Reflections on Matthew

The book of Matthew is the first of the gospels. It’s the first book of the New Testament and introduces an entirely different way of interacting with God through Jesus. It introduces Christ, and therefore the tenets of Christianity. It’s centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and doesn’t have a lot to do with the overall state of Judah within historical context the way that the books of Kings and Chronicles do. That said, this difference in focus is because this story isn’t about people this time. This time it’s about God and Jesus and reaching towards the people and not really about what the people are doing at all. That’s the part I’ve missed before.

The entire book is about God and Jesus doing things for US and not so much asking us to do much. The sermon on the mount is a correction of past doctrine, the parables all explain how God relates to and feels about the people. The times when Jesus is telling people to do this or that, they’ve specifically asked Him. At least in this book, that was the impression I was left with. Except for repent, but even that is relational.

Notable women:

  • the women of Jesus’ genealogy:
  • there’s a reference to Sheba
  • Peter’s mother-in-law
  • Herodias and her daughter (asks for the head of John the Baptist)
  • daughter of the ruler
  • Canaanite woman and daughter whose faith is used as an example
  • mother of two of the disciples
  • woman with the ointment
  • the two Mary’s who first witness the resurrection

Major themes

As noted above, this book is mostly about the relationship between God and His people and what Him sending Jesus to them meant. It’s not so much about the people themselves. The main point that this book strives to make, in my opinion, is that God is reaching out to us. He wants to establish some healthy boundaries, but still wants us to be in relationship with Him. Along with that, the book makes the point over and over again that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies and therefore must be the Son of Man, who would save them.

Strictly Feminist

Though the book of Matthew revolves around Jesus, it is not devoid of female interaction or important women. Personally, I found the inclusion of the women in His genealogy telling. All of these women are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible and have important roles to play in the history of the Israelites. Until Mary. Mary may not have been an important figure in Israelite or Judaic history, but she was devout and therefore chosen. She was tied into the genealogy with Joseph because it was important to note that the woman who gave birth to Jesus was in the family because of her marriage to the man whose lineage is used to prove that Jesus came from the line of David.

After the genealogy most of the women mentioned are women who were healed with a few special exceptions. Aside from the specific mentions of these women, there is also the way that Jesus and the disciples treat the women around them. Jesus has a strong rebuttal for those who think it is a woman’s fault that someone covet’s her. Cut out your eye instead, since it is what caused you to sin. Or your hand if it’s the offending party. Only one of His parables are female specific and it isn’t really talking to the women so much as telling the men around Him how they should be acting and using virgins to make that point.

Then again it is the women at the very end who He appears to first that bring so much of the point back around for me. It is the women who were first able to proclaim the Gospel. I think it was a special gift due to their steadfast nature over all those apostles. It’s an interesting choice because the apostle would have had to listen to them before getting the news firsthand. Was it an exercise in listening to women? Was it a test that they should not underestimate what is possible just because of the source?

Obviously not all the women mentioned are perfect, but just like I mentioned once in Genesis, that’s not the point of feminism either. We can be heroes and villains, protagonists and antagonists. We can be both whores and virgins, but none of these things should define us and I don’t think they do here. They can definitely be taken that way by those who don’t understand the nuances of the female experience, like when Herodias tells her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist. He was threatening her marriage and therefore there’s a good chance that he was threatening her stability. She felt threatened and did a bad thing but that she was threatened is included in the book.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these women and possibly others are treated in the rest of the gospels. For downloadable study guides for the Book of Matthew, click here.

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