Matthew remembers Jesus and his ministry with a persistent confidence in Jesus' utter trustworthiness and the wide and amazing extent of God's embrace. Matthew frames Jesus' public ministry--between the devil's wilderness tests at the outset and the beginning of the passion narrative in Jerusalem--with two vital statements about divine graciousness: the beatitudes and the story about "sheep" from among the nations who are surprised to learn that generosity toward those in need is solidarity with Jesus himself.
From its opening genealogy to its frequent explicit citations of Hebrew scripture, to its focus on obeying the Mosaic law as a means of encountering God's promises of life and wholeness, Matthew situates the story of Jesus in the piety, expectations, and sometimes disorderly long-running history of God's chosen people. Jesus comes as God's promised ruler to Israel, as one who will fulfill long-standing hops and bring God's intensions to full flower. Matthew reminds Christian congregations that the good news is first and foremost a statement about divine faithfulness to God's covenant people and then by extension to the wider world. No one can read Matthew and decide that the Hebrew Scriptures do not matter or have become passé, Rather, through Jesus, we find ourselves situated in a larger, older story.
Matthew also shines a light on forgiveness. Jesus brings forgiveness about. The kingdom of heaven enacted in Jesus' deeds and teachings brings benefits to people now, accomplishing forgiveness and forging new relationships. Jesus instructs his followers to make those same things part of their common life. Matthew is full of parables. In parables Jesus urges us to reframe our perceptions about the world, human interactions, values, and fairness. Because the kingdom of heaven is about the emergence of a transformed society and not merely an improved society, Jesus teaches with short narratives that undercut our expectations about how things are supposed to work.
Matthew won't let us forget that Jesus' teachings recognize the struggles associated with the kingdom of heaven's arrival. Jesus is helping his audience perceive something they have not fully experienced before, and he is also equipping his followers, the church, for ministry in his absence. After all, one of the things he finally commissions his followers to do is to carry on his ministry of teaching and "making disciples."