“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13: 52) Matthew is this scribe and he tells us about his aim in writing his Gospel.
He sees the Jesus’ Story as the climax of the story of the people of Israel. The God who told the ancient Hebrews, “I will be your God and you will be my people,” (Jer 7: 23) is the God who sent Jesus, Emmanuel, “God is with us.” (1: 23) Matthew will often draw from the Hebrew Scriptures to explain “the newness” of Jesus. In his infancy narrative alone we find, five times, “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled”. (2: 23)
In his opening sentence Matthew gives us his understanding of who Jesus is, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” We are left in no doubt that this is a Jewish story about a man steeped in his Jewish faith. Jesus ranks along with the most significant people in the history of God’s Chosen People.
There are parallels between the history of the Israelites and Jesus’ infancy.
Matthew’s genealogy roots Jesus in the Jewish tradition. He begins with, “Abraham became the father of Isaac and closes with; Jacob became the father of Joseph, husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (1: 16)
Jacob’s eleven sons followed Joseph into Egypt where, with his help, they escaped starvation. This Joseph was a dreamer. “The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.”
Moses’ life was threatened by Pharaoh. Joseph was told, “Rise, take the child (Jesus) and his mother, flee to Egypt,” because his life, too, was threatened by the wicked King Herod.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and so Matthew has Jesus living in Egypt until the death of Herod so that, “What was said by the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (2: 15; Hos11: 1)
The first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, are known as the Law of Moses. Matthew also divides his gospel into five books. You can easily find where each book ends, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (7: 28 – 29 and 11: 1;13: 53; 19: 1; 26: 1)
Matthew’s concern is for his fellow Jews. “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Jesus advises the Apostles. (10: 6) He also tells the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (15: 24)
Even so, the gentiles get two very significant mentions:
⇒ The only people to visit the baby Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are the three wise men, all gentiles. (2: 11)
⇒ “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations. … I am with you always, until the end of time.” (28: 19 – 20) This is what Jesus asks of us.