The Gospel of Matthew is treasured as the Gospel of the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' teaching sets it apart from the other Gospels. It is precious to generation after generation of Christians because of its fusion of gospel and ethics, of faith and morality.
The commentary proceeds unit by unit, rather than verse by verse, to emphasize what each passage of Matthew means to the author of the Gospel and the modern church. Douglas Hare shows that the purpose of Matthew's writing is to convince Christians that a genuine faith in Christ must be demonstrated in daily obedience and that faith and ethics are two sides of the same coin. According to Hare, the turning point in Matthew is the narrative of Peter's confession and the subsequent passion announcement. His commentary stresses the close connection between the Great Commission, with which the Gospel closes, and the moral imperatives of the Sermon on the Mount.
“By focusing on Mary, Luke emphasizes the essential passivity of the human response to God’s action: ‘Let it be to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). Matthew, on the other hand, by selecting Joseph as his leading actor, stresses the active component in the human response. Three times Joseph is instructed by an angel in a dream, and three times he must do something. This is fully in keeping with Matthew’s understanding of the Christian religion. For him as for Paul, God is the supreme actor in the drama of salvation; God’s grace (although Matthew never uses this Pauline term) is prevenient. The First Evangelist, however, insists that the human response to saving grace must be active and not merely passive.” (Pages 8–9)
“Modern readers need to be reminded that Matthew’s ‘kingdom of heaven’ is no more otherworldly than Luke’s kingdom of God. Matthew simply prefers the reverential paraphrase that omits ‘God.’ Both Evangelists recognized that, while God’s rule in heaven was eternal, that rule was not yet fully actualized on earth, and consequently the ‘coming’ of God’s kingdom on earth must be the burden of continual prayer (‘Thy kingdom come,’ Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2). The ‘poor in spirit’ are ‘blessed’ not only because of their future participation in God’s kingdom but because of their present assurance of that blessedness. In this respect Jesus’ beatitudes are performative: they not only speak of blessing but convey it because of the authority peculiar to Jesus.” (Page 37)
“Apparently for Matthew, God’s miraculous action in causing the pregnancy included the miraculous incorporation of the child into Joseph’s family. Joseph’s role was simply to acknowledge this part of the miracle by naming the child. It was common for women to name their babies (cf. Luke 1:31). Joseph’s naming of Mary’s baby constituted in this instance an acknowledgment that, by God’s will and act, the boy is authentically his son.” (Pages 11–12)
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—W. Eugene March, A.B. Rhodes Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
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