Day 276: Matthew: The Most Jewish Gospel

four views of good news, part ONE
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew 2:13-14

I love how hard the Holy Spirit works through the gospel of Matthew to convince the Jews that Jesus is their promised Messiah. We noted yesterday how the repetition of “fourteen” in the Matthew 1 genealogy pointed to David. Matthew, more than any other gospel, uses the phrase “that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled” or something similar (See Matthew 2:5, 15, 18, 23)

There are more details in today’s reading that are intended to point to Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures. Consider this:

  • In no other gospel are dreams mentioned. In Matthew, things are revealed to people in dreams six times. Once, it’s the wise men (Matthew 2:12). Once, it’s Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19). The other four are Joseph (1:20; 2:13,19,22). This should remind you of how prominent dreams and their interpretation are in the book of Genesis particularly for a son of Jacob named—wait for it—Joseph (see Genesis 37:5-10; 40-41).
  • No other gospel mentions that Joseph took his young family to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod (Matthew 2:13-14). In Genesis, Joseph brings his family to Egypt to escape the famine (Genesis 42-48).
  • Speaking of King Herod, Matthew is the only gospel that records his slaughter of Hebrew boys (2:16-17), just as Pharaoh killed Hebrew boys in Exodus 1.

So without a doubt, Matthew is the most Jewish gospel. But I was struck this morning by the fact that it was written by one of the most hated Jews. Tax collectors were despised by their fellow Jews, who saw them as traitors and thieves. What a work of grace to see how hard Matthew worked (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to reach his countrymen, even though they hated him.

Even though the Jews still reject Jesus as their promised Messiah, it won’t always be that way. God always has preserved a remnant of faithful Jews, and there will come a day, according to Romans 11:25-26, when the full number of Gentiles has come in, and God will soften the hearts of His people, and all Israel will be saved. Until that day, one of the most effective ways to introduce Jews to Jesus is through the gospel of Matthew.

Lord, what is my response to people that I know dislike me? I tend to avoid them. I don’t want to put myself out there for them. But Matthew, a most despised Jew, wrote the most Jewish gospel. God, give me Matthew’s heart, even for those I don’t get along with.

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic by Robin Griffith-Jones

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