Beginnings of the Gospel

Narrative #1

This lesson begins the comments and explanations of the material that Matthew lists in his opening narrative which include Jesus' genealogy, birth, escape to Egypt and return to Nazareth.
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The Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew, former tax collector/publican, who was personally called by Jesus to be one of His Apostles. Early church leaders and historians of that period say that Matthew wrote his gospel between 64 and 69 AD. This gospel was widely circulated and generally accepted by the early church as an inspired work by one of Jesus' chosen apostles, Matthew.

I have mentioned that Matthew wrote this work and intended it to be a defense of the faith for Jewish readers since he is careful to note how Jesus' actions and words fulfill specific prophesies about the Jewish Messiah. He is also careful to answer potential objections that Jews would naturally raise concerning the Sabbath and the manner Jesus was executed (Jews believed that crucifixion was a curse).

We also noted that Matthew's work is extremely well organized consisting of six narrative sections alternating with five discourse sections. This organization of material made the book easier to study and memorize, and consequently used by the early church as a training manual for new Christians.


1The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 3Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6Jesse was the father of David the king.

David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 7Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 8Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 9Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 11Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 13Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 14Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 15Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 16Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Matthew begins with Jesus' genealogy in order to demonstrate that He is a legal descendant and heir of King David through His earthly father, Joseph. At that time genealogical records were recorded to prove land ownership that had been allotted to the original twelve tribes. Your relationship to a certain tribe determined what land you owned and where you lived, and this was proven by the genealogical records. These records were also used to determine who could serve as priests.

The differences between Matthew's genealogy and Luke's (Luke 3:28) are the following:

  1. Luke begins with Jesus and works backwards to Adam. Matthew begins with Abrah am and works through to Jesus.
  2. Luke traces through David's son Nathan, Matthew through David's son Solomon.
  3. Matthew gives the legal lineage through Joseph's descendants; Luke may be giving lineage via the blood lineage of Mary (royal ascendancy based on maternal relationship).
  4. Matthew records five women in his genealogy to demonstrate the royal character of the lineage and to demonstrate that women were very much part of God's plan. He may have done this to defend against attacks on Mary and her suspected fornication (if God used women who had been guilty of fornication (Tamar, Bathsheba, Rahab) in bringing Christ into the world, He could use one who was accused of being guilty and was not (the virgin birth).

Announcement of the Birth

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Matthew claims that this is a fulfillment of prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Matthew begins immediately demonstrating how every facet of Jesus' life was in line with everything spoken about the Messiah by the prophets.

Note also in verse 25 that Joseph kept her a virgin until the birth of Jesus. This assumes that this was not to be the case afterwards (contrary to Catholic teaching of Mary's perpetual virginity).

Wise Men

1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." 9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

13Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

14So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son."

The term "magi" refers to a class of priests and astrologers who served as royal counselors in Persia. They were interpreters of signs through the use of magic arts, divination, the reading of animal organs, etc., and used astrology to predict the future. They determined, by the stars, the birth of a Jewish king. There is some historical confirmation of the star:

Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn 7 BC evanescent star reported in Chinese records around 4 BC.

They were ignorant of Herod's political situation and plans. Note that the exact location was determined by God's Word and not the star. The star (sign) merely confirmed the Word (Micah 5:2). Also note that it was Herod who sent them to Bethlehem.

Their presence also symbolized the importance of the birth of Christ to the Gentile world. Their worship of Him signified His divine and royal character.

Egypt and Return

13Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

14So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son."

16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

18"A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more."
19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20"Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

This was approximately a 200 mile trip. Some scholars believe that they may have gone to Alexandria since there was a large Jewish population there at that time. Matthew claims that the prophecy in Hosea 11:1 is fulfilled here.

When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.

Note the parallel between Israel (through Joseph's sale into slavery) going into Egypt and then returning, and Jesus' escape from Herod into Egypt and God bringing Him back to Israel to redeem it.

Archelaus, Herod's son, was also wicked, and killed 3,000 people during a Passover week in revenge for opposition to him. This probably explains why Joseph avoided settling in or around Jerusalem for fear of this ruler. They eventually settle in their hometown of Nazareth, and in doing so the prophecy referring to Jesus as a "Nazarene" is also fulfilled. The term Nazarene was eventually used as a form of derision by Jews in reference to Christians:

  • The Talmud calls Jesus, "the Nazarene."
  • Typical synagogue prayers cursed Christians as Nazarenes (Jerome).
  • Acts 24:5 "...sect of the Nazarene" used by the Jewish lawyer Tertullian in accusing Paul the Apostle.

John the Baptist

1Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." 3For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
'Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!'"
4Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
13Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" 15But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. 16After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

The appearance of John the Baptist was also in fulfillment of prophecies concerning the Messiah. The prophets said that before the Messiah would come there would be a forerunner who would precede Him and prepare the people for His arrival (Isaiah 40:1-5). In describing John the Baptist, Matthew claims that he is the one whom the prophets were referring to as the forerunner.

John was born of a priestly family (Zacharias) and thus his right to preach and teach was not questioned by the Jewish people. He worked and lived in the style of Elijah the Old Testament prophet (Elijah preached a stern call to repentance). Some believed that Elijah would return and Jesus tells the people in Matthew 11:14 that John was the embodiment of this prophet.

But John is not an Old Testament prophet, he belongs to the New Testament age, his work is part of the gospel (Mark 1:1-77).

He prepared the way through the wilderness; the wilderness was the hardened hearts of the people and he prepared them through a message of repentance for the arrival of Jesus and the good news of the kingdom.

His baptism was for the forgiveness of sin, preparation for entry into the kingdom of God and the Spirit who Christ would give when He would come (Matthew 1:11, John 20:22).

  • John's baptism was by immersion for several reasons, but mainly because the Greek words for sprinkle (rhantizo) or pour (ballo) are very different than the word immerse (baptizo) that is used to describe John's baptism.

Jesus' own baptism by John was the turning point in the ministry for each. It marked the beginning of Jesus' ministry and signaled the climax and descent of John's.

Matthew is the only gospel that records John's protests:

  • Jesus' baptism was to inaugurate His public ministry.
  • He accepted baptism in order to comply with God's will in every respect. He did not have sins but He wanted to acknowledge the fact that the kingdom was at hand and baptism by John was the way every Jew, including Jesus, testified to this reality.

At the baptism of Jesus we see the three persons of the Godhead clearly revealed and represented: Father with the voice, Son with the person of Jesus, Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

The climactic point of this narrative is here where the deity of Christ is presented so clearly. This is the culmination of Old Testament prophecy about the initial appearance of the Messiah.


1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." 4But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"

5Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

'He will command His angels concerning You'; and
'On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'"
7Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
8Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." 10Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" 11Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tested by Satan. Satan had deceived the first Adam and now would use his full force to try and ruin the savior of the fallen Adam, Jesus. He was tempted for forty days, during which time He did not eat, and of which we have three recorded (Luke 4:2).

In the three recorded temptations we see Satan doing various things:

  1. He casts doubt upon God's Word concerning Jesus as God's Son. He then demands that Jesus supply proof of His identity beyond God's Word by providing for His own needs miraculously. Jesus responds that God's Word is sufficient in all matters, for His identity as well as provision for His needs.
  2. Satan then uses the Word to say what it doesn't; that God will protect us no matter what is done. Jesus responds by demonstrating His understanding of God's Word in context. He responds that God will keep us, but we must not be presumptuous with Him. He keeps His promises to the humble and trusting, He brings to naught the proud.
  3. Satan appeals to Jesus' human nature in offering Him something that the Word does not, a crown without a cross. The devil suggests that he is under God and has a right to offer these if Jesus will place Himself under Satan. Jesus refuses to violate the first command of the Law and the basic principle of the Word that is to worship only God. He rejects the word of Satan for the Word of God even if it means His death.

With his greatest temptation spurned, Satan is defeated, and Jesus victoriously orders him away after which angels tend to His needs (food and comfort).

Galilee and Disciples

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

15"The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16"The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned."
17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
18Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
23Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
24The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Matthew describes John's imprisonment and beheading. After this, Jesus heads north to the area around the Sea of Galilee (fulfillment of prophecy, Isaiah 9:1-2).

Jesus began His preaching ministry around the area where He grew up. This was similar to John's ministry. He calls particular disciples to begin training them, and preaches at the synagogues in this area. Matthew mentions the many miracles that He performs at this time without going into detail about them.

This first narrative establishes Jesus' genealogy, birth, Lordship and ministry, all of this in four short chapters.

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