Matthew’s purpose is to show that God has kept his ancient promises to Israel through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. The long-expected reign of heaven is now coming to earth, bringing the Jewish story to its climax. Matthew begins by highlighting that Jesus was the son of David, Israel’s most famous king, and the son of Abraham, Israel’s founding patriarch. Jesus is the true Israelite and God’s promised Messiah.
The Messiah is shown as reliving the story of Israel—going down into the Jordan River, facing temptation in the wilderness, gathering twelve disciples as twelve new tribes, ascending a mountain to deliver a new Torah, etc. The author highlights the idea of Jesus as a new Moses by collecting his teachings into five long speeches. These are marked off by some variation of the phrase When Jesus had finished saying these things. Just as the Torah had five books, Matthew presents five major sections.
The book concludes by telling how Jesus brought about the great new act of redemption for his people. As in the story of Israel’s Exodus, a Passover meal is celebrated and then deliverance comes. Jesus gives his life for the sake of the world and is then raised from the dead. At the beginning of the book, Jesus is given the name Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” At the end, Jesus sends his followers into the world with the promise that surely I am with you always.