Most scholars agree that Mark’s Gospel was written between 60 and 75 AD and that Mark’s account served as a source for Matthew’s Gospel, which was written at around the same period. However, while Mark wrote his Gospel for the Gentiles, Matthew wrote to the Hebrews in and around Palestine. Thus, their audiences were completely different with very different needs. For the Hebrews, it was important to understand how Jesus was God — and that is the overall point of Matthew’s Gospel: to show that “God is present in Jesus.”footnoteRef:1 1: Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament (MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 58.
The Gospel of Matthew gives an account of the history of Jesus Christ and is composed for the benefit of the inhabitants of Palestine in the time-period shortly after Our Lord’s death. As one of the Apostles, Matthew had an intimate knowledge of Jesus. In his life before being an Apostle he was a tax collector (publican), a role that the Jews despised. The Gospel of Matthew is like Mark’s in that it deals with Christ’s ministry, His preaching, His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, and His passion, death, and resurrection there. It differs in that it begins with the genealogy of Jesus and goes on to act as a means of encouragement for the Christian believers in Palestine as well as a mode of instruction for non-believers — namely, the Hebrews. Thus, it is Matthew’s special purpose to show the Jews how Jesus is the Messiah come to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew, by reference to the Old Testament prophecies, makes reply to those who had followed John the Baptist into the desert and asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt 11:3). This special purpose is revealed mainly through Matthew’s expansion on Mark’s narrative through key references to Old Testament themes and Scriptural verses. In this manner, Matthew locates the story of Jesus in the history of the Jews, identifying Him as the “one who is to come.”
One way that Matthew differs from Mark is in the development of the theme of the Passover at the Last Supper. Mark writes, “He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many'” (14:24), showing that Jesus clearly establishes a new covenant as He and His followers sit for the Passover. Matthew, however, seems to elaborate on Mark’s description, stating,
And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke, and gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (26:26-29).
Matthew mentions that the blood of Christ is being shed for the sins of man — and makes this point especially clear for his audience, the Hebrews. Matthew wants the Hebrews to know that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Law, of the Old Testament, of the Passover Theme. Christ forgives sins because He is God — which is the point he sees the Jews as needing to accept. In this sense, Christ becomes the Divine sacrificial lamb — the Real Paschal Lamb, the fulfillment of the Passover Promise. Matthew’s overall aim is to prove that Jesus is the Messiah — and for this reason, Matthew’s gospel is also called “The Teacher’s Gospel” since it is always striving to teach us something about Jesus as God.footnoteRef:2 2: Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament (MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 76.
Yet while it is Matthew who refers to the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah and whose gospel is written for a Jewish audience, it is Mark who in 8:31, depicts Jesus as teaching His disciples that the Messiah leads through accepting the punishment for the sins of mankind. So in this sense, it can be understood that Matthew is also building on the teaching aspect of Mark and using Mark’s foundation to further the lesson, just as Plato built on the teachings of Socrates, and Aristotle built on the teachings of Plato. Mark shows that Jesus would be rejected by the Jewish high priests, who looked for an earthly rather than a spiritual “messiah.” But He also points to his power over death, a power significant to the Jews, because it had been witnessed in Egypt when the Jews put the blood of the lamb on their doors to protect their first born from the angel of death. Jesus would suffer upon a new altar, like that which had been built by Abraham where he was to sacrifice his son Isaac. Jesus connects Himself to all the major figures of the Old Testament, and in each connection is woven the thread of Messiaship, which by the time of the New Testament has come to be understood in its fullest sense: an anointed son of God, taking upon His shoulders the sins of the world, dying, but resurrecting, and leading souls to the glory of Heaven. It is, after all, the kingdom of Heaven that Jesus has come to establish.
Matthew constantly references the Old Testament, while Mark references many of Jesus’ miracles because Mark’s gospel is written to the Gentiles, who do not have the history of the Jews on which to draw. That is why Mark alludes to so many miracles and makes use of the “Messianic Secret.” Matthew does not need to use the Messianic Secret for his audience because their stumbling block is the connection between Christ and the Old Testament prophecies.
As Raymond E. Brown notes, the “secret about the Messiah was an important factor in Mark.”footnoteRef:3 As Mark’s gospel was directed toward the gentiles, its focus on the divinity of Jesus was primary, and to this end Mark explores the ways in which the Messiah demonstrated His divinity, through miracles and authority over spirits. The command for secrecy corroborates with the overall air of mystery associated with the Redeemer’s mission: born of noble lineage but of obscure origins, raised in secrecy out of the public eye after a tremendous homage made by three foreign “kings” or “wise men,” the indirect cause of a slaughter of innocents after His birth sparks a jealous rage in an evil king — all these events speak to a degree of prudence and caution in the life of the Messiah. 3: Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (NY: Doubleday, 1997), 153.
Nearly half of all references to faith are given in the Old Testament, establishing its importance, so much so that when Our Lord first speaks of faith in Matthew 6:30, He speaks of His followers as having “little faith” as though He were disappointed to find them without it, in spite of all the admonitions and emphasis placed on faith in the Scriptures of the Jews. In fact, His people have less faith than the Centurion, the Roman pagan, of whom Jesus says in Matthew 8:10, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” What a shock it must have been for anyone reading the Bible for the first time to learn that the outsider, the non-Jew, the Roman pagan, had greater faith in the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ than His own followers and people. Yet Matthew emphasizes this point to show how what matters most to Jesus is not an earthly kingdom such as the Romans had and the Jews wanted, but rather the possession of faith — of belief and trust in Him. Our Lord’s praise of the Centurion serves as a rebuke to His disciples: they are fearful and suspecting, whereas this Centurion is humble and trusting. This is Matthew’s main message to his Hebrew readers throughout the whole Gospel.
Thus, by establishing the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of the Gospel and showing that Jesus is descended from the line of Abraham, Matthew lays an important foundation for the Hebrew readers: Jesus is the son of Abraham, whose covenant with God is now located in the new covenant of Our Lord Jesus Christ.footnoteRef:4 Matthew repeats much of what is found in Mark but always delivering it in a way that is especially useful for his Hebrew readers — and this genealogy is just one more example of the way that Matthew succeeds in reaching his audience. 4: Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament (MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 87.
In conclusion, Matthew’s Gospel builds on the foundation laid by Mark but stresses important lessons regarding Our Lord’s divinity. Matthew emphasizes the fact that Jesus is the Messiah whom the Jews have long looked for, whereas Mark emphasizes the miracles that Our Lord performed, using this method to bring about the conversion of the Gentiles, who did not have…