Portrait of Jesus’ Life & Ministry According to Matthew


When reading the Gospel accounts, it is important to remember several things. First, all scripture is God-breathed. Second, as Dr. R. Wayne Stacy illustrates, each Gospel account is best described more as a portrait of Jesus and His ministry rather than simply a photograph. A portrait displays the author’s perspective and allows the reader to view the narrative through their individual and distinctive lens. Lastly, it is best to read the Gospels vertically, rather than horizontally, essentially viewing each account as a solo rather than a quartet. These principles and methods provide a clearer and more concise understanding of the original author’s perception and intended audience. While some scholars argue the Gospel of Matthew is nothing more than a creative reinterpretation of Mark, once the above principles are applied, it is evident much can be learned from Matthew’s account.

Matthew’s Portrait of Jesus and His Ministry

stmatthew2While dating the Gospel of Matthew and proving its authorship have not been without their challenges, there are several things, which are made evident: First, this book seems to be positioned immediately following the Old Testament due to its unique linking of the Old Testament with the New Testament. Secondly, throughout the Gospel account, Jesus is often portrayed as the Teacher and in that day, teacher was also synonymous with leader. Lastly, in addition to the title of Teacher, Jesus was also compared to a new Moses and the church as a new Israel. Thomas Lea explains how, “The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as Messiah and the church as God’s new people who have been temporarily replaced the covenant nation of Israel.” Much like John the Baptist was the one who prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthew’s role would be introducing Jesus of Nazareth as the prophesied Messiah to the ethnic Jews. Matthew, in 3:3 speaks of John the Baptist’s role and as R. T. France illustrates, “John himself is presented only as the one who prepares the way and announces the Messiah’s coming. As such he both fulfills prophecy and also himself in his role as the last and greatest of the prophets, utters a more immediate prediction of Jesus’ Messianic role.”

The Gospel of Matthew is also very special because it is the only Gospel account, which refers to the church. In addition, as France points out, “The prominent repetition of the title “Messiah” [or] “Christ” in 1:1, 16, 17, 18; 2:4, together with… “Son of David,” 1:1, 20; “King of the Jews,” 2:2, make it clear that Matthew is aiming to present an account not just of a historical figure Jesus of Nazareth, but of the long-awaited deliverer of God’s people Israel.” This conclusion would especially make sense if the original intended audience were Jewish. This assumption is only strengthened by Matthew’s tracing of Jesus’ genealogy all the way back through David to Abraham and his quotes from the Pentateuch establishing Jesus as being greater than Moses.

jesus_sends_12Matthew begins his account detailing the early life of Jesus and His preparation for ministry, but following these details, the Gospel can then be split up into five books/sermons/discourses: the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, kingdom of heaven and parables, life in the kingdom and encouragement to live a life of humility and forgiveness, and the Olivet discourse or judgment and last things. Lea adds this organizational structure and the specific inclusions, “Reflects the tidy mind-set of one who could have been a tax collector, [and that Matthew] is the only Gospel account that contains the story of Jesus’ payment of the temple tax, and [how] Matthew viewed himself, [being a tax collector,] unworthy of the place of apostle given to him by Christ.”

FHF 6 healing touch 2 following his foot steps seriesThroughout Matthew’s account, it is abundantly clear everything that happened to Jesus happened so the prophecy of scripture would be fulfilled and everything He did served a specific purpose. Ultimately, Matthew portrayed Jesus as the teacher and as Lea illustrates, “The Sermon on the Mount taught the meaning of true righteousness, in the Great Commission Jesus gave the disciples specific instructions, Jesus used the parables to explain the kingdom, and Jesus’ challenge to remain humble was a model to how one must act in the kingdom.” As Lea also concludes, “Matthew wrote with a special purpose of reaching the Jewish people, he was concerned the readers [would] understand the person and work of Jesus in order to make an intelligent decision about Him, and lastly Matthew shows a profound interest is preserving the teachings of Jesus.” These are but a few of the reasons why the Gospel of Matthew made it into the canon of scripture and they demonstrate Matthew believed in his heart Jesus was the Old Testament’s fulfillment of the law and prophecy and that He was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, but he also understood what needed to happen to Jesus for the prophesy to be fulfilled and for the remission of sins. It is from this realization that his writing is rooted because Matthew wanted his audience to truly understand the sacrifice of Jesus, so that they would grow in Christ, obey His word, and ultimately fulfill the Great Commission.


France, R. T. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Lea, Thomas D. and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message 2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

Stacy, Dr. R. Wayne. “Overview of the Four Gospels.” https://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-10753616-dt-content-rid-84883986_1/courses/NBST515_B06_201620/Presentations/NBST515%20iSpring%20Presentations/NBST515%20Module%206%20Overview%20of%20Four%20Gospels%20%28LMS%29/res/index.html (accessed 2-22-16).


Kingdom of God – We are in this world, but not of it.


There is nothing in this world to which we can point to and say that is like the kingdom of God. All we can do is offer analogies of what it looks like saying the kingdom is like this… while it isn’t this… it’s like this… That’s why Jesus preferred to talk about the kingdom in parables in a way talking about another world, which is what the kingdom is, by referring to ordinary things in this world. George MacDonald’s illustration is a wonderful tool to help in this endeavor:

Imagine for a moment that the room in which you currently reside is the only room in the whole world and the people with whom you occupy that room are the only people in the world; there are no windows or doors in your room, hence you have no concept of anything outside your little world. Indeed, the word outside doesn’t even exist in your language. You will of course be forgiven in such a situation for believing that your room and the people with whom you occupy it were the entire universe and we learn those of us who occupy this room that there are certain rules which govern life in our room: rules like only the strong survive and look out for number one.

Throughout life, we’ve learned in this room that people only have worth if they have value to us; therefore, the sick and the old and the disabled have no worth. This room has taught us we only need to keep promises as long as they’re convenient to do so; these are the rules that govern life in this room. However, unbeknown to us, there is another floor above our room with other people living other lives by a very different set of rules. We’re not aware of them because we have never been outside our little world but they are there nonetheless.
the-kingdom-come-sermon-slideNow, suppose a hole was torn in the ceiling of our room so that for the first time you were to become aware of this other world just above. And suppose some in our world began to call up to the people in the other room interacting with them learning all sorts of strange and wondrous things. Things, which are utterly inconceivable in our room and indeed you, discover to your amazement that people in the room above live their lives according to a very different set of rules. In the room above, the poor are not regarded as a drain on the system, but are precious and prized; the old and the sick are honored and valued rather than warehoused or discarded. In this world if one makes a promise, one keeps it, even when it’s inconvenient or difficult and in this world it’s OK to suffer for doing the right thing.

Imagine then some in the world below begin to find themselves strangely drawn towards the world above. Indeed, a few were so captured by that world and its new way of living that even though they are still in the world below they start to think of themselves as really belonging to the world above. Though they are still in your world, they are no longer of your world. The knowledge of the room above having broken through into their world has changed them forever. To be sure, the whole ceiling has not yet been torn away, but already we’ve started to see a whole new world with a whole new way of living life. That’s what Jesus meant when He described an in breaking of the kingdom of God in His life and ministry creating a new community of people still in the old room, but living as though they already belong to the room above. He called that community the church: the community of the called, the community of those who have seen it and have been captured by it, and can never again be the same. The love of God changes us and after that supernatural encounter we should never be the same. That’s why we are in this world, but not of it. The kingdom of God awaits those who are called by His name and do what is right in the eyes of the Lord; while also remembering what we do for the least of them, we do for the Master.

God’s Timing

God's Perfect Timing
The worlds’ sting can leave us paralyzed and her cruelty can cut to the heart. Sometimes our wounds never fully heal, especially when death robs us of the ones we love. It can sometimes feel like the world is on your shoulders as her weight brings you to your knees, but Jesus calls all those who are weary and burdened to cast their cares upon Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Nothing in this world will ever satisfy us and the only way we will ever have peace is when we are in the center of God’s will. If we keep doing the same thing, we will continue to get the same results, so we always must be in tune with the Spirit especially if He is calling us to something new. Even though the devil cannot see the future, he can see how far we have come and how much we have accomplished, so he desperately wants to stop us before we can make a difference in the kingdom of God. Waiting for something to come to fruition is one of the hardest things to do, especially when what you are waiting for is a promise from God Himself. When dreams are crushed or feel just beyond our reach, it is real easy to become bitter or extremely frustrated. In these times, we must remember that God sets the exact time for His promises and perfect will to come to pass and His timing and ways are perfect.
When promises are delayed, the most important thing we can do is have faith that God already has set the time for our breakthrough. Another thing we must be cognizant of is that our breakthrough may not look exactly how we thought it would and it may be even better than what we could have imagined. When He closes one door, He opens another and oftentimes He is just waiting for us to take a step of faith. God is always working behind the scenes and every once in a while, He will give us a glimpse behind the veil, but even if He doesn’t, we must continue to have faith in His plan. Our faith keeps things moving toward promotion, breakthrough, and blessings beyond our wildest dreams. That is not to say trouble won’t come along the way, but even the hardest of times can be used to shape us. Sometimes we must think outside the four walls because when we only see one way, we limit God and what He can do in and through our lives.
Having peace and joy when you are waiting can feel like a piece of your soul is being held hostage and until His promise is fulfilled you will never be whole again. God’s timing is perfect, so we must trust Him because when we live our lives according to His will and purpose, even the most painful seasons of our lives will be used for our good. Not one tear we shed, not one heartbreaking experience, and not one sleepless night spent crying out to God will ever be wasted. His promises are eternal and He swears by His own name because there is no name higher. He is the Alpha & Omega, the risen Lord and His word always accomplishes the task for which it was sent. Trust God to do the impossible and have faith because He loves you and His heart breaks when yours does and as our Heavenly Father, He has our best interest at heart.