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We have the credentials of the King set forth throughout both this and the preceding chapter, as noticed already. His works of power attested His messianic claims. All His miracles were wrought, not for self-glorification, however, nor to have men hail Him as “some great one” (Acts 8:9), but to alleviate the ills of suffering humanity. It had been predicted long before that God’s anointed King would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, and cause the lame to leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb to sing (Isaiah 35:5-6). All this and more the Lord Jesus did, ministering to needy people out of the loving compassion of His heart. Peter reminded Cornelius that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). We see this concern for afflicted humanity set forth in the present chapter. Yet we need to remember that this ministry was confined, with very few exceptions, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6) as a testimony to the chosen nation that their long-looked-for King was in their midst (Zephaniah 3:15). But though they witnessed so many evidences of His divine authority, the leaders of the people steadfastly resisted His claims and spurned His testimony (John 7:48) though the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37). But even among these there were many who believed only in a superficial way because they saw the miracles which He did (John 2:23). Faith must be in Christ Himself, not in the signs and wonders He performs. To recognize in Him a great teacher, prophet, or miracle-worker is not the same as receiving Him as Savior and owning Him as Lord of one’s life. The events recorded here and in the previous chapter did not follow one another in chronological sequence, but they are grouped together according to their moral order as testimonies to prove that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. They probably all occurred in the second year of His public ministry.
As the chapter opens, we see our Lord, rejected by the Gadarenes, returning to Galilee, where He was soon in contact with some friends bringing a palsied man for healing. Mark and Luke tell us that this took place not in the open country but in a house. The four who were assisting the sick man, finding it impossible to press through the crowd that thronged the door, went up onto the roof and opening up the tiles, or displacing the thatch, they let the palsied man down by cords to the feet of Jesus.
Here we are told that
He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. (vv. 1-8)
Upon returning to the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus entered into a house in Capernaum where this incident took place.
“Jesus seeing their faith.” It is evident that not only the palsied man but also the friends who brought him had fullest confidence that Jesus would grant healing in accordance with their plea. He responded at once, but in a way they had not expected, by saying, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Thus He met the greater need first.
To certain of the scribes nearby this was blasphemy of the worst kind. It was a man arrogating to himself a divine prerogative. None but God could forgive sin. Who then was Jesus that He should presume to use such language?
He knew their thoughts and reproved them by asking, “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” So far as they were concerned, one would be as impossible as the other.
Men are ever prone to consider physical ills as of greater moment than the sinfulness of their hearts, and so are far more concerned about obtaining and preserving bodily health than they are about being right with God. But our Lord placed the emphasis upon the state of the soul. He would have men realize the corruption of their hearts (Matthew 15:19) and their need of deliverance from the guilt and power of sin (John 8:34), that thus they might enter into a life of communion with God and be assured of His eternal favor (John 14:23). To Him, physical ill was but the testimony to the fact of sin being in the world, and He was not content to deal only with the effect, but He ever sought to reach the cause.
But in order that they might know that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins He turned to the palsied man and commanded him to arise, take up his bed, and walk. As the Lord’s critics looked on in wonder and amazement, the formerly helpless one sprang to his feet and walked off to his own house, healed and forgiven. The assembled multitude rejoiced and glorified God for so marvelous a display of His grace and power. This was what Jesus desired. He delighted to have men give honor to the Father, who was working in and through His Son.
In the next section we read of another man who was added to the chosen company of disciples who accompanied Jesus-that company to which Peter, Andrew, James, and John already belonged.
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, (vv. 9-13)
“He saw a man, named Matthew… and he saith unto him, Follow me.” Matthew, also called Levi (Mark 2:14), was the tax collector of the port of Capernaum. Evidently, he had before heard and seen the Lord Jesus. Now the time for decision had come. Obedient to the call of the Savior, he arranged immediately to close up his business and become a disciple of Christ in full-time service. He became the author, under God, of this gospel.
“As Jesus sat at meat in the house.” This was the house of Matthew, who gave a farewell dinner to his former associates before launching forth upon his new career. To this dinner the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples were invited.
“Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” The legalist can never understand the grace of God to the undeserving and utterly lost. Accustomed to think of human merit as commending men to the Lord, they were shocked to think of Jesus Christ as fellowshipping with sinners.
“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Our Lord used an illustration that everyone could understand in answering the objection of these self-righteous critics. It is sick people who need a doctor, and He was the Great Physician who had come to minister to sin-sick souls.
“I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” Jesus directed the attention of these legalists to a declaration made by Jehovah through Hosea 6:6). It is far more to God to see mercy extended to the needy than to receive sacrifices and offerings. So Jesus had come “not to call the righteous”-that is, those who supposed they had no need of mercy-but His mission was to sinners, whom He called to repentance.
The next four verses bring before us the drastic distinction between the principle of law, which we are told elsewhere prevailed until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16), and the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved, (vv. 14-17)
“Then came to him the disciples of John” with a question as to fasting. It is evident that many who had been baptized by John had not fully committed themselves to Jesus but were waiting for clearer proof that He was the promised Messiah. They were troubled because the abstinence taught by John, which was considered meritorious by the Pharisees, was not practiced by the disciples of Jesus.
In reply, He made it clear that as long as He, in person, was with them there was no call for fasting; but in the coming day (as yet not understood by them) when He should be removed from them, fasting might well be in order. The Bridegroom’s presence calls for joy and gladness. His absence would bring that exercise of soul that would impress upon His followers the necessity of self-abnegation.
“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment.” He had not come to add something to the legal dispensation but to supersede it with that which was entirely new. To attempt to amalgamate the two principles of law and grace would annul the true meaning of both (cf. Romans 11:6).
The new wine of grace was not to be poured into the skin-bottles of legality. Such an attempt would only destroy both. It is all-important that we realize this, for we see in Christendom today many teachers of the law who, as Paul says, are without understanding as to what they affirm when they try to impose legal principles upon those who are saved by grace (1 Timothy 1:5-7).
Two miracles are interwoven, as it were, in verses 18-26. Both are designed to manifest the power and compassion of the King who was in the midst of Israel, though unrecognized by the great majority.
While he spake these things unto them, behold, then came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, if I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, he said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. (vv. 18-26)
“There came a certain ruler.” The name of this man was Jairus (Mark 5:22). He was a leader in the local synagogue at Capernaum. He evidently believed in the claims of Jesus Christ and so besought Him to come to his help, for his little daughter was, as he put it, “even now dead”; that is, she was so ill he realized she was at the point of death, unless there was divine intervention.
“Jesus arose, and followed him.” Moved with tender compassion, the Savior at once started to the home of the ruler, and we are told that “so did his disciples.”
“A woman… touched the hem of his garment.” Afflicted with a constitutional disease, her very life ebbing away, this woman pressed through the crowd and touched the border of the Lord’s robe, that blue fringe which was worn by every pious Israelite, in obedience to the Mosaic Law (Numbers 15:38-41; Deuteronomy 22:12), and which marked them out as the subjects of the Holy One.
“If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” She was confident that if she thus contacted Jesus she would be healed immediately.
“Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.”
The Lord recognized her faith and gave the assurance that because of this, all was as she had hoped. She was made perfectly whole.
“Jesus came into the ruler’s house.” In the meantime, the little maid had gotten apparently beyond all hope of recovery. The life had left her body, and the visit of Jesus seemed now to be useless. Already preparations were being made for the burial, and the hired mourners were beginning their lamentations. The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was to change all this, for He gives the oil of joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:3).
“The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.” Was the little girl just in a coma, or was she actually dead? The consensus of opinion among most Christian scholars is that this was the sleep of death, but the fact that a different Greek word is used for “sleep” here to that which is found in other passages where sleep and death are used synonymously, has led some to conclude that she was simply in a state of suspended animation. At any rate, she was dead as far as human power to help is concerned.
“He… took her by the hand, and the maid arose.” Elsewhere we are told that He tenderly commanded her to arise, and as He took her hand she responded and came back to life, and was given food (Mark 5:41-43; Luke 8:54-55).
“The fame thereof went abroad into all that land.” From one to another the story went, and the people spoke with amazement of the wonderful event that had transpired. It was a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ, the great Prophet who had risen up in the land.
Two other instances are recorded in the section that follows which demonstrated the messiahship of Jesus. But instead of these works of power convincing the stern, self-righteous Pharisees, they only gave occasion for the blasphemous charge that Jesus, Himself, was in league with Beelzebub the prince of the demons.
And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them. Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country. As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils, (vv. 27-34)
Recognized by two blind men as the promised Son of David, they implored mercy upon that ground.
Testing their faith Jesus put the question, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” Upon receiving an affirmative answer He replied, as He touched their eyes, “According to your faith be it unto you.”
They immediately looked upon Him with eyes that saw His blessed face; their blindness was gone. We can understand how ready they would be to proclaim abroad the fame of Him who had wrought so great a work upon and for them. But He bade them, “See that no man know it.” He did not desire to be known as simply a wonder-worker.
So exuberant were they that they could not contain themselves, but went throughout the district spreading the story of that which Jesus had wrought on their behalf.
We may wonder why Jesus bade them refrain from all this. The reason doubtless was that He desired people to be impressed by His message rather than His works. He was, while on earth, as we are told in Hebrews 1:3, the express image of the divine person, that is, the exact expression of the character of God. The compassion He manifested for distressed mankind shows out the heart of God as He looks upon the sorrow and suffering that sin has brought into the world. Wherever the Lord went He undertook to deliver from these evidences of Satanic malice. His miracles witnessed to the truth of His Deity and bore testimony to His messiahship. Faith in the miracles saved no one, however. But faith in Him who wrought them was then, as it is now, the means of salvation from sin and deliverance from its effects.
In the other miracle we see demonstrated again the authority of Jesus over demons. Let us remember that in the gospel where we have devils in the plural, it should always be demons.
A man was brought to Jesus possessed with a dumb demon, or a demon who so controlled the vocal powers of the poor, abject wretch as to make speech impossible. Jesus immediately cast out the demon, and, to the joy and delight of his friends and the amazement of the multitudes, he who had been dumb spoke. The people cried, “It was never so seen in Israel.”
But the haughty religious leaders, determined to resist and refuse any and all evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, declared, “He casteth out demons through the prince of the demons.” It was an ominous sign of that which the Lord of glory was to face-utter rejection by those who should have received Him.
For the time being, He did not rebuke these blasphemers but went on quietly with His great ministry, as we are told in the closing paragraph of this chapter:
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and 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 on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest, (vv. 35-38)
These cities and villages into which Jesus went (v. 35) were all in Galilee. With His disciples He passed from town to town, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, we are told, and healing diseases of every kind. This term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is an important one. It was the proclamation of the good news that God was about to set up His kingdom in this world. The kingdom was offered to Israel by God, but only on condition of their repentance and acceptance of the King. As we know, they failed in this, and the kingdom was taken from them and given to others who were ready to meet the proper requirements.
There is, of course, a difference between “the gospel of the kingdom” and “the gospel of the grace of God.” Yet they are not to be distinguished as two gospels, for we are told distinctly in Galatians 1:9 that to preach any other gospel than that which Paul himself carried through the world was to incur the curse of God. The gospel is God’s message concerning His Son. It takes on different aspects at different times, but it is all the gospel of Christ.
In Matthew, as we have seen, Christ is presented as the King, that is, the emphasis is upon His royalty rather than upon His redemptive work, and yet the latter is not ignored, as we shall see in a later chapter. In fact, at the very beginning of this gospel the angels’ declaration was, “He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The different aspects of the gospel are, therefore, to be distinguished but not confused. They all have to do with the presentation of the Christ of God as the only remedy for the world’s great need.
The heart of our blessed Lord was deeply moved as He beheld the multitudes with no one in Israel to guide them aright. They were like unshepherded sheep until He, the Good Shepherd, came to feed and care for them.
He directs the attention of His disciples to the great harvest fields filled with precious souls needing to know the truth concerning Himself. Into this harvest field they were to go forth and reap. He bids them pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to gather in the ripened grain. When we read this in connection with the Lord’s words at the well of Sychar, we understand something of the deep concern that Jesus ever has for the salvation of lost men and women. In John 4:35-37, He says, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.”
These words may well be taken to our own hearts. He would have us look on the fields, go forth to sow and reap and to pray, that many more may be raised up to carry on the great work of world evangelization.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Matthew 9". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11