Sugar Land Bible Church
Dr. Jim McGowan
Law and Grace 17, Intro. to the Gospel of Matthew Part 1
2-10-19 Matthew 10: 1, 5-6; 15:21-24 Law & Grace
Welcome to Sugar Land Bible Church, once again it’s a pleasure to be in the house of the Lord, we are the house of the Lord so we bring our house with us, don’t we? It’s wonderful to be together, I like your house, I hope you like my house, if not we can talk about remodeling later. If you would like to do so you can turn over to Matthew chapter 10 and just be looking there for a moment, we’re going to get there in just a moment. If you did not receive a handout please raise your hand and we’ll make sure that you get one because we have our good brother Ron back there ready to sprint to whoever needs one. So praise the Lord for that. All right.
Well, as you can probably surmise Pastor Andy is not here today, that’s because he and his family are still in Israel, we’re hoping and praying that they’re going to come back… that’s a joke. No, if you’ve ever been to Israel it’s kind of hard to get back on the plane and come home but in any case we look forward to that time when they’ll be with us next Sunday. And praise the Lord for what we’re going to receive when they are back here. We want to thank you all who are viewing online for tuning in, we pray that this time will be a time of blessing and encouragement to you as also for those of you here present this morning. And I don’t know, what do we do about this weather. You know it’s either too cold or too how and this morning it’s sort of somewhere in between so probably as they say in Texas, wait ten minutes and the weather will change. Let’s get started, shall we.
We’re doing a series on Law and Grace, and here is our very brief outline. We’re going to look at our purpose, aim and objective as we typically do and then we’re going to start today with an introduction to the Gospel of Matthew. This will be a two part introduction and I’m going to give you quite a bit of general information and make just a few concluding remarks at the end.
So general purpose, why in the world, as we say over and over again, do we even care about this issue of law and grace? And it’s because we want to make sure that we, as New Testament believers, understand that there is a very, very strong distinction and differentiation between these two. That’s critically important, especially when we begin to talk about doctrine and theology it impacts us greatly in those two areas. And C. I. Scofield once again warned us back, way back in the 1900’s I guess it is when he wrote these things and he said you know, the problem in the church, and this was at his time, imagine how much worse it is today, he said that we’re living really under a form of Galationism and of course you remember from the Book of Galatians that one of the big problems that they had there was the fact that the Judaizers were coming in and were laying burdens upon the believers that they weren’t able to handle. And so the Apostle Paul even had to go so far as to confront Peter on that issue.
So this is a thing that Dr. Scofield was addressing here, and he’s saying there toward the bottom, he says, “we are kept under the law as a rule of life despite the plain declaration, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” [Rom. 6:14] So what does it mean to be “under grace.”
William R. Newell also adds some very great commentary and I’ve referred to this many times. If you do not have his commentary, Romans Verse-by-Verse, it’s downloadable if you’ll just search on Romans verse by verse. It’s a [can’t understand word] that you can get and put right on your computer or your handheld device, whatever the case may be.
He says, “The Law is no more a rule of life than it is a means of righteousness. Walking in the Spirit has now taken the place of walking by ordinances.”
[“It is because Reformed theology has kept us Gentiles under the Law,—if not as a means of righteousness, then as “a rule of life,” that all the trouble has arisen. The Law is no more a rule of life than it is a means of righteousness. Walking in the Spirit has now taken the place of walking by ordinances. God has another principle under which He has put his saints: “Ye are not under law, but, under grace!” (italics mine) [William R. Newell, Romans Verse-by-Verse (p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.]
So if these things are true it behooves us to do a study from time to time in law and grace and what the distinctions are. So let’s move into our introduction here. I had you turn to Matthew chapter 10, verse 1 and we’re going to look at verse 1 and 5 and 6. So here is Jesus summoning the twelve disciples and it says [Verse 1] He “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” And then notice verse 5, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’”
And then if we just turn over to chapter 15 we find something rather interesting here, not only does he give this command to the disciples, but notice, this is the case of the Canaanites, a Syrohoenician woman I believe it is, says, “Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.  And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.’  But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, ‘Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.’ And so Jesus turns to her and  “He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
So we’re going to talk about this here in just a moment, that sets the stage for us. A couple of comments I would like to make here is to give us some perspective, of course we have now for some months been looking at the Book of Exodus, you recall that, and we actually went all the way through Deuteronomy talking about this theme of law and grace. And we spent time considering the Book of Joshua more recently and in fact in our last session we looked at the Book of Isaiah, all under this idea or with this theme in mind of the law and grace, law vs. grace of law and grace.
But this morning in this session we’re turning a corner, I mentioned that we would be doing this, we’re moving on into the New Testament now starting with the Book of Matthew; we’ll be going through the entire Book of Matthew as a part of our Law and Grace series. So I have a little Bible bookcase up there, hopefully you can see that. So welcome to the Gospel of Matthew as we begin exploring the Gospel of Matthew it’s vitally important that we understand and recognize that we have now come to a momentous and pivotal turning point in the Scriptures. The Gospel that was written by the Apostle Matthew is strategically placed at the head of all the other New Testament books. So while Matthew is the first New Testament book we could say that the four Gospels, that would be Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are actually the last of the Old Testament books. And what do I mean by that? Well, stand by, stay tuned and we’re going to try to explain that here.
But first of all let’s talk about what Matthew’s purpose is. It’s very helpful in terms of understanding the distinctions between Law and grace. And you’ll notice we have here, the first thing, the first purpose, one of three purposes is to explain that Jesus, in whom they had believed, these Jews, was the long awaited Jewish Messiah. Now remember that Matthew is writing his gospel for a Jewish audience, we’re going to go more into that in just a moment, and he’s writing sometime after the death of Christ. So He’s coming back, remember Jews are thinking well if Jesus is the Messiah, the Messiah is supposed to bring the kingdom in, so what’s going on here. Matthew’s purpose is to clear up and clarify these issues. He’s also writing to explain why the kingdom had been postponed despite the fact that the King had arrived. And also to explain the interim program of God during the King’s absence, kingdom’s absence, right?
What else? Well, he was going to address in his gospel the issues of the kingdom being offered, the kingdom being rejected, and where was the kingdom rejected? Where in Matthew, in what part of Matthew do we find that rejection. Everybody should know that. Matthew chapter 12, right, and the kingdom was rejected, but of course, unlike some other theologians teach that doesn’t mean that the kingdom was suddenly transferred over to the church but what? The kingdom was postponed, right, and we’re doing this little exercise to make Andy happy when he tunes in, right. And also he wants to address this issue that there will come a time ultimately when the kingdom will be accepted by the Jewish nation. And then he’s going to address the interim program which we talked about quite extensively in our kingdom series and anyone who’s tuning in who is not aware of what we’re talking about I would challenge you, encourage you to be motivated to go check it out, the Kingdom series that Pastor Woods is doing on Wednesday evening.
So Jesus is the predicted Jewish King who ushered in an interim program by building the sons of the kingdom into the church in between Israel’s past rejection and future acceptance of her King. Now you will remember, hopefully, from our last session that we briefly discussed the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the four living beings that were mentioned in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and 10, and Revelation chapter 4. And in fact, this is the chart that I gave you. Now let me make a disclaimer quickly here, that while I do not intend to be dogmatic about what I’m about to say I think it’s very, very interesting to note how well the description of the living beings match up with the individual Gospels and their respective audiences. Let’s take a look a look at that for a second.
I think this is interesting. Here’s a chart of a comparison in contrast in the gospels, so you’ll notice first of all that Matthew is written specifically to a Jewish audience and that the first face of the living beings in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 is said to be the face of a lion. This matches up very well with the representation of Christ as the Lion of Judah, the King of Israel. If we go on to the Book of Mark what we notice is that Mark is written to a Roman audience and one of the prominent features that we find throughout the Book of Mark is a sense of immediacy. And in fact, the word “immediately” is found forty times in the Gospel of Mark. The idea that Mark presents is that Jesus was someone who was busy and got things done. The second face of the living beings in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 is said to be the face of an ox or a calf because this is the animal that was used to get things done and to accomplish work. If we go on and we look at Luke you’ll notice that Luke is written to a Greek audience and the prominent feature in Luke is the full humanity of Jesus. And the third face of the living beings in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 is said to be the face of a man. And then finally we look at John and notice that the Gospel of John’s audience is all inclusive. In fact, the prominent theme of his gospel is stated in chapter 20, verse 31 where he says that these things “are written” for what purpose, “that you might believe.” [John 20:31, “But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
So the fourth face of the living beings in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 is said to be the face of an eagle representing the deity of Jesus, which comes out strongly all through the Gospel of John. You might recall the numerous “I am” declarations that Jesus makes. So again I’m not saying this to be dogmatic in any way and I’m not suggesting that we go out and start a new church of the living beings. But I just thought it was an interesting point and so I thought I would share that with you.
Now first of all we want to address this issue of who this Book is written to and as we stated, the gospel of Matthew is written to the Jews or better the people of Israel who are sometimes also referred to as the Hebrews. And these terms are basically synonymous, however, they do each have a slightly different emphasis. Matthew’s Gospel begins with a Jewish genealogy and no other Gospel does this. This is pretty interesting. It begins like this, notice the Scripture there, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” [Matthew 1:1, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:”]
Now of course the name “Jesus” in Hebrew is Yeshua, but did you know that actually if we were correct in our translation of that it would be the name Joshua meaning what? God saves. The Messiah in Greek is Christos, meaning the anointed one. And the transliteration of this Greek term is what we have come to use and that is Christ, it’s become the prominent term used throughout the Gentile dominated church. “Son of David” is a vitally important title because this identifies Jesus as the promised seed of the Davidic line, which is a promise that was made by God through the prophet Nathan to David that one of his descendants would reign on the millennial throne of David in Jerusalem. And then finally, the son of Abraham speaks to the fact that Jesus is from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the lineage of promise and covenant.
So you can see from the get-go in Matthew’s Gospel that he is identifying Jesus in a manner that would validate His claim to be the expected Jewish Messiah. So this again is evidence for us that Matthew is speaking of writing to the Jewish nation.
But there’s more, until the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., you might find this interesting, by the Romans that is, the Jews could assemble and check and verify genealogies from the records kept and made available at the temple. Did you know that? Here’s a model of what the temple looked like. So if someone in Jesus’ time said I’m a descendant from this person or that person or if they tried to identify themselves with a particular tribe it could actually be proven and demonstrated from the records that were available at the temple. This was especially important if there was a claim between opposing parties over things like an inheritance. Would it be beneficial to be able to go to the records of the temple and say hey, this is my property and this guy’s claiming it, it would be nice to be able to go and pull up the records. I mean, we don’t ever do those kinds of things today, do we? Of course we do! Being able to prove your genealogy also impacted… think about this, the roles that you could have based upon your tribe in the nation of Israel. What if somebody came up and claimed to be of the tribe of Levi and wanted to begin doing priestly functions in the temple? Maybe we need to verify that, would that not be an important thing to do? Sure it would.
So the records were available at the temple and in this picture you see it is a view into the inter temple area, and if you look toward the front there… or I should say generally speaking Jewish men and women were allowed access to the front area of the temple, that you can see in the lower part of that picture. However, this is interesting, there were some who were excluded and this also becomes quite important. For example, a person who was proven to be illegitimately born was denied access to the temple for ten generations. You might think ahead a little bit about what were some of the things that the Jewish leadership were trying to do, accusations they were bringing against Jesus. That’s an interesting thought. In the top of the picture you see the area where only the priests were allowed access and they consisted of Jewish men who were specifically qualified.
Now if you look off to the right you will see, designated by the man pointing there, that was where in fact the genealogical records were kept, and as I’ve already mentioned people could go in and check those genealogies. So the temple was important to remember for different reasons; normally we think in terms of the sacrifices and such but this is another thing that was a critically important function of the temple.
Now this brings us to this interesting point, and that is that this is why, for example, in Hebrews 7:14 that I have displayed here, notice what it says. It says, “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, [a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.]” The question would be why would the writer of Hebrews say that it was “evident”? And the reason was because anyone who wanted to could go to the temple and check the records for themselves. And something else that’s interesting that you might have missed when you read this before is that this statement also gives us a bit of a clue as to when the Book of Hebrews was written. Right? So when would it have had to have been written? Certainly before the destruction of the temple because once the temple was destroyed you couldn’t go check the record any more, could you?
All right, so continuing on along this line, so Jesus tells the twelve disciples to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [Matthew 10:6] I think that’s interesting. By the way, did Jesus stay with that strategy? I mean, He gave that command and did the apostles follow that command without wavering once the church was birthed? No they didn’t! Now it is true that they did have a little bit of difficulty and perhaps were a little slow in terms of their understanding of God’s greater plan for the church but once they received further revelation they included the Gentiles, didn’t they? And those of us here today who are Gentiles should be very grateful for that, shouldn’t we? I’m grateful; are you grateful this morning? Yes…amen!
All right, look at Matthew 10:1 and 5 and 6 again. We just read this and Jesus gives this command to His disciples to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So this command was unique and in effect specifically during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry early on. [Matthew 10:1, “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. [1:5-7 “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”]
In Matthew 10 he told them to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and in fact, let’s look at the rest of what it says there, he tells them “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;” so look what he just said to them, He said don’t even take a road that leads to the Gentiles; stay off of it! Right. Don’t even go to a town populated by the Samaritans. Wow, that’s a little heavier, isn’t it?
Matthew 15 again, the point I made here was the fact that Jesus, when He is now dealing with this Canaanite woman He says… now this is Him speaking and He’s talking about Himself now, isn’t He, and He says what? I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Matthew 15:24, “But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”] He said this to a Canaanite woman who was a Gentile, (wasn’t she) when she came pleading for him to deliver her daughter from demon possession.
So in both cases here that we’ve mentioned Jesus instructions to the disciples when He sent them out two by two as well as His own response to the Canaanite woman regarding His purpose as Israel’s Messiah, in doing so He made it clear that He and they were sent only to Israel, to the Jews, to the Hebrews. Okay. So this is again evidence that what Matthew is talking about here, he’s speaking and writing to Jews. Jews would understand this.
Now we might ask the question where did this term “lost sheep” originate? Let’s look at that for a moment. Jeremiah 50:6 is where it actually comes from, it says, “My people” referring to Israel, “have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains; they have gone along from mountain to hill and have forgotten their resting place.” You know, that’s almost a description of what was going on in Jesus’ day, the leaders, the ones who should have been directing them to the Law and to the proper keeping of the Law were not doing that. They, in fact, had led the people astray. My reference is Ezekiel 34 here, if you look at verses 11 and 16 it says,  “For thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.’”  “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, [bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.”] And of course Ezekiel 34 is in context addressing the still coming reign of Christ during the millennial kingdom. So this is speaking to the issue of the regathering of the remnant of Israel.
All right, only in the land of Israel and to the people of Israel, it’s very interesting, I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this but apart from Jesus’ brief stay in Egypt as an infant His entire life, and His entire ministry, from the records that we have was spent only within the land of Israel. That is, He only went to areas that had originally been taken during the conquest of Canaan or areas that had been promised to Israel but not previously possessed. The encounter with the Canaanite woman is one of those instances where Jesus went outside the then established boundaries of Israel because that area was in fact part of the land promised to Israel but not yet possessed. Have you ever thought about that?
In Matthew we see that Christ is going to direct the people of Israel back to the original intent of the Law of Moses. This is a theme particularly that shows up in Matthew chapter 5, the first part of which is called the Sermon on the Mount. And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus three times said, “You have heard that it was said,” and two times He said, “You have heard that the ancients were told.” And in each of those instances He followed that phrase up with this, He comes back and He says, “But I say to you….” In this manner Jesus corrects the imposed Pharisaical layers of tradition that have nullified the original intent of the Law of Moses. And I have a number of references there that you can look at if you’d like.
So some of their traditions, that is the traditions of the leaders of the religion there, some of their traditions are added to the Scripture, some of them took away from the Scriptures and some of them distorted what the Scriptures said. In each of these cases Jesus pointed to the religious leaders specifically and the common people generally back to the original intent of the Law. He warned the Jews not to get all caught up in the additions and subtractions and distortions. So that’s important when we’re reading through the Gospel of Matthew, it’s important for us to look for these kinds of clues.
There are two other expressions now that it’s important for us to understand because we’re going to be encountering them and those two terms are the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven.”
Only Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” and he does so thirty-two times in his gospel as recorded in the New American Standard Version of the Bible. The other gospel writers, watch this, don’t include that phrase at all and in fact that phrase is not found anywhere else in Scripture. Now down the road we’ll take a closer look at this but I just wanted to introduce that concept to you right now. The main reason that Matthew replaced the more common expression “kingdom of God” with a euphemism “kingdom of heaven” is due to the unfortunate Pharisaical tradition or better said, the unnatural phobia associated with using the name of God in vain. I am purposely using this expression “unnatural phobia” because according to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the tetragrammaton, what in the world is that? The tetragrammaton, it sounds like something to eat. No, the four letters YHWH that are transliterated Yahweh, all right, and generally in our Bibles, in our English Bibles when we encounter the tetragrammaton you see it in your Bible as all caps, the word LORD. So when you see LORD in all caps that’s what it is, it’s Yahweh.
So here’s the deal, this is the personal name of God, TWOT says, [Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, by R. Laird Harris and Gleason L. Archer, Jr.] and it is His most frequent designation in Scripture, occurring” hold onto you hats here, “5,321 times. The same tradition,” that is the same tradition this unnatural phobia, “has continued to today even amongst Messianic Jews. They will usually replace every occurrence of God in the Bible with the expression ‘the Name.’” At any rate Matthew, being a Jew himself, substituted the kingdom of heaven for kingdom of God in order not to offend the very Jews that he was trying to reach, which if we are honest about it, it was a pretty smart thing to do. Right? You don’t want to offend your audience right at the get-go, because they’re not going to hear anything else you have to say. Right.
But, not only that, it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit, isn’t it. And I will also point you to the bottom of the screen where I have a definition of the word euphemism. It basically says what is a euphemism? It’s “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend…” [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.] So that sort of brings it all to life, doesn’t it. Well, we’re going to see Matthew is going to use “kingdom of heaven” because he doesn’t want to offend His Jewish audience. Matthew alone, as I said, used this euphemism, “heaven” to replace the name of God which was a point of habit by that time among the Jews. And this is another indication that he was, in fact, writing to Jews.
What else? It’s interesting to note that we also utilize the same euphemism in our own language. In our own culture we will say things like “heaven knows,” instead of “God knows.” We will say “for heaven’s sake” instead of “for God’s sake” many times, don’t we? Sadly, some do say “for Christ’s sake” and usually when you hear that it’s because they’re upset about something, isn’t it? Many people also say “oh heavens” or “my heavens” or “oh my heavens” right? We’ve heard all these as a replacement for the word “God.” And that’s not all, how about “oh my goodness” or “goodness knows.” So even in Gentile culture we actually have carried on an even extended that custom. So I guess we can’t get too upset with the Jews if we’re doing the same thing.
So who was Matthew? Who was this fellow who wrote the first book of the New Testament? Who is this fellow who is mentioned in the other Gospels and also at the beginning of the Book of Acts. Matthew was one of Christ’s twelve disciples whom He Himself chose at the beginning of His three years of ministry and so Matthew of course is one of the original twelve. It’s interesting to note that the name “Matthew” is a contraction and in fact theologians generally say it’s really a nickname. Did you know that? Matthew is a nickname for shorthand for the name Mattathias which means gift of God. Matthew was also called Levi and this was interesting information for me to discover, it was common for Jews to have two names. Matthew was his Greek name while Levi was his Hebrew name. According to the Gospel of Mark in chapter 2 verse 14 he was introduced as Levi, the son of a man named Alphaeus. Matthew is also called Levi by Luke in Luke 5:2. [Mark 2:14, “As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.” Luke 5:27, “After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”]
Now here’s an interesting point. It’s possible, it’s really quite possible that Matthew was the name Jesus gave to Levi after his conversion because this was a normal occurrence (did you know this) a normal occurrence when a Jew changed careers. Isn’t that interesting? Now Matthew had been a tax collector for the hated Romans. We know that. Think about this, let’s put this in good perspective now, right? The conquering Romans came in to Israel and introduced all kinds of vile customs and as far as the Jews were concerned just the eating of pigs was enough, right. Immediately the Romans began telling the Jews what they could and could not do and this went so far as to restrict in many, many cases their freedom of worship under the Law of Moses.
You will recall that when they wanted to crucify Jesus that Pilate said take Him and do with Him as you will, and do you know what the response was? We’re not able to do that, we cannot carry out the death penalty. What was the reason for that? The Romans had taken that away from them. The Romans instituted an oppressive system of taxation which interestingly enough led to what is historically known as the Jewish tax revolts. Did you know that? These revolts originated… now this just gets more interesting the more you study, these revolts originated in Galilee before the time of Christ and continued on for decades.
Stop and think about this for a second. These tax revolts started in Galilee which is the very place where Jesus called many of His disciples. Consider the burden on the Jews of that day? They were taxed to support the temple; they were taxed to support the King and who was on the throne at that time? Well, it had been the Herod’s for quite some time and who were these Herod’s? They were descended from the Edomites and perpetual enemies of Israel. They were taxed to support the Roman government and on top of that the Romans didn’t care how much the tax collectors gathered beyond what was due so tax collectors could become quite wealthy at the expense of their fellow Jews… and did!
So as I said already, Matthew was hated because he was a tax collector. In fact, tax collectors were as hated as their Roman oppressors and Matthew had been a tax collector for these despised Romans. Are you getting the picture here? It’s kind of interesting. So here is Matthew, otherwise known as Levi, whom Jesus called as recorded in Luke 5:27-31, look what it says: “After that He” that is Jesus, “went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.” It seems from that description that he just flat got up from he table, left everything on it and followed Jesus.
If we keep going, verse 29, “And Levi gave a big reception for Him” Jesus, in his house; and there was” look at this, “a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.” Wow! So picture this, Jesus comes to Matthew, who is part of this hated group of tax collectors, which are the worst of the worse, right, and He called them. And in order to celebrate Jesus’ calling of him Matthew invites, look at this, isn’t this great, all of tax collector friends, right, to commemorate the end of one career and the beginning of another.
Of course you know that this just made the religious crowd absolutely disgusted, didn’t it? It tells us something about Jesus too, doesn’t it? In the New Testament times, by the way, this expression “tax collectors and sinners” was in fact an expression among the Jews for those who were morally considered to be the very worst of the worst and I have the Scriptures there if you’d like to look those up.
Where was Matthew from? He was from Capernaum at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. I have a satellite photo here for you, hope you can see that, at the top there you can see the Sea of Galilee at the north end of the Sea of Galilee, and then the Dead Sea is at the south end, and the Jordan River is between the two. Here’s another view. Capernaum is located right at the north end of the Sea of Galilee and just to the west of where the Jordan River enters and feeds the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River actually flows roughly north and south through the Sea of Galilee and on to the Dead Sea. Here’s an aerial map of the Sea of Galilee. I’ve got you another picture here, this is a view at the north end of the Sea of Galilee which provides some contextual reference points near Capernaum. Off to the east, if you look to the far right hand side there you would find Bethsaida which was Philip’s home. And if you go to the west you’ll find the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount which is identified today as the Mount of Beatitudes.
You may remember that in the Bible the Sea of Galilee is referenced in a number of different ways. For example, the Bible says that the Sea of Galilee is called the Sea of Chinnereth in Numbers 34:11 and Joshua 13:27. [Numbers 34:11, “and the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the border shall go down and reach to the slope on the east side of the Sea of Chinnereth.”] It’s also referred to as the Lake of Gennesaret in Luke 5:1. [Luke 5:1, “Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;”] It’s also called the Sea of Galilee which is the Sea of Tiberias in John 6:1. [John 6:1, “After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias).”] So it had a number of different names… quite interesting.
All of Capernaum has been excavated by the way, and I have a picture here for you of the Capernaum Archeological Park that you can visit on your next trip to Israel. You can see evidence of some of the walls that remain in some of the houses there on the left center and just mid the lower center and if you look at that carefully you realize that it was a very crowded, a very densely populated place there. Near the center, just below the circular building what you have there are the remains of the second century synagogue that was built on the foundation of a previous synagogue that existed during the time when Christ, Matthew and Peter were there. Isn’t that interesting.
As a matter of fact, the circular building closer to the edge of the water, toward the top of the picture there, is actually called St. Peter’s house. It has not been definitively proven but it seems very likely that it was in fact Peter’s home. Now I’ve been there. If it was Peter’s home it’s very interesting because they’ve built it up since I was there; when I was there you could actually walk right up to the ruins and they didn’t have that circular top over it, you could look down into it and what you saw was an area that would seat easily a 100 people, 100 to a 150 people. A pretty big house.
Now why is that interesting? It’s interesting because Peter was a fisherman, and where would you expect Peter to have a house? In the center of town somewhere, big city? No, it would be close to water, so there’s one thing. And the next thing is that he was a successful fisherman and so it’s very likely that when he brought his catch in that he did all of his separating the fish and these kind of things there in that area, so he probably had a lot of help. Just kind of interesting little details that we miss just from a cursory reading of the Scriptures.
All right, now let’s see, I don’t know if you can read that caption, let me read that to you. “Beneath the foundations of the octagonal Byzantine Martyrium Church, that’s that circular building that you’re looking at, “at Capernaum archeologists made one of the most exciting Biblical archeological discoveries. A simple first century A.D. home that may have been the house of Peter, the home of Jesus in Capernaum. This is the picture of the church that has been built over that site today; that wasn’t there when I visited. And this is what it looks like today on the inside. So you can actually go inside there and if you can see the railings there, the railing as you look down over into the actual excavation of the home. It’s kind of fascinating to me. I like history.
So, Since Capernaum was a trade center for Galilee’s fishing industry, it’s certainly in the northern part, Matthew collected taxes from there, so he would sit at the main entry gate and anyone who went in and out would be taxed for any number of documented items which would include, of course, fish and animals and products of all kinds. And the picture we have here is representing Matthew as he was collecting and recording the taxes as they came in. Matthew was called by Christ to follow Him as a disciple. Matthew seems to, from the description as we said, simply to have left his place of a tax collector, he just got up and left. He committed entirely to being a disciple and he followed Christ during His three years of ministry as Christ’s disciple and ultimately as an apostle in the church.
Here’s some interesting commentary, this comes from Dr. Constable, “Matthew’s references to Jerusalem and the Sadducees point to a date of composition before 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.” Now why does he mention the Sadducees? Because the Sadducees were in fact the group from which the high priest came from. All right, so he’s mentioning the Sadducees so they must have still been around and in power. “His references to Jerusalem assume its existence” you find that in the passages listed there. [e.g., 4:5; 27:53] Matthew recorded more warnings about the Sadducees than all the other New Testament writers combined, but after 70 A.D. they no longer existed as a significant authority in Israel. Consequently, Matthew probably wrote before 70 A.D. References in the text to the customs of the Jews continuing “to this day” (27:8; 28:15) imply that some time had elapsed between the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the composition of the Gospel. Since Jesus died in 33 A.D. Matthew may have composed his Gospel perhaps a decade or more later. A date between 40 and 70 A.D. is very probable.” [Constable, T. (2003). Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Malachi 4:6). Galaxie Software.]
And most conservative theologians believe that it’s probably much closer to forty than it is to seventy, just to give you an idea. By the way, C. I. Scofield, if you like him and have a copy of the original Scofield Reference Bible he dated this, the Book of Matthew from A.D. 37. He said he thought that was a possible date.
So moving on here, Matthew appears to have written in Greek from some written records but also from memorized sayings and history from others. Here’s an interesting fact you may or may not know. Did you know that it was the pattern of disciples, generally speaking now, in Jesus’ time to drill one another with the memorized sayings of the Rabbi. This, in fact, would have been the very practice that would have been followed by Jesus’ disciples also.
So get a picture in your mind; imagine now the getting up early in the morning and walking along the Sea of Galilee, what would they be doing? They would have been drilling one another regarding what Jesus had said the day before. And there was also no doubt that many things that they did in fact that He wrote, that He did in fact write down, so Matthew would have written his Gospel based upon a compilation of various sources. Matthew wasn’t around at the time when the angel visited Mary so where did he get his information? Do you think he might have gone to Mary for that. I sort of think he probably did.
Clearly early in the Gospel of Matthew there was times when Matthew himself was not present. So for example, how did it come about that he had the history of what took place surrounding Christ’s birth? He would get these accounts from others. Translations from Hebrew and Aramaic is also apparent in some portions of his gospel and occasionally from Latin as well. Now why would that be interesting? When Jesus was crucified on the cross they put something over His head, right, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” and what language was it written in? Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin. Very interesting! A lot of consistency in the Word of God as you begin to dig things out.
Matthew was last named in the New Testament in Acts 1:13 and in fact that is the last time a number of the apostles are also named and is also the last time that the name of Mary, Jesus’ mother is mentioned. [Acts 1:13, “When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.”]
After that Matthew’s only referred to, generally speaking, as one of the apostles and we can see that also in Revelation 21:14. [Revelation 21:14, “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”]
So what happened to Matthew later on? The only apostle whose death is actually recorded in Scripture is the Apostle James, John’s brother and that’s found in Acts 12. James was killed by the descendant of Herod the Great, actually I said John’s brother, that was Jesus’ brother, the brother of Jesus, I’m sorry… retract there. [can’t understand word] take back and correct it. That was Jesus’ brother. On all the other deaths of the apostles are recorded outside of Scripture and liable to give accounts buried significantly.
From extra biblical records Matthew was said to have gone to Parthia, now in that map it’s kind of hard to see but the little orange section peeking out from the right hand side is Parthia. Parthia was the empire just to the east of the Roman Empire and it, in fact, had replaced Babylon some centuries before so many Jews still remained there. Several of the apostles are said to have gone to that very same area and one of the reasons that they probably did so was because everyone in that part of the world (that is Parthia) they all spoke Aramaic. Isn’t that interesting, which of course the disciples and the apostles would have spoken. The extra biblical tradition is that Matthew died in Ethiopia having had wooden stakes driven through his body. The account goes on to say that he was yelling out the gospel as they were driving the stakes through his body.
How about a couple of concluding observations here. So the Gospel of Matthew we said was written to the Jews about Jesus, who Himself said that He was only sent to the Jews. And in point of fact, it’s really only in the last parts of his book, Matthew’s book, that we encounter Jesus saying anything about the church at all. So we might ask the question, why should we bother with this, after all, this is written to the Jews, why do we care about that, right? Well, that sort of brings us full circle to what we were saying earlier when I showed you this image.
You recall I stated earlier that we can say that the Gospels are the last of the Old Testament books and the reason is because much of each of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is directed to the Jews in the same way that the Old Testament was. If you think about the Old Testament it’s primarily directed to the formation and the growth of the Jewish nation. Right? So there exceptions as we read the Old Testament; we find exceptions where God does deal with some Gentiles. Right? Can you think of some of those? How about Ruth? And Rahab? What about [can’t understand word] and Nebuchadnezzar? These were all Gentiles.
But for the most part the Old Testament is really about the Jews and it’s very interesting that’s the same thing we discover in the Gospels. So what does the Gospel of Matthew have to do with us who are non-Jews? In our next session we’re going to explore the approach we’re going to take with the Gospel of Matthew, that’s going to be part 2, and we’ll answer a couple of questions. One question I’m going to try to answer is what did God intend for us to understand as we read the Gospel of Matthew.
Another question that we’re going to ask and try to answer is how are we going to know and how are we going to apply what’s written there? And a third question we’re going to try to address is how do we determine what is written to us and what isn’t. Those are interesting things. It’s not all infrequent that I have people come up to me and say well how do you know what’s written to us and what’s written to Israel? And that’s a valid question, isn’t it. One that we have to get clarity on.
And then there’s another question… well, actually the last question I just mentioned is probably really more important because what we want to do is we want to avoid extremes, right? We want to avoid the extreme of taking everything in Matthew’s Gospel as specifically directed to us or we want to also be careful about the other extreme which says oh well, you know, that’s written to the Jews and just sort of dismiss it. We don’t to do that either because either one of those extremes is a big problem, isn’t it.
So the next time that we get together that’s what we’re going to examine. We’re going to look at those questions and we’re going to proceed forward with this idea of just what is this Gospel of Matthew all about anyway. So, let’s throw this back up here. As we talk about the Gospel of Matthew it’s going to be very important that we keep these three points foremost in our mind.
And let’s look at this one more time. We want to remember that the purpose of Matthew… you see, the purpose of the book dictates how we read it, it dictates everything it has to say to us. We don’t want to superimpose something on it that deviates from the purpose that’s stated. So purpose again, to explain that Jesus in whom they had believed, that is the believing Jews at this point, was the long awaited Jewish Messiah.
The second point to explain why the kingdom had been postponed despite the fact that the King had arrived and to explain the interim program of God during the kingdom’s absence. Now again I think I mentioned last week, and I was trying to remember quoting what Dr. Ice had said, it’s significant that at the birth of the church we normally, when we read the early part of Acts we see numbers like three thousand came to Christ, five thousand came to Christ, and so we kind of get that number in our head and say okay, somewhere around ten thousand Jews, and yet Dr. Ice brought out when he was here with us last Sunday that the historical research has indicated that it’s more likely that those numbers were up in the vicinity of thirty thousand Jews that came to Christ in that time. Okay.
And so now the apostles have to address this issue of well what happened? Why isn’t the kingdom here? Remember, they’re steeped in Judaism and the expectation that when the Messiah shows up on the scene what is He going to do? He is going to implement, initiate and establish the millennial kingdom, the physical kingdom. And of course, they had that buggered up a little bit in their minds, didn’t they, because in many instances what they were doing is they were coming at it from a viewpoint that we want to be taken out from underneath the Roman bondage and that was what their focus was, it was political and not spiritual.
So now you have these thirty thousand Jews, right, who’ve all become believers but we still have to address this question of what happened here, right? And so that’s what Matthew is doing here.
So I hope that’s helpful as we consider going forward into the Book of Matthew, the Gospel of Matthew. We’re going to keep those purposes in mind and I think we’re going to learn a lot of interesting and valuable things as we continue this distinction between law and grace in the Gospel of Matthew. So having said that, hey, you’re going to get out five minutes early.
Shall we pray? Heavenly Father, than, You so much for today and for this Word and thank You for enlightening us, opening up the eyes of our understanding, Father, that we might be able to take in the very Word breathed by God into our hearts and mind, that we might understand it more fully and more completely and that we, Father, might be able to articulate it to others who need to know. Father God, we thank You so much for the privilege that You give us to come and attend Sugar Land Bible Church; we thank You that this is Your church and these are Your people and so we praise You for that. Lord Jesus Christ, we also want to thank You this morning because You have done some wonderful things here in the Gospel of Matthew. Father, we see the first coming of the Lord Jesus to earth; we see the presentation of the gospel of the kingdom to Israel, we also see in the Gospel of Matthew that you came to die for our sins, be buried and to rise again. We want to thank You, Father, for the record of His appointing of the apostles of the church that we’ll discover and encounter in this book, and we want to thank You that You did, in fact, establish Your church based upon the apostles. Father thank You for the sessions to come and Lord, really and truly it’s okay if You want to go ahead and come back and take us. I think that You can probably do a better job of teaching us than I can but if You tarry just help us to do the best we can to share Your word so that Your people might be edified. And we give you all the praise and the honor and the glory. In Jesus’ name, and everyone says…. AMEN!