise and loving admonition: “You received free, give free.” “Prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” They will be hated and persecuted, even by close relatives, but Jesus reminds them: “He that finds his soul will lose it, and he that loses his soul for my sake will find it.” (10:7, 8, 16, 39) On their way they go, to teach and preach in their assigned cities! Jesus identifies John the Baptizer as the messenger sent forth before him, the promised “Elijah,” but “this generation” accept neither John nor him, the Son of man. (11:14, 16) So woe to this generation and the cities that have not repented at seeing his powerful works! But those who become his disciples will find refreshment for their souls.
19 Pharisees refuted and denounced (12:1-50). The Pharisees try to find fault with Jesus on the Sabbath issue, but he refutes their charges and launches into a scathing condemnation of their hypocrisy. He tells them: “Offspring of vipers, how can you speak good things, when you are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (12:34) No sign will be given them except that of Jonah the prophet: The Son of man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.
20 Seven Kingdom illustrations (13:1-58). Why does Jesus speak in illustrations? To his disciples he explains: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted.” He pronounces his disciples happy because they see and hear. What refreshing instruction he now provides for them! After he explains the illustration of the sower, Jesus gives the illustrations of the weeds in the field, the mustard grain, the leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl of high value, and the dragnet—all portraying something in connection with “the kingdom of the heavens.” However, the people stumble at him, and Jesus tells them: “A prophet is not unhonored except in his home territory and in his own house.”—13:11, 57.
21 Further ministry and miracles of “the Christ” (14:1–17:27). Jesus is deeply affected by the report of the beheading of John the Baptizer at the order of spineless Herod Antipas. He miraculously feeds a crowd of 5,000 and more; walks on the sea; turns back further criticism from the Pharisees, who, he says, are ‘overstepping the commandment of God because of their tradition’; heals the demon-possessed, the “lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many otherwise”; and again feeds more than 4,000, from seven loaves and a few little fishes. (15:3, 30) Responding to a question by Jesus, Peter identifies him, saying: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commends Peter and declares: “On this rock-mass I will build my congregation.” (16:16, 18) Jesus now begins to speak of his approaching death and of his resurrection on the third day. But he also promises that some of his disciples “will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (16:28) Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up into a lofty mountain to see him transfigured in glory. In a vision, they behold Moses and Elijah conversing with him, and they hear a voice from heaven saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” After coming down from the mountain, Jesus tells them that the promised “Elijah” has already come, and they perceive that he is speaking about John the Baptizer.—17:5, 12.
22 Jesus counsels his disciples (18:1-35). While at Capernaum Jesus talks to the disciples about humility, the great joy of recovering a stray sheep, and settling offenses between brothers. Peter asks: ‘How many times must I forgive my brother?’ and Jesus answers: “I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” To add force to this, Jesus gives the illustration of the slave whose master forgave him a debt of 60 million denarii. This slave later had a fellow slave imprisoned because of a debt of only 100 denarii, and as a result, the merciless slave was likewise handed over to the jailers. Jesus makes the point: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.”—18:21, 22, 35.
23 Closing days of Jesus’ ministry (19:1–22:46). The tempo of events quickens and tension mounts as the scribes and Pharisees become more incensed at Jesus’ ministry. They come to trip him up on a matter of divorce but fail; Jesus shows that the only Scriptural ground for divorce is fornication. A rich young man comes to Jesus, asking the way to everlasting life, but goes away grieved when he finds he must sell all he has and be a follower of Jesus. After giving the illustration of the workers and the denarius, Jesus speaks again of his death and resurrection, and he says: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”—20:28.
24 Jesus now enters the last week of his human life. He makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as ‘King, mounted upon the colt of an ass.’ (21:4, 5) He cleanses the temple of the money changers and other profiteers, and the hatred of his foes mounts as he tells them: “The tax collectors and the harlots are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God.” (21:31) His pointed illustrations of the vineyard and of the marriage feast hit home. He skillfully answers the Pharisees’ tax question by telling them to pay back “Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (22:21) Likewise he turns back a catch question by the Sadducees and upholds the resurrection hope. Again the Pharisees come to him with a question on the Law, and Jesus tells them that the greatest commandment is to love Jehovah completely, and the second is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus then asks them, ‘How can the Christ be both David’s son and his Lord?’ Nobody can answer, and thereafter no one dares to question him.—22:45, 46.
25 ‘Woe to you, hypocrites’ (23:1–24:2). Speaking to the crowds at the temple, Jesus delivers another scathing denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees. Not only have they disqualified themselves from entering into the Kingdom but they exert all their wiles to prevent others from entering. Just like whitewashed graves, they appear beautiful on the outside, but inside they are full of corruption and decay. Jesus concludes with this judgment against Jerusalem: “Your house is abandoned to you.” (23:38) As he leaves the temple, Jesus prophesies its destruction.
26 Jesus gives ‘sign of his presence’ (24:3–25:46). On the Mount of Olives, his disciples question him about ‘the sign of his presence and the conclusion of the system of things.’ In answer Jesus points forward to a time of wars, ‘nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom,’ food shortages, earthquakes, an increasing of lawlessness, the earth-wide preaching of “this good news of the kingdom,” the appointment of “the faithful and discreet slave . . . over all his belongings,” and many other features of the composite sign that is to mark ‘the arrival of the Son of man in his glory to sit down on his glorious throne.’ (24:3, 7, 14, 45-47 25:31) Jesus concludes this important prophecy with the illustrations of the ten virgins and of the talents, which hold forth joyful rewards to the alert and faithful, and the illustration of the sheep and the goats, which shows goatish people departing “into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”—25:46.
27 Events of Jesus’ final day (26:1–27:66). After celebrating the Passover, Jesus institutes something new with his faithful apostles, inviting them to partake of unleavened bread and wine as symbols of his body and his blood. Then they go to Gethsemane, where Jesus prays. There Judas comes with an armed crowd and betrays Jesus with a hypocritical kiss. Jesus is taken to the high priest, and the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin look for false witnesses against Jesus. True to Jesus’ prophecy, Peter disowns him when put to the test. Judas, feeling remorse, throws his betrayal money into the temple and goes off and hangs himself. In the morning Jesus is led before the Roman governor Pilate, who hands him over to be impaled under pressure from the priest-incited mob who cry: “His blood come upon us and upon our children.” The governor’s soldiers make fun of his kingship and then lead him out to Golgotha, where he is staked between two robbers, with a sign over his head reading, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” (27:25, 37) After hours of torture, Jesus finally dies at about three in the afternoon and is then laid in the new memorial tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. It has been the most eventful day in all history!
28 Jesus’ resurrection and final instructions (28:1-20). Matthew now climaxes his account with the very best of news. The dead Jesus is resurrected—he lives again! Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” come to the tomb and hear the angel’s announcement of this joyful fact. (28:1) To confirm it, Jesus himself appears to them. The enemies even try to fight the fact of his resurrection, bribing the soldiers who had been on guard at the tomb to say, “His disciples came in the night and stole him while we were sleeping.” Later, in Galilee, Jesus has another meeting with his disciples. What is his departing instruction for them? This: “Go . . . make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” Would they have guidance in this preaching work? The last utterance of Jesus that Matthew records gives this assurance: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—28:13, 19, 20.


*** w08 1/15 p. 29 - p. 31 Highlights From the Book of Matthew ***


Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Book of Matthew

THE first person to write a thrilling account of Jesus’ life and ministry is Matthew—a close associate of Jesus Christ and a onetime tax collector. Originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, the Gospel of Matthew was completed about 41 C.E. and serves as a bridge connecting the Hebrew Scriptures to the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Apparently intended primarily for a Jewish audience, this moving and meaningful Gospel portrays Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Paying close attention to its message will strengthen our faith in the true God, his Son, and His promises.—Heb. 4:12.

“The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near”

(Matt. 1:1–20:34)

Matthew highlights the Kingdom theme and Jesus’ teachings, even though doing so means deviating from presenting matters in strict chronological order. For example, the Sermon on the Mount is related early in the book, although Jesus delivered it about halfway through his ministry.
During the course of his Galilean ministry, Jesus performs miracles, gives ministerial instructions to the 12 apostles, denounces the Pharisees, and relates Kingdom illustrations. Then he departs from Galilee and comes to “the frontiers of Judea across the Jordan.” (Matt. 19:1) Along the way, Jesus tells his disciples: ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be condemned to death, and on the third day he will be raised up.’—Matt. 20:18, 19.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

3:16—In what way were ‘the heavens opened up’ at the time of Jesus’ baptism? This seems to indicate that Jesus’ memory of his prehuman existence in heaven returned to him.
5:21, 22—Is giving vent to anger more serious than harboring it? Jesus warned that a person who harbors smoldering wrath against his brother is committing a serious sin. However, giving expression to wrath by speaking a word of contempt is more serious, making one accountable to a court higher than the local court of justice.
5:48—Is it really possible for us to be “perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect”? Yes, in a relative sense. Jesus was here discussing the subject of love, and he told listeners to imitate God and be perfect, or complete, in their love. (Matt. 5:43-47) How? By expanding it to include their enemies.
7:16—What “fruits” mark the true religion? These fruits include more than our conduct. They also involve our beliefs—the teachings to which we adhere.
10:34-38—Is the Scriptural message to be blamed for family rifts? Not at all. Rather, rifts are caused by the position taken by unbelieving family members. They may choose to reject or oppose Christianity, bringing about divisions in the family.—Luke 12:51-53.
11:2-6—If because of having heard God’s voice of approval John already knew that Jesus was the Messiah, why did he ask if Jesus was “the Coming One”? John might have asked this in order to get a personal confirmation from Jesus. More than that, though, John wanted to know if there was to be “a different one” who would come with Kingdom power and fulfill all the hopes of the Jews. Jesus’ answer showed that there was to be no successor.
19:28—What is represented by “the twelve tribes of Israel” that will be judged? They do not represent the 12 tribes of spiritual Israel. (Gal. 6:16; Rev. 7:4-8) The apostles to whom Jesus was speaking were going to be part of spiritual Israel, not judges of its members. Jesus made ‘a covenant with them for a kingdom,’ and they were to be ‘a kingdom and priests to God.’ (Luke 22:28-30; Rev. 5:10) Those of spiritual Israel are to “judge the world.” (1 Cor. 6:2) Hence, “the twelve tribes of Israel,” whom those on the heavenly thrones judge, evidently represent the world of mankind who are outside that royal, priestly class, as pictured by the 12 tribes on Atonement Day.—Lev., chap. 16.

Lessons for Us:

4:1-10. This account teaches us that Satan is real and not a quality of evil. He uses “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life” to tempt us. Nevertheless, applying Scriptural principles will help us to remain faithful to God.—1 John 2:16.
5:1–7:29. Be conscious of your spiritual need. Be peaceable. Shun immoral thoughts. Keep your word. When praying, give spiritual concerns priority over material interests. Be rich toward God. Seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness. Do not be judgmental. Do God’s will. What practical lessons are included in the Sermon on the Mount!
9:37, 38. We should act in harmony with our request to the Master to “send out workers into his harvest,” zealously engaging in the disciple-making work.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
10:32, 33. We should never be afraid to speak about our faith.
13:51, 52. Getting the sense of Kingdom truths brings with it the responsibility of teaching others and sharing these treasures with them.
14:12, 13, 23. Periods of solitude are essential for purposeful meditation.—Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12.
17:20. We need faith to overcome mountainlike obstacles that interfere with our spiritual progress and to cope with difficulties. We should not be negligent about building and strengthening our faith in Jehovah and his promises.—Mark 11:23; Luke 17:6.
18:1-4; 20:20-28. Human imperfection and a religious background that emphasized position made Jesus’ disciples overly concerned about greatness. We should cultivate humility as we guard against sinful tendencies and maintain a proper view of privileges and responsibilities.

“The son of man is to be delivered up”

(Matt. 21:1–28:20)

“Mounted upon an ass,” Jesus comes to Jerusalem on Nisan 9, 33 C.E. (Matt. 21:5) The next day, he comes to the temple and cleanses it. On Nisan 11, he teaches in the temple, denounces the scribes and the Pharisees, and thereafter gives his disciples “the sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) The following day, he tells them: “You know that two days from now the passover occurs, and the Son of man is to be delivered up to be impaled.”—Matt. 26:1, 2.
It is Nisan 14. After having instituted the Memorial of his imminent death, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, tried, and impaled. On the third day, he is raised from the dead. Before his ascension to heaven, the resurrected Jesus commands his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matt. 28:19.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

22:3, 4, 9—When do the three calls to the marriage feast go out? The first call to gather the bride class went out when Jesus and his followers began preaching in 29 C.E., and it continued till 33 C.E. The second call extended from the time of the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. to 36 C.E. Both calls were directed only to the Jews, Jewish proselytes, and Samaritans. However, the third call was issued to the people from the roads outside the city, that is, to the uncircumcised Gentiles, beginning in 36 C.E. with the conversion of the Roman army officer Cornelius and continuing into our day.
23:15—Why was a proselyte, or a convert, of the Pharisees “a subject for Gehenna twice as much” as the Pharisees themselves? Some who became proselytes of the Pharisees may formerly have been gross sinners. By converting to the extremism of the Pharisees, however, they took a turn for the worse, possibly becoming more extreme than their condemned teachers. Thus, they were ‘subjects for Gehenna,’ doubly so in comparison with the Jewish Pharisees.
27:3-5—Over what did Judas feel remorse? There is no indication that Judas’ remorse was true repentance. Rather than seeking God’s forgiveness, he confessed his wrongdoing to the chief priests and older men. Having committed “a sin that does incur death,” Judas was rightly overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and despair. (1 John 5:16) His remorse was prompted by his being in a desperate state.

Lessons for Us:

21:28-31. Our doing the divine will is what really counts with Jehovah. For example, we should have a zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work.—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
22:37-39. How succinctly the two greatest commandments summarize what God requires of those who worship him!


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