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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 9

Verses 1-99

Chap. 9: 1 8 . Cure of a Man afflicted with Paralysis

Mark 2:1-41.2.12 ; Luke 5:18-42.5.26

Both St Mark and St Luke notice the crowding of the people to hear Jesus, and narrate the means by which the sufferer was brought into His presence.

1 . a ship ] As ch. 8:23, the boat .

his own city ] Capernaum.

2 . sick of the palsy ] not “grievously tormented” (see ch. 8:6), therefore suffering from a less severe type of paralysis.

lying ] The same word and tense translated “laid,” ch. 8:6, where see note.

their faith ] The faith of those who brought him, as well as his own. Cp. Mark 9:23 , Mark 9:24 .

Son, be of good cheer ] Bengel infers from this that the sufferer was a young man.

thy sins be forgiven thee ] Translate, have been forgiven thee . Christ assigns sin as the cause of this paralytic seizure. Paralysis is not uncommonly the result of sinful indulgence.

2 6 . When Jesus said “Thy sins have been forgiven thee” the young man did not immediately rise (see v. 7). Instantly the scribes thought with a sneer “this fellow blasphemes,” i. e. pretends to a divine power which he does not possess. They said in their hearts it is easy to say, “Thy sins have been forgiven,” let him say, “Arise, and walk,” then we shall discover his blasphemy. Jesus answers their thoughts. His words are not “ whether ,” as in E. V., but “ why is it easier to say, Thy sins have been forgiven thee, than to say, Arise, and walk?” In truth it was not easier to say “Thy sins have been forgiven” as Jesus says those words, for to say them implied the cure of soul and of body too; but in order to convince the Scribes of His power He adds the words, “Arise, and walk;” and implicitly bids them infer that the inner work of forgiveness had as surely followed the first words as the outward and visible result followed the command to rise and walk.

6 . take up thy bed ] The Oriental frequently spreads a mat upon the ground and sleeps in the open air, in the morning he rolls up his mat and carries it away.

9 . The Call of St Matthew. Mark 2:14 ; Luke 5:27 , Luke 5:28

St Mark has “Levi, the son of Alphæus,” St Luke “a publican named Levi.” The identification of Matthew with Levi can scarcely be seriously disputed. The circumstances of the call are precisely similar as narrated by the Synoptists; and it was too usual for a Jew to have more than one name for this difference to be a difficulty. Probably the name Matthew, “Gift of God,” was adopted by the Apostle when he became a follower of Jesus.

the receipt of custom ] Rather, the toll - or custom-house . For a longer notice of the call of St Matthew, see Introduction.

10 13 . A Meal in the Evangelist’s House. Mark 2:15-41.2.17 ; Luke 5:29-42.5.32

10 . in the house ] St Luke says “and Levi made him a great feast,” which makes it clear that the meal was in Levi’s house.

11 . when the Pharisees saw it ] The Pharisees were not guests, but came into the house, a custom still prevalent in the East. A traveller writes from Damietta, “In the room where we were received, besides the divan on which we sat, there were seats all round the walls. Many came in and took their place on those side-seats, uninvited and yet unchallenged. They spoke to those at table on business, or the news of the day, and our host spoke freely to them. We afterwards saw this custom at Jerusalem … first one and then another stranger opened the door and came in, taking seats by the wall. They leaned forward and spoke to those at table.” Scripture Manners and Customs , p. 185.

12 . They that be whole , &c.] There is a touch of irony in the words. They that are “whole” are they who think themselves whole. So below, the “righteous” are those who are righteous in their own eyes.

13 . I will have mercy ] i. e. I desire mercy . I require mercy rather than sacrifice, Hosea 6:6 . It is a protest by the prophet against the unloving, insincere formalist of his day. It is closely parallel to our Lord’s injunction, ch. 5:23, 24. Sacrifice without mercy is no acceptable sacrifice. To love sinners is a better fulfilling of the law than to stand aloof from them. See note ch. 12:7, where our Lord again quotes these words.

The words “to repentance” are omitted in the leading MSS.

14 17 . A Question about Fasting. Mark 2:18-41.2.22 ; Luke 5:33-42.5.39

It is not quite clear whether this further incident took place at Levi’s feast. St Luke leads us to draw that inference.

15 . the children of the bridechamber ] See note, v. 6. “The children of the bridechamber” were the bridegroom’s friends or groomsmen who went to conduct the bride from her father’s house (see note, ch. 25:1). The procession passed through the streets, gay with festive dress, and enlivened with music and joyous shouts, and with the brilliant light of lamps and flambeaux. With the same pomp and gladness the bride was conducted to her future home, where the marriage-supper was prepared.

the bridegroom ] The Jews symbolized the “congregation” or “church” by the image of a bride. Jesus sets himself forth as the Bridegroom of the Christian Church. See Herschell, Sketch of the Jews , pp. 92 97.

shall be taken from them ] For the first time Jesus alludes to His death.

then shall they fast ] Herschell (quoted in Scripture Manners and Customs ) observes that many Jews who keep voluntary fasts, if invited to a marriage are specially exempted from the observance of them. Jesus first gives a special answer to the question about fasting. There is a time of sorrow in store for my disciples when fasting will have a real meaning, now in my presence they can but rejoice. Note that fasting and mourning are regarded as quite synonymous. This they are to the perfectly sincere only. The words of Jesus are true also of Christian experience. There are joyous times when the presence of Christ is felt to be near. Then fasting would be out of harmony. But there are also seasons of despondency and depression, when Christ seems to be taken away, when fasting is natural and appropriate.

16 . No man ] Rather, but no man. The particle δέ (but) is omitted in E. V.; it marks a turn in the argument which is indicated still more clearly in Luke (5:36), “And (but) He spake also a parable unto them.” The words of Jesus here take a wider range. He says in effect to John’s disciples: “Your question implies ignorance of my teaching. My doctrine is not merely a reformed Judaism like the teaching of John and Pharisaism, it is a new life to which such questions as these concerning ceremonial fasting are quite alien.”

new ] Literally, uncarded, raw . The old garment is Judaism. Christianity is not to be pieced on to Judaism to fill up its deficiencies. This would make the rent the divisions of Judaism still more serious. The word translated “rent” is used of the “schisms” in the Corinthian Church, 1 Corinthians 1:10 , and has so passed into ecclesiastical language; it is the English “schism.”

17 . new wine into old bottles ] The Oriental bottles are skins of sheep or goats. Old bottles would crack and leak. This may be regarded as a further illustration of the doctrine taught in the preceding verse. But it is better to give it an individual application. The new wine is the new law, the freedom of Christianity. The new bottles are those fitted to live under that law. The old wine is Judaism, the old bottles those, who trained in Judaism, cannot receive the new law, who say “the old is better” (or “good”), Luke 5:39 .

Our Lord’s answer then is threefold, (1) specially as to fasting, (2) as to Christianity in regard to Judaism, (3) as to individuals trained in Judaism.

(1) This is a joyous time, not a season for fasting, which is a sign of sorrow.

(2) Christianity is not a sect of Judaism, or to be judged according to rules of Judaism.

(3) It is not every soul that is capable of receiving the new and spiritual law. The new wine of Christianity requires new vessels to contain it.

18 26 . The Daughter of Jairus, 18, 19 and 23 26; Mark 5:22-41.5.24 and 35 43.Luke 8:41 , Luke 8:42 and 49 56

The Woman cured of an Issue of Blood, 20 22.Mark 5:25-41.5.34 ; Luke 8:43-42.8.48

Related with more detail by St Mark and St Luke. She had spent all her living on physicians. Jesus perceives that virtue has gone out of him. The woman tells all the truth before the people.

18 . a certain ruler ] From Mark and Luke we learn that he was chief ruler of the synagogue, Jairus by name.

My daughter ] “My little daughter,” (Mark); “one only daughter, about twelve years of age,” (Luke).

is even now dead ] “lieth at the point of death,” (Mark); “lay a-dying,” (Luke).

20 . hem of his garment ] See ch. 14:36 and 22:5.

21 . she said ] The imperfect tense of the original; denotes intensity of feeling, “she kept saying over and over to herself.”

22 . thy faith hath made thee whole ] Rather, “thy faith hath saved thee,” and not the external act of touching my garment. True faith spiritual insight will be accepted by Jesus in spite of ignorance.

23 . St Mark and St Luke mention the message to Jairus on the way, that his daughter was already dead, and name the three disciples whom Jesus permits to enter the house with him.

the minstrels and the people making a noise ] The minstrels are mentioned by St Matthew only. Cp. 2 Chronicles 35:25 , “all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day.” Lane ( Modern Egyptians ) says “the women of the family raise the cries of lamentations called ‘ welweleh ’ or ‘ wilwal; ’ uttering the most piercing shrieks and calling upon the name of the deceased.”

24 . is not dead, but sleepeth ] These words are reported without variation by the three Synoptists; it is open to question whether they ought not to be taken literally. The word for sleepeth ( καθεύδει ) does not bear the metaphorical force of κοιμᾶσθαι ; and the statement of Jesus is very explicit.

27 31 . A Cure of two Blind Men

Peculiar to St Matthew. Archbp. Trench alludes to the fact that cases of blindness are far more numerous in the East than in Western countries. “The dust and flying sand enter the eyes, causing inflammations.… the sleeping in the open air, and the consequent exposure of the eyes to the noxious nightly dews, is another source of this malady.”

27 . Son of David ] See note ch. 1:1. The thought of the kingdom of heaven had been closely linked with the reign of a Son of David, but doubtless with many Jews the glory of the Asmonean dynasty (the Maccabees) and the established power of the Herods had tended to obscure this expectation. To have clung to it was an act of faith.

30 . straitly charged ] The word in the original is a remarkable one, Literally, to roar , then (1) “to charge with vehement threats,” then (2) “to enjoin strictly,” (here and Mark 1:43 ); (3) to be loudly indignant (Mark 14:5 ); (4) “to groan in the spirit;” said of our Lord at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:33 , John 11:38 ).

32 34 . Cure of a Dumb Man possessed by an evil spirit.

St Luke 11:14 , Luke 11:15

34 . He casteth out the devils through the prince of the devils ] The answer to this charge is given, ch. 12:25 30.

35 38 . The Preaching of Jesus. The Harvest of the World

35 . See ch. 4:23. All diseases, acute as well as chronic.

36 . fainted ] The word in the received text has no MS. authority; read harassed .

scattered abroad ] Rather, perhaps, neglected, set at nought , rejected by the national teachers.

37 . The harvest truly is plenteous , &c.] The same expression occurs Luke 10:2 on the occasion of sending forth the Seventy, cp. also John 4:35 , “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”

38 . send forth ] The original word is more forcible, implying a strong impulse; it is used Mark 1:12 . “The spirit driveth him into the wilderness;” and frequently of casting out evil spirits, also of casting into outer darkness (ch. 25:30).

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 9". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/matthew-9.html. 1896.