David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 9:1-38 - JESUS MINISTERS AND HEALS
A. A paralyzed man is healed and forgiven.
1. Matthew 9:1-38 is a chapter (among several in the gospels) containing several miracles of healing. It is essential to put Jesus’ ministry of healing in proper perspective.
a. The Messiah’s role as a healer in was clearly prophesied in passages like Isaiah 35:5-6 : Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a dear, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. Thus, Jesus’ miracles were a testimony not only to the fact that He was sent by God, but that He was the anticipated Messiah.
b. However, as noted earlier, Jesus’ miracles were not primarily calculated for crowd effect. Instead, they were primarily done to minister to the humble needs of humble people. For the most part, most Jewish people of that time would have preferred much more spectacular signs - like calling down fire from heaven on a Roman Legion.
c. We also note that the presence of so much sickness among Israel betrays their unfaithfulness to the covenant and their current low spiritual state. God gave them the opposite of what He promised under Exodus 15:26 : If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.
2. (Matthew 9:1-2) A paralytic is brought to Jesus.
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
a. They brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed: Other Gospels (in Mark 2:1-28 and Luke 5:1-39) explain how the man was brought to Jesus. Because of the crowds, his friends lowered him down to Jesus through the roof.
b. Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you: The faith of the paralyzed man’s friends did something - they brought this man to Jesus. But they only thought of bringing him to Jesus for the healing of his body. They certainly didn’t think that Jesus would forgive His sins.
i. But Jesus is getting at the man’s greater problem. As bad as it was to be paralyzed, it is infinitely worse to be bound and lost in your sin.
ii. We need not infer that the man was paralyzed as the direct result of some sin that needed forgiving. This doesn’t seem to be Jesus’ point at all here.
3. (Matthew 9:3) The reaction of the religious leaders.
And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”
a. This man blasphemes! The scribes correctly understand that Jesus is claiming to do something that only God can do. But they are incorrect in assuming that Jesus is not God Himself, and that Jesus blasphemes by considering Himself God.
4. (Matthew 9:4-5) Jesus reads the evil hearts of the scribes and presents a question.
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?”
a. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts: It should have been enough for Jesus to prove that He could know their evil hearts. Yet He will offer a greater proof of His deity.
b. For which is easier, to say: Both healing and forgiveness are impossible with man. But only the promise of healing could be proven right then, because though you can’t “see” someone’s sin being forgiven, but you can see that they are healed.
5. (Matthew 9:6-8) Jesus asserts His authority over both sin and disease.
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”; then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.
a. But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins: Jesus answers His own question before the religious leaders. Since He can make good on His claim to heal the man, it gives credence to His claim to be able to forgive sins.
b. When the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God: At the man’s healing, the crowd properly gave God the glory for this miracle. Jesus obviously did not draw attention to Himself by the manner in which the healing was done.
B. The call of Matthew the tax collector.
1. (Matthew 9:9) Matthew obeys Jesus’ call to come follow Him.
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
a. A man named Matthew sitting at the tax office: Tax collectors were not only notorious sinners, they were also properly regarded as collaborators with the Romans against their fellow Jews. Nobody liked the man who sat at the tax office.
i. The Jewish people rightly considered them traitors because they worked for the Roman government, and had the force of Roman soldiers behind them to make people pay taxes. They were the most visible Jewish collaborators with Rome.
ii. The Jewish people rightly considered them extortioners because they could keep whatever they over-collected. A tax collector bid among others for the tax collecting “contract.” For example, many tax collectors might want to have the “tax contract” for a city like Capernaum. The Romans awarded the contract to the highest bidder. The man collected taxes, paid the Romans what he promised, and kept the remainder. Therefore, there was a lot of incentive for tax collectors to over-charge and cheat any way they could. It was pure profit for them.
iii. “When a Jew entered the customs service he was regarded as an outcast from society: he was disqualified as a judge or a witness in a court session, was excommunicated from the synagogue, and in the eyes of the community his disgrace extended to his family.” (Lane, Commentary on Mark)
b. And He said to him, “Follow Me”: Understanding how almost everyone hated tax collectors, it is remarkable to see how Jesus loves, and calls, Matthew. And it was a well-placed love; Matthew responded to Jesus’ invitation by leaving his tax collecting business and following Jesus - and eventually writing this same gospel account.
i. In one way, this was more than a sacrifice than some of the other disciples made. Peter, James, and John could more easily go back to their fishing business, but it would be hard for Levi to go back to tax collecting.
ii. There is archaeological evidence that fish taken from the Sea of Galilee were taxed. So Jesus took as His disciple the taxman that may have been taking money from Peter, James, and John and the other fishermen among the disciples. This might have made for some awkward introductions!
2. (Matthew 9:10-13) Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.
Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
a. Many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him: We are fortunate that God calls sinners, not just “saints.” Jesus came to benefit those who understood their inherit need for Him (those who are sick, the poor in spirit, Matthew 5:3), but the proud who see no need for Jesus (Those who are well) benefit nothing from Jesus.
i. It isn’t our sin that keeps us from coming to Jesus, but our pride that refuses to acknowledge our need before Him.
b. Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? Because Jesus is the friend of sinners. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
C. The new and old covenants and their difference.
1. (Matthew 9:14) The disciples of John ask a question: why don’t Jesus’ disciples fast as they and the Pharisees do?
Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
a. Why do we and the Pharisees fast often: John, in his ministry, displayed an austerity and humble repentance (Matthew 3:1-4) which John’s disciples imitated, showing their own proper humility in light of their own sin and the sin of their people.
b. The Pharisees also fasted (often twice a week, according to Luke 18:12), but not out of humble repentance. They often fasted from a desire to impress themselves and others with their spirituality (Matthew 6:16-18).
c. Apparently, Jesus’ disciples did not fast as either of these two groups did. Why not?
2. (Matthew 9:15-17) The principle: things are different now that the Messiah is here.
And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
a. Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? It wasn’t appropriate for Jesus’ disciples to imitate the Pharisees in their hypocritical shows, nor is it appropriate for them to imitate John’s disciples in their ministry of humble preparation, because the disciples experienced what was being prepared for.
b. But the days will come: There will come a day when fasting is appropriate for Jesus’ followers. But now, when Jesus is among them, is not that day.
c. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break: With the parable of wineskins, Jesus explains that He has come not to “patch up” the old institutions of Judaism, but to institute a new covenant altogether. The new covenant doesn’t just patch up the old; it supersedes it.
d. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved: Jesus’ reference to the wineskins is His announcement that the present institutions of Judaism could not, and would not, contain His new wine. He would form a new institution, the church, which would bring Jew and Gentile together into a completely new body (Ephesians 2:16).
i. Jesus reminds us that what is old and stagnant often cannot be renewed. God will often look for new vessels to contain His new work, until those vessels make themselves unusable.
E. Two people are healed: A little girl and a woman with an issue of blood.
1. (Matthew 9:18-19) A ruler among the Jews asks Jesus to heal his daughter.
While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.
a. A ruler came and worshipped Him: Note that this man worshipped Him, and Jesus received this worship - which would have been blasphemous if Jesus had not Himself been God.
i. In other instances in the New Testament where such worship is offered to a human (Acts 10:25-26) or to an angel (Revelation 22:8-9), it is always immediately refused.
b. My daughter has just died, but come any lay Your hand on her and she will live: This ruler is to be commended for coming to Jesus, but his faith pales in comparison to the centurion of Matthew 8:1-34. The ruler thinks it is essential that Jesus personally touch the little girl, while the centurion understood Jesus had the authority to heal with a word from a great distance.
2. (Matthew 9:20-22) A woman is healed by her faith and her touch of Jesus.
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.
a. Luke 8:43-48 gives a much fuller account of this miracle; but Matthew’s account is enough to show the compassion of Jesus and the fact that His power was not “magical.” Here we simply see the power of God responding to the faith of those who seek Him.
b. If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well: Because this woman’s condition was embarrassing, and because she was ceremonially unclean and would be condemned for touching Jesus or even being in a pressing crowd, she wanted to do this secretly. She would not openly ask Jesus to be healed, but she thought “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”
i. Was this woman correct in thinking she could be healed by touching the border of Jesus’ garment? We have no evidence in the Bible that Jesus healed this way before. Isn’t she just being superstitious, and how can God honor that?
ii. Because even though her faith had elements of err and superstition, she believed in the healing power of Jesus, and the border of His garment served as a point of contact for that faith. There are many things that we could find wrong with this woman’s faith. But more than anything, her faith was in Jesus, and the object of faith is much more important than the quality of faith.
3. (Matthew 9:23-26) Jesus, despite scorn, raises the little girl from the dead.
When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.
a. The flute players and the noisy crowd: These were probably paid mourners, who in the custom of the day offered an ostentatious display of mourning for a price, not out of sincere sorrow. When we notice how quickly they moved from wailing to they ridiculed Him, it shows their lack of sincerity.
b. When the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose: Jesus endured the scorn from the crowd and raised the girl to life. He certainly would not let the criticism or mocking of the crowd keep Him from doing God’s will.
c. Why did Jesus do this? He didn’t raise every dead child He ever encountered, but Jesus did so here in a simple act of mercy and compassion to the grieving father. In addition, Jesus must have hated death and its cause, and enjoyed the opportunity to hand death a small “defeat” before He would defeat it altogether at the cross and the empty tomb.
F. Three more accounts of healing.
1. (Matthew 9:27-31) Jesus heals two blind men.
When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country.
a. Son of David, have mercy on us! Jesus responded to their simple, yet powerful appeal. They asked God for the best thing they could: mercy.
b. Do you believe that I am able to do this? Again, we see Jesus healing the blind men in response to their faith. Faith does not guarantee healing for anyone, yet there are undoubtedly multitudes who are not healed because they lack faith.
c. See that no one knows it: Despite Jesus’ warning, they couldn’t resist telling others. Though we do not admire their well-intentioned disobedience, we admire their excitement over the work of God. May the work of God be so amazing in our lives that we feel compelled to tell others!
2. (Matthew 9:32-34) A mute man healed.
As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”
a. A man, mute and demon-possessed: In the Jewish understanding of demon possession, this man could not be helped. This was because the rabbis thought that you could not cast out a demon until it told you its name, and a demon that made a man mute could never be made to tell you its name. But Jesus had no problem, the demon was cast out and the mute spoke.
b. It was never seen like this in Israel! For this reason, this miracle was particularly amazing to the multitudes, and showed not only the complete authority of Jesus over the demonic realm, but also the weakness of the rabbis’ traditions.
c. But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.” In attributing this work of Jesus to the power of Satan, we see in this gospel the beginning of Jesus being rejected by the Pharisees and other religious leaders.
3. (Matthew 9:35-38) Jesus’ compassion on the multitudes.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
a. As Jesus encountered the depth of human need, He was moved with compassion for them. Jesus was not unfeeling or stoic in the face of people and their problems.
b. They were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd: Jesus gives us an apt description of man in his lost state - that we are like sheep having no shepherd, which means that we are in a lot of trouble until we come under the care of our Shepherd.
c. The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few: Jesus saw the greatness of human need as also an opportunity, as a harvest that was plentiful. But it was also a harvest that needed laborers. How much opportunity to meet human need passes because of the lack of willing laborers!
d. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest: So, we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send out laborers. But we can only really pray this in sincerity if we pray with an ear open to hearing Him tell us, “You go into the harvest!”
e. This ends a thematic section dealing with Jesus’ credentials as Messiah, as established by His authority over sickness, disease, death, and demons.
i. In this section, we notice the different ways Jesus displayed His power. Jesus healed by no set formula, because He is the Messiah, not some magician.
ii. Now that Matthew has established Jesus’ credentials as the Messiah, he will focus more on His conflict with religious leaders, with a continuing emphasis on His teaching.
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