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Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the first four books of the New Testament. Each book is called after the name of its writer. These books contain the "gospel" or "good news" about Jesus Christ and God's coming Kingdom.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem and throughout his 33 years on earth, the Romans were ruling the world. The Jews were allowed a measure of religious freedom but they had to pay taxes to Rome and obey Roman rule.

Matthew (sometimes called Levi) was a tax collector for the Romans. Their fellow Jews hated such men, but Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple, or follower (Matthew 9:9).

Matthew records the birth, baptism and temptations of Jesus and concentrates on God's appeal to the Jews. Matthew gives more details of Jesus' teachings to the Jews than the other gospel writers. There are many references to the Old Testament. Such phrases as "for so it was written" and "that it might be fulfilled" occur at least 30 times throughout this book.

Jesus is shown to be the promised Son of David (Samuel 7:12) and Son of Abraham (Genesis 22:17 and Galatians 3:16). These facts are announced in the first chapter of the book of Matthew.

The book contains many of the parables of Jesus. These parables are simple stories intended to instruct the faithful and confound the hard-hearted (13:13-15). Most of the parables are about the Kingdom of God and the need for us to respond to God's word if we are to enter that Kingdom.

Several chapters (20-27) deal with the last week of Jesus' life up to and including the crucifixion. The last chapter tells briefly of his resurrection.


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