The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. It gives an account of the life of Jesus in 28 chapters. It is the longest of all the four Gospel books. Scripture experts tell us that it was originally written in Hebrew, though we have no original Hebrew texts. There are a couple of reasons why we believe this. First of all, the experts tell us the way it was written was as if it was a translation. Secondly, the things they say are things that belong more naturally in the Hebrew language as it was spoken then. The way it was written also indicates that it was meant for people native to the Hebrew language and culture. For example, the Book of Matthew does not take the time to explain the Hebrew culture like the other Gospels do (except for the cry on the cross “Eli, Eli, lema Sabachthani”). Even then, the witnesses of the event assume that Jesus is calling upon Elijah, which is a Jewish thought. Matthew also assumes the strong patriarchal role of St Joseph in the birth account of Jesus. Even when Joseph is not the blood father, he uses the bloodline of Joseph to establish Jesus’ heritage to King David, whereas Luke uses the lineage of Mary.
Matthew has a pattern of Jesus teaching and then producing miracles. Matthew starts the great Sermon on the Mount. It lasts for three chapters: chapters five, six, and seven. It begins with the Beatitudes, then goes on to tell us we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In chapter six, Jesus gives us the Our Father and prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In chapter seven, He warns us of judging others, the golden rule, and to enter through the narrow gate. Chapter eight begins with the miracle of the cleansing of the leper. This has great significance to a Jew of the time. Then, He heals the centurion’s servant, which has no less significance. He then heals Peter’s mother-in-law, calms the storm, heals a demoniac and heals a paralytic. He calls Matthew in the middle of chapter nine, then goes on to perform more miracles. He heals the woman with the hemorrhage, two blind men, and a mute man. In chapter ten, He goes back to teaching and uses some parables. When we come to chapter 14, Jesus produces more miracles. The miracles are used as signs that Jesus is the Messiah, the long awaited Savior.
Chapter 16 is where our first Pope, Peter, gives his declaration of Jesus being the “Messiah and Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16). Jesus, in turn, gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 16:19). Verse 19 is where the church was given the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. They took a long journey up to Cesarea Phillipi. This was the location where Peter received the keys to the Kingdom. It was an unusual journey because it was considered more of a pagan territory. The teaching tools there were paramount to what Jesus was trying to teach the apostles. There is a natural spring there that does not seem to have a bottom to it, right from under a huge rock the size of a small mountain. The pagans used to offer sacrifices there and send their sacrifices down the natural spring. Down the spring was known to be the “netherworld”; hence Jesus says, “And the netherworld cannot prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). He is referring to the Church and its battle for goodness against the Devil. As crazy as things get, God will prevail and, therefore, the Church will always prevail. He left us a visible sign that we may believe that God is still with us. That visible sign is the Church.