Reading plan for Days 1 to 7:
Sunday, 1/08: Matthew 1-2
Monday, 1/09: Matt. 3-4
Tuesday, 1/10: Matt. 5-7
Wednesday, 1/11: Matt. 8-9
Thursday, 1/12: Matt. 10-11
Friday, 1/13: Matt. 12-13
Saturday, 1/14: Matt. 14-16
Some introductory comments:
What is a “Gospel” anyway?
The word “gospel” is most often translated into English as “good news” (as it is in the Common English Bible). As a unique form of literature distinct from typical biographies or histories, the gospels of Jesus Christ combine biographical, historical, theological, philosophical, and other material to tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth. Gospels are written with the specific intent of persuading the one listening (remember these gospels were originally only heard, not read) that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, and that his coming and the coming of the kingdom were both “good news” for all people.
Although the term “propaganda” has some negative connotations to it, we should keep in mind that each Gospel writer was, in essence, sharing about Jesus of Nazareth and the disciples with the intent of promoting Jesus’ cause. Three of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are very similar in structure and content (they are called the “synoptic gospels,” I’ll share about this in a later week), one (John) is different in a variety of ways, but all four gospels are written to specific audiences and intended to help them to understand and accept Jesus as the Christ.
Introducing the “Gospel According To Matthew”
Although the Common English Bible many of us are reading from only identifies the book as “Matthew,” for generations and in many translations this first book of the New Testament has been known as “The Gospel According to Matthew.” There is what I would identify as an important reminder in this longer title: this is the good news about Jesus Christ, but as told by the chronicler known to us as “Matthew.”
(Note that there is disagreement as to whether the gospel was actually written by the disciple we know of as Levi/Matthew, or was written by a later Christian who identified it with Matthew to give it credibility. We won’t venture into such a deep discussion/debate here, but I do want to acknowledge, even as I refer to the author as the same disciple named Matthew that others might disagree with that attribution.)
Matthew’s particular interest in this Gospel seems to be in persuading a Jewish audience about Jesus’ identity as the Messiah promised in Hebrew (aka “Old Testament”) Scripture. Indeed, so interested is Matthew in making this a credible argument that he emphasizes two particular forms of content that would appeal to a Jewish audience:
- First, beginning in Chapter 1, he shares a full genealogy that connects Jesus back to (“Father”) Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish nation;
- Second, throughout the gospel Matthew references a variety of Hebrew scriptures (be they from the Torah, the prophets, or the Psalms) to help bolster his “argument” that because his teaching and life fulfilled said scripture, Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.
As you read through Matthew, keep in mind that he was writing for a Jewish audience, but that much of what we know about Jesus comes from this eloquent gospel. Indeed, one of the great treasures of the Christian faith – Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” which has influenced both Christians and people of other faiths (eg. Gandhi) – is found only in the Gospel According to Matthew!
Blessed reading to you this week! Be sure to post questions, comments, or insights in the comments section below.