Introduction to Matthew's Gospel

Matthew 1‑28  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 6
In this Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ is eminently and characteristically in connection with the Jew. It is very fitting that this should be so; that is, that the New Testament should open with a formal presentation of the Lord to Israel. The way of God in the earth had contracted itself to that nation; or rather, He had separated that nation to Himself to be His center round which to gather all the nations in light, allegiance, and worship.
For this is His way; bright and perfect as such must be. There is separation, and yet largeness: separation because He is holy; largeness because He is gracious.
The river, at the creation, had its source in the garden of Eden; but it was parted thence, and became four heads, to water the face of the earth. Noah and his sons were set in the new world, God’s preserved election; but they were to replenish the world, and to hold it in government and service under God. Abraham, in a still further day, was called alone from the abominations that were overspreading the earth; but in his seed all the families of men were to be blessed. And so Israel was God’s people; His throne and His tabernacle were among them; but still they were to be the center of divine government and worship for all the nations.
Such are God’s counsel and way; separation to Himself, but largeness of purpose and grace far and wide, all the world round.
Israel being this separated people, divine counsels touching the earth or the nations centered in them. The light that revealed God, the customs and ordinances which bespoke His mind, and were the witness which He bore to Himself in a dark, revolted world, were in the midst of them. They were the garden of Eden in their day, where the river which was to water the face of the earth took its rise. The Saviour of the world was to be their Messiah. The Bearer of life to men dead in sins, was to be the King of Israel. So that, at His appearing, He could not but present Himself, with the fruit and virtue of His presence, to the acceptance of this people.
The Scriptures of the New Testament, therefore, most fitly open with a full and formal proposal of the Lord Jesus to the Jews. And, accordingly, this is Matthew’s subject; for Matthew opens this new volume of the oracles of God. He details succinctly, and yet solemnly and fully, the making of the claims of Jesus, Jehovah-Messiah, upon His people Israel.
This is what this Gospel by Matthew gives us. And, according to this, its contents are easily distinguished and arranged, as in the following parts.
First Part—Matthew 1-2.
The first proposal of the Lord Jesus to Israel; that is, as the Child born in Bethlehem, the city of David; according to the prophet Micah.
Second Part—Matthew 3-20.
The second proposal of Himself by the Lord Jesus to His people; that is, as the Light from Zebulun and Naphtali; according to the prophet Isaiah.
Third Part—Matthew 21-25.
The third proposal of Himself by the Lord Jesus to His people; that is, as the King, just and lowly, and bringing salvation; according to the prophet Zechariah.
Fourth Part—Matthew 26-28.
The result of Israel’s refusal of the Lord; for Israel did refuse Him—upon each of these proposals of Himself to them.
Such are the contents of this Gospel, and such their arrangement in their simplest form. It is the record of the trial of the question whether or not Israel would accept their Messiah. Other things, as we shall see in the progress of it, are looked at now and again; but the Spirit in the evangelist never loses sight of this great leading subject. And I would now, in some further carefulness of heart and thought, consider this Gospel itself in these its several parts.