Living Faith – Reading the New Testament – Part 3: Matthew and Luke – a tale of two gospels

The-Gospel-Books-of-the-BibleApologies for the delay in getting the third instalment of living faith to you all, life, has it so often does, got in the way. I want to have a brief look at Matthew and Luke, and I do mean brief – you could write a book on either gospel; and while that might be a goal one day, today I just want to have a quick overview of the gospels’ key messages.

Matthew – the gospel for the Jews:

The author; Matthew was a key figure within the Jewish community of Jerusalem and this has led many to speculate that Matthew’s gospel was written primarily for Jews. However, was he seeking to reform the Jewish church or is he wanting to leave the church and take the Law with him – do they want the Jews to recognise Jesus as the Messiah? I think it is safe to say that the author’s goal is to bring the Jewish people into salvation through Jesus Christ. Have a look at the below passages;

matthew1-300x225Matthew 1:1 – Matthew’s book of origin is in effect a survey of the history of the people of God from its very beginning with Abraham, the ancestor of Israel to the coming of the Messiah the ‘son of David’ – the genealogy isn’t so much of a historical statement, more a theological reflection on the working out of God’s purpose for his people.

Matthew 1:1-17 – Whereas, Luke’s genealogy is a biological line from Adam all the way to Jesus via Mary’s blood line, Matthew’s genealogy is a royal line, from Abraham to David, to Joseph – this is to establish Jesus as the son of David.

Matthew 1:16 – There is an OT link to the Messiah being the son of David  – in 2 Sam 7:12-16 “son of Abraham” locates David and his successor with the fuller history of the chosen people, but also by including this title Matthew probably has in mind that Abraham was not merely the ancestor of Israel but also the ancestor of a multitude of nations (Gen 17:4-5) and the one through whom “all the families of the earth” were to be blessed (Gen 12:3)

The 4 mothers – Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites, Ruth a Moabite, and Bathsheba the wife of a Hittite – these could have been included for 2 reasons. Firstly, they were quite risky characters to include in the genealogy of Jesus, however, they could be a way of preparing the readers for the scandal of the virgin birth. Secondly, the 4 foreign women could have been included to highlight that the Messiah would be a saviour to all peoples.

Matthew 1:18-25 – Jesus becomes the son of David through his adoption by Joseph. God directs Joseph to not only name Jesus but accept him as his son. The obedience to God’s will highlights that in many ways Joseph was the first person to realise who Jesus was.

This all demonstrates that Matthew is keen to establish the salvation history of the Jewish faith with the person of Jesus Christ – Jesus is the end result of this salvation journey – the Messiah that was foretold to the promise people.

Matthew 2 details the nativity and even in this there is a clear link with the Old Testament further adding to Christ’s legitimacy as the Messiah of the Jewish people.

  • The Messiah’s place of birth is referenced as being the town of David or Bethlehem Mic 5:2 and 2 Sam 5:2
  • The gifts of the kings = the story of the Queen of Sheba (1 Kgs 10:1-10)
  • The star = Balaam’s prophecy in Num 24:17-19
  • The Magi = Balaam who saw the star might have been a model for the wise men, as he too came from the East
  • Herod’s infanticide = connection to the killing of the first borns in Exodus

Interestingly even though Matthew is written for Jews it is the pagan kings who come to worship, they are the first to recognise him (Isa 25) the fulfilment that all nations will worship – this leads us on to Luke where the universal salvation that Jesus offers to explored further.Luke-image

Luke – a universal gospel:

Despite being similar to Matthew in many ways, Luke has a clear distinction in the fact that it is primarily focused on the universal message of salvation through Jesus Christ. And a key theme that runs through this gospel is the question of continuity with or break from Judaism. This is demonstrated through the constant references to mixed table fellowship (Acts 10-11), the parables of Luke 14 and the tale of the prodigal son. Jesus brings them all to the table, men, women, sinners, pagans and Jews – Luke and Acts is all about inclusion. And this makes us ask the question – how easy is it welcome everyone? And a thought to end on to those who wish to exclude people from the church, Judas was the first person to receive communion during the last supper. Everyone is welcome.

For-I-am-Convinced

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