The Gospel introduces Matthew to us as an unclean person whom the Pharisees would avoid touching. That circumstance gives us a clue to the theme of Matthew’s wonderful Gospel. Forgive me if I have told you this story too many times.
Twenty-five years after the death and resurrection of Jesus a number of Jewish patriots became terrorists, attacking convoys of Roman soldiers. Their group was known as the Shickaries because their weapon was a short knife called a shicka. With the Shickaries holed up in Jerusalem, the Roman Empire that had been pushed too far, set about erecting catapults to totally destroy the city and temple.
With those hostilities underway, the Pharisees convinced the city’s attackers that they had always been friendly to Rome, and that within the city the Shickaries were killing them off.
The commanding general, Titus, allowed the Pharisees with their families to come out of Jerusalem, to settle at a place called Jamnia on the Mediterranean.
Settled there, the Pharisees received word of the destruction of the temple, and as believers in a temple-centered religion, they began wondering how they could survive as a religion. That led them to begin thinking of themselves mainly as a people observing kosher.
That decision made, they began looking around at the Jewish believers in Jesus. They saw that there were thousands of such people, people who thought of themselves as Jews, but followers of Christ. So, the Jews at Jamnia began sending out ultimatums to Jewish Christians, telling them they could not have it both ways. They could not be both Jews and Christians. Their dispatches contained the assertion that Jesus had been out to destroy the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew then wrote his Gospel to disprove those assertions of the Pharisees. He quoted Jesus as saying, “I have not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”
His Gospel shows item by item how Jesus fulfilled what had only been begun in the Old Testament. As well, for action after action of Jesus, Matthew pointed out how he was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.
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