What does Matthew say about Jesus and the Law?
The need for a reliable written record of Jesus Christ became obvious as the first generation of disciples, and especially the Apostles, died.
Matthew, also called Levi, wrote specifically to convince his Jewish audience that Jesus was their Messiah. He achieved his purpose by showing how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law and prophecies. This is seen in many ways, the following a few among others. Matthew used more Old Testament Scriptures than any other writer; he noted that Jesus demanded behavior that was far superior to Moses (5:21-48); he internalized the faith that Pharisaic hypocrisy had shamelessly externalized (6:1-24); He chose twelve disciples as representatives of Israel's twelve tribes (10:1-4), then sent them as His witnesses to Israel as God had sent the tribes as His witnesses to the nations (10:5-42).
He also saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law by personalizing all the positive hopes revealed in the Law and prophets (12:15-21, 22:41-46, 26:57-68); by being the sign to Israel that Jonah foreshadowed (12:38-41, 16:1-4); by re-instating God's word in Israel where the leaders had exalted tradition (15:1-20); and by superseding Moses and Elijah as God's spokesman to the world (17:1-8).
In addition, Matthew saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law by emphasizing God's original purpose for marriage (19:1-12); by stressing self-denial, not obedience to rules, as the basis of discipleship (16:24-28, 19:16-26); and by accepting his personal death as the means by which He ultimately removed the Mosaic system (5:18, 16:21, 20:17-19).
Finally, he saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law by predicting God's rejection of Israel while including Gentiles (21:33-46); by proving he understood meanings in the Law the leaders missed (22:23-33); by assuming authority over all its human leaders (23:1-39); and by overwhelming its limited authority by stressing His own universal authority (28:18-20).
An overview of Matthew stresses Christianity's universal outreach, even though it was written to the Jews. Indeed, Matthew began his Gospel with Abraham, the first Hebrew (1:1-17), then introduced Gentile wise men seeking Jesus, Abraham's ultimate descendant (2:1-12). Matthew noted that Jesus extolled the faith of a Roman centurion, not of anyone in Israel (8:5-13). Matthew also recorded the Master's condemnation of Israel's, not Rome's, cities (11:20-24).
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