Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Themes

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    If there's one thing Jesus can do—wait, scratch that. Jesus can do pretty much anything. But he might just be best at forgiveness. Pretty much everyone in Matthew's Gospel turns their back on the guy (Peter, his main man, does it thrice!), and he forgives all of 'em. Of course, Jesus isn't just forgiving these folks for everyday flubs. He's forgiving them of their sins. Remember that paralytic guy whom Jesus heals in Chapter 9? How's that for a one-two punch of compassion and forgiveness? In Matthew, the two seem to go hand in hand.

    Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

    1. Is there anyone in Matthew whom Jesus doesn't forgive? 
    2. Is Jesus overly compassionate? Is it possible that he'd make more of an impact if he laid down the law a bit more harshly?
    3. Do any of Jesus's gazilli—ahem, twenty-four parables touch on compassion or forgiveness?
  • Hypocrisy

    Want to know how to be awesome? Just look at a hypocrite and do the exact opposite. At least that's what Matthew's Jesus would say. Whenever he wants to make a point about what not to do, he singles out the hypocrites. And who are the best hypocrites around? Why, the Pharisees and chief priests, of course. At the time, these guys were the head honchos, so it was actually a pretty big deal for Jesus to call them out like that. Why is he so hung up on them?

    Questions About Hypocrisy

    1. Did Jesus disrespect the chief priests and Pharisees by calling them out on their hypocrisy? Or was he doing the right thing by unmaking them?
    2. Does the word hypocrite have the same meaning today as it did for Matthew's Jesus?
    3. Why does Jesus use hypocrisy as the big example of what not to do? Why not some other sin?
  • Immortality

    Remember all that talk in Matthew about the kingdom of heaven? Well, Jesus is referring to immortality—life after death. Jesus loves to wax poetic about this glorious place. In fact, many of his parables even begin with the words "The kingdom of heaven is like." But here's the thing: not everyone gets invited to the party. Instead, it's promised to a couple different groups in the Beatitudes (lucky!), and Jesus even makes a point to emphasize just how hard it is to enter. No one ever said this follower thing would be easy.

    Questions About Immortality

    1. Why does Jesus so often use parables when he's talking about the kingdom of heaven? Why not just describe it outright?
    2. How central is the promise of immortality to Jesus's message? Does he seems to emphasize it more or less than other aspects?
    3. Write a modern-day parable about the kingdom of heaven. How might it go?
  • Sin

    According to Jesus, all humans are sinners. Yep, that means you, too. But don't worry. Matthew makes sure we know there's a Jesus for that. Turns out, Jesus isn't a fan of sinning—color us shocked!—and he's here to forgive all humans of their sins. He does it on an individual basis for some people (remember the paralytic from Chapter 9?), but everyone else can be included, too, as long as they do what Jesus says.

    Questions About Sin

    1. Does Matthew's Gospel create any sort of hierarchy of sins? Are certain sins worse than others or is a sinner just a sinner no matter what? 
    2. People accuse Jesus of hanging out with sinners. Who are these people and why does he spend so much time with them?
    3. Are any of the disciples guilty of sinning?
  • Prophecy

    Jesus is an expert at fulfilling prophecies—whether or not he has a say in the matter. It's kind of uncanny, actually. But why is Matthew so focused on it? Well, Matthew's prime audience was the Jewish community, so he needed to use the many prophecies of the Hebrew Bible to convince his readers that Jesus was the Messiah. Unfortunately, Matthew doesn't have a works cited for us, but back in the day, everyone would have known exactly what he was referring to. And biblical scholars have pored over scripture for centuries so we can know, too.

    Questions About Prophecy

    1. We dare you to find every fulfilled prophecy in the Gospel of Matthew. Go on, you can do it.
    2. Which of the many prophecies featured in Matthew seems most relevant in regard to Jesus's status as the Messiah?
    3. Jesus was a smart guy, right? Do you think he intentionally fulfilled some prophecies just to prove his point?