This week we are learning about the Gospel (Good News!) according to Matthew. You can read this post and then engage your child in a conversation about what they are learning in class!
Matthew writes for a Jewish audience and uses their scriptures to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah.
There are four Gospels, but they are not just four versions of the same story. There are distinct differences based on the audience and the context in which they were written. Mark is the oldest of the four, and Matthew (and Luke!) borrow heavily from Mark. These (Matthew, Mark, Luke) each also share a source known as "Q" that creates some continuity of stories between the three. Because Matthew's goal is to connect the story of Jesus with the ancient scriptures of the Jewish people, Matthew writes using phrases like "to fulfill" or "so it has been written" or "spoken through the prophet." Matthew's original audience were Jewish Christians, growing in numbers rapidly, that is, Jews who followed Jesus and believe him to be the promised Messiah foretold in the scriptures. Matthew was offering encouragement and assurance for these fledgling followers because these early Jewish Christians had no direct contact with or experience with Jesus. By carefully placing the Jesus story within the history of the Israelites, the author is preserving the story of Jesus.
Jewish people living at the time that the Gospels were written and read have been separated from their ancestors in Genesis and Exodus. A lot has happened to them over the centuries. The Kingdom of Israel has split and both have been conquered and taken into captivity along the way. The Jewish people living in Jerusalem by the time Matthew writes are a remnant who barely controlled their own destiny. The Roman Empire was large and in charge, the local authorities among the Jewish people are only in place because the Romans said they could be. Rome even controlled whether the people could practice their own religion.
Matthew's long genealogy at the beginning of the gospel is on purpose. It serves to connect the Jesus story to the Israelite's (Jewish people) story. Remember how important this is to Matthew? Matthew wants Jews who are Jesus followers to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's covenant promise.