In Matthew’s book, the literary structure suggests that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Over and over again in his book, Matthew writes, “Jesus fulfilled…”. This becomes a major theme, that Jesus is fulfilling what the prophets said would happen back in the Old Testament days by becoming the Messiah that they predicted. Messiah means “the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.” There are three subgroups of the fulfillment theme: Jesus as the completion of the exile, Jesus as the True Son of David, and Jesus as the “new Moses”. All of these other themes flow out of the basic one, the fulfillment theme.
The first topic Matthew talks about in his book is the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the exile. He assumes that his reader understands the story of Israel and the exile. This is the story where Israel was exiled because of the ongoing sin, especially the sin of idol worship. A lot happened to Israel between that point and the time where Jesus comes on the scene, at which point Jews still felt like they were in exile. Jesus came as the Messiah to redeem them from this. The structure of the genealogy in Matthews book supports the fact that Jesus was the completion of the exile and it shows a unifying factor between the salvation of Israel and of the world. There were three distinct sets of fourteen generations, which is of significance to the Jewish audience Matthew was writing to.
The second idea Matthew uses to make his point is Jesus as the “True Son of David”. The covenant that David and God had in 2 Samuel 7:16 is fulfilled in Jesus because it said “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me.” and Jesus is the one who came from the line of David and will reign forever. Jesus did what Israel’s kings were supposed to do. He promoted justice and defended the poor and oppressed by reaching out to them and teaching that everyone, regardless of social status, needed to repent and follow him. Also, David’s son was responsible for the care of the Temple, and Jesus did this by driving out the animal sellers and money changers.
The third idea involved Jesus being the “new Moses”. Moses was known as the Old Testament mediator, and Jesus was the New Testament mediator. Moses gave the Israelites God’s law at Mount Sinai, and Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ interpretation of the law was less literal, but it was not less demanding.
Another key to understanding that Matthew portrays Jesus as the Messiah is the actual literary structure of the book. This includes: prologue, five discourses, epilogue. The five discourses compare to the five books of the Pentateuch. The first and last discourses correspond with the blessings and curses said in Deuteronomy. The first discourse gives the nine blessings and the last one gives the seven woes. This paralleling to the Old Testament reveals the purpose of Matthew’s writing, to show that the Messiah came in the form of Jesus.
All of these things put together show that Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, to tell the tale of their Messiah, that he came to deliver them.