Just another one-off thread.
One fun thing to do IMHO is to compare each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) with each other and see how they handle their material and bring out themes they want to emphasize. For me it kinda shows the Evangelists’ ability as writers and not simply reporters - an element that isn’t given attention to very well.
People who know me might already know it, but my favorite gospel of the four is Mark’s. Out of the three synoptics, Matthew and Mark are very similar to each other, to the point that Matthew overshadowed Mark in antiquity. In fact, Mark is the worst-attested gospel - we only have two papyri of it from before the 4th century - in contrast to Matthew, which along with John is one of the best-attested gospels.
While they are similar, the two also exhibits some difference from each other. One major difference I could name right now is:
The two authors’ treatment of the disciples. Mark’s disciples are, to put it simply, incompetent dullards despite their privileged position. In fact, that the disciples - the insiders - are incompetent dullards is one of the crucial themes of the gospel. In Matthew things are very different: for much of the time, the disciples are not blind buffoons as they are in Mark, but are ones who hear Jesus and get things right (and are praised for it). Compare for example the pericope of the stilling of the storm:
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Compared to Mark’s somewhat grim ending (where he emphasizes again via narration just how blind the disciples were), the pericope ends positively: the disciples confess Jesus outright as “Son of God.” In Mark, the only human character to ever use the title in relation to Jesus is the centurion who presides over the crucifixion at the end of the story, but in Matthew’s narrative, the people around Jesus aren’t that blind - in fact, the Matthaean Jesus gets showered with the title every now and then.
Part of the reason why Matthew has a generally more positive portrait of the disciples is because Matthew’s gospel is a knowledge-oriented and a Church-oriented gospel. For Matthew, solid knowledge is a necessity, and he gives clear instructions on how to achieve it. So unlike Mark’s penchant for ambiguity, Matthew likes things neatly distinguished.
Also, he likes emphasizes the idea of ‘tradition’; his gospel depends upon an unbroken chain, this transmission of teachings from Jesus Himself to His disciples to the readers of the gospel. The disciples are the links which connect Jesus and the audience. Since for Matthew, knowledge of Jesus’ status as Lord (not ‘Teacher’ - a title which only the enemies of Jesus use in Matthew, to the point that you could pretty much identify where a given character’s allegiance lies in Matthew by checking how they address Jesus) stands as the ultimate goal for his audience, and since the disciples must transmit this knowledge, they understand him quite well. They do so because, ultimately, Jesus’ teaching depends on them.