David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 9 - Jesus Ministers and Heals
A. A paralyzed man is healed and forgiven.
1. (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. His own city: This must mean Capernaum, as previously noted (Matthew 4:13).
b. They brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed: Other Gospels (in Mark 2 and Luke 5) explain how the man was brought to Jesus. Because of the crowds, his friends lowered him down to Jesus through the roof.
i. This will be another example of Jesus healing the sick and diseased, and the Messiah's role as healer 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 deer, 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 also He was the anticipated Messiah.
ii. 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 upon a Roman Legion.
iii. We also note that the presence of so much sickness among Israel was evidence of their unfaithfulness to the covenant and their low spiritual condition. 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.
c. When Jesus saw their faith: Jesus saw the faith of his friends, not of the paralyzed man himself. It was evident that they had the faith to bring the their paralyzed friend to Jesus and their faith was active enough to take apart a roof and lower the man down before Jesus.
i. We also can assume that the paralyzed man himself had little faith; Jesus noted the faith of his friends, not his. Therefore Jesus wanted to encourage this man's faith by His next words.
ii. "With swift sure diagnosis Jesus sees in the man not in faith but deep depressionand uttering first a kindly hope-inspiring word, such as a physician might address to a patient: cheer up, child!" (Bruce)
d. 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. Yet 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 addressed the man's greater problem. As bad as it is 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 did not seem to be Jesus' point in saying, "your sins are forgiven you."
iii. Matthew Poole saw six reasons why Jesus dealt with the man's sin first. To paraphrase Poole's reasons why the sin was dealt with first:
Because sin is the root from which all our evils come.
To show that forgiveness is more important than bodily healing.
To show that the most important thing Jesus came to do was to deal with sin.
To show that when a man's sins are forgiven, he becomes a son of God.
To show that the response to faith is the forgiveness of sin.
To begin an important conversation with the scribes and Pharisees.
2. (3) The reaction of the religious leaders.
And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!"
a. And at once some of the scribes said within themselves: We notice that they objected immediately yet privately, saying it within themselves. Jesus will address what they said within themselves, showing that our thoughts and opinions are open to God and of interest to Him.
b. This Man blasphemes: The scribes correctly understood that Jesus claimed to do something that only God can do. But they were incorrect in assuming that Jesus was not God Himself, and that Jesus blasphemed by considering Himself God.
i. "Here the teachers of the law, in their whispered consultation, expanded blasphemy to include Jesus' claim to do something only God could do." (Carson)
ii. "They did not call him 'man'; the word is in italics in our version. They did not know what to call him even in their hearts; they meant 'this' - this upstart, this nobody, this strange being." (Spurgeon)
iii. "This is the first mention of opposition to Jesus, which will be a recurrent theme." (France)
3. (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: This alone should have been enough for Jesus to prove His deity, demonstrating that He could know their evil hearts. Yet He would also offer a greater proof of His deity.
b. For which is easier, to say: Both healing and forgiveness are impossible with man. Yet only the promise of healing could be immediately proven, because though you can't see someone's sin being forgiven, you can see that they are healed.
i. "This appears to have been founded on Psalm 103:3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases. Here pardon precedes health." (Clarke)
4. (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 answered His own question before the religious leaders did. Since He could make good on His claim to heal the man, it gave proof of His claim to also have the authority to forgive sins.
b. And he arose and departed to his house: The man was instantly healed, proving that Jesus did have the power of God both to heal and forgive.
i. "He did not go to the temple with the sacramentarian, nor to the theater with the man of the world: he went to his homeA man's restoration by grace is best seen in his own house." (Spurgeon)
ii. "A man gives proof of his conversion from sin to God who imitates this paralytic person. He who does not rise and stand upright, but either continues grovelling on the earth, or falls back as soon as he is got up, is not yet cured of his spiritual palsy." (Clarke)
c. 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. (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: Mark 2:14 says that this man was also named Levi the son of Alphaeus. Matthew 10:3 mentions that there was another disciple who was a son of Alphaeus (James, often called James the Less to distinguish him from James the brother of John). So it seems that both this Matthew and his brother James were among the 12.
b. 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 thought of them as traitors because they worked for the Roman government, and they 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 were allowed to 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. "He was at this time busy taking, but he was called to a work that was essentially giving." (Spurgeon)
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)
iv. The old King James Version uses the word publican for a tax-collector. "The publicani were tax-gatherers, and were so called because they dealt with public money and with public funds." (Barclay)
v. "A faithful publican was so rare that Rome itself, that one Sabinus, for his honest managing of that office, in an honourable remembrance thereof, had certain images erected with this superscription, For the honest publican." (Trapp)
c. And He said to him, "Follow Me": Understanding how almost everyone hated tax collectors, it is remarkable to see how Jesus loved and called Matthew. It proved to be 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. "He left his tax-collector's table; but took from it one thing - his penthis man, whose trade had taught him to use a pen, used that skill to compose the first handbook of the teaching of Jesus." (Barclay)
ii. In one way this was more of 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.
iii. 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 taken money from Peter, James, and John and the other fishermen among the disciples. This might have made for some awkward introductions.
2. (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: The context suggests that this was a gathering of Matthew's friends and former business associates. We might say that Jesus took advantage of Matthew's decision to also reach those whom he knew.
i. "Jesus aims at a mission among the reprobated classes, and His first step is the call of Matthew to discipleship, and His second the gathering together through him, of a large number of these classes to a social entertainment." (Bruce)
ii. In noting that there were many tax collectors and sinners, Bruce estimates that this was held not in a private home, but in a public hall, and that "In any case it was a great affair - scores, possibly hundreds, present, too large for a room in a house."
b. Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners: The answer to this question was simple: 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).
i. " 'Sinners' may include common folk who did not share all the scruples of the Pharisees." (Carson)
c. Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick: This was the principle that the criticizing Pharisees did not understand. The Pharisees were like doctors who wanted to avoid all contact with sick people. Of course they wished that sick people would become healthy, but they wouldn't risk getting infected themselves.
i. We are fortunate that God calls sinners and not just saintly people. Jesus came to benefit those who understood their inherent need for Him (those who are sick and the poor in spirit of Matthew 5:3). Yet the proud who see no need for Jesus (those who are well) benefit nothing from Jesus.
ii. "Lord, grant that if ever I am found in the company of sinners, it may be with the design of healing them, and may I never become myself infected with their disease!" (Spurgeon)
d. Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice": Here Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6. In Hosea's day, God's people were still good at bringing sacrifice (Hosea 5:6), but they had forsaken mercy, and they abandoned mercy because they gave up the knowledge of God and truth (Hosea 4:1). God would rather have right hearts, full of truth and mercy than sacrifice.
i. "These words are the more arresting when we remember that they were addressed to the teachers of menThe rebuke of Christ showed that they did not know God, and He bade them go and learn the meaning of their own Scriptures." (Morgan)
ii. "This would be distasteful to men who thought they knew everything already." (Spurgeon)
C. The new and old covenants and their difference.
1. (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: The ministry of John the Baptist was strict in its character and had an emphasis on humble repentance (Matthew 3:1-4). John's disciples imitated this, and showed their own proper humility in light of their own sin and that of their people.
b. The Pharisees fast often: Pharisees were also known for their practice of fasting (often twice a week, according to Luke 18:12), but they did not do it out of a spirit of humble repentance. They often fasted wanting to impress themselves and others with their spirituality (Matthew 6:16-18).
c. But Your disciples do not fast: Apparently the disciples of Jesus did not fast as either of these two groups did. Jesus will next explain why.
2. (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 right for Jesus' disciples to imitate the Pharisees in their hypocritical shows. Nor was it right for them to imitate John's disciples in their ministry of humble preparation, because the disciples lived in the experience that John tried to prepare people for.
b. But the days will come: There would come a day when fasting would be appropriate for Jesus' followers, but at the present time when Jesus was among them, it was not that day.
i. The old Puritan commentator John Trapp drew three points from this: "1. That fasting is not abolished with the ceremonial law, but still to be used as a duty of the gospel. 2. That times of heaviness are times of humiliation. 3. That our halcyons here are but as marriage-feasts, for continuance; they last not long."
ii. There is a slight dark note in the words, "the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them." It was as if Jesus said, "They are going to take Me away; I threaten their system." It is the first slight hint of His coming rejection.
c. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break: With this illustration of the wineskins, Jesus explained that He did not come to repair or reform the old institutions of Judaism, but to institute a new covenant altogether. The new covenant doesn't just improve the old; it replaces it and goes beyond it.
d. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved: Jesus' reference to the wineskins was 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 - that 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 or reformed. God will often look for new vessels to contain His new work, until those vessels eventually make themselves unusable. This reminds us that the religious establishment of any age is not necessarily pleasing to Jesus. Sometimes it is in direct opposition to, or at least resisting His work.
ii. Jesus came to introduce something new, not to patch up something old. This is what salvation is all about. In doing this, Jesus doesn't destroy the old (the law), but He fulfills it, just as an acorn is fulfilled when it grows into an oak tree. There is a sense in which the acorn is gone, but its purpose is fulfilled in greatness.
E. Two people are healed: A little girl and a woman with an issue of blood.
1. (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 worshiped Him: Note that this man worshiped 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 and lay Your hand on her and she will live: This ruler did the right thing in coming to Jesus, but his faith is small in comparison to the centurion of Matthew 8. The ruler thought it is essential that Jesus personally come touch the little girl, while the centurion understood Jesus had the authority to heal with a word, even at a great distance.
2. (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. And suddenly, a woman: Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:43-48 give 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.
i. "Matthew relates this story shortly, as he doth many others, being only intent upon recording the miracle." (Poole)
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. "These fringes were four tassels of hyacinth blue worn by a Jew on the corners of his outer garmentIt was meant to identify a Jew as a Jew, and as member of the chosen people, no matter where he was; and it was meant to remind a Jew every time he put on and took off his clothes that he belonged to God." (Barclay)
ii. This also shows us that Jesus dressed like other people of His time. He felt no need to distinguish Himself by the clothes He wore. "In dress Jesus was not noncomformist." (Bruce)
iii. To the best of our knowledge, there was no promise or pattern that touching the garment of Jesus would bring healing. It seems that the woman believed this in a somewhat superstitious way. Yet even though her faith had elements of error and superstition, she believed in the healing power of Jesus and 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. Yet her faith was in Jesus; and the object of faith is much more important than the quality or even quantity of faith.
iv. "She was ignorant enough to think that healing went from him unconsciously; yet her faith lived despite her ignorance, and triumphed despite her bashfulness." (Spurgeon)
c. And the woman was made well: Her faith, though imperfect, was enough to receive what Jesus wanted to give her. Her 12-year disease was immediately cured.
d. When He saw her, He said: This woman hoped to receive something from Jesus without drawing any attention to herself or her embarrassing problem. Jesus insisted on making public notice of her, and He did this for good reasons.
He did it so she would know that she was healed, having heard an official declaration of it from Jesus.
He did it so others would know she was healed, because her ailment was private in nature.
He did it so she would know why she was healed, that it was by her faith and not because of a superstitious touch in and of itself.
He did it so that she would not think she had stolen a blessing from Jesus, and so she would never feel that she needed to hide from Him.
He did it so that the ruler of the synagogue would see the power of Jesus at work and therefore have more faith himself for his ill daughter.
He did it so that He could bless her in a special way, giving her an honored title that we never see Jesus give to any other: daughter.
3. (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, and not out of sincere sorrow. When we notice how quickly they moved from wailing to ridiculing Jesus, it showed their lack of sincerity.
i. "Professional mourners were hired even by the poorest families (Mishnah Ketuboth 4:4 specifies 'not less than two flutes and one wailing woman')." (France)
ii. "Mourning, like everything else, had been reduced to a system, two flutes and one mourning woman at the burial of a wife incumbent on the poorest man." (Bruce)
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.
i. Jesus didn't raise every dead child He 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. (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. Two blind men followed Him: It was not easy for these blind men to follow Jesus, but they did. They had to ask others where Jesus was going, and they had to listen to every sound that might guide them. Yet they were determined to follow Him to the best of their ability.
i. "Blindness was a distressingly common disease in Palestine. It came partly from the glare of the eastern sun on unprotected eyes, and partly because people knew nothing of the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. In particular the clouds of unclean flies carried infections which led to loss of sight." (Barclay)
b. Son of David, have mercy on us: The two blind men followed Jesus and shouted this open recognition of Jesus as Messiah, because Son of David was a rich Messianic title. They asked Jesus for the best thing they could ask for: mercy.
i. "Their sole appeal was to mercy. There was no talk about merit, no pleading of their past sufferings, or their persevering endeavors, or their resolves for the future; but, 'Have mercy on us.' He will never win a blessing from God who demands it as if he had a right to it." (Spurgeon)
ii. "This is the first time Jesus is called 'Son of David' and there can be no doubt that the blind men were confessing Jesus as Messiah." (Carson)
iii. John 9:22 tells us that the Pharisees judged that anyone who proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, would be removed from the synagogue. Though the occasion in John seems to have been after this healing of the blind men, we can still believe that there was a price to pay for calling Jesus "Son of David."
iv. When He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him: "Jesus did not deal with the blind men until they were indoors. This may have been to dampen messianic expectations on a day marked by two highly public and dramatic miracles." (Carson)
c. Do you believe that I am able to do this: Again, Jesus healed the blind men in response to their faith. Faith does not guarantee healing for every individual, yet there are undoubtedly multitudes that are not healed because they lack faith. These men simply proclaimed their faith by saying, "Yes, Lord."
i. "He touched them with his hand; but they must also touch him with their faith." (Spurgeon)
d. According to your faith let it be so to you: Here again Matthew emphasized the proper faith that men should have in Jesus, and the blessings that come to men through that faith.
The leper of Matthew 8:1-4 showed faith because he absolutely knew that Jesus was able to heal his leprosy.
The centurion of Matthew 8:5-13 had such great faith that Jesus openly praised it as great faith, that He had not found among the people of Israel.
The disciples failed in faith when in the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27)
The woman with the issue of blood was healed by her faith (Matthew 9:18-26).
i. In many ways, God says the same to men and women today: "According to your faith let it be so to you." There is much to have by faith, and much that is never received because it is never grasped with faith. " 'According to your faith' does not mean 'in proportion to your faith' (so much faith, so much sight) but rather 'since you believe, your request is granted'." (Carson)
ii. "The word of power in the last sentence is one upon which he acts so continually, that we may call it, as to many blessings, a rule of the kingdom. We have the measuring of our own mercies; our faith obtains less or more according to its own capacity to receive." (Spurgeon)
iii. The faith of these two blind men is worthy of notice.
They had the faith to follow Jesus; this meant forsaking other paths, other directions and deciding to follow Him.
They had the faith to cry out, willing to put words to their desire.
They had the faith to make some noise, and to be unafraid of embarrassment.
They had the faith to identify Jesus as the Son of David, recognizing Him as the Messiah.
They had the faith to ask Jesus for mercy, knowing they didn't deserve healing.
They had the faith to believe that Jesus was able heal them.
They had the faith to say, "Yes, Lord."
e. 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. This was their only area of unbelief - they didn't have the faith to obey Jesus as they should have.
2. (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 most rabbis of that day thought that the essential first step in exorcism was to compel or trick the demon into telling you its name. The name was then thought of as a handle by which the demon could then be removed.
i. Therefore, a demon that made a man mute had cleverly prevented the revelation of the name of the demon inhabiting the victim, and therefore prevented the exorcism.
ii. Yet Jesus had no problem, the demon was cast out and the mute spoke.
b. It was never seen like this in Israel: For these reasons this miracle was particularly amazing to the multitudes. It 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 Pharisees and other religious leaders continuing their rejection of Jesus and His work.
i. "Nothing was too bad for them to say of JesusSurely this was going very near to the unpardonable sin." (Spurgeon)
ii. Carson on Matthew 9:34: "This verse is missing from the Western textual traditionBut the external evidence is strong; and the verse seems presupposed in Matthew 10:25."
3. (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. Jesus went about all the cities and villages: 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.
i. Matthew 9:35 shows us that what happened in Matthew 8 and 9, though mostly located in Capernaum, was an example of what Jesus did all over the Galilee region.
ii. In the previous verses Jesus was terribly and unfairly criticized, yet it did not make Him stop His work. He didn't say, "Oh, they are saying terrible things about Me! What can I do? How can I make them stop?" Jesus simply ignored terrible and unfair criticism and got about His Father's business.
iii. "The word which is used for moved with compassion (splagchnistheis) is the strongest word for pity in the Greek languageit describes the compassion which moves a man to the deepest depths of his being." (Barclay)
iv. "The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists themselves. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one." (Spurgeon)
b. They were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd: Jesus here described what man is apart from God; that we are like sheep having no shepherd. This means that we are in a lot of trouble until we come under the care of our Shepherd.
i. "This troubled our Saviour more than their bodily bondage to the Romans, which yet was very grievous." (Trapp)
ii. Sadly, one could say that the Jewish people of that day did indeed have some kind of spiritual guides and shepherds, namely the scribes, priests, Levites, and Pharisees. Yet for the most part they were worthless. "Christ accounts those people to have no ministers who have no good ones." (Poole)
iii. "The state of things suggested two pictures to His mind: a neglected flock of sheep, and a harvest going to waste for lack of reapers. Both imply, not only a pitiful plight of the people, but a blameworthy neglect of duty on the part of their religious guidesThe Pharisaic comments on the Capernaum mission festival (Matthew 9:11) were sufficient to justify the adverse judgment." (Bruce)
c. The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few: Jesus saw the greatness of human need as an opportunity, as a harvest that was plentiful. A harvest is a good thing, and this was a plentiful harvest.
i. But it was also a harvest that needed laborers. The good of a harvest can go to waste if there are no laborers to take advantage of the bounty. Jesus warned us that opportunities to meet human need and bring people into His kingdom may be wasted because of a shortage of laborers.
ii. Jesus described the workers in His kingdom as laborers - that is, those who work hard. "The householder hath somewhat to do, the magistrate more, but the minister most of all. He labours more in a day many times, than the husbandman does in a month. The sweat of the brow is nothing to that of the brain; the former furthers health, the latter impairs it, wearying and wearing out the body, wasting the vitals, and hastening old age and untimely death." (Luther, cited in Trapp)
iii. "Pretenders were many, but real 'laborers' in the harvest were fewMan-made ministers are useless. Still are the fields encumbered with gentlemen who cannot use the sickle. Still the real ingatherers are few and far between. Where are the instructive, soul-winning ministries?" (Spurgeon)
d. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest: Since the harvest belongs to the Lord of the harvest, we are commanded to pray that He would compel workers to reap His harvest.
i. "He did not say, 'The harvest truly is plenteous, and the laborers are few, but that matters not, God can bless a few, and make them accomplish as much as many.' He believed in his Father's omnipotence, but he also believed that the Lord would work by means, and that many laborers were required to gather in a plenteous harvest, and therefore he told us to pray for them." (Spurgeon)
ii. We are to pray that the Lord would send out laborers: "Now the Greek is much more forcible, it is that he would push them forward, and thrust them out; it is the same word which is used for the expulsion of a devil from a man possessed. It takes great power to drive a devil out, it will need equal power from God to drive a minister out to his work." (Spurgeon)
iii. This is a prayer we must pray, but we can only pray it honestly if we pray with an ear open to hearing Him tell us, "You go into the harvest."
iv. In this chapter Jesus faced many accusations:
He was accused of blasphemy.
He was accused of low morals.
He was accused of ungodliness.
He was accused of being in league with the devil.
v. Though Matthew has fully established Jesus' credentials as the Messiah, Jesus is beginning to be rejected and criticized by the religious authorities. These conflicts with the religious leaders will become more frequent and intense.
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