What does Matthew say about Jesus and the LawQUESTION: What does Matthew say about Jesus and the Law?ANSWER:
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 (Matthew 5:21-48); he internalized the faith that Pharisaic hypocrisy had shamelessly externalized (Matthew 6:1-24); He chose twelve disciples as representatives of Israel's twelve tribes (Matthew 10:1-4), then sent them as His witnesses to Israel as God had sent the tribes as His witnesses to the nations (Matthew 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 (Matthew 12:15-21, 22:41-46, 26:57-68); by being the sign to Israel that Jonah foreshadowed (Matthew 12:38-41, 16:1-4); by re-instating God's word in Israel where the leaders had exalted tradition (Matthew 15:1-20); and by superseding Moses and Elijah as God's spokesman to the world (Matthew 17:1-8).
In addition, Matthew saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law by emphasizing God's original purpose for marriage (Matthew 19:1-12); by stressing self-denial, not obedience to rules, as the basis of discipleship (Matthew 16:24-28, 19:16-26); and by accepting his personal death as the means by which He ultimately removed the Mosaic system (Matthew 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 (Matthew 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 (Matthew 23:1-39); and by overwhelming its limited authority by stressing His own universal authority (Matthew 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 (Matthew 1:1-17), then introduced Gentile wise men seeking Jesus, Abraham's ultimate descendant (Matthew 2:1-12). Matthew noted that Jesus extolled the faith of a Roman centurion, not of anyone in Israel (Matthew 8:5-13). Matthew also recorded the Master's condemnation of Israel's, not Rome's, cities (Matthew 11:20-24).