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NT Survey 111 Seminar 2 Gospel of Matthew

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                               12th February 2007

NTES 111 Seminar 2

Gospel of Matthew

Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago  pp 38-133; Libronix DLS; Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990  Ch 2

Expound the main theme of the Gospel:

            “The main purpose of Matthew in writing this account was to show Jesus as King of the promised kingdom” (Jensen p 126). This could be rephrased as ‘The Holy Spirit caused Matthew to write to the early Church that the prophecies of the OT scriptures were to be fulfilled in the promised Messiah Who was the Lord of the Christian’.

            This is not to say that this Gospel is written only for the Jew. There is much in it for the whole of humanity, consistent with the OT, and is intended to be read by all. Matthew gave the early Jewish Christian the ammunition he needed to counteract the arguments of the traditional, unsaved Jew, and also armed the pagan convert to Christianity in the ethics and practice of their new religion, modelled on the words and works of the Saviour Himself.

Of all the Gospels, Matthew is emphatic in declaring that the major events in Jesus’ life occurred in fulfillment of prophecy, starting with His Jewish heritage - the genealogy descending from Abraham; but ending with the Commission which was for the whole world, expanding the initial Jewish flavour to all the Gentiles. For traditional Jews this was heresy. To the Jewish Christian it was sweet reconciliation. “Here was Old Testament fulfilment in the widest possible sense.”[1]

The theme of the Gospel is expressed in a very orderly manner - Guthrie p 39: “The most obvious feature of Matthew’s structure is the alternation of large blocks of teaching material with narrative sections. These teaching sections are all concluded with a similar formula (‘when Jesus had finished these sayings’). These occur at 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1. The five discourses may be classified as The Sermon on the Mount (5–7); Missionary Discourse (10); Parable Discourse (13); Church Discourse (18); and Eschatological Discourse (24–25).”[2]


Prioritise the Life and Ministry of Christ in Matthew:

            Jensen uses the following schemes for this (p 117):

  • Preparation - Chh1-3 -Birth to His introduction by John
  • Public Ministry - Chh 4-20 - Popularity (Chh 4:12-14:36)

                                                  Opposition (Chh15-20)

  • Sacrifice - Chh 21-28

Compared to the sum total of Jesus’ ministry as contained in all four Gospels together, Matthew has about the same quantity as Luke and John (cf Jensen Charts 21, 35 and 44) but more than Mark (Chart 29). The emphases of each of the Gospels is different and each contains material unique to itself, but each one concentrates on Christ’s Passion as the main event and devotes the most space to this.

Jensen further divides the ministry of Christ into regions, constructing a composite chart of the whole of His life which is useful as a framework to fit each of the Gospels into. I found these Charts very helpful.

            Matthew describes Christ’s ministry in Galilee (early, middle and late) and the later Judean ministry, keeping the bookends of Preparation and Sacrifice in place, but recording little of the ‘Opening Events’, ‘Early Ministries’ and much of the ‘Perean concluding ministries’ (Jensen Chart 21 p117).

            Jensen also outlines this Gospel on p 132:

  • Presentation - Birth and Infancy                                             1:1-2:23

                              Preparation of the King                                   3:1-4:11

  • Proclamation - First Ministries                                                4:12-25

                               Discourse: Sermon on the Mount                  5:1-7:29

                               Power of the King                                          8:1-9:34

                               Discourse: Charge of the Twelve                  9:35-11:1

                               Rejection of the King                                      11:2-12:50

                               Discourse: Parables                                      13:1-53

                               Mission of the King                                         13:54-16:20

  • Passion - Death foretold                                                         16:21-17:27

                      Discourse: Relationships                                       18:1-19:1a

                      Final Ministries of the King                                      19:1b-23:39

                      Discourse: Second Coming                                   24:1-25:46

                      Death and Resurrection of the King                       26:1-28:20



Analyse the Sermon on the Mount and its meaning:

            Contained in Matthew 5:3-7:27. Primarily for the disciples (Matthew 5:1), having gone up a mountain (to escape the multitudes?), but heard by “the people” anyway (Matthew 7:28). Luke’s account has Him going up a mountain to pray all night, choose His disciples in the morning, coming down from the mountain onto the plain and preaching the Sermon to “the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon” (Luke 6:17). Matthew’s shorter account is obviously consistent with Luke’s, but perhaps Luke’s should be called “The Sermon on the Plain” (!).

            The Sermon comes near the time of Jesus’ peak public popularity when not only did multitudes come to listen but also to bring their sick for healing (Luke 6:17-19). The healing aspect of the Sermon in Matthew is limited to one man - a leper (Matthew 8:1-4).

            The disciples had already been drawn close to Jesus by His invitation to which they had responded. The Sermon is now telling them how to live their lives given this new relationship. The multitudes did not have this advantage, but to both groups the words were revolutionary, nice in theory but impossible in practice. This is the essence of walking by faith and not by sight - it is only possible by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

            This Sermon is important in Jesus’ ministry because He knew not only what the Jews expected of a new leader - socially and politically - but also that as a nation they would fail to understand His true purpose. Kingdom Living as described in this passage is entirely different to what His Chosen nation expected or wanted - although it is clearly what they needed.

            An example is the “Disciple’s Prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13. There is no mention here of the overthrow of the Roman yoke and the re-establishment of autonomous rule. Instead there is a reverent plea for the establishment of a true Theocracy, for daily needs, for forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil. These words might have offended Jewish militants, but would have intrigued those who were seeking spiritual meaning and fulfilment. There were plenty of these who were hungry to hear at this stage in His Galilean popularity.

            Guthrie summarises the Sermon as follows: “Introduction (5:1, 22). The Beatitudes (5:3–12). Illustrations from salt and light (5:13–16). Jesus’ attitude towards the ancient law (5:17–48). His teaching on religious practices (6:1–7:27). The effect on the hearers (7:28–29).”[3] Note the use of illustrations and the success of this method of instruction in the hearers’ responses.  


Explain the parables of the Gospel (Kingdom?) and their meanings and applications:

            “Earthly stories with heavenly meanings” are just that and should be interpreted according to the spiritual intention rather than any literal physical methods of expression. They are ‘true to life’ illustrations readily recognised by the listeners, but only understood spiritually by those capable of this. The spiritual truth remains dark to those who are not (“Who hath ears to hear let him hear”). This make a parable an effective way of communicating spiritual truth in that it is either understood or not understood (Matthew 13:11-17). It is only misunderstood by those who deliberately seek to discredit the Teller.

            It should be remembered that no parable, allegory, analogy, metaphor, simile or simple comparison can of itself fully represent its spiritual counterpart, which always remains greater than what it has been compared to. Nevertheless all of these devices remain useful teaching tools.

Parables generally teach one major spiritual truth and are used to elicit a specific response from the hearers eg the sower and the seed, the very first parable in this section Matthew 13:1-53. The disciples did not understand why Jesus spoke to them in a parable in the first place, and clearly did not understand the spiritual intent of the story. Their response was to ask the Teller for answers which He willingly gave, without changing the story but re-phrasing it so that the spiritual intent was made clear (Matthew 13:18-23). They understood because they were capable of understanding (Matthew 13:16-17). Why didn’t they get it the first time around?

Matthew 13:1-52 tells eight parables relating to the Kingdom of heaven - the sower and the seed, the tares, the mustard seed, the yeast, the hidden treasure, the valuable pearl, the net and the teacher of the law. Interspersed amongst the telling are passages supporting the reason why parables are used, OT support for the use of parables, and specific interpretation of the meaning of two of the parables. When taken literally, the parabolic spiritual meaning is readily apparent - although at a number of levels from superficial to increasingly deep, without allegorisation, comparing scripture with scripture.

Application of these spiritual truths may be made to Christian attitudes and practice, the value of the reality of spiritual truth above everything material, the blessing of being a fit instrument in the Master’s hand, the greatness of the Kingdom of God in which we live spiritually and in His creation, the evil pseudo-Christians expected amongst Christians and their angelic separation in the fullness of time. An adequate analysis of these parables is beyond the scope of these notes.


Compare the phrases “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God”:

            “Kingdom of heaven” is used only in Matthew out of all the scriptures (31 times). “Kingdom of God” is used in Matthew 5 times (in Mark 15 times, Luke 32 times, John twice, Acts 7 times and in assorted NT books a further 9 times). Neither phrase is present in the OT, although the idea of the Kingdom is spoken of in a non-spiritual socio-political sense eg the throne of David. In the NT a similar OT idea is expressed in the rule of Satan over this world (John 12:31, 13:40, etc).

            The use of these two Kingdom terms generally reflect the audience likely to read the particular Gospel, and the particular aspect of the picture that God wished to paint.

            The following list is taken from New Nave’s Topical Bible and shows the aspects of the Kingdom referred to by either “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God”:  “KINGDOM. Likened to one who sowed good seed, Matt. 13:24–30, 38–43; Mark 4:26–29; to a grain of mustard seed, Matt. 13:31, 32; Mark 4:30, 31; Luke 13:18, 19; to leaven, Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:21; to a treasure, Matt. 13:44; to a pearl, Matt. 13:45; to a net, Matt. 13:47–50; to a king who called his servants to a reckoning, Matt. 18:23–35; to a householder, Matt. 20:1–16; to a king who made a marriage feast for his son, Matt. 22:2–14; Luke 14:16–24; to ten virgins, Matt. 25:1–13; to one traveling into a far country, who called his servants, and delivered to them his goods, Matt. 25:14–30; Luke 19:12–27. ``My kingdom is not of this world,’’ John 18:36. Children of the, Matt. 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16. Rich cannot enter, Matt. 19:23, 24; Mark 10:23–25; Luke 18:24, 25, 29, 30. Keys of, Matt. 16:19. Good news of, Luke 8:1. Mysteries of, Luke 8:10. Is not meat and drink, Rom. 14:17.”[4]

            This list describes the Kingdom in terms of parables, metaphors, similes, symbols and literal fact. The broad range of teaching devices is specifically designed for the hearer/reader, and communicates a very wide comprehension of the Kingdom. There is no attempt to differentiate between the two phrases and the implication is that they describe the same thing.

Achtemeier gives his view: “Matthew’s Gospel frequently uses the term ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ while Mark and Luke always use ‘Kingdom of God.’ ‘Heaven’ in these instances is a circumlocution—a way of referring to God without using his name, which Jews and Jewish Christians believed too holy to pronounce or even write. Thus, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘Kingdom of God’ are identical in meaning. We do not know which expression Jesus himself may have used.”[5] Speculation?

Jesus employed the term in two ways. First, the Kingdom of God was immediately present because of His own presence (either personally or with/in His disciples eg Matthew 5:3-11, 7:21-23, 10:7, 12:28; Luke 10:9,11, 11:20) and the Kingdom would be established in those of His own generation when He was accepted into themselves to rule as King at their salvation (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 17:20-21; Acts 8:12), and as they walked by faith (Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20, 15:42-54).

Secondly, Jesus used the term to prophesy of His coming Millennial reign (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25), and John spoke of the achievement of this (Revelation 11:15, 12:10).

Tying this together: the existence of a King implies the existence of a Kingdom, else there is a lone King with no one to rule. Both are fundamentally necessary to the other. The Kingdom of God therefore exists in a saved individual when Christ is the Lord of their life - God rules that person as His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God also exists in the completely theocratic physical society where God Himself is the (completely benevolent but iron-fisted) Dictator. This has always existed since Creation and has been expressed in the successive Dispensations, the penultimate one being the restoration of Christ’s direct rule over the whole earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem during the Millennium.



Discuss Chapter 24 and its importance to the Church:

            The ‘Olivet Discourse’ (Mark 13:1-3) is contained in Matthew 24:1 - 25:46, is the last recorded of Jesus’ discourses and is prophetic of His second coming. The Discourse describes the end of the Age of Grace and the timetable for the occurrence of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennium, as it applies to Israel.

            Therefore its importance to the Church is with regard to the timing of the Rapture, as a stimulus to preach the Gospel before time to do so under Grace runs out, and incentive to maximise Christian maturity and the blessings of service on earth while it is still possible to do so. This is in the context of a pretribulational, premillennial rapture.



Chart out the last seven days of Christ’s life:

            Taken from Cheney and Ellison:

Sunday: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Monday: Cursing the fig tree & second cleansing of the temple
Tuesday: The authority of Jesus questioned & Jesus teaches in the temple
Wednesday: Jesus’ temple teaching & questioning of His authority and The Olivet Discourse
Thursday: The Last Supper, Upper Room discourse, High Priestly Prayer, Garden of Gethsemane
Friday: Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trials, crucifixion, death and burial
Sunday: Jesus’ Resurrection


This Chart presupposes a Friday crucifixion which is impossible scripturally eg Matthew 12:40. Explain.

Alternative schemes are several and are beyond the scope of these notes.


Review the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection:

            As the crucifixion of Jesus fulfils the type of the slaying of the lamb without blemish at Passover, it occurs on the very day (but not at the same hour?) that the sacrifice to prevent the death of the firstborn was made in Egypt ~1480 years before. The crucifixion also fulfilled all the spiritual requirements of the OT Law, especially those pictured in the other specified Temple sacrifices.

            Therefore in one single event, Christ, the God-man, satisfied the holiness, righteousness and justice of God the Judge, in a way that expressed infinite love, mercy and grace. This was not only once-for-all but also once-for-all and once-for-all ie Christ’s death was only needed once in time and place, was totally effective for all humanity past, present and future, and was effective for every individual sin nature and every sin ever committed.

            As “the wages of sin is death” Christ proved His victory by His resurrection. He, sinless, took upon Himself the sin of all humanity and died as a result of this. The Resurrection - an action of the whole Trinity - is living proof that victory over sin and its consequence was secured.

            The incredible thing is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” and offers His victory as a free gift to everyone who will receive it. Millions have; billions don’t.

            This makes Scriptural Christianity unique among all other religions. Knowing that humanity was not just helpless, but dead in sin since Adam, God reaches down to us with the perfect solution which is a win-win situation for both God and the saved. Only those who fail to recognise their absence of true spiritual awareness, who do not agree with God that they are spiritually dead in sin and desperately need help, who refuse the oft-repeated pleading of the Holy Spirit to repent and therefore remain unsaved, lose, and continue on the inevitable wide path to hell for eternity.

            The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ separates all humanity into the saved and the unsaved, those who agree with God and accept His gift, and those who do not (there are some special circumstances eg the young, those who have not heard about Christ, the mentally insane).

            The Resurrection confirms the Kingship of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. No other ruler can claim this, and would have confirmed to the Jew reading Matthew’s Gospel that Christ indeed fulfilled all the prophecies of the OT relating to their Messiah. Matthew’s account included some supernatural signs occurring at the time of the crucifixion eg the earthquake, which was a way of confirming the authenticity of the writing to a Jew. The Resurrection itself is not a supernatural sign but an historical fact which is central to belief; without the resurrection there is no salvation.



Summarise the “great commission” passage Matthew 28:18-20:

            It is of interest that at the end of this ‘Jewish’ Gospel there is a command by Jesus to carry the Gospel to, preach in and disciple all nations. This is not surprising in that the Gospel is an account of the life and ministries of Jesus, and He is announcing this Commission with His view of all humanity, not just Jews.

            The Commission in Matthew is given to the eleven disciples but its scope clearly indicates that a much wider body is required. This comes along in due course in the form of the Church which is empowered to carry out this Commission. Can we then say that the Church commenced when the Commission was delivered to the eleven? The power to do so might be considered a separate issue. Discuss.

            The word ekklesia  (‘the called-out’ - koine for the Church) as spoken by Jesus occurs only three times, and only in Matthew (16:18 and 18:17 [twice]).

            “Commissions” also occur in the other three Gospels and in Acts but are less ‘full’ than that in Matthew. The common thread is that it is God’s will that the Gospel is preached to every creature in every part of the earth, that the saved who respond are to be taught in the faith, and there is all the power of God available to achieve this. The implication is that the procession of God’s timetable cannot progress until this task is fully complete.


[1]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 33 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[2]Ibid p 39

[3]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 58 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[4]James Swanson and Orville Nave, New Nave's (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1994).

[5]Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, Includes index., 1st ed., 528 (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).

[6]Johnston M. Cheney, Stanley A. Ellisen and Johnston M. Cheney, Jesus Christ The Greatest Life : A Unique Blending of the Four Gospels, Rev. ed. of: The Greatest Story. 1994.; Includes indexes., 208 (Eugene, Or.: Paradise Publishing Inc., 1999).

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