|(My grandpa's Family Bible)|
Later this week we will conclude our reading of the gospel of John and begin reading the gospel of Matthew. There are a couple of reasons that I chose Matthew as our second gospel to read.
First, I believe it to be the earliest gospel account. This is somewhat in dispute among scholars as many believe that Mark wrote his gospel before the other synoptic gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, wrote theirs.
I don't pretend to be a great theologian but I do enjoy reading the debates of great theologians. I read several but the argument that struck a chord with me was really quite simple. It was made by John MacArthur. I'm paraphrasing it here for the sake of brevity. He said that it makes no sense to believe an eyewitness (Matthew) would copy the work of someone who wasn't (Mark). Good point!
Most scholars agree that this gospel was written about AD 50 and certainly prior to AD 70. This is based upon the use of the words "unto this day" (27:8) and "until this day" (28:15) which seems to indicate that several years had passed since the death and resurrection of Christ. And considering that his Jewish audience would be scattered after the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple it would seem likely that he wrote prior to that event. [1,2]
The second reason that I chose this book is because Matthew was a Jewish believer who wrote his account to other Jews to convince them that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah. I felt that this meets the criteria of "to the Jew first . . ." as mentioned in Romans 1:16. The synoptic gospels of Mark and Luke were meant for Gentile readers and we will read them in the months that follow.
There are many arguments that Matthew uses to present Jesus as the promised Messiah, the King of the Jews.
- He uses many examples of how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (watch for the words "that it might be fulfilled" in your reading).
- He takes Jesus' lineage back only as far as Abraham (the father of the Jewish nation).
- He talks of the Kingdom (watch for the words "the kingdom of heaven" as you read).
- And he concludes that Jesus fulfilled the Davidic covenant (watch for the words "son of David." Any reference to King David occurs 9 times in Matthew and only 6 times in the other gospels). 
The timeline is the same for all the gospels and covers the life of Christ. We're leaving the one that presented Jesus as God and are transitioning into the account that presents Him as the Messiah. Prepare your heart to worship your King!
 The MacArthur Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, notes for Matthew and Mark.
 The New Open Bible Study Edition, Thomas Nelson Publishers, notes for Matthew and comparison chart entitled "The Four Gospels"