Matthew: the Gospel of Fulfilment

Added about 5 years ago by Patrick Whitworth

GUEST BLOG: Patrick Whitworth explores the distinctiveness of the Gospel of Matthew. His new book, Gospel of Fulfilment, is the second in his series of study guides on the Gospels; in it he shows how Matthew’s Gospel was not only a manual for discipleship for its first-century readers but is a challenge for Christians today.

As we know, Matthew is the first of the Gospels in the New Testament, but was not the first to be written. Mark, a much shorter Gospel, was written by John Mark, an associate of the Apostle Peter and Paul, most probably in Rome around AD 65. Much of Mark is incorporated in both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, so it is one of the main sources. And both Matthew and Luke share a common source, often called Q. This commonality gives us the term Synoptic Gospels, but each also have their own different sources making the distinctiveness of their Gospel.

If the distinctiveness of Luke’s Gospel is that it was written by a Gentile doctor who had a special interest in those on the margins of Jewish society or were themselves Gentiles, the distinctiveness of Matthew is that it was written as a manual of discipleship for a distinctly Jewish readership. What Matthew sets out to show is that Jesus was the fulfilment of all that was promised in both the Law and the Prophets: hence my book being called the Gospel of Fulfilment. With regard to the Law, Matthew shows especially through giving us the Sermon of the Mount that Jesus not only fulfils the Law himself but gives it a deeper meaning and application of it in his disciples’ lives. Indeed, Jesus, as Paul says, is the end of the Law (Romans 10:4). More than that Jesus also fulfils the Prophets. He does this on two levels: firstly, Matthew wherever possible is keen to show how Jesus, in the narrative of his life, fulfilled all the Prophets’ predictions, so underscoring his claim to be the Messiah; secondly, at a deeper level Jesus fulfilled the message of the Prophets that God desires mercy and not sacrifice (see Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 1:11-17 and Matthew 9:13). This is one of the most important chapters of the book, and shows the inadequacy of Judaism as practised by the Pharisees. And indeed, in a deep paradox Jesus showed utter mercy by becoming the sacrifice for Jew and Gentile in his crucifixion: the place where sacrifice and mercy were perfectly mingled.

It seems that Matthew’s Gospel was written both for the disciple, being a kind of manual of discipleship, but also for leaders of the infant church. There are tell-tale signs in the Gospel, probably written around 70 years after Jesus’ birth, that Matthew has in mind how to conduct church. But more than that the church should be a signpost to the Kingdom, which was the principle topic of Jesus’ teaching and was visually illustrated by his miracles and ministry. It is this combination of teaching about discipleship and proclamation of the nature of the Kingdom, through Jesus’ words and actions, that makes Matthew such a comprehensive and compelling Gospel.

At the end of the Gospel, after the passion narrative, we are told not to keep this to ourselves, but to go into all the world and make disciples. This too would be a fulfilment of all that Jesus came to do and teach: in this way we may fulfil the Gospel of fulfilment.

Gospel of Fulfilment is the second in a series of study guides on the Gospels written by Patrick Whitworth for Sacristy Press. The first guide, Gospel for the Outsider, on Luke’s Gospel, was published in 2014. These guides are the perfect introduction to the Gospels for all who want to explore the New Testament, be it as individual readers or in a Bible study group. Why not get both to qualify for free economy delivery?

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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