The prophets of old foretold His coming. Consider Isaiah 53. And in various writings, there is imagery reminiscent of Jesus on the cross. For example, the ram that was sacrificed in place of Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 22). Jesus is indeed a recurring presence in the Bible from beginning to end. He was born, He lived, He preached, He died, He rose again.
There’s plenty to learn about Jesus throughout Scripture, but the New Testament provides a more focused view. That’s why our first in-depth picture comes in the first book of the New Testament, the Book of Matthew.
Why is Matthew the first book of the New Testament?
Nowhere in the Bible are Christians instructed on how to order Scripture. While prophets wrote about events past and events to come, there was no set order for how Scripture would be set. There’s no evidence that the people writing at the time knew their work would be compiled into what we read today. Old Testament believers may not have known information about Jesus that New Testament believers knew from the Gospels, but the prophets and people of the Old Testament knew the Messiah was coming to save the world.
In the New Testament, we receive first-hand and second-hand accounts about the Messiah during His life. These Gospels were arranged and decided upon by the early church, the first official Christians. The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament because that’s what the early church decided. Matthew’s work, being one of the twelve disciples, was bound to be a part of Scripture. And his writings present us with an early picture of Jesus. There’s plenty to observe and 10 definite things to know about the Book of Matthew.
Here Are 10 Things We Learn about from the First Book of the New Testament: Matthew
1. Jesus’ genealogy.
In Matthew 1, readers receive keen insight into Jesus’ ancestors. Notable, He comes from the same line as Abraham, Jacob, and David. This information reaffirms the idea of predestination and shows how God kept His promises. He told Abraham many nations would come from His lineage. What he said came to pass.
The same is echoed later in the chapter. We read about Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus. Mary was told by an angel that despite her virginity she would give birth. God’s word was fulfilled.
“Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.” – Matt. 1:17
2. We learn about Jesus as a baby.
Nothing is present in the Bible about Jesus’ childhood in the older years. What we read instead are details about Him as a baby. The nativity offers a beautiful scene as wise men come to pay tribute. However, Joseph and Mary also spent time fleeing from King Herod who feared the coming of Christ, or “king of the Jews” as He was called (Matthew 2:2). They left Bethlehem and went to Egypt. The peculiar nature of His early life would only become more interesting as He aged.
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” – Matt. 2:10-12
3. We see Jesus being baptized.
One reason baptism is so important to the present-day church is that Jesus Himself was baptized. We aren’t the first to question why. In Matthew 3, John the Baptist expressed to Jesus he shouldn’t be the one baptizing Him. But God was pleased with Jesus’ baptism, and we can please God with our baptisms too.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matt. 3:13-17
4. We observe Jesus’ relationship with the disciples.
The Lord’s relationship with the disciples begins in Matthew 4. From there He began preaching in Galilee. As more and more people began to follow Him, the ministry grew. As they learned from Him, eventually, He commissioned each of them. Their relationship helps us understand how to follow Christ today.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” – Matt. 4:18-22
5. We learn about the Sermon on the Mount.
One of Jesus’ most popular sermons is the Sermon on the Mount. This occurs in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew, with the Beatitudes discussed first. Like all of Jesus’ teachings, we learn more about how best to follow the Kingdom of God. There’s such a wide variety of lessons that Christians of various interests will have plenty to study.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” – Matt. 5:3-11
6. We understand that Jesus came to fulfill the Law.
Sometimes believers make the mistake of thinking that we follow the New Testament, not the old, or that God in the Old Testament is a different God than who comes in the new. Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5 that He has not come to abolish the Old Testament. Instead, He fulfills the Law. While God’s relationship to man has changed in certain ways, like God’s promise to not flood the Earth again, or man’s expulsion from Eden, God is still God. His Word has not changed.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matt. 5:17-20
7. We learn how to pray.
In Matthew 6, Jesus helps believers understand how to pray. The focus is on honoring God and bringing His kingdom here. That includes forgiving others, avoiding temptation, and seeking God’s will.
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” – Matt. 6:9-13
8. We read about miracles from Jesus.
The Book of Matthew is replete with miracles performed by Jesus. He heals, expels demons, and more. Jesus walks on water in Matthew 14 and ultimately rises from the dead in Matthew 28. There are so many details that leave us in awe, make us curious, and strengthen o0ur faith.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” – Matt. 14:25-29
9. We affirm Jesus is the Messiah.
Jesus is called many names, but one that stands out is the Messiah, the expected deliverer of the Jewish people. Matthew wastes no time making this statement and does so in the first chapter. For humanity to be sinful since Adam and Eve, God did not abandon us. Jesus is the proof.
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” – Matt. 1:1
10. We learn from the Great Commission.
As Jesus made disciples, He commissioned His followers to go and do the same in Matthew 28. He invested authority into those men and promised to be with them until the end of the age. We find purpose and comfort in that promise today.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matt. 28:18-20
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He’s an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo.