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The Healing of a Paralytic
While in the previous chapter the dignity of the Person of Christ comes more to the fore, in this chapter we see more the characteristics of His service. Here too, in each of the events the reaction of the religious leaders to the presence of the Lord and to what He does becomes visible.
After the Lord has been declared an unwanted Person by the people of Gerasa, He leaves there. He gets into a boat and goes to the other side and comes to Capernaum, where He lives (Matthew 4:13). There they know Him. There He performed His miracles and they saw Him more than anywhere else. One of these miracles, the healing of a paralytic, is described here. In the deliverance of the demoniacs in the previous chapter we see His power over the devil and His angels. In the healing of the paralytic we see how He breaks the power of sin, forgives sins, and takes away the consequences of sins.
The paralytic is brought to Him by four friends. He sees their faith, both that of the friends and that of the paralytic. He responds to that. His first words, however, do not relate to the body of the paralytic, but to his soul. With the words “have good courage” the Lord encourages him. Perhaps the paralytic was desperate. The words ‘take courage’ or ‘have good courage’ appear seven times in the New Testament (Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:22Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; Mark 10:49; John 16:33; Acts 23:11).
After these words, the Lord deals with the cause of all sickness and pain: sin. He knows the sins that burden the paralytic. He must first be freed from this before he can get up and walk. First the conscience must be relieved of its burden, then there is power to live for the glory of God. The words “your sins are forgiven”, must have been an enormous relief for the paralytic. A burden has fallen off his shoulders. He could not live on with this burden. It pushed him down, paralyzed him. The Lord delivers him from it; He relieves him of that burden. On the cross He will take that burden upon Himself. In view of what He will do on the cross, He can forgive the paralytic his sins.
What sounds like music to the ears of the paralytic, sounds like blasphemy to the ears of some of the religious leaders. It is precisely these leaders in whom, in this chapter and the following chapters, feelings of hatred are rising as a result of all the gracious works carried out by the Lord. They do not express their accusation of blasphemy out loud, but He sees their thoughts and the evil they think in their hearts. He is God to Whom all things are naked and open, He searches every man (Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :; Psalms 139:1).
He asks the leaders what is easier: to forgive sins or to heal? They do not answer. The answer is that both things are equally easy for God and equally impossible for man. The Lord does not wait for an answer either, but provides proof that He has the power to forgive sins by healing the paralytic.
He heals with a word of power, without prayer to God. He Himself is God. He is also the Son of Man. As such He forgives sins. As the Son of Man, He is the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Yet He can only do that because He is also God. He also forgives sins “on earth”. The earth is the area where sins are forgiven, not heaven or hell. A person must confess his sins on earth during his life in order to receive forgiveness of his sins.
By both – first – forgiving sins and – then – healing, the Lord Jesus proves that He is Yahweh, the God of the covenant with His people Who came to them as Messiah (Psalms 103:3). Through the word of Christ, the man receives strength to rise up and go to his home.
The crowds see what happened. They see only the outer miracle. This leads them to glorify God. There is also fear. What they have seen does not lead them to bow down before Christ to accept Him as their Messiah with confession of their sins. They see that He is Man and they also recognize the power of God in Him as Man. But they don’t know how to unite these two thoughts in His Person. They see in Him only an instrument of God’s power, no more.
The Calling of Matthew
As the Lord goes on, He passes by a tax collector’s booth. In the tax collector’s booth is Matthew. He is a tax collector (Luke 5:27), that is a tax officer in the service of the Romans, the occupying power. The fact that he is in the tax collector’s booth means that the counter is open to people who have to pay their tax. When we think of tax officials, we usually do not do so with feelings of affection. For a man like Matthew, people don’t have those feelings either, and with him it goes much further. He is rather a hated man because he works for the occupier. He is not waiting for the arrival of the Messiah, because he is conspiring with the enemy. In his case, we now see how the Lord can free someone from such a situation.
He is liberated from this situation by the mighty voice of God’s King. Only two words – and Matthew’s life takes a totally different turn and gets a completely different purpose. The power of the Lord’s call is so great and the attractiveness of His Person so irresistible that it breaks the spell of money. The power of the Lord’s Word has caused the paralytic to stand up and go to his home (Matthew 9:7-Ruth :). That same power of His word makes Matthew stand up and follow Him.
The first consequence of the Lord’s calling in Matthew’s life is that he receives Him and his disciples hospitably in his own home. As a good disciple of his Lord, he has also invited many fellow tax collectors and other sinners. Instead of collecting money from others, he now spends his own money in offering an opportunity to meet the Lord. The tax collectors and sinners come with a desire in their hearts to get what Matthew has also received: deliverance from their sins and peace for their conscience.
That is not to the liking of the Pharisees. The conduct of the Lord is not in keeping with their views on separation. If He really came from God, He would be careful not to mix with such people, they think. They do not criticize the Lord, but His disciples. That is not a good way of doing things. We too must be careful not to criticize someone else to others behind the person’s back. Often the expression of criticism is a proof of the absence of mercy. That is the case with the Pharisees. They are completely alien to the mercy of God present in Christ.
The Lord does not leave the answer to their question to His disciples. Perhaps His disciples were embarrassed. In any case He has heard what the Pharisees have said about Him to His disciples and He answers. The opposition of the Pharisees gives Him the opportunity to explain the purpose of His service. He has come to those who are sick, that is to say here, those who are sinners, to heal them, that is to say, to set them free from the burden of their sins.
Then He gives the Pharisees an order. They have not yet understood anything about what God wants. If the event in Matthew’s house would have been an exam, they would have failed completely. Their remark and attitude have made it clear that they know nothing of God. In their pride they believe that God must be very satisfied with their strict way of life. The Lord gives them, as it were, a second chance when He says that they must leave and go and find out what God really means by the word from the book of the prophet Hosea: “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6; cf. 1 Samuel 15:22). Then they will come to the discovery that they themselves are lost sinners who need the mercy of God.
The Lord concludes His words to them by pointing to Himself as the fulfilment of that word from Hosea 6 (Hosea 6:6). He did not come to receive sacrifices from the righteous, but to prove His mercy to sinners. If He had come to call the righteous, the Pharisees would have come to Him in large numbers. Now, as an expression of the fact that He came to call sinners, He also called Matthew.
In connection to the confrontation with the Pharisees, disciples of John come to the Lord with a question about fasting. There were regular fasts (Zechariah 8:19). They adhered strictly to this, as did the disciples of the Pharisees. By naming themselves in the same breath as the disciples of the Pharisees, they show by which spirit they allow themselves to be guided.
The fact that they are still disciples of John does not mean that John did his best to keep them with him. Some of his disciples have left him to follow the Lord (John 1:35-Haggai :). That is how John wanted it to be. But these people hold on to what John taught, despite the fact that the Lord has come. It is difficult for them to say goodbye to external customs, as it is difficult for anyone who grew up in a system of laws and regulations.
In addition, there is another characteristic. Legal people not only impose a yoke on themselves, but also want to impose it on others. They condemn others for freedoms they do not afford themselves from their legal attitude to life. This attitude characterizes the disciples of John. That’s why they come with their question to the Lord. They do not understand why His disciples do not fast.
Another reason for their question is that they don’t know the Bridegroom. When the Lord speaks of the Bridegroom in answer to their question, He means Himself. He calls His disciples the attendants of the bridegroom. He points out that there will come a time when the Bridegroom will have been taken away from them. By this He means the time that will come after His rejection by His people and His ascension.
The New and the Old
Then the Lord clarifies through two examples the difference between the age of the law, that is the time before His coming, and the age of grace, that is the time after His coming. In these examples He makes it clear that the requirements of the law cannot be mixed with grace.
He uses two different pictures. In the picture of the garment it is about Christ bringing an outwardly new system, a new order of affairs. To enter this new order of things, that is His kingdom, it is necessary to obey the gospel He proclaims. Therefore, there is a call to repentance (Matthew 4:17). It is impossible to participate in the kingdom by keeping the law or adhering to legal principles. This is the way the Pharisees try to enter the kingdom.
The Lord shows that the old way, the keeping the law, and the new way, living out of grace, cannot go together. If the patch of unshrunk cloth, that is the gospel, is sewn on an old garment, that is the law, the result will be that both will rip. Yet it is precisely this that we see happening in large parts of Christianity. An attempt has been made to attach the new to the old by maintaining many forms of Judaism in Christianity and adding to that certain Christian truths. We recognize this for example in a separate priestly class, a literal altar, sacred clothing, candles and all kinds of other external things to which a certain spiritual value is attributed. Such external things make the external appearance of Christianity a false representation of what it should be.
In addition to the external appearance, the content of the new cannot be reconciled with the content of the old. That is represented in the picture of the wineskins. Within Christendom as it is in God’s mind, there are new people who are filled with a new joy. The old, the old man, has no place here.
The Lord Jesus brings true joy, He makes the wedding a feast (John 2:1-2 Samuel :). One can only share in that joy, if he himself is renewed, if he is a new man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Then such a person experiences “joy in the Holy Spirit”, which is one of the characteristics of the kingdom of God at this time (Romans 14:17).
An Official Comes to the Lord
The opening words of this section “while He was saying these things to them” indicate that there is a connection with what went before. The story that comes now, is in a way an illustration of the previous principle. In that, the Lord speaks of Himself as the Bridegroom and about the law. He does not name the bride. The reason for this is in this section. The bride is Israel. The daughter of the official is a picture of this. However, the daughter has died, indicating that the bride is dead. The Lord comes to a people who are dead, who have no connection with Him.
Yet there is faith that He can bring the daughter to life. We see that in the father’s request. He is an official of the synagogue. His daughter grew up, so to speak, with the smell of the synagogue and with the law. But those favorable circumstances have not kept her alive. She died. The girl is a picture of Israel under the law. The law promises life to the Israelites if they keep the law. But they have not kept the law and they cannot. That means death.
The Lord is called to come. He goes with the official to raise the girl, while His disciples go with Him. He could have raised the daughter by a word at a distance like He did to the servant of the centurion (Matthew 8:8; Matthew 8:13). But that was a Roman centurion. This is someone from the people. It is a feature that the Messiah always touches someone when there is talk of God’s earthly people and his relationship to the Messiah. It is about His personal presence with His people. In events that speak of His dealings with the nations, we often find that He is absent and that He brings change through the word of His power.
Healing a Woman From a Hemorrhage
While the Lord is on the way to bring the girl to life, a woman touches Him in faith in order to get well. And she is healed. Here we see the following picture: Christ has come to raise up the dead Israel, something He will do later in the full sense. He is not now present on earth, but does work in His people. In that sense He is still on the way to that people to raise them up. Anyone from that people who believes on Him in the meantime, the time in which we now live, in faith, will be healed.
Sincere and true faith is always noticed by the Lord Jesus. Never has He become annoyed at such interruptions on His journey. In faith, the woman touches the fringe of His cloak. The fringe speaks of His humiliation. Despite His humiliation, the woman sees in Him the Immanuel, God with us.
Because of her illness, the woman has always been deprived of the peace offering. She was unclean. During the whole period of her blood flow she has never been able to have fellowship with God’s people in the service of God. Now she sees the Lord Jesus. Her faith knows that He can heal her. While the people outwardly observe the service at the altar and she stands outside it, there is within her faith present in Him Who is God revealed in the flesh. She sees in Him the possibility of being healed of her ailment. The Lord does not put her to shame. He gives her courage and does according to her faith. There will always be a blessing from Him for the individual among the mass that has faith.
The Girl Resurrected
The Lord comes into the house of the official. There are all kinds of people there who express the hopelessness of the situation. With the command “leave”, the Lord puts these Jewish mourning practices aside. For Him death is nothing more than sleep. When He says that, people laugh at Him. If there is no faith, outward mourning quickly turns into real mockery. The Lord does not react to this, but sends the crowd out. They are incapable of being witnesses to the resurrection.
Then He enters the girl’s room and takes her by the hand. The power of His life flows into her from the inexhaustible source that He is and she stands up. Every touch of Him has an effect, just like every word He speaks. In this way He calls to life the young man of Nain and the adult man Lazarus (Luke 7:14; John 11:43-Acts :).
The resurrection is a sensation. It is known everywhere that the girl has been raised. But there is no revival among the people to go to the Messiah.
What Christ does with the girl, He will do with Israel, after the rapture of the church, the period of faith. He will make Israel alive through His Spirit. Ezekiel describes this impressively in the picture of the valley with the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-2 Samuel :).
Healing of Two Blind Men
The Lord moves on again. Two blind men follow Him. Just as we have seen two demoniacs before (Matthew 8:28), so there are two blind people here. The Jew Matthew, who writes this Gospel, wants to give his peers an adequate testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15) of the Savior’s miracles. In the miracles which Matthew reports, the way Christ acts in grace with His people is shown time and again.
The blind men call upon His mercy while calling upon Him as the “Son of David”. The latter means that they acknowledge in Him the Messiah of Whom they know He will open eyes of blind people (Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 42:7). They do not ask to have their eyes opened. That is what they mean, but even more so they realize that they need His mercy to get out of their miserable condition.
The Lord does not respond to their request for help along the way. He does not do this until He has come into the house, and the blind men have come to Him. With His question “do you believe that I am able to do this?” He asks about their faith in His ability to open their eyes. They answer His question with a resounding “yes”. By adding “Lord” to it they acknowledge His authority. On the basis of this confession He touches their eyes. His touch again shows that we can see a picture of Israel in the two blind men, who through His presence will be restored in their relationship with Him. Then He speaks a word of authority with the result that their eyes are opened.
He forbids them sternly of telling someone something of what He has done for them. He does not want to become known for His merciful miracles. That attracts people, but does not change hearts. However, the healed men cannot keep it to themselves and against the Lord’s command they testify of Him everywhere.
Healing a Mute Demoniac
After the healed blind men have gone outside, the Lord is confronted with a new case of need. Someone or a few people – people without names, but known to God – bring a mute man to Him. The inability to speak is caused by a demon. Without being asked, Christ casts out the demon. Even though we cannot express ourselves, when we come to the Lord Jesus, He knows the desires of our hearts. He also knows the cause of our need and can remove it.
The effect of the miracle can be seen in three ways. First of all, we read that the mute man speaks. He will no doubt have expressed his thanks to the Lord. Secondly, we read about the effect of the miracle on the crowds. They are amazed. They note that they have witnessed something that has never been shown in Israel before. As always, it remains at that.
The third effect we see in the Pharisees. The Pharisees are jealous of the Lord’s glory which is revealed among those on whom they wish to exert their influence. They have the nerve to attribute this miracle to the ruler of the demons, that is to the devil himself. They can’t deny that there is a superhuman power at work, but they don’t want to attribute that power to God as if God were with Him.
As declared opponents of the Lord, they resort to the most audacious accusation imaginable: they accuse Him of being led by the devil. Further on, the Lord Jesus will say that by doing so they are guilty of a sin for which there is no forgiveness (Matthew 12:31).
In the three miracles the Lord has just performed – the resurrection of the dead child, the healing of the blind men and the healing of a mute man – is a beautiful and important spiritual sequence. First it is necessary to receive life. The result is that we gain insight into the things of God. Finally, it will lead us to bear witness to everything God has shown us.
The Lord Feels Compassion
The blasphemous opposition of the religious leaders does not in any way interrupt the blessed course of the Lord. He doesn’t skip a town or village. Everywhere He goes, He teaches, proclaims, and heals. He does so with great concern and compassion because He knows how much these sheep of God have been exposed to dangers, to leaders without mercy. He sees them as distressed and dispirited sheep without a shepherd, at the mercy of cruel wolves (Ezekiel 34:1-Joshua :). At the same time, He sees them as a plentiful harvest. Who is willing to go to these sheep to tell them about the true Shepherd? There were few of them then, and today is no different. But there is a way out: prayer.
The Lord says to His disciples – and to us if we confess to be His disciples – that they must pray to “the Lord of the harvest” that He will send workers into His harvest. The Lord of the harvest is the Lord Jesus Himself. We see that directly in the next chapter (Matthew 10:5). Praying for it is one thing, making ourselves available to be sent out is another. If we pray for it, there is a good chance that He will send us out. Not the need, but only the Lord determines whether we should go, where we should go and when, and what we should do.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany