Wednesday, September 21, 2016
In honoring the apostle Matthew we principally think of the gospel written in his name. However, that gospel was not written until the year 85, after the apostle's death, by a follower who wrote about what he had learned from Matthew.
Now in the first century, there are two outstanding dates: one, the death of Jesus in the year 33, and the other, the total destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish remnants assembled on the Mediterranean coast. They began asking themselves if the people of the Temple had anything to bind them together. The answer: what made a Jew a Jew was complete observance of the rule of kosher. These traditional Jews began saying that by eating with unclean Gentiles, Jesus was trying to destroy the law and the prophets.
After the year 75, the Jews that observed traditional rules turned on those who were also Christians; to remain Jewish they had to give up mixing with unclean Gentiles. Mathew's disciple who wrote the gospel wrote it to say that Jesus did not go against the law and the prophets. Rather he came to fulfill them.
And so the gospel has Jesus teaching of the old law "You have heard that you should not kill," but Jesus adds you should not even be angry. Jesus is quoted as saying "It was written, you shall love your friends, but hate your enemies." Jesus fulfilled the law by saying you should love your neighbors.