About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

This Section -  Introduction and Chapter 1 

ch. 1:1-17    ch. 1:18-25

Next Section - Chapter 2

My Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew




Some scholars don’t think that Matthew wrote this book, but most conservative scholars believe that it is self evident that he did.  From Luke’s account we know that Matthew was also called Levi and that he was a tax collector.  Being a tax collector would mean that Matthew was very money orientated.  There is more mention of money related things in his account than in any other book of the New Testament, including 3 different types of coinage that is mentioned.


For a number of reasons this book was written some years after Jesus left this earth and before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  So this account was probably written somewhere between 50 and 70 AD, and probably closer to 50 AD making this one of the first New Testament books written, Galatians being the first.


Matthew was a Jew and his Jewishness is clearly seen in this book.  If there is any kind of theme to the book it would be “the Messiah and His Kingdom”.  There are 125 quotes or allusions from the Old Testament in this account.  There are 37 passages that say something like, “that it might be fulfilled”, suggesting that the Old Testament is linked greatly to what Matthew wants us to know.  The book of Matthew is a good gospel to begin the New Testament due to its often use of Old Testament passages.  


The word “kingdom” is found 150 times in the New Testament, of which 54 of these times is in Matthew.  He clearly wants his reader to know about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of the Messiah.


The Genealogy Of Jesus (ch. 1:1-17)


Much could be said about this genealogy.  Liberal scholars point out many problems with this as well as Luke’s genealogy which I will not address.  I’ll just allude to one.  One problem they point out is the mentioning of 3 different 14 generational periods of time in verse 17.  That would make 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus and we know that is not right.  Conservative scholars have many reasons for this apparent problem and many suggest it’s pure poetic license to show a particular point. The point can be illustrated in the Jewish system of numbering names. The number for the word David is 14. So the number 14 is special to Jews.  Three is the number of completion, and joined with 14 symbolizes that the reason why the genealogy was even written was to show that Jesus was in fact the Messiah.   Jews would have known exactly what Matthew was getting at here.  We in western culture two thousand years later are so far removed from that culture that we fail to see the significance.  We just think there is a discrepancy.     


It is interesting to note that in this list of names there  are some pretty bad characters so to speak.  David himself  was a murderer and an adulterer.  Tammar is mentioned in verse 3 and she was a prostitute and also committed incest.  Rahab was a prostitute as well.


We note that Ruth is in this list and she is a Moabite and God said that any descendant of Moab could not be part of His family.  And here is Ruth right in the lineage of Jesus. 


Verse 1 tells us that Jesus came through David.  Without going into all the Scripture, and there’s lots, David is associated with the Messiah all through the Bible.  The Messiah had to be born through his lineage and when speaking of David and the Messiah, this is all very Jewish.  The Messiah was the Jewish redeemer, not really the Gentile redeemer.  Redemption for Jews comes through David.  David was also symbolic of the Messiah. 


On the other hand, redemption for the Gentiles comes through Abraham because God told Abraham that all nations of the world would be blessed by his seed.  The words “his seed” refers to Jesus.  Abraham is also called the father of all the nations of the world, and not just the Jews, although he is definitely that.


So verse 1 opens with “… the son of David, the son of Abraham”.  Here’s a problem right away to some.  Abraham was not the son of David.  Abraham lived centuries before David.  So why does Matthew say this?  The simple fact is that Matthew, a Jew, who is writing mainly to Jews, is stating that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews, and to do this he opens with David, because David is associated with the Messiah, not Abraham.  So right away we see some poetic license.  The point isn’t necessarily accuracy but symbolism, pointing to the Messiah. 


Even if this is not the explanation, I’m sure Matthew knew what he was doing.  He was most likely the most educated of the Twelve.  He certainly would have known what he was writing was not historically true.  Therefore he had a specific reason in mind.   


Note verse 16.  All along we've been seeing people born to males, but now we see Jesus being born to Mary, and not Joseph.  The text reads, "… of Mary, whom was born Jesus".   The words "of whom" refer to Mary, not Joseph, because Joseph wasn't the father.  This verse is often connected with Genesis 3:15 where the text speaks of the seed (singular) of the woman bruising the head of the serpent.  When thinking in terms of human reproduction, the seed always comes from the man, not the woman,  So what is happening in Genesis 3:15?  Is the text mixed up?  No.  Because there is no human seed when it comes to the conception of Jesus within Mary.  Genesis 3:15 and Matthew 1:16 clearly states the virgin birth.  Also, we're introduced to the word "seed" which we will see later in Genesis in reference to the Abrahamic Covenant.  Paul, in Galatians 3 states that the "seed" is Jesus, which confirms our thoughts on Genesis 3:15 as being Messianic in nature.     


This is all I will comment on in this section.  You can read more detailed commentaries than mine to learn more about the uniqueness and importance of these first 17 verses of Matthew.


The Birth Of Jesus Christ (ch. 1:18-25)


Verse 18 begins by saying, “this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about”.  The word birth in this verse is translated from the same Greek word that is translated as “generation” in verse 17.   You might thus say that the birth of Jesus produced a new generation of people, and all true believers are part of that generation.


Matthew tells us that Jesus’ mother was Mary and that she was “pledged” in marriage to a man named Joseph.  At this point we need to understand what Jewish marriages were all about.  First of all we in the western world traditionally have what we call an engagement period.  This is a period of time before a couple is legally married.  Jewish people also had a two stop process but the betrothal part, our engagement part was in fact the marriage without having sexual intercourse or living together.  When a couple got engaged, or betrothed, they called each other husband and wife.  The only way out of this betrothal was a divorce. 


This betrothal period lasted about a year or so.  At the end of this period the wedding feast would take place at the brides family home.  This was a major party and could last for days. 


It is important to know that during this period of betrothal, if either the man or the woman had sexual relations with someone else, that was considered adultery, punishable by death. (Duet. 22:23-24) 


Also in verse 18 Matthew says that “before they came together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit”.  There has always been some discussion over this. First of all the “virgin birth” is questioned by liberal scholars.  I won’t comment on that.  But within those who believe in the virgin birth there are two main thoughts.  One is that the Holy Spirit came and impregnated Mary.  That is to say, miraculously touched her egg cell producing life.  The other way of thinking is that the Holy Spirit simply came on Mary and put Jesus within her without using her egg. 


I tend to believe the second way of thinking.  Jesus was sinless.  Jesus had the Holy Spirit from birth.  If the process of God being incarnated into man included Mary’s egg, then sin would have been a part of Jesus from conception.   Humans are born into sin.  Jesus could not have been born into sin as a sinner. 


The child that was within Mary was all from the Holy Spirit. Joseph’s sperm did not help with this conception and probably not Mary’s egg either.


Verse 19 speaks of Joseph her husband “being a righteous man”.  First of all, note the word “husband”.  Joseph was Mary’s husband even though they were still in this betrothal period. 


The other thing to note is that Joseph was righteous.  The reason why Joseph is portrayed as righteous by Matthew is because once he found out that Mary was pregnant he had to deal with a major problem.   The Law of Moses said to kill the adulterer.  He loved Mary too much to do that. 


At the same time the Law provided for divorce due to adultery.  So Joseph considered a quiet divorce, because he did not want to expose her publicly.  He was well within the Law to divorce Mary, and he probably would until he found out the truth of why Mary was pregnant.  His righteousness was seen in the way he was going to deal with Mary through divorce.


In verse 20 we see that after Joseph thought lots about this an angel of the Lord came to him and spoke to him what was happening with Mary.  The angel calls Joseph, “son of David’.  This is significant for a couple of reasons.  One reason is that Joseph was reminded that he was indeed of the lineage of David, something that was important because the Messiah had to have been born through David’s lineage.


Another reason why this might be important is because maybe he needed to be reminded of this fact before he learned what the angel was about to tell him. It is quite possible that the words “son of David” hit Joseph’s heart like a ton of bricks that would give credence to what the angel was about to say.


The angel tells Joseph “not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife”.  Remember, at this point Mary still lived with her family during this betrothal period.  Joseph had not yet “taken her home” to his house.


Then the angel told Joseph why he should take Mary as his wife.  It was because “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”.  How shocking this must have been to Joseph. Seeing Mary pregnant in the first place had to be earth shaking.  He was still trying to get over that, and now an angel appears to him and tells him that the Holy Spirit has conceived a baby inside of Mary.  I imagine a mixture of emotions flooded his heart and mind, from fear, to shock, to unbelief, to belief, to confusion and to who knows what else. 


The angel told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a son.  That must have pleased Joseph because all men wanted their first born to be a boy in order to carry on the family name.  And that indeed happened, but the family grew to be bigger than what Joseph could have ever understood.


Then the angel told Joseph that he will name this baby Jesus.  The name “Jesus”  means, “the Lord will save”.  Jesus’ name tells us why He even came to earth in the first place. And what does this saving relate to?  The last half of the verse says that Jesus will “save his people from their sin”. 


Some say that “his people” refers to Jews, and others say that “His people” refers to all that have been saved throughout history, whether Jew or Gentile. I think it means both.  The New Testament principle is “to the Jew first and then to the Gentile”.  Jesus, and salvation came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.


The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.  Joshua is therefore a type or a prophetic image of Jesus that would come.  So much of the Old Testament points to Jesus in so many ways.  Even individuals like Joshua were prophetic of Jesus.   


In verse 22 Matthew says that “all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophets”.  This is the first of 37 times such a statement is made in Matthew’s gospel.  He does his best to make his readers aware of the fact that much of what he writes is a direct fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament. Such prophetic fulfillment is one proof of the validity of the Bible. 


In verse 23 we see the word “virgin”.  Some suggest that Mary really wasn’t a virgin, and that what Matthew says about the Holy Spirit’s roll in conception can’t be true.  One reason why they say this is because the Greek word for “virgin” comes from a Hebrew word that doesn’t necessarily mean virgin, but “a young girl”.  And a “young girl” doesn’t specifically  mean virgin.  But where this Hebrew word for virgin is translated into the Septuagint  in reference to the birth of the Messiah it is translated into Greek as “parthenos”, specifically meaning “virgin”, not young girl.  So long before Jesus was actually born, Jewish translators understood that Jesus was to be born of a virgin, not just a young girl.


Also in this verse we see “they” would call Jesus Immanuel.  Immanuel means “God with us”, and this is the intent of the whole New Testament, God coming to earth in Jesus, or God with us.  This speaks to the Deity of Christ, the fundamental truth of Christianity.  We should note that the word “they” is a general word for those who believed that Jesus was in fact God with them. They doesn’t just mean Joseph and Mary. Also “Immanuel” was a proper name for Jesus.  It was ascribed to him by the general public of believers. 


We also note that Isa. 7:14 is the Scripture that this verse fulfills.  Like much of Old Testament prophecy, there are double fulfillments.  Isa. 7:14 was directed towards King Ahaz of Israel.  He would have a son that would be a saviour in a human sense of the word.  Israel was under great threat from Assyria and even though Ahaz was not following God as he should, God would bring a saviour to Israel, and he would be Ahaz’s son. Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy.              


In verse 24 we see that Joseph obeyed the angel’s command, and a command it was.  So Joseph took Mary home.  When he took her home we don’t know.  Just when the angel visited him, we don’t know either.  There is no time line stated here or elsewhere.


In verse 25 we see that Joseph gave the name of Jesus to Jesus.  We also see that Joseph for reason unknown to us did not have sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus was born. 


Next Section - Chapter 2

Home Page