Introduction - Matthew, A Manual For Discipleship

 

The Gospel of Matthew contains one of the best known and most important portions of the Bible. I am referring of course to what is called The Great Commission given by Jesus as the purpose of the church and His disciples, which states:

 

  • Matthew 28:18-20 – “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”  [1] (Emphasis added.)

The Great Commission is based on the authority of Jesus (28:18), and driven by a loving

devotion to Christ that is manifested in obedience to His command to “Go therefore and make

disciples” (28:19a). Making disciples is the primary task of the church. Being a disciple and

making disciples  is the call to every Christian. The term “disciple” is translated from the Greek

word MATHETES (Strong’s #3101), which refers literally to one who is, “a learner; pupil;

disciple.” The gospel of Matthew which contains this mission statement for the followers of

Jesus is therefore the way we shall approach the study of this gospel, as a Manual For

Discipleship.

 

While the death and resurrection of Jesus is the climax of this Gospel, (as in all four of the Gospels), the Great Commission is conspicuous by its placement and marks the concluding commission and directive of Jesus to His followers. It is no wonder then that of the three Synoptic Gospels [2], Matthew uses the terms “disciple” and “disciples” more than Mark (“disciples” found 46 times in 43 verses; the term “disciple” in the singular is not found in Mark) and Luke (38 times in 37 verses). Matthew refers to these terms 76 times in 73 verses. (The Gospel of John refers to these terms 82 times in 76 verses.)

To put this in further perspective the term “disciple” does not occur in the Old Testament and there is only one occurrence of the term “disciples” (plural) in the Old Testament found in Isaiah (Isaiah 8:16). The term “disciple” occurs 29 times in the four Gospels and book of Acts. “Disciples” occurs 246 times in the Gospels and Acts. Neither “disciple” nor “disciples” occur beyond the book of Acts in the New Testament. This means that the Gospel of Matthew contains nearly ¼ of the Biblical references to discipleship. And this is only an estimate based on the occurrence of two words; Matthew has a much greater consideration of discipleship when the overall content and subject matter in the book are considered. The Gospel of Matthew is indeed,  A Manual For Discipleship. In this first book of the New Testament we will learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Where Do We “go”? Where Do We Start?

 

Jesus said, “Go therefore” (Matthew 28:19a). But where does Jesus expect us to go? Are we all

called to the foreign mission field?  It’s important to note that this command to “Go” from Jesus

is not only for those who go into the foreign mission field. (there are indeed some who are called

to the foreign mission field.) If that were the case many could simply dismiss this command as

not pertaining to them. A study of the word “Go” reveals that it is translated from the Greek term

POREUOMAI (Strong’s #4198).  The grammatical form of this Greek term is important to a

proper interpretation here. Grammatically POREUOMAI is an Aorist/Passive Deponent/

Participle. The aorist tense in the Greek language means a word, “is characterized by its

emphasis on punctiliar action; that is, the concept of the verb is considered without regard for

past, present, or future time.” [3] Passive deponent means the term refers to a, “subject as being

the recipient of the action.” [4] And lastly, a Greek participle, “corresponds for the most part to the

English participle, reflecting “-ing” or “-ed” being suffixed to the basic verb form.  The

participle can be used either like a verb or a noun, as in English, and thus is often termed a

“verbal noun.”[5] With this in mind, we therefore need to see “Go” as implying the idea of, “to be

going on one’s way,” or “to proceed from one place to another.” Jon Courson in his Tree of

Life Commentary – Matthew  states:

 

            “The Great Commission then takes on a much broader perspective than what we usually think of as ‘missionary mentality.’ We’re to be sharing and teaching wherever we’re going, whatever we’re doing.” [6]

 

This has great significance for us because it broadens the call of Christ’s Great Commission to all of us and expands the call to something disciples should always be looking to do.

What Is Involved in Disciple-Making?

How do we go about making disciples? How does the process begin? First, discipleship begins with the evangelization of the lost so that they repent and bear witness of their newfound salvation as exemplified in the reference to “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19b). Baptism is an outward sign of an inner work of God in a person. If you are baptized it should be because you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and have experienced the spiritual rebirth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). (We will study baptism in detail in Matthew 3.)

Once a person is saved from and forgiven of their sin and the Spirit has indwelt them, discipleship involves the process of spiritual growth that follows conversion with teaching God’s word and knowing and growing in the presence of Christ in life (28:20).

 

A Look At the Human Author of This Gospel

Matthew is the accepted author of the first Gospel. This is based primarily on the testimony of tradition. The KJV Bible Commentary states:

“The book itself is anonymous, but the earliest of traditions credits it to Matthew, the disciple of Jesus. Papias, the second-century Bishop of Hierapolis, Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, Origen in the third century, and Eusebius, who wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica in the fourth century, all agree that Matthew was the author of this gospel and that he originally wrote it in Hebrew (probably meaning Aramaic, the common spoken language of the early Christians). However, there is no trace of this Aramaic “original” and the earliest quotations (early second century) from Matthew are in Greek.”  [7]

Another interesting evidence of Matthew being the author of this book is pointed out in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, which states:

“This book has more references to coins than any of the other three Gospels. In fact this Gospel includes three terms for coins that are found nowhere else in the New Testament: “The two-drachma tax” (Matt. 17:24); “a four-drachma coin” (17:27), and “talents” (18:24). Since Matthew’s occupation was tax collecting, he had an interest in coins and noted the cost of certain items. The profession of tax collector would necessitate an ability to write and keep records. Matthew obviously had the ability, humanly speaking, to write a book such as the First Gospel.”  [8]

He became an apostle (Matthew 10:3: Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). Matthew, also known as Levi, was Jewish. As a Jew he refers to fulfilled Old Testament prophesies frequently in his writing. There are a number of examples of this. The phrase, “that it might be fulfilled” is only found in Matthew and occurs 9 times (Matthew 1:22; 2:15,23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:35). A related phrase, “which was spoken,” is used to introduce Old Testament quotations that refer to Jesus as Messiah and aspects thereof. This last phrase occurs 10 times in Matthew (Matthew 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9). The term “fulfilled” occurs 15 times in this book which further shows how Matthew is inspired to connect Jesus with the Old Testament prophesies. The term, “Scriptures” is found four times (Matthew 21:42; 22:29; 26:54,56). The Old Testament is quoted or alluded to 129 times in the Gospel of Matthew. Therefore, while the Gospel of Matthew was originally directed at those who were Jewish, it has great value for all people who desire to come to a personal saving relationship with Jesus and become His disciple, because of its many references to the Old Testament prophecy relating to Jesus, and the overall high view of the authority of Scripture.

 

Matthew’s Call to Discipleship

 

Matthew’s occupation before being called by Jesus was that of a tax collector. Being a tax collector put him in a hated position of his countrymen. Tax collectors were hated for a number of reasons. Tax collectors were agents of Rome and instruments of tax collection. They were viewed as dishonest because Rome would set a tax quota, which only the tax collector knew; the tax collector was then free to keep any and all funds raised over the set quota. This led to the people's suspicion they were being financially abused by the collectors. If any resistance arose to collecting the tax, the tax collector could call upon the Roman army to enforce his tax collection. Lastly, tax collectors were wealthy and lived luxuriously which made the populous from whom taxes were collected both suspicious and jealous.

 

Matthew being a hated tax collector didn’t deter Jesus from calling him to be a disciple. In chapter nine of Matthew we read of Jesus’ calling Matthew:

 

  • Matthew 9:9-13 – “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  [9]

This portion of Matthew gives us great insight into Matthew. First we see that Matthew opened his heart to receive Jesus as his Savior (9:9). We know that this response was sincere and deep in part because Matthew not only opened his heart to Jesus; he also likely opened his home as well. While verse 10 doesn’t specifically indicate that the home mentioned was Matthew’s, the parallel account in Mark 2:14-15 does so indicate. Further support that this was Matthew’s house comes from the clientele invited, “tax collectors and sinners.” Notice that once Matthew was saved he didn’t go into a shell of separation from the unsaved which is often the practice in our day. He opened his home in a way that his unsaved friends could learn about Jesus too. Matthew wasn’t embarrassed about Jesus but was open to use whatever he had to help others come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It appears that Matthew therefore, may have had the heart of an evangelist, or at least was someone who wanted to share his newfound faith. He followed the example of His Lord who, “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  A “Christian” is in reality and literally a, “little Christ,” someone who follows in the footsteps of Jesus (John 13; 1 John 2:6). Oh that more of us would follow the example of Jesus and His apostle and open our hearts and homes to the lost!   Someone has said, Christians are like dung, spread around they do a lot of good, clumped together, they stink!

 

What’s In Your Hand?

 

Matthew opened his heart and his house, but he lastly opened his hand. What do I mean? Well, as a Tax collector he was skilled in record keeping and writing. Jesus used this skill to have Matthew write a gospel. Jesus uses whatever we have in our hands now to accomplish His will. We see this throughout the Bible. Moses had a staff; God used it as a symbol of His power to free His people from the Egyptians (Exodus 42-3; 7:8-13). Samson had the jawbone of a donkey when the enemy Philistines came upon him and God used it to bring a mighty victory (Judges 17:14-17). Young David had a heart for God’s honor and a slingshot; God used it to bring down Goliath the biggest and baddest soldier in the Philistine army (1 Samuel 17). And Matthew had a pen in hand; God used it to write His Gospel.  What’s in your hand? God has given you something, a skill, a talent, a tool, that He wants to use for His ministry right now, what is it? Don’t run from it! Don’t rebel against it! Don’t throw it away! It might not seem like much to you or others, but if God can take a staff, a donkey’s jawbone, a sling, or a pen and do mighty things; He can take whatever you’ve got and do the same.  A disciple opens their hand and gives God whatever they have; a disciple is surrendered to God to be used whenever and in whatever way He deems fit.

 

The Unique Nature of Matthew’s Gospel

 

The Gospel of Matthew is unique in that it is the only book in the New Testament, which uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” (32 times). The term “kingdom” occurs over 50 times in this book. Other unique features of this book are some of the aspects of the birth of Jesus such as the visit of the Magi (2:1), the escape to Egypt (2:13-14), the genocide of the male babies (2:16) and the return to Nazareth (2:19-23). Matthew alone records the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety (Matthew 5-7). Matthew alone records the event of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:28-31), and the detailed denunciation of the religious leaders found in Matthew 23. Only this Gospel indicates tat Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and Judas’ returning of the silver later (26:15; 27:3-10).

 

Another unique quality of Matthew that is especially pertinent to our study is that of the Gospels, Matthew makes the greatest emphasis on the teachings of Jesus. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “The Book of Matthew places great emphasis on the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ. Of the Gospel accounts Matthew has the largest blocks of discourse material.” [10] If as we will see, a disciple is a learner, then it is understandable why the teaching ministry of Jesus is emphasized by Matthew.

 

The Date of the Writing of Matthew

 

While it is impossible to pinpoint exactly the date of the writing of Matthew, we can surmise that it was written before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. since if it had been written after this historical event it most certainly would have been mentioned since Jesus major teaching of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) would have required its mention. We say this because Matthew emphasizes the fulfillment of Scripture prophecy by Jesus; it seems inconceivable that he would not refer to the fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem mentioned in the Olivet teaching. A date of 50 A.D. seems to be the most reasonable estimate (e.g. Bible Knowledge Commentary; The New Scofield Study Bible.)

 

The Preeminent Disciple-Maker

 

Matthew 1:1a – “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, . . . ”  [11]

The first verse of the Gospel points us to the preeminent Person of not only Matthew’s gospel, but of all disciples; that preeminent Person is Jesus. Jesus is the preeminent and supreme Disciple-Maker. Jesus is the focus and fulcrum of a disciple. Matthew shows us right from the start that his purpose and focus for his writing is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the disciple’s focus because the true disciple just can’t get their eyes off Jesus; that’s how much they love Him. Jesus is the fulcrum of the disciple because everything in the true disciples life hinges upon and is anchored to, Jesus. Jesus is Savior, Lord and King of the disciple. A disciple eats, drinks and sleeps Jesus. A disciple can echo and deeply relate to the words of Paul who said:

  • Philippians 1:21 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  [12]

Jesus is the preeminent Person for a disciple. A disciple lives for Jesus; to know Him more and more; to love Him more and more; to serve Him more and more.

The Preeminent Position of This Person

Matthew 1:1b – “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:”  [13]

Why is David mentioned before Abraham in this verse? Possibly because Jesus is presented as the Messiah King in this great gospel and David was the greatest king of Israel up until the time of Jesus. Remember the account in 2 Samuel, David was at the end of his life and enjoying the many blessings and peace God had provided for him when the idea came into his head that God needed a house. He told Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains” (2 Samuel 7:1-2). Initially Nathan thought it a great idea but that night the LORD came to Nathan in a dream and checked his spirit. God said David would not be allowed to build Him a house, instead, God would build him a house and his kingdom would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:11, 16). God said “No” to David. Did David resist God’s “No”? Did he tantrum and kick and scream and beg and get angry, bitter and proudly pout? No, David accepted God’s blessed “No” and was blown away by the prospect of having an everlasting kingdom. God was of course referring to the future Messiah that would be a descendent of David. There is something a disciple needs to learn from this situation. The disciple needs to submit to God’s “No.” A disciple serves the Lord when and where God directs him to serve. We think that the blessings of God are only in His “Yes” to our prayers, but I know personally that as I look back in my Christian life that God’s “No” to my prayers is just as blessed as any “Yes” He gives. God spares us and God knows what’s best for us. We may have good hearted desires to serve the LORD, just like David did, but if God says “No” then we best move on to where God does direct us than to force our will on and over God’s will. I have seen many a DEA agent-like believer who when God shuts a door before them, they “try” the door by taking a battering ram and busting it down. The result is usually chaos, confusion, pain and disappointing, as well as frustration. God is totally efficient in His work with us so those who take such rebellious action will learn from their mistakes if they repent and give it to the LORD. But what will have been lost is doing what God desired us to do when and where He desired us to do it. That is a serious loss.

Mentioning David and Abraham in this opening verse would also address a question that would be undoubtedly raised by a Jew in terms of identifying the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. That question would surround the covenants both the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7) and the Abrahamic (Genesis 12; 15). Matthew is linking Jesus to these two primary covenants of the Old Testament from the very start. He is also showing the regal line of heritage of Jesus by referring to David as well as the racial line of heritage of Jesus by referring to Abraham. In so doing Matthew shows that Jesus is not only the fulfillment of these covenant promises, but the pinnacle of all promises of God. Jesus is preeminent in His position in God’s salvation plan.

Therefore, simply put, Jesus is the Lord of each and every disciple; you cannot be a disciple without having Jesus as your Lord and Master.

The Disciple Pool

Matthew 1:2-17 – “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram.4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon.5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah.9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah.10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah.11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel.13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor.14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud.15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob.”  [14]

Genealogical lines to demonstrate and prove heritage were very important to the Jews and this would be especially true for anyone claiming to be the Messiah King predicted in the Old Testament. In fact, since all genealogical records were destroyed when the Romans leveled and burned the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Jesus is the only viable candidate in history who can lay claim to any genealogical proof of Messiahship since only His genealogy is preserved. There is no genealogical evidence to support any alternative contender for Messiahship; only Jesus can lay claim to the pedigree necessary to be Messiah.

According to the Old Testament the Messiah needed to be a descendent of Abraham (Genesis 22:18), Jacob (Numbers 24:17), Judah (Genesis 49:10), Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), David (2 Samuel 7:13), and Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:22-23). All of these names appear in the genealogy of Matthew confirming the Messianic lineage of Jesus.[15]

Matthew’s genealogy begins with Abraham, the father of and founder of the Hebrew nation and concludes with Joseph, the husband of Mary. Luke’s genealogy starts with Joseph and works back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Matthew’s genealogy contains historical information (Luke’s does not) and is given in three sections. What also makes Matthew’s genealogy interesting is that it includes women which was not the cultural practice of the day. This directs us to a very important aspect of the way God disciples.

Rather than go into detail for each person listed in this genealogy their names and the Biblical references regarding them are listed below for the reader’s further investigation:

  • Abraham – Genesis 11:31- 25:11
  • Isaac – Genesis 21-28, 35
  • Jacob – Genesis 25-50
  • Judah – Genesis 29:15-35; 38:1-30; 49:10
  • Perez  – Genesis 25:19-28; 28:1-4, 10-15; 46:12
  • Zerah – Genesis 36:17,19; 1 Chronicles 1:44; Numbers 26:20
  • Tamar – Genesis 38:6-30; Numbers 26:20,21
  • Hezron – Genesis 46:9,12; Numbers 26:6,21
  • Ram  - Ruth 4:19
  • Amminadab – Numbers 1:7; Ruth 4:19,20
  • Nahshon – Numbers 1:7
  • Salmon – Ruth 4:20-21
  • Boaz – Book of Ruth
  • Rahab – Joshua 2:1-24; 6:17-25; Hebrews 11:31
  • Obed – Ruth 4:17-22
  • Jesse – Ruth 4:17-22; 1 Samuel 16:1,10,11,18,19; 18:18,23; 22:1-4;
  • David – 1 Samuel 16- 2 Samuel 24; 1 Kings 1-2
  • Bethsheba – 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1:15-31; 2:13-25
  • Solomon – 1 Kings 1-11
  • Rehoboam – 1 Kings 12; 14:21-31; 2 Chronicles 11:5-23
  • Abijah – 2 Chronicles 11:20
  • Asa – 1 Kings 15:7-22; 2 Chronicles 14:6-15; 16:1-10
  • Jehoshaphat – 1 Kings 15:23-24; 2 Chronicles 16:11-17:1
  • Joram – 2 Kings 3:1-27; 9:14-26
  • Uzziah – 2 Kings 14:21-22; 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-15
  • Jotham – 2 Kings 18:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27
  • Ahaz – 2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28
  • Hezekiah – 2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32; Isaiah 36-39
  • Manasseh – 2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-26
  • Amon – 2 Kings 21:19-26; 2 Chronicles 23:21-25
  • Josiah – 2 Kings 22:1-23:30; 2 Chronicles 34-35
  • Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) – 2 Kings 24:6-16; 2 Chronicles 36:8-10
  • Shealtiel – 1 Chronicles 3:17
  • Zerubbabel – Nehemiah 7:6-7; Ezra 3:1-8; Zechariah 4:1-14; Haggai 2:23
  • Abiud – Matthew 1:13
  • Eliakim – Nehemiah 12:41; Matthew 1:13; Luke 3:30
  • Azor – Matthew 1:13,14
  • Zadok – Nehemiah 3:4,29
  • Achim – Matthew 1:14
  • Eliud – Matthew 1:14-15
  • Eleazer – Matthew 1:15
  • Matthan – Matthew 1:15
  • Jacob – Matthew 1:15
  • Joseph – Matthew 1:16,19,24; 2:13,14,19; Luke 2:4,41; 3:23; 4:22

When we look at this genealogy we see a lot of black sheep of the family listed. For instance, Jacob is referred to as “Jacob” rather than “Israel.” This is significant because in Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestles with “a Man” his name is changed to Israel, which means “governed, by God.” Jacob means “supplanter.” The later name refers to Jacob’s carnal sinful nature of relying on his own wiles rather than on the LORD as his second name implies.

Judah was prophesied to be the ancestor of the future Messiah (Genesis 49:8-12). But now the dirty laundry really comes out. Perez and Zerah were the product of an immoral adulterous episode between Judah and Tamar (1:3; Genesis 38). This would be a source of consternation to the Jews who had a high regard and value on the integrity of the family unit.  Rahab was a harlot in Jericho, but also a woman of faith (1:5; Joshua 2:1; Hebrews 11:31). Referring to Rahab the harlot would strike to the heart of Jews who were equally concerned with sexual purity in their society.  Ruth was a Moabitess who became a godly woman (1:5; Ruth). Ruth would get a rise from Jews because it poked at their proud nationalism. And finally, “her who had been the wife of Uriah,” or Bethsheba who had been involved in one of the darkest events in the history of Israel and the life of David (1:6; 2 Samuel 11).  David was esteemed as the mightiest of the Kings, but this reference would show that even he had flaws. Why would Matthew mention these women of ill repute? It was rare that women, let alone Gentile women would be included in a Jewish genealogy. Perhaps it is simply because God is truthful and He inspired Matthew to tell it like it is. This genealogy shows the futility and failings of humankind in the nation of Israel. Perhaps God was showing from the start that His intent was to make no distinction or prejudice against people (see Galatians 3:28). Perhaps also, Matthew was showing that history past included people with questionable backgrounds so as to disarm any accusation that might have been brought against Mary and the virgin birth. (This is not to imply any underlying immoral conduct on the part of Mary. This author totally holds to the miraculous virgin birth and holiness of Mary.)

It should be mentioned here that Matthew’s genealogy leaves out some generations. The KJV Bible Commentary explains why this might have been done:

“Three generations are omitted at this point. Matthew omits the names of Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah and then omits Jehoiakim after the name of Josiah. “The omissions are doubtless due to his arbitrary shortening of the list to give three groups of fourteen” (Kent, p. 3). Being familiar with rabbinical thinking, Matthew uses a symmetry of numbers. He has, accordingly, divided the generations from Abraham to Jesus into three groups of fourteen each: from Abraham to David (vss. 2–6), from David to the Babylonian exile (vss. 6–11), from the exile to the birth of Jesus (vss. 12–16). The significance of the number fourteen seems to come from the numerical values of the Hebrew consonants in the name David which add up to that number. The system of rabbinic sacred arithmetic was often based on hidden calculations. To what degree Matthew is following such a system is uncertain.”  [16]

Asa’s rule ended on a low not (2 Chronicles 16) and in verse 11 Jeconiah is mentioned. According to Jeremiah 22:24-30 Jeconiah, a former king of Judah,  was cursed by God so that none of his descendents would again rule in power on the throne. How could Jesus have such a descendent and still be Messiah? Simply because Jesus was not a blood descendent of Jeconiah who was of the line of Joseph, husband of Mary; Jesus was of the line of Mary. If Joseph was Jesus birthfather, then Jesus would have been disqualified from reigning righteously in power. But Jesus was only the adopted son of Joseph and therefore the curse of Jeconiah did not affect Him.

Joseph the Husband of Mary

Matthew 1:16 – “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”  [17]

Verse 16 is interesting and important. The term “begot” is mentioned 39 times in the previous 15 verses, yet when it comes to describing Joseph in his relation to Jesus Matthew is inspired to conspicuously omit the use of the term “begot” and instead write, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ” (1:16). Joseph was the legal father of Jesus and the one through whom genealogically Jesus was linked to the throne of David, but Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus; Jesus was born of a virgin so that original sin did not pass on to Him.

Dregs to Disciples

Why include people in a genealogy of the Messiah who were less than reputable and on occasion, downright immoral?  By including imperfect people along with the righteous in this genealogy it shows that God is the one at work and gives hope to those who are less than perfect that God can use them too. The pool from which a disciple is taken is often composed of those whom the world would cast off and throw away. God doesn’t give up on people and He can take a dreg and turn them into a disciple. That should offer us hope because before the Holy God, we are all dregs who fall short of His glory (Matthew 5:48; Romans 3).

And Then There Was Silence

 

Matthew 1:17 – “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”  [18]

This verse takes us up to the end of the Old Testament and to the time of Jesus.  At the end of the Old Testament we see in the book of Malachi a people who were lukewarm and argumentative with God. After the book of Malachi there is a 400-year period in history between the Old and New Testaments when God is silent. There are no inspired words from God through a prophet during this time.

 

The Apocrypha

 

There were historical books written during the time between the close of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament. These 14-15 books are referred to as the Apocrypha.  “Apocrypha” means “hidden” and carries with it an idea of the esoteric or mystical. The apocryphal books were never accepted into the Protestant Canon of 66 Old and New Testament inspired writings. The Roman Catholic Church accepted these apocryphal works into their canon at the Council of Trent in 1545-63.

 

Josh McDowell in his book Answers to Tough Questions comments on why the apocryphal books were rejected as canonical in both the Jewish and Protestant canon of Scripture. He states that New Testament writers may allude to apocryphal writings but never refer to it a Holy Scripture. Whether or not the apocrypha is found in the Septuagint is debatable and even if it was included, Jesus and the disciples never referred to it. This is important to note since so much of the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament. The apocryphal writings are conspicuous by their absence. Some Church Fathers did accept the apocryphal books as canonical but others such as Origen and Jerome and others did not. While Augustine at first accepted the apocrypha as canonical, he later reversed himself and rejected them as canonical. In 90 A.D. the Jewish Council of Jamnia rejected the apocryphal books as part of their canon.

 

McDowell goes on to question why it took the Romans Catholic Church so long to accept the apocryphal books as canonical. He says:

 

It cannot be overemphasized that the Roman Catholic Church itself did not officially declare these books Holy Scripture until 1545-1563 at the Council of Trent. The acceptance of certain books in the apocrypha as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church was to a great extent a reaction to the Protestant Reformation. By canonizing these books, they legitimized their reference to them in doctrinal matters.

 

In other words, the Roman Catholic Church adopted the apocryphal writings because it was only in these writings that they could find support for many of their traditions and doctrines. McDowell goes on to state:

 

There are some other telling reasons why the Protestant church rejects the apocrypha. One of these deals with the unbiblical teaching of these questionable books, such as praying for the dead. . .  Praying for the deceased, advocated in II Maccabees 12:45–46, is in direct opposition to Luke 16:25, 26 and Hebrews 9:27, among others. The apocrypha also contains the episode which has God assisting Judith in a lie (Judith 9:10, 13). . . .  The apocrypha contains demonstrable errors as well. Tobit was supposedly alive when Jeroboam staged his revolt in 931 b.c. and was still living at the time of the Assyrian captivity (722 b.c.), yet the Book of Tobit says he lived only 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11). . . . Finally, there is no claim in any of these apocryphal books as to divine inspiration. One need only read these works alongside the Bible to see the vast difference.”[19]

 

The apocryphal books are useful for historical purposes such as the accounts in 1 and 2 Maccabees. But they are clearly uninspired and not deserving of canonical authority. The 66 books of the Old and New Testaments contained in your Bible are the only reliable, authoritative and inspired writings handed down form God to us. You can trust them completely; this cannot be said of the apocryphal works.

 

What Happened Between Malachi and Matthew? (Background)

 

Many changes in the world environment occur during this 400-year period and in order to understand the gospels it is necessary to understand some of the changes in history, which set the stage for Jesus the Messiah to arrive. Let’s look at this period, but let’s start in 606-586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar overcomes the Southern kingdom of Judah and destroys Jerusalem.

 

606-586 B.C.

 

In 606 B.C. the first captives were taken to Babylon. This group consisted of the leadership of the Southern kingdom (2 Kings 24:1-2; 2 Chronicles 36:5-7).  It is this date which likely marks the beginning of the 70-year Babylonian captivity prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25). In 586 B.C Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon defeated the Southern kingdom of Judah and leveled the city of Jerusalem. This led to the final and total deportation of the Jews from their homeland. 

 

The fall of the Northern kingdom of Israel (721 B.C.)  and the Southern kingdom of Judah (586 B.C.) were due for the most part to spiritual adultery. God’s people were unfaithful in their worship of Him and adulterated themselves with the surrounding pagan idols, which involved immoral rituals of the highest magnitude. Read the words of God to His people through the prophet Jeremiah who states:

 

  • Jeremiah 3:7-10 - “And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.9 “So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.10 “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord.”  [20] ( See also 2 Chronicles 36:14-23; Ezekiel 23).

For seventy years God’s people were surrounded by pagan religious practices and the result was that they became sick and disgusted with polytheism. They learned that that which they had longed for from a distance and indulged in on the fringe was not so delectable when experienced up close and on a constant basis for seventy years. History shows that after their Babylonian captivity the Jewish people never again turned to pagan idols and adopted a fanatical monotheistic loyalty. History shows that God’s discipline of His people was effective, it taught them the futility of idolatry.

 

516 B.C.

 

Between 536-516 B.C. (commentators differ regarding the exact dates of the beginning and ending the captivity by which the 70 year captivity took place) God’s people were allowed to return to the Promised Land and Jerusalem by Cyrus, king of Persia. They returned to the land led by Joshua, Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah (See the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah).

 

While the Jews were permitted to return to the Land, many chose to remain in Babylon. Many had established their lives in Babylon. They had successful businesses and a comfortable lifestyle that they were unwilling to leave. Therefore, only a remnant returned to Israel to rebuild its walls and the Temple.

 

Those who were taken into captivity found themselves without a Temple which had been destroyed. Once acclimated they began to worship in local synagogues. The system of synagogues remained in place after the return from captivity as those who chose to remain in Babylon and foreign lands worshipped in synagogues. Indeed, a synagogue was erected wherever 7 Jewish males were present in a community.

 

Those Jews who returned to the Promised Land from the captivity carried with them the newly established synagogue system of worship which was firmly in place by the time of the New Testament. In Luke’s gospel it states Jesus made it a practice to regularly attend synagogue worship services (Luke 4:16).

 

331 B.C.

 

In 331 B.C. Alexander the Great, on his black horse Beuciphilus, leading a relatively small army, conquered the known world. When Alexander came to Jerusalem the priests of the Temple came and met him and showed him the parts of Daniel 8 and 11 where his reign was foretold prophetically. As a result he spared the city and asked for a sacrifice to be offered on his behalf.

 

At age 33 Alexander the Great conquered the world and after his final battle he wept bitterly, “Are there no more worlds for me to conquer?!” His generals in an effort to cheer their depressed leader, held a party at which Alexander became staggeringly drunk. In a drunken stupor he wandered outdoors in a pouring rain and caught a cold. This cold degenerated into pneumonia, which claimed the life of young Alexander at age 33. Another world figure conquered the world with a very different approach at age 33. That Person was Jesus who said:

 

  • Matthew 20:25-28 – “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.26 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  [21]

Blaise Pascal wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man that cannot be satisfied by anything but God.” Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world by the age of 33 is a good example of this truth.

 

Upon his death, Alexander’s Empire was divided amongst his four generals:

 

  • Casander - Europe
  • Lysemicus - Asia Minor
  • Ptolemy - Egypt and Africa
  • Seleucius - Syria

 

The Seleucids and Ptolemies fought continuously in the aftermath and Israel found themselves brutalized in the ensuing wars between these two factions. Israel was caught in the middle.

 

285 B.C.

 

After being conquered by Alexander, the Hebrew language was supplanted by Greek and Aramaic. Greek was the world language of commerce and culture, while Aramaic was the common language of communication. As the Jews began to depend more and more on the universal language of Greek they began to desire the Old Testament in this common language. Around 285 B.C 70 Jewish scholars in Alexandria Egypt translated the Old Testament into the Greek of the day and this translation became known as the Septuagint. 

 

Those scholars who did the translating were known as scribes. These scribes became the authorities on Old Testament Law and it’s teaching. They became venerated as scholars. They were extremely meticulous in their work. In translating the Bible the scribe would translate one word at a time as opposed to writing a phrase or sentence. When the scribe came to the name of God, YAHWEH, they would remove their clothes, bathe, redress in clean clothes, get a new pen and fresh and only then would they write the name of God.  This would be repeated each time they came to the name of God.

 

As a testament to the accuracy of the scribes and the miraculous preservation of the scriptures by God, in 1948 a Bedouin sheepherder stumbled upon a cave with canisters, which held manuscripts of the Old Testament which were 1000 years older than any manuscripts previously in existence. When what was found, (known as the Dead Sea Scrolls) was compared to the scrolls in existence they were virtually identical proving the reliability of God’s word in its accuracy.

 

164 B.C.

 

The Seleucids won over the Ptolemies and Antiochus Epiphines came to power. Antiochus marched on Jerusalem and upon entering the city defiled the Temple by offering a slaughtered pig on its altar and spreading pig’s blood on the walls and inner holy of holies of the Temple. This was the “abomination of desolation” foretold by Daniel and was also a precursor to antichrist who will come in the End Times.

 

Antiochus’ actions caused a rebellion amongst the Jews led by Judas Maccabeus. The Maccabean revolt was a guerrilla war which beat back Antiochus. A temporary victory was secured and the Temple regained. When the Temple was cleansed and worship reestablished the candle in the holy place was filled with oil. But what was found was that there was only enough oil for one day and oil was needed for eight days before a new batch could be produced. Miraculously, according to Jewish tradition, on December 15th, 164 B.C., the oil burned for eight days until more oil could be secured. This event was celebrated and commemorated by the holiday of Chanukah.

 

63 B.C.

 

The Roman leader Pompeii moved to conquer the Mediterranean region. Upon his conquest of the area, Herod, an Idumean, was made king of Israel. Herod was 4’4” tall and aspired to do great things to offset his small stature. He engineered the construction of Masada, the great Palace of Herod, and a project of rebuilding the Temple which took 85 years to complete. His work was ornate and the simplicity of the Temple was lost in his efforts.

 

When Herod learned of the birth of the Jewish Messiah, in an effort to squash any challenge to his throne he ordered the Slaughter of the Innocents, the murder of all male children aged two years and under.

 

Despite this savage event, Roman rule created an environment of enforced peace known as Pax Romana.

 

Silent But Not Still

 

During the 400 years between the Testaments, God was silent in terms of speaking through a prophet. But He was not still, He was at work! He was preparing the way for His Son to enter humankind’s reality. He worked an environment where there was a common language which was conducive to the spread of the gospel. The Roman infrastructure of roads and highways also aided the spread of the gospel. Greek philosophy had played itself out and the people of the day were searching for truth. Israel was hungry for a word from the LORD which was to arrive.

 

What can we learn personally from this period in history? We learn that even though we may be experiencing a silent time in our lives, God is always at work preparing to fulfill His will in our lives.

 

The story is told of five blind men who are brought before an elephant and asked to describe what it is. The first blind man grabs the elephant’s ear and says, “It’s a flag!” The second grabs the elephant’s tale and says, “Why it’s a snake!” The third grabs a leg and says, “Silly, it’s a tree trunk!” The fourth rubs the elephant’s side and says, “My it ‘s a huge living wall!” The last grabs the elephant’s trunk and proclaims, “No, it’s a firehose!” We often draw false conclusions by assessing things in part rather than in whole. For the Christian, everything boils down to Jesus. The Old and New Testaments come down to Christ:

 

  • Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”  [22]
  • Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”  [23]

 We are whole in Him. Only in Jesus do we get the full picture of God’s revelation.  Indeed He was able to say, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father”   (John 14:9). There are four gospels to give us a whole view of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew is an indispensable link between the testaments because it bridges the Promises of the Old Testament with the Premises and Principles of the New.

 

Conclusion

 

In our opening study we have learned three things. First, we learned that Jesus is the supreme Disciple-Maker, and the focus of every disciple is Jesus. Jesus is the preeminent Person in the life of a disciple. Secondly, we learned that God takes dregs and turns them into a disciples; background is not as important as grounding in Him; ability is not as important as availability. Third and last, we learn that while God is silent at times He is never still; God is always at work, we need only wait on Him. God wants to make a disciple out of you. Let us follow the Savior and become His disciples as we study this great gospel.

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2] “Synoptic” comes from the Greek adjective synoptikos, which is from two words syn and opsesthai, “to see with or together.”  - Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[3]Tense Voice Mood, (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship) 1994.

[4]Tense Voice Mood, (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship) 1994.

[5]Tense Voice Mood, (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship) 1994.

[6] Jon Courson, Tree of Life Commentary - Volume 2, (Jacksonville, OR: Tree of Life Publishing) 1993. p. 383

[7]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[8]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc.) 1992. p. 1

[16]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]Josh McDowell, Answers to tough questions: Skeptics ask about the Christian faith [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1993 by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart. See also Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody Press) 1968, p. 162-178.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.