Outline of the Gospel of Matthew - Part 1

The Bible Treasury, New Series

Volume 13 (1920)


God has been pleased, in the separate accounts He has given us of our Lord Jesus, to display not only His own grace and wisdom but the infinite excellency of His Son. It is our wisdom to seek to profit by all the light He has afforded us and, in order to this, both to receive implicitly, as the simple Christian surely does, whatever God has written for our instruction in these different Gospels, and also by comparing them, and comparing them according to the special point of view which God has communicated in each Gospel, to see concentrated the varying lines of everlasting truth which there meet in Christ. Now I shall proceed with all simplicity, the Lord helping me, first taking up the Gospel before us in order to point out as far as I am enabled to do, the great distinguishing features, as well as the chief contents that the Holy Ghost has here been pleased to communicate.

It is well to bear in mind that in this Gospel as in all the rest God has in nowise undertaken to present everything, but only some chosen discourses and facts; and this is the more remarkable inasmuch as in some cases the very same miracles, etc., are given in several and even in all the Gospels. The Gospels are short; the materials used are not numerous; but what shall we say of the depths of grace that are there disclosed? What of the immeasurable glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, which everywhere shines out in them?

The undeniable certainty that God has been pleased to confine Himself to a small portion of the circumstances of the life of Jesus, and, even so, to repeat the same discourse, miracle, or whatever other fact is brought before us, only brings out, to my mind, more distinctly the manifest design of God to give expression to the glory of the Son in each Gospel according to a special point of view.

Now, looking at the Gospel of Matthew as a whole, and taking the most enlarged view of it before we enter into details, the question arises, what is the main idea before the Holy Ghost? It is surely the lesson of simplicity to learn this from God and, once learnt, to apply it steadily as a help of the most manifest kind; full of interest, as well as of the weightiest instruction, in examining all the incidents as they come before us. What, then, is that which, not merely in a few facts in particular chapters, but throughout, comes before us in the Gospel of Matthew? It matters not where we look, whether at the beginning, the middle, or the end, the same evident character proclaims itself. The prefatory words introduce it. Is it not the Lord Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham—Messiah? But, then, it is not simply the anointed of Jehovah, but One who proves Himself, and is declared of God, to be Jehovah-Messiah. No such testimony appears elsewhere. I say not that there is no evidence in the other Gospels to demonstrate that He is really Jehovah and Emmanuel too, but that nowhere else have we the same fulness of proof and the same manifest design, from the very starting point of the Gospel, to proclaim the Lord as being thus a divine Messiah —God with us.

The practical object is equally obvious. The common notion, that the Jews are in view, is quite correct as far as it goes, The Gospel of Matthew bears internal proof that God especially provides for the instruction of His own among those that had been Jews. It was written more particularly for the leading of Jewish Christians into a truer understanding of the glory of the Lord Jesus. Hence, every testimony that could convince and satisfy a Jew, is found most fully here. hence the precision of the quotations from the Old Testament; hence the converging of prophecy on the Messiah; hence, too, the manner in which the miracles of Christ, or the incidents of His life, are grouped together. To Jewish difficulties all this pointed with peculiar fitness. Miracles we have elsewhere, no doubt, and prophecies occasionally; but where is there such a profusion of them as in Matthew? Where, in the mind of the Spirit of God, such a continual, conspicuous point of quoting and applying Scripture in all places and seasons to the Lord Jesus? To me, I confess, it seems impossible for a simple mind to resist the conclusion.

But, this is not all to be noticed here. Not only does God deign to meet the Jew with these proofs from prophecy, miracle, life and doctrine, but He begins with what a Jew would and must demand—the question of genealogy. But even then the answer of Matthew is after a divine sort. “The book,” he says, of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” These are the two principal landmarks to which a Jew turns:—royalty given by the grace of God in the one, and the original depository of the promise in the other.

Moreover, not only does God. condescend to notice the line of fathers, but, if He turns aside for a moment now and then for aught else, what instruction, both in man’s sin and need and in His own grace, does thus spring up before us from the mere course of His genealogical tree! He names in certain cases the mother and not the father only; but never without a divine reason. There are four women alluded to. They are not such as any of us, or perhaps any man, would beforehand have thought of introducing, and into such a genealogy, of all others. But God had His own sufficient motive, and His was one not only of wisdom but of mercy; also, of special instruction to the Jew, as we shall see in a moment. First of all, who but God would have thought it necessary to remind us that Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar? I need not enlarge; these names in divine history must speak for themselves. Man would have hidden all this assuredly; he would have preferred to put forth either some flaming account of = and august ancestry, or to concentrate all the honour and glory in one, the lustre of whose genius eclipsed all antecedents, But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways. Again, the allusion to such persons thus introduced is the more remarkable because others, worthy ones, are not named. There is no mention of Sarah, no hint of Rebecca, no notice whatever of so many holy and illustrious names in the female line of our Lord Jesus. But Thamar does appear thus early (i, 3), and so manifest is the reason that one has no need to explain further. I am persuaded that the name alone is sufficient intimation to any Christian heart and conscience. But how significant to the Jew! What were his thoughts of the Messiah? Would he have put forward the name of Thamar in such a connection? Never. He might not have been able to deny the fact, but as to bringing it out thus and drawing special attention to it, the Jew was the last man to have done it. Nevertheless, the grace of God in this is exceeding good and wise.

But there is more than this, Lower down we have another. There is the name of Rachab, a Gentile, and a Gentile bringing no honourable reputation along with her. Men may seek to pare it down, but it is impossible cither to cloak her shame, or to fritter away the grace of God, It is not to be well or wisely got rid of who and what Rachab publicly was; yet is she the woman that the Holy Ghost singles out for the next place in the ancestry to Jesus,

Ruth, too, appears—Ruth, of all these women— most meek and blameless, no doubt, by the working of the divine grace in her, but still a daughter of Moab whom the Lord forbade to enter His congregation to the tenth generation for ever.

And what of Solomon himself, begotten by David, the king, of her that had been the wife of Uriah? How humiliating to those who stood on human righteousness! How thwarting to mere Jewish expectations of the Messiah! He was the Messiah, but such He was after God's heart, not man’s. He was the Messiah that somehow would and could have relations with sinners, i and last, where grace would reach and bless Gentiles—a Moabite—anybody. Room was left for intimations of such compassion in Matthew’s scheme of His ancestry. Deny it they might as to doctrine and fact now; they could not alter or efface the real features from the genealogy ‘of the true Messiah; for in no other line but David's, through Solomon, could Messiah be, And God has deemed it meet to recount even this to us so that we may know and enter into His own delight in His rich grace as He speaks of the ancestors of the Messiah. It is thus, then, we come down to the birth of Christ.

Nor was it less worthy of God that He should make must plain the truth of another remarkable conjuncture of predicted circumstances, seemingly beyond reconcilement, in His entrance into the world.

There were two conditions absolutely requisite for the Messiah: one was, that He should be truly born of a—rather of the—Virgin; the other was, that He should inherit the royal rights of the Solomon-branch of David’s house, according to promise. There was a third too, we may add, that He who was the real son of His virgin-mother, the legal son of His Solomon-sprung father, should be, in the truest and highest sense, the Jehovah of Israel, Emmanuel, God with us, All this is crowded into the brief account next given us in Matthew's Gospel and by Matthew alone. Accordingly, “The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” This latter truth, ‘that is, of the Holy Ghost’s action as to it, we shall find, has a still deeper and wider import assigned to it in the Gospel of Luke whose office is to show us the Man Christ Jesus. I therefore reserve any observations that this larger scope might and ought, indeed, to give rise to, till we have to consider the third Gospel.

But here the great thing is the relationship of Joseph to the Messiah, and hence he is the one to whom the angel appears. In the Gospel of Luke it is not to Joseph, but to Mary. Are we to think that this variety of account is a mere accidental circumstance? or that if God has thus been pleased to draw out two distinct lines of truth, we are not to gather up the divine principle of each and all? It is impossible that God could do what even we should be ashamed of. If we act and speak or forbear to do either, we ought to have a sufficient reason for one or other. ‘And if no man of sense doubts that this should be se in our own case, has not God always had His own perfect mind in the various accounts He has given us of Christ? Both are true but with distinct design. It is with divine wisdom that Matthew mentions the angel's visit to Joseph; with no less direction from on high does Luke relate Gabriel's visit to Mary (as before to Zacharias); and the reason is plain. In Matthew, while he not in the least degree weakens, but proves the fact that Mary was the real mother of the Lord, the point was that He inherited the rights of Joseph.

And no wonder; for no matter how truly our Lord had been the Son of Mary, He had not there by an indisputable legal right to the throne of David. This never could be in virtue of His descent from Mary, unless He had also inherited the title of the royal stem. As Joseph belonged to the Solomon-branch, he would have barred the right of our Lord to the throne, looking at it as a mere question now of His being the Son of David; and we are entitled so to take it. His being God, or Jehovah, was in no way itself the ground of Davidical claim, though otherwise of infinitely deeper moment. “The question was to make good, along with His eternal glory, a Messianic title that could not be set aside, a title that no Jew on his own ground could impeach. It was His grace so to stoop; it was His own all-sufficient wisdom that knew how to reconcile conditions so above man to put together. God speaks, and it is done.

Accordingly, in the Gospel of Matthew, the Spirit of God fixes our attention on these facts. Joseph was the descendant of David, the king, through Solomon; the Messiah must therefore, somehow or other, be the son of Joseph; yet had He really been the son of Joseph, all would have been lost. Thus the contradictions looked hopeless; for it seemed that in order to be the Messiah, He must, and yet He must not, be Joseph’s son, But what are difficulties to God? With Him all things are possible, and faith receives all with assurance. He was not only the son of Joseph so that no Jew could deny it, and yet not so, but that He could be in the fullest manner the Son of Mary, the Seed of the woman, and not literally of the man. God, therefore takes particular pains, in this Jewish Gospel, to give all importance to His being strictly, in the eye of the law, the son of Joseph; and so, according to the flesh, inheriting the rights of the regal branch; yet here He takes particular care to prove that He was not, in the reality of His birth as man, Joseph’s son. Before husband and wife came together, the espoused Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Such was the character of the conception. Besides, He was Jehovah. This comes out in His very name. The Virgin's Son was to be called “Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” He shall not be a mere man, no matter how miraculously born; Jehovah’s people, Israel, are His; He shall save His people from their sins.

This is yet more revealed to us by the prophecy of Isaiah cited next, and particularly by the application of that name found nowhere else but in Matthew: “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (verses 22, 23).

This, then, is the introduction and the great foundation in fact. The genealogy is no doubt formed peculiarly according to the Jewish manner; but this very shape serves rather as a confirmation, I will not say to the Jewish mind alone, but to every honest man of intelligence. The spiritual mind, of course has no difficulty—can have none by the very fact that it is spiritual, because its confidence is in God. Now there is nothing that so summarily banishes a doubt, and silences every question of the natural man, as the simple but happy assurance that what: God says must be true, and is the only right thing. No doubt God has been pleased in this genealogy to do that which men in modern times have cavilled at; but not even the darkest and most hostile Jews raised such objections in former days. Assuredly they were the persons, above all, to have exposed the character of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, if vulnerable, But no; this was reserved for Gentiles, They have made the notable discovery that there is an omission! Now in such lists an omission is perfectly in analogy with the manner of the Old Testament. All that was demanded in such a genealogy was to give adequate landmarks so as to make the descent clear and unquestionable,

Thus, if you take Ezra, for instance, giving his own genealogy as a priest, you find that he omits not three links only in a chain, but seven. Doubtless there may have been a special reason for the omission, but whatever may be our judgment of the true solution of the difficulty, it is evident that a priest who was giving his own genealogy would not put it forward in a defective form. If in one who was of that sacerdotal succession where the proofs were rigorously required, where a defect in it would destroy his right to the exercise of spiritual functions—if in such a case there might legitimately be an omission, clearly there might be the same in regard to the Lord’s genealogy; and the more, as this omission was not in the part of which the Scripture speaks nothing, but in the centre of its historical records, whence the merest child could supply the missing links at once. Evidently, therefore, the omission was not careless or ignorant but intentional. I doubt not myself that the design was thereby to intimate the solemn sentence of God on the connection with Athaliah of the wicked house of Ahab, the wife of Joram. (Compare verse 8 with 2 Chron. xxii-xxvi), Ahaziah vanishes, and Joash and Amaziah, when the line once more re-appears here in Uzziah. These generations God blots out along with that wicked woman.