Jesus as the promised MESSIAH in Matthew's Gospel

Jesus as the promised MESSIAH in Matthew's Gospel

Introduction
Gospel
Jesus Christ
Christ
Oral and written tradition
Tradition
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
Mark
The Gospel of Luke
Luke
The Gospel of John
John
The meaning for today
Interpretation

From ‘Notes on the Formation of the Gospels’, by John Wijngaards;
published in Background to the Gospels (Bangalore & Ann Arbor 1981)
and Together in My Name (London 1991).

The final author of ‘Matthew’s’ Gospel was, in all likelihood, a hellenised Christian scribe in Antioch. Following scholarly convention, we will simply refer to the Gospel’s author as ‘Matthew’

Matthew wanted to impress on his fellow Jews this important truth:

“Jesus Christ is the Messiah, promised in the Old Testament.”

Matthew shows this in a variety of ways.

First of all, Jesus came from the family of David, thereby fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah (the Redeemer) would be a descendant of David (see 2 Sam 7:8-16; Mt 1:1, 6, 17, 20). Christ is often called ‘Son of David’ in this Gospel. (Mt 9:27; 12:23; 15:22, 20:30-32; 21:9, 15).

Moreover, he stresses that Jesus is the New Moses, sent in fulfilment of the prophecy by which God had promised that he would raise the Messiah as a new Moses (Dt 18:15-19).

  • Just as Moses had promulgated the old law on Sinai, so Jesus promulgates his Law on a mountain. (Mt 5:1)
  • Instead of the ten commandments, he gives eight beatitudes. (Mt 5:3-10)
  • He explicitly refers to the old law, to Jesus’ perfecting the ancient precepts (Mt 5:17-20; 21 etc.).
  • Moses appears as Jesus’ forerunner on the mount of transfiguration. (Mt 17:34)
  • Jesus abrogates the permission to divorce granted by Moses. (Mt 19:3-9)

When relating Jesus’ words and actions Matthew keeps pointing out Messianic prophecies that have been fulfilled in them. He frequently says that a certain event happened “in order to fulil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet”. Such instances are:

  • Mt 1:23, 22 Jesus’ birth of a virgin. Is 7:14
  • Mt 2:15 the flight to Egypt Os 11:1
  • Mt 2:18 the murder of the innocents Jer 31:1S
  • Mt 4: 15-16 Jesus’ ministry in Galilee Is 9: 1-2
  • Mt 8:17 Jesus’ miraculous cures Is 53:4
  • Mt 12:17-21 Jesus’ unassuming leadership Is 42:1-4
  • Mt 13:14-15 the blindness of the people Is 6:9-10
  • Mt 13:35 Jesus’ preaching in parables Ps 78:2
  • Mt 21:4-5 Jesus’ riding on an ass Is 62:11; Zach. 9:9
  • Mt 27:9-10 Judas’ treachery Zach 11:12; Jer 32:6-15; 18:1-2.

The Jews knew the Old Testament prophecies so well. Matthew does his utmost to point out every detail fulfilled in Jesus’ life. And with preference he quotes the sayings of Jesus in which Jesus himself refers to the Old Testament.

Very often the Old Testament is cited in various ways:

  • “for it is written” Mt 2:5; 4:4, 6, 7, 10; 11:10; 21: 13; 26:31.
  • "Have you never read?” Mt 19:4; 21:16; 21:42; 22:31;
  • "God said” Mt 15:4: 19:5.

Matthew takes care to stress that Jesus is not a political Messiah (such as many Jews were expecting), but that he is a Messiah with divine power. Jesus’ divinity and equality with God the Father is brought out in many ways:

  • Jesus is greater than God’s temple (Mt 12:6), than Jonah and Solomon (Mt 12:42), than David. (Mt 22:41-46)
  • Jesus does miracles. which only God can do, such as stilling the storm (Mt 8:23-27), raising Jairus’ daughter (Mt 9:23-25), and so on. God the Father testifies about him: “This is my Son” (Mt 3: 17; 17:5).
  • Jesus knows all that the Father knows. (Mt 11:27)
  • Jesus will judge humankind as only God can judge. (Mt 16:27; 19:28; 24:27; 24:30-31; 25:31-46)
  • Jesus is, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Almighty God, in whose name all people should be baptized. (Mt 28:19)
  • Jesus founded God’s Kingdom, which in Jewish fashion is called "the Kingdom of Heaven”. He laid down many conditions of membership: the sanctity required in this ‘Kingdom’! All the five Sermons in St Matthew’s Gospel speak of this Kingdom.

For literature about the conflict with Judaism, see: R.HUMMEL, Die Auseinandersetzung zwischen Kirche und Judentum im Matthäusevangelium, München 1963; D.R.A.HARE, The Theme of the Jewish Persecution of Christians in the Gospel according to St.Matthew, Cambridge 1967; G.STRECKER, Der Weg der Gerechtigkeit, Göttingen 1966.

With regard to use of the Old Testament, see: K.STENDAHL, The School of St.Matthew and its Use of the Old Testament, Philadelphia 1968; R.H.GUNDRY, The Use of the Old Testament in St.Matthew’s Gospel with Special Reference to the Messianic Hope, Leiden 1967; W.ROTHFUCHS, Die Erfüllungszitate des Matthäus-Evangeliums, Stuttgart 1969.

John Wijngaards

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