Questions and Answers on “Gospel of Matthew”
1, Matthew begins his gospel by providing a genealogy for Jesus that traces his family tree back to which of these biblical characters?
Most scholars agree that Matthew is writing with Jews in mind. His immediate audience was probably a community of “Jewish” Christians who came into contact with fellow Jews on a daily basis. He, therefore, strives to show that Jesus is not a new departure but the supreme realisation of all that has gone before in the Old Testament. His interest in the genealogy is to demonstrate that Jesus is descended from Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation. Luke, on the other hand, who is writing for gentile Christians, traces the lineage back to Adam, the universal man
“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” (Matthew 5 v. 1). 2. Which title has traditionally been given to the body of teaching that follows this verse?
The Sermon on the Mount
It has been suggested that Matthew locates the event on a mountainside in order to parallel the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. He also highlights the fact that Jesus sat down to teach. This was the typical teaching posture of a Jewish rabbi.
3. The gospel writers emphasise that one of Jesus’ major themes was preaching that God’s kingdom is very near. Matthew is no exception but chooses, mostly, to use which alternative phrase?
The Kingdom of Heaven”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”” (Matthew 4 v. 17)
The phrase is unique to Matthew, occurring 32 times in his gospel and nowhere else in the Bible. The most likely reason for its usage is that Matthew is showing a typically Jewish reticence to utter the name of God.
4. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record an incident where Jesus calls Matthew from his work as a tax collector. Mark and Luke, however, call Matthew by a different name. What is this name?
Matthew is sitting at his tax booth when Jesus approaches with the simple instruction, “Follow me”. Matthew follows. (Matthew 9 v. 9) As Matthew is the only one of the gospel writers to use this name for the tax collector, it has historically been assumed that they are one and the same person.
5. “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5 v. 18 – King James translation). What are jots and tittles?
Terms used in writing A jot is the long stem of a lower case i or j and derives from the Greek letter, iota, regarded as being the smallest of all letters. A tittle is the even smaller dot that sits on top of the jot. What Jesus is saying, therefore, is that not even the very smallest part of the Law can ever be disregarded. Exactly the same idea is carried into two equivalent English phrases – “not one jot of difference” and “not one iota of difference” – meaning that there is not even the very smallest difference.
The terms are, of course, English and contemporary to the writing of the King James translation. The actual Greek words used by Matthew are iota and keraia.
6.Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ______.” (Matthew 16 v. 17-18) Which of these words completes the quote?
Matthew locates the event as happening when Jesus and his disciples “came to the region of Caesarea Philippi”. There has been considerable debate as to what Jesus meant by these words. Some have taken them to apply to Peter himself, as the first leader of the Christian Church. Others have interpreted them in the light of the immediately preceding verses:
“‘But what about you?’ he asked. “Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” (Matthew 16 v. 15-16)
It is then argued that Jesus is referring, not to Peter, but to the faith that has enabled Peter to see him as he really is.
7. Which group of people does Jesus criticize by describing them as whitewashed tombs – sparkling on the outside but dead on the inside?
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23 v. 27)
Jesus, like many that had gone before, is very critical of any religion that consists of outward practice with no inner substance. The words take on an added significance, though, when you consider that Matthew is addressing a specifically Jewish community. The fledgling Christian church for whom he is writing was probably still seen as part of Judaism and had to establish its identity alongside existing Jewish groups such as the Pharisees. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that Matthew chooses to use the sayings of Jesus that are most hostile towards the Pharisees.
8. Which of these parables, about being ready for the second coming of Jesus, is only found in the gospel of Matthew?
The Wise and Foolish Virgins
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25 v. 10-13)
The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan appear only in Luke’s gospel. The Sower is in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The background to this story is the typical wedding feast of Jesus’ time. The virgins (bridesmaids) had to be ready for the arrival of the bridegroom which happened, not at an appointed time, but in quite a wide timeframe. Some of the bridesmaids were prepared; some weren’t and missed out. Preachers through the centuries have aimed this parable at churchgoers but it is probable that Matthew’s original target was the wider Jewish community. They had not recognised Jesus when he first came. Would they be ready a second time?
9. Matthew is the only one of the gospel writers to record an unusual occurrence that accompanied Jesus’ crucifixion. Which of these does he record?
Graves opening and the dead coming back to life
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27 v. 50-53)
Frustratingly, Matthew doesn’t tell us how the situation subsequently unfolded. Did the dead go on to die a second death? Did they, at some point, climb back into their tombs or collapse and have to be reburied? Did they ascend into heaven? We are not told.
10. Which of these are Jesus’ last recorded words in Matthew’s gospel?
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28 v. 16-20)
All of the other statements occur in these same verses. It’s a great note on which to finish. Jesus isn’t giving commands but promising the reality of his strengthening presence.