Matthew breaks a 400-year-long scriptural silence between Malachi and the birth of Jesus Christ. We have no record that God sent any prophets during that period, though undoubtedly a remnant of faithful people awaited the fulfilling of the promises God had so long before given to Abraham. But when God again began speaking, He spoke through His Son, the chief Apostle, the greatest Prophet, Messiah, and soon-to-come King. Jesus came proclaiming a New Covenant and a new way to relate to God, a way independent of the Temple, Jerusalem, Aaronic priesthood, or bloody animal sacrifices. As long as it was done decently and in good order, God could be worshipped anytime, anywhere, by those having His Spirit, for God intended His children to worship Him through every avenue of life.
Matthew begins by stating, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." He refers to Jesus as "the Son of David" seven times in his book, thus connecting Jesus of Nazareth with the throne. His defining theme is Jesus as the promised Messiah, who will save us from our sins and rule over this earth in the Kingdom of God.
The world perceives this book as being the most "Jewish" of New Testament books, but this is only partly correct. Matthew does provide a transition from the Old Covenant to the New, yet the promises made to Abraham—which Matthew presents Jesus as fulfilling—were to Abraham and his seed, which included physical Israel as well. Therefore, it would be more correct to say that Matthew is the most "Israelitish" of New Testament books, including both Israel and Judah. At the time of Christ, the Jews were the only visible part of that far greater body of Abraham's descendants.
Early on, Matthew foreshadows the King's rejection by His own by showing Jesus born outside Jerusalem and worshipped by magi who apparently traveled a long distance from the east. Normally, the King would be born in the city of His throne and worshipped by its citizens. In the fourth chapter, after He defeats Satan in a titanic struggle, leaves His hometown of Nazareth, moves to Capernaum and begins His ministry, the reader discovers that those who knew Him in Nazareth violently rejected Him when He preached to them (Luke 4:16-30). Matthew then reports that Jesus went beyond Jordan into Galilee of the Gentiles and preached to the Gentiles there (Matthew 4:12-16).
Not an auspicious beginning for the greatest Teacher this world has ever seen! However, He patiently persisted in preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God and calling people to repentance. His fame began to spread throughout Galilee, aided greatly by His miracles of healing bodies, minds, and spirits, until great multitudes followed Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part One: The Sermon on the Mount