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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 9

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 1-34

A. Demonstrations of the King’s power 8:1-9:34

Matthew described Jesus’ ministry as consisting of teaching, preaching, and healing in Matthew 4:23. Chapters 5-7 record what He taught His disciples: principles of the kingdom. We have the essence of His preaching ministry in Matthew 4:17. Now in Matthew 8:1 to Matthew 9:34 we see His healing ministry. He demonstrated authority over human beings, unseen spiritual powers, and the world of nature. Matthew showed that Jesus’ ability proves that He is the divine Messiah. He possessed the "power to banish from the earth the consequences of sin and to control the elements of nature". [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1003.] The King authenticated His claims by performing messianic signs. In view of this the Jews should have acknowledged Him as their Messiah.

"The purpose of Matthew in these two chapters [8 and 9] is to offer the credentials of the Messiah as predicted in the Old Testament." [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 63.]

Matthew did not record Jesus’ miracles in strict chronological order. The harmonies of the Gospels make this clear. [Note: See, for example, A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ; or, for the Greek text, E. Burton and E. J. Goodspeed, A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels in Greek.] His order is more thematic. He also selected miracles that highlight the gracious character of Jesus’ signs. As Moses’ plagues authenticated his ministry to the Israelites of his day, so Jesus’ miracles should have convinced the Israelites of His day that He was the Messiah. Moses’ plagues were primarily destructive whereas Jesus’ miracles were primarily constructive. Jesus’ miracles were more like Elisha’s than Moses’ in this respect.

Matthew recorded 10 instances of Jesus healing in this section of his book (cf. the 10 plagues in Egypt), half of all the miracles that Matthew recorded. Some regard Matthew 8:16-17 as a miracle distinct from the previous healings in chapter 8, resulting in 10 miracles. Others regard Matthew 8:16-17 as a summary of the preceding miracles, resulting in 9 miracles. Both explanations have merit since Matthew 8:16-17 records other miracles, but it does not narrate one specific miraculous healing.

Matthew presented these miracles in three groups and broke the three groups up with two discussions (narrative sections) concerning His authority. The first group of miracles involves healings (Matthew 8:1-17), the second, demonstrations of power (Matthew 8:23 to Matthew 9:8), and the third, acts of restoration (Matthew 9:18-34). Together the section presents "a slice of life" out of Jesus’ overall ministry. [Note: D. J. Weaver, Matthew’s Missionary Discourse, p. 67.]

Miracles of healing
Matthew 8:1-17
Demonstrations of power
Matthew 8:23 to Matthew 9:8
Acts of Restoration
Matthew 9:18-34
Jesus’ authority over His disciples
Matthew 8:18-22
Jesus’ authority over His critics
Matthew 9:9-17

"The provision of interludes on discipleship in order to divide the nine stories into three groups of three is also closely parallel to the arrangement of the parables of ch. 13 into groups of three with intervening explanatory material, an arrangement which is equally peculiar to Matthew [among the Gospel writers]." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 302.]

3. Jesus’ supernatural power 8:23-9:8

Matthew’s first group of miracles (Matthew 8:1-17) demonstrated that Jesus possessed the messianic power (authority) to heal physical ailments. His second group (Matthew 8:23 to Matthew 9:8) shows even greater powers over the fallen creation, namely, over nature, demons, and sin. All the beneficiaries of these miracles needed peace, and Jesus met their need.

"The miracles Jesus performs in Matthew’s story divide themselves rather neatly into two groups: (a) therapeutic miracles (miracles of healing), in which the sick are returned to health or the possessed are freed of demons (cf. esp. chaps. 8-9); and (b) nontherapeutic miracles, which have to do with exercising power over the forces of nature. . . .

"The nontherapeutic miracles are less uniform in structure and differ in thematic [purpose from the therapeutic miracles]. Here the focus is on Jesus and the disciples, and the characteristic feature is that Jesus reveals, in the midst of situations in which the disciples exhibit ’little faith,’ his awesome authority. . . . The reason Jesus gives the disciples these startling revelations is to bring them to realize that such authority as he exercises he makes available to them through the avenue of faith. In the later situation of their worldwide mission, failure on the part of the disciples to avail themselves of the authority Jesus would impart to them will be to run the risk of failing at their tasks (Matthew 28:18-20; chaps. 24-25)." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 69.]

Verse 1

Jesus arrived back in Capernaum having traveled there by boat. This is another transitional verse that sets the stage for what follows.

Verses 1-8

Jesus’ healing and forgiveness of a paralytic 9:1-8 (cf. Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)

The incident that follows occurred before the one in Matthew 8:28-34. Matthew placed it in his Gospel here for thematic reasons. It is another evidence of Jesus’ supernatural power but in a different realm.

Verse 2

Jesus saw the faith of the men who were carrying their paralytic friend.

"The reason the reader is provided with inside views of characters is to shape his or her attitude toward them." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 37.]

The evidence of their faith was that they brought him to Jesus for healing. However, Jesus spoke only to the paralytic. The term "son" (Gr. teknon) is an affectionate one that older people often used when speaking to the younger. What Jesus said implied a close connection between this man’s sin and his sickness (cf. Matthew 8:17; Psalms 103:3; Isaiah 33:24), and He implied that sin was the worse condition. Forgiveness of sins is basic to healing. Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven, not had been forgiven at a previous time. He used the present tense that here has punctiliar force. [Note: Ernest de Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in NT Greek, p. 9; Turner, p. 64.] Punctiliar action is action that is regarded as happening at a particular point in time.

Verse 3

Some of the teachers of the law who were standing by took offense at what Jesus said. He was claiming to forgive sins, but God alone can forgive sins since it is He whom people sin against (Psalms 51:4; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22). They called Jesus’ words blasphemy because they viewed them as a slanderous affront to God. This is the first instance of this charge in Matthew, but it will become a prominent theme.

Verse 4

Jesus probably knew what they were thinking simply because He knew them, though some interpret this statement as expressing divine insight. Jesus did not need supernatural power to perceive the typical attitude of the scribes. What they were thinking was evil because it involved a denial of His messiahship, the very thing His words were claiming.

Verses 5-7

Jesus’ question in Matthew 9:5 was rhetorical. His critics believed it was easier to say, "Get up and walk," because only God can forgive sins. Jesus had claimed to do the more difficult thing from their viewpoint, namely, to forgive sins. Jesus responded ironically in Matthew 9:6. He would do the easier thing. From the scribes’ perspective since Jesus had blasphemed God He could not heal the paralytic since God does not respond to sinners (John 9:31). By healing the paralytic Jesus showed that He had not blasphemed God. He could indeed forgive sins.

Jesus again used the term "Son of Man" for Himself (Matthew 9:6). His critics should have sensed the messianic claim Jesus’ use of this title implied since they knew the Old Testament well. The Judge had come to earth with authority to forgive sins (cf. Matthew 1:21; Matthew 1:23). [Note: See Morna D. Hooker, The Son of Man in Mark, pp. 81-93.]

Finally Jesus not only healed the paralytic but also assured him that God had forgiven his sins. He also refuted the scribes’ charge of blasphemy.

Verse 8

The response of the observing crowd was appropriate in view of Jesus’ action. People should respect and admire the One who can forgive sins. Here was a manifestation of God before them. They glorified God because they saw a man exercising divine authority. Unfortunately they failed to perceive that Jesus was the divine Messiah.

Readers of Matthew’s Gospel, however, perceive that this was the promised King come to rule "on earth" (cf. Matthew 9:6). The King had come to save His people from their sins. The kingdom of David’s Son was at hand.

"This is one of the most significant signs Jesus performs relative to the kingdom program. It shows that He is capable of forgiving sins on earth." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 129.]

This miracle proves that Jesus could forgive sins and so produce the conditions prophesied in Isaiah 33:24; Isaiah 40:1-2; Isaiah 44:21-22; and Isaiah 60:20-21. The three miracles in this section (Matthew 8:23 to Matthew 9:8) show that Jesus could establish the kingdom because He had the authority to do so. He demonstrated authority over nature, the angelic world, and sin.

Verse 9

This incident probably took place in or near Capernaum. The tax office (NASB) or the tax collector’s booth (NIV) would have been a room close to the border between the territories of Philip and Herod Antipas. There Matthew sat to collect customs and excise taxes. Capernaum stood on the caravan route between Egypt and the East. Matthew thus occupied a lucrative post. As mentioned before, the Jews despised tax collectors because they were notoriously corrupt, and they worked for the occupying Romans extracting money from their own countrymen (cf. Matthew 5:46). [Note: W. H. Griffith Thomas, Outline Studies of the Gospel of Matthew, p. 129.]

Jesus proceeded to do the unthinkable. He called a social pariah to become one of His disciples. Matthew was a sinner and an associate of sinners in the eyes of the Jews.

"The pericope on the call of Matthew (Matthew 9:9) illustrates yet another aspect of discipleship, to wit: the broad spectrum of those whom Jesus summons to follow him. . . . Matthew . . . is a toll-collector. As such, he is looked upon by the Jewish society of Matthew’s story as no better than a robber and one whose testimony would not be honored in a Jewish court of law. . . . Not only the upright are called by Jesus, but also the despised." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 135.]

"Since Jesus’ mission is predicated upon mercy and not merit, no one is despicable enough by the standards of society to be outside his concern and invitation." [Note: Hagner, p. 240.]

Jews frequently had two names, and Matthew’s other name was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). "Matthew" may derive from Mattaniah (1 Chronicles 9:15) meaning "gift of God," or it may come from the Hebrew emet meaning "faithful." Perhaps because of its meaning Matthew preferred to use "Matthew" in his Gospel rather than "Levi." Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call to follow Him was immediate.

Verses 9-13

The question of company 9:9-13 (cf. Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32)

The main point of this pericope is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ criticism that Jesus and His disciples kept company with tax collectors and sinners.

Verses 9-17

4. Jesus’ authority over His critics 9:9-17

Matthew returned to the subject of Jesus’ authority over people (cf. Matthew 8:18-22). In Matthew 8:18-22 Jesus directed those who came to Him voluntarily as disciples. Here He explained the basis for His conduct to those who criticized Him. This is another section that contains discipleship lessons.

Verses 10-11

Matthew’s own account of the feast that he threw for Jesus that followed his calling is brief, and it focuses on the controversy with the Pharisees that occurred then. Matthew had friends who were also tax collectors (cf. Matthew 5:46). "Sinners" is a term the Pharisees used to describe people who broke their severe rules of conduct (Pharisaic Halakoth). Eating with these people put Jesus and His disciples in danger of ceremonial defilement, but the spiritual need of these people was more important to Jesus than ritual cleanliness.

"In the ancient world generally a shared meal was a clear sign of identification, and for a Jewish religious teacher to share a meal with such people was scandalous, let alone to do so in the ’unclean’ house of a tax collector." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 353.]

The Pharisees’ question, addressed to Jesus’ disciples, was really an ironic accusation against Him (Matthew 9:11). A teacher would normally keep all the religious traditions as well as the Mosaic Law to provide the best example for his disciples. The Pharisees despised Jesus for the company He kept, which implied that He had a lax view of the Law. Note that the Pharisees now become critics of Jesus as the scribes had earlier (Matthew 9:3). Opposition mounts.

Verses 12-13

Jesus Himself responded to the Pharisees’ question. He said that He went to the tax collectors and sinners because they were sinners. They had a spiritual illness and needed spiritual healing. Note that Jesus did not go to these people because they received Him warmly but because they needed Him greatly. In the Old Testament, God taught His people that He was their Physician who could heal their diseases (e.g., Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 32:39; 2 Kings 20:5; Psalms 103:3). The prophets also predicted that Messiah would bring healing to the nation (Isaiah 19:22; Isaiah 30:26; Jeremiah 30:17).

The phrase "go and learn" was a rabbinic one that indicated that the Pharisees needed to study the text further. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 225.] Jesus referred them to Hosea 6:6. God had revealed through Hosea that the apostates of his day had lost the heart of temple worship even though they continued to practice its rituals. Jesus implied that the Pharisees had done the same thing. They were preserving the external practices of worship carefully, but they had failed to maintain its essential heart. Their attitude toward the tax collectors and sinners showed this. God, on the other hand, cares more for the spiritual wholeness of people than He does about flawless worship.

Jesus did not mean that the tax collectors and sinners needed Him but the Pharisees did not. His quotation put the Pharisees in the same category as the apostates of Hosea’s day. They needed Him too even though they believed they were righteous enough.

The last part of Matthew 9:13 defines Jesus’ ministry of preparing people for the coming kingdom. "Compassion" (NASB) or "mercy" (NIV, Heb. hesed) was what characterized His mission. He came to "call" (Gr. kalesai) or "invite" people to repentance and salvation. Paul’s used this Greek work in the sense of efficacious calling, but that is not how Jesus used it. If someone does not see himself or herself as a sinner, that person will have no part in the kingdom.

Disciples of Jesus should be need oriented, as Jesus was. Meeting the needs of needy individuals, regardless of who they may be, was very important to Jesus.

Verse 14

The people who questioned Jesus here were disciples of John the Baptist who had not left John to follow Jesus. They, as well as the Pharisees, observed the regular fasts that the Mosaic Law did not require. During the Exile and subsequently the Jews had made several of these fasts customary (cf. Zechariah 7). The Pharisees even fasted twice a week.

Verses 14-17

The question of fasting 9:14-17 (cf. Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39)

The Pharisees criticized Jesus’ conduct in the previous pericope. Now John’s disciples criticized the conduct of Jesus’ disciples and, by implication, Jesus.

Verse 15

Jesus responded with three illustrations. John the Baptist had described himself as the "best man" and Jesus as the "bridegroom" (John 3:29). Jesus extended John’s figure and described His disciples as the friends of the groom. They were so joyful that they could not fast because they were with Him. [Note: See Richard D. Patterson, "Metaphors of Marriage as Expressions of Divine-Human Relations," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:4 (December 2008):689-702.]

The Old Testament used the groom figure to describe God (Psalms 45; Isaiah 54:5-6; Isaiah 62:4-5; Hosea 2:16-20). The Jews also used it of Messiah’s coming and the messianic banquet (Matthew 22:2; Matthew 25:1; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:2). When Jesus applied this figure to Himself, He was claiming to be the Messiah, and He was claiming that the kingdom banquet was imminent.

"As the Physician, He came to bring spiritual health to sick sinners. As the Bridegroom, He came to give spiritual joy." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:35.]

When Jesus returned to heaven following His ascension, His friends did indeed fast (Acts 13:3; Acts 14:23; Acts 27:9). This is the first hint that Jesus would be "taken away" (a violent and unwanted removal) from His disciples, but that theme will become more dominant soon (cf. Matthew 16:21).

Verses 16-17

The meaning of the second illustration is clear enough (Matthew 9:16). The third may need some comment (Matthew 9:17). Old wine containers made out of animal skins eventually became hard and brittle. New wine that continued to expand as it fermented would burst the inflexible old wineskins. New wineskins were still elastic enough to stretch with the expanding new wine.

The point of these two illustrations was that Jesus could not patch or pour His new ministry into old Judaism. The Greek word translated "old" (Matthew 9:16-17) is palaios and means not only old but worn out by use. Judaism had become inflexible due to the accumulation of centuries of non-biblical traditions. Jesus was going to bring in a kingdom that did not fit the preconceptions of most of His contemporaries. They misunderstood and misapplied the Old Testament, and particularly the messianic and kingdom prophecies. Jesus’ ministry did not fit into the traditional ideas of Judaism. Moreover it was wrong to expect that His disciples would fit into these molds. Jesus used two different Greek words for "new" in Matthew 9:17. Neos means recent in time, and kainos means a new kind. The messianic kingdom would be new both in time and in kind.

In the second and third illustrations, which advance the revelation of the first, the old cloth and wineskins perish. Jesus’ kingdom would terminate Judaism that had served its purpose.

John the Baptist belonged to the old order. His disciples, therefore, should have left him and joined the Groom. Unless they did they would not participate in the kingdom (cf. Acts 19:1-7).

"In his characteristic style Matthew here hints that another new age will be brought in if the kingdom comes or not. This may be the first intimation of the church age in Matthew’s Gospel." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 132.]

The point of this incident in Matthew’s story seems to be that disciples of Jesus need to recognize that following Him will involve new methods of serving God. The old Jewish forms passed away with the coming of Jesus, and His disciples now serve under a new covenant with new structures and styles of ministry, compared to the old order.

Verses 18-19

This incident evidently happened shortly after Jesus and His disciples returned from Gadara on the east side of the lake (cf. Mark 5:21-22; Luke 8:40-41). The name of this Capernaum synagogue ruler was Jairus (Mark 5:22). He was a Jew who enjoyed considerable prestige in his community. It is noteworthy that someone of his standing believed in Jesus. This ruler humbly knelt before Jesus with a request (cf. Matthew 2:2; Matthew 8:2). According to Matthew he announced that his daughter had just died. Mark and Luke have him saying that she was near death. Since she died before Jesus reached her, Matthew evidently condensed the story to present at the outset what was really true before Jesus reached his house. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 230.]

The ruler had probably seen or heard of Jesus’ acts of healing with a touch (e.g., Matthew 8:2; Matthew 8:15). However, his faith was not as strong as the centurion’s who believed that Jesus could heal with a word (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus arose from reclining at the table and proceeded to follow the ruler to his house. Here is another instance where the verb akoloutheo, "to follow," does not imply discipleship (cf. Matthew 8:23). Context must determine its meaning, not the word itself.

Verses 18-34

5. Jesus’ ability to restore 9:18-34

The two groups of miracles that Matthew presented so far demonstrated Jesus’ ability to heal (Matthew 8:1-17) and to perform miracles with supernatural power (Matthew 8:23 to Matthew 9:8). This last cluster demonstrates His ability to restore. These miracles show that Jesus can restore all things, as the prophets predicted the Son of David would do. Furthermore, He can do this in spite of opposition.

The raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of a woman with a hemorrhage 9:18-26 (cf. Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56)

Verses 20-21

A hemorrhage is an uncontrolled bleeding. This woman had suffered with one somewhere in her body for 12 years. Many commentators assume it had some connection with her reproductive system. In any case bleeding rendered a Jewish person ritually unclean (cf. Leviticus 15:19-33). She should have kept away from other people and not touched them since by doing so she made them unclean. However hope of healing led her to push her way through the crowd so that she might touch Jesus. She apparently believed that since Jesus’ touch healed people, if she touched Him she would get the same result. The fringe of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:20) was probably one of the four tassels that the Jews wore on the four corners of their cloaks to remind them to obey God’s commands (Numbers 15:37-41; Deuteronomy 22:12; cf. Matthew 23:5).

Verse 22

Jesus encouraged the woman and commended her faith (i.e., her trust in Him). It was her faith that was significant. Her touching Jesus’ garment simply expressed her faith. Faith in Jesus is one of the themes Matthew stressed in his Gospel. It is not the strength of one’s faith that saves him or her but faith in a strong Savior.

The Greek word translated "made you well" or "healed you" is sozo, which the translators often rendered as "save." The context here clarifies that Jesus was talking about the woman’s faith resulting in her physical deliverance, not necessarily in her eternal salvation. Salvation is a broad concept in the Old and New Testaments. The context determines what aspect of deliverance is in view in every use of the verb sozo and the noun soteria, "salvation." [Note: For a very helpful discussion of key Old and New Testament passages containing these Greek words, see Dillow, pp. 111-33.]

"The association of the language of ’salvation’ with faith perhaps also allows Matthew’s readers, if so inclined, to find in this story a parable of spiritual salvation." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 361.]

Why did Matthew include this miracle within the account of the healing of Jairus’ daughter? I suspect the answer is the common theme of life. The woman’s life was gradually ebbing away. Her hemorrhage symbolized this since blood represents life (cf. Leviticus 17:11). Jesus stopped her dying and restored her life. His instantaneous healing contrasts with her long-term illness. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, who was already dead, Jesus restored her to life. Both incidents show His power over death.

Verses 23-26

Perhaps Matthew of all the Gospel writers who recorded this incident mentioned the flute players because he wanted to stress Jesus’ complete reversal of this situation. Even the poorest Jews hired flute players to play at funerals. [Note: Mishnah Kethuboth 4:4.] Their funerals were also occasions of almost unrestrained wailing and despair, which Matthew 9:23 reflects.

The crowd ridiculed Jesus by laughing at His statement (Matthew 9:24). They thought He was both wrong and late in arriving, too late. They apparently thought He was trying to cover up His mistake and would soon make a fool of Himself by exposing His only limited healing power. However "sleep" is a common euphemism for death (Daniel 12:2; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15; 2 Peter 3:4), and it was so in Jesus’ day. [Note: Edersheim, 1:630.] .

Jesus touched another unclean person. His touch rather than defiling Him restored life to the girl. Other prophets and apostles also raised the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:17-37; Acts 9:36-42). However, Jesus claimed to be more than a prophet. This miracle showed He had supernatural power over man’s last enemy, death. The Old Testament prophets predicted that Messiah would restore life (Isaiah 65:17-20; Daniel 12:2).

"The raising of the dead to life is a basic symbolism of the gospel (e.g., Romans 4:17; Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13). What Jesus did for the dead girl he has done for all in the Church who have experienced new life. There is too, beyond this life, the Church’s confidence that Jesus will literally raise the dead (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:22-23)." [Note: Hagner, p. 250.]

Matthew recorded that everyone heard about this incident (Matthew 9:26). Consequently many people faced the choice of believing that Jesus was the Messiah or rejecting Him.

"We must learn to trust Christ and His promises no matter how we feel, no matter what others say, and no matter how the circumstances may look." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:35.]

Jesus’ power to bring life where there was death stands out in this double instance of restoration, two witnesses for the benefit of Jewish readers especially.

"It is interesting that Jairus and this woman-two opposite people-met at the feet of Jesus. Jairus was a leading Jewish man; she was an anonymous woman with no prestige or resources. He was a synagogue leader, while her affliction kept her from worship. Jairus came pleading for his daughter; the woman came with a need of her own. The girl had been healthy for 12 years, and then died; the woman had been ill for 12 years and was now made whole. Jairus’ need was public-all knew it; but the woman’s need was private-only Jesus understood. Both Jairus and the woman trusted Christ, and He met their needs." [Note: Ibid.]

Verses 27-28

This is the first time in Matthew’s Gospel that someone called Jesus the "Son of David" (cf. Matthew 1:1; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30-31; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 21:15). This was a messianic title, and the blind men’s use of it undoubtedly expressed their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. The Gospel writers recorded that Jesus healed at least six blind men, and each case was different (cf. John 9; Mark 8:22-26; Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43). Blindness was a common ailment in Jesus’ day, but the Gospel evangelists also used it to illustrate lack of spiritual perception.

"The use of the Davidic title in address to Jesus is less extraordinary than some think: in Palestine, in the time of Jesus, there was an intense messianic expectation." [Note: Hill, p. 180.]

Ironically these physically blind men saw who Jesus was more clearly than most of their seeing contemporaries. Isaiah had prophesied that Messiah would open the eyes of the blind (Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5-6). Frequently in the Synoptics the desperately needy cried out to Jesus calling Him the Son of David. [Note: Dennis C. Duling, "The Therapeutic Son of David: An Element in Matthew’s Christological Apologetic," New Testament Studies 24 (1978):392-410.] There seems to be a relationship between the depth of a person’s felt need and his or her willingness to believe in Jesus.

Probably Jesus did not heal these men outdoors for at least two reasons. He had already done two miracles outdoors before many witnesses that day and may have wanted to keep the crowd under control (cf. Matthew 9:30). Second, by bringing the blind men indoors He heightened their faith since it involved waiting longer for a cure. Jesus’ question furthered this aim (Matthew 9:28). It also clarified that their cries for help came from confidence in Him rather than just out of desperation, and it focused their faith on Jesus and not just God.

Verses 27-31

The healing of two blind men 9:27-31

Verses 29-31

Perhaps Jesus touched the eyes of the blind men to help them associate Him with their healing as well as because He was compassionate. However it was Jesus’ word, not His touch that resulted in their healing (cf. Genesis 1). "According to your faith" does not mean "in proportion to your faith" but "since you believed" (cf. Matthew 9:22). This is the only time in the first Gospel that Matthew presented faith as a condition for healing.

Jesus "sternly warned" them against telling anyone about the miracle, probably because these blind men had identified Jesus as the Son of David. The verb embrimaomai occurs only five times in the New Testament (Mark 1:43; Mark 14:5; John 11:33; John 11:38). Jesus wanted to avoid the masses of people that would have dogged His steps and hindered Him from fulfilling His mission (cf. Matthew 8:4). He wanted people to hear about Him and face the issue of His messiahship, but too much publicity would be counterproductive. Unfortunately, but understandably, these beneficiaries of Messiah’s grace disobeyed Him and broadcast what He had done for them widely. They should have simply joined the band of disciples and continued to follow Jesus faithfully.

This incident shows that some people in Galilee beside the Twelve were concluding that Jesus was the Messiah. [Note: Plummer, p. 143; Samuel J. Andrews, The Life of Our Lord Upon the Earth, p. 307.] The emphasis in the incident is Jesus’ ability to restore sight where there was blindness.

Verses 32-33

The Greek word translated "dumb" (NASB, kophos) refers to deaf people, mutes, and people who were both deaf and dumb. This man’s condition was the result of demonic influence, though that was not the cause in all such cases (cf. Mark 7:32-33). The crowd’s reaction here climaxes their reaction in this entire section of the text. Here was someone with more power than anyone who had ever appeared before. Messiah would heal the dumb (Isaiah 35:5-6). The natural conclusion was that Jesus was the Messiah.

Verses 32-34

The casting out of a spirit that caused dumbness 9:32-34

Verse 34

The reaction of the Pharisees contrasts with that of the crowd in the sharpest possible terms. They attributed Jesus’ power to Satan, not God. They concluded that He came from Satan rather than from God. Instead of being the Messiah He must be a satanic counterfeit. Notice that the Pharisees did not deny the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles. They could not do that. They accepted them as supernatural acts. However they ascribed them to demonic rather than divine power.

This testimony to Jesus’ authority comes at the end of a collection of stories about demonstrations of Jesus’ power (Matthew 8:1 to Matthew 9:34). Matthew probably intended the reader to understand that this was the common reaction to all these miracles. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 369.] This reaction continued and culminated in the Pharisees’ accusation in Matthew 12:24, "This man cast out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."

This testimony contrasts, too, with the opinion of the Gentile centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), who saw that Jesus’ operated under God’s authority. This is one evidence of a chiastic structure in chapters 8 and 9, which I shall comment on further below.

The incident illustrates Jesus’ ability to enable people to speak who could not formerly do so. This was important in people confessing Jesus as the Son of God and the disciples bearing witness to Jesus. It also illustrates Jesus’ compassion for needy people.

One of the main themes in this section (Matthew 8:1 to Matthew 9:34) is the spreading of Jesus’ fame. This resulted in an increasing number to people concluding that Jesus was the Messiah. It also resulted in increasing opposition from Jesus’ enemies, Israel’s religious leaders, and even some of John the Baptist’s disciples. However some religious leaders believed in Jesus, Jairus being one. Opposition to Jesus was mounting among those who suffered economically because of His ministry as well as those who suffered religiously. Matthew’s primary purpose, however, was to present Jesus as the promised Messiah who could establish God’s kingdom on earth.

All of this material also prepares the reader for the next events: Jesus’ self-disclosure to His disciples in His second major discourse (ch. 10).

Chapters 8-9 seem to be a chiasm focusing the reader’s attention on Jesus’ power to overcome Satan (Matthew 8:28-34).

A Jesus’ power to heal (Matthew 8:1-17; three incidents and a summary [Matthew 8:16-17])

B Jesus’ authority over His disciples’ persons (Matthew 8:18-22; two lessons)

C Jesus’ supernatural power (Matthew 8:23 to Matthew 9:8; three incidents with victory over Satan in the middle)

B’ Jesus’ authority over His disciples’ work (Matthew 9:9-17; two lessons)

A’ Jesus’ power to restore (Matthew 9:18-38; three incidents and a summary [Matthew 9:35-38])

B. Declarations of the King’s presence 9:35-11:1

The heart of this section contains Jesus’ charge to His disciples to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom (ch. 10). Matthew prefaced this charge with a demonstration of the King’s power, as he prefaced the Sermon on the Mount by authenticating the King’s qualifications (cf. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35). However there are also some significant dissimilarities between these sections of the Gospel. Before the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus separated from the multitudes (Matthew 5:1), but here He has compassion on them (Matthew 9:36). Then He ministered to His disciples, but now He sends His disciples to minister to the multitudes in Israel. The Sermon on the Mount was basic to the disciples’ understanding of the kingdom. This discourse is foundational to their proclaiming the kingdom. Jesus had already begun to deal with discipleship issues (chs. 5-7; Matthew 8:18-22; Matthew 9:9-17). Now He gave them more attention.

Verse 35

This verse summarizes the heart of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. It also provides the rationale for the new phase of His ministry through the Twelve.

Verses 35-38

1. Jesus’ compassion 9:35-38 (cf. Mark 6:6)

This section summarizes the previous incidents that deal primarily with healing and prepares for Jesus’ second discourse to His disciples. It is transitional providing a bridge from the condition of the people that chapter 9 revealed to what the King determined to do about that condition (cf. Matthew 4:23-25). Jesus’ work was so extensive that He needed many more workers to assist Him.

Verse 36

Until now, Matthew presented the crowds as those Galileans who listened to and observed Jesus with wonder. Now they become the objects of Jesus’ concern. His compassion for the multitudes recalls Ezekiel’s description of God’s compassion for Israel (Ezekiel 34). "Distressed" (NASB) really means "harassed" (NIV). It pictures the Jews bullied and oppressed by their religious leaders. They were "downcast" (NASB) because they were "helpless" (NIV). No one was able to deliver them. They lacked effective leadership, as sheep without a shepherd (cf. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24). The Old Testament describes both God and Messiah as shepherds of their people (cf. Matthew 2:6; Matthew 10:6; Matthew 10:16; Matthew 15:24; Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 26:31).

Verses 37-38

Jesus’ figure of speech in addressing His disciples, however, was an agricultural one. He wanted to infuse His compassion for the multitudes into them. Jesus viewed Israel as a field composed of many stalks of grain. They needed gathering for placement in the barns of the kingdom. They would die where they were and the nation would suffer ruin if workers did not bring them in soon. Unfortunately there were not enough workers to do this massive task. Consequently Jesus commanded His disciples to beseech God, the lord of the harvest, to provide additional laborers for His harvest.

The picture is of imminent change. A change was coming whether or not the Israelites accepted their Messiah. It would either be beneficial or detrimental to the nation. An adequate number of workers was one factor that would determine the way the change would go. Evidently Matthew expected his readers to understand "disciples" as all who were in a learning relationship to Jesus then rather than just the Twelve. That is the way he used the term so far in this Gospel (cf. Matthew 10:1).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/matthew-9.html. 2012.
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