In one short simple sentence, the message of the Gospel of Matthew is that “Jesus is the Messiah.” This simple statement however is pregnant with implication and rooted deeply in the oldest designs of the universe itself. It is imbedded in the purpose for which God called a nation; and throughout history God worked purposefully in that nation to bring about His ultimate purpose. Through God’s promises and covenants, His people, from Abraham to Moses, to David, Jonah, and John the Baptist, through all of the stories and teachings of the Hebrew Bible, God sovereignly disposed the history of the nation of Israel to bring about this one end – the coming of Jesus the Messiah.
The Gospel according to Matthew is found in our New Testament as the first of four accounts which relate the Gospel, or good news, about the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. It describes His perfect and sinless life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. Matthew was one of twelve men called disciples or apostles, who were closest to Jesus. And Matthew wrote his account within the decades immediately following the life and death of Jesus. While each of the four Gospel writers emphasize slightly different themes, to understand Matthew’s account you have to comprehend its rootedness in the past. With some 55 direct quotations from the Old Testament, Matthew shows us that the motives and pattern of activity of God in the New Testament are completely consistent with His motives and actions in the Old Testament. One who reads Matthew’s Gospel will not find in its main character, Jesus, some innovator who came to establish a new religion, but someone who thought and taught exactly what the people had been hearing for ages. We can say that history itself was prepared for Jesus’ coming into the world. As we embark into the exposition of the new book, we will find ourselves often looking back into the shadows of the Old to help us understand what is fully revealed in the New.
While it might be difficult to understand the Gospel of Matthew apart from its ancient roots, it is certainly impossible to understand the message without understanding something about yourself. In Matthew chapter 9, Matthew recalls the day when he was called to follow Jesus. He reports in verse 13, that Jesus said to him and his tax-collector friends, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” So if you would count yourself as part of the pretty good, morally upright crowd, then Jesus didn’t come for you, and you will just not get God’s message in this book. But if you are among the sinners who recognize your need for Christ, that is the kind of heart to which God will apply the message of Messiah in the Gospel of Matthew.