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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 9

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Introduction

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

2 Christ cureth one sick of the palsy,

9 calleth Matthew from the receipt of custom,

10 eateth with publicans and sinners,

14 defendeth his disciples for not fasting,

20 cureth the bloody issue,

23 raiseth from death Jairus’ daughter,

27 giveth sight to two blind men,

32 healeth a dumb man possessed of a devil,

36 and hath compassion on the multitude.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

His own city. — That is, Capernaum; for here he paid tribute as a citizen, to which relation he became entitled, according to the Jewish laws, by a residence of twelve months. That he had any house of his own here does not appear, but rather the contrary, from the former chapter. He was either entertained by some of his friends, or lodged with one of his disciples, probably Peter, who resided here.

Verse 2

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Thy sins be forgiven thee. — This he said, seeing “their faith,” in which faith the paralytic man participated, or perhaps his exceeded even theirs. He who knew the heart, know that he was not only afflicted, but of “a broken and contrite spirit,” a state of mind which might have been produced by sanctified affliction; for he grants the greater mercy first; and then, since the affliction had answered its intended design, he removes that also. Those greatly err who consider that to pronounce the forgiveness of sin, and to heal the palsy, were substantially the same acts, according to the notions of the Jews. — Whatever their views might be, the acts are here kept plainly distinct. First the man’s sins are forgiven; but, before his disease is healed, a conversation passes between Christ and the scribes; and the miracle of healing takes place in proof of the power of Christ to forgive sins. It is clear, also, from the objection of the scribes, that they considered the forgiving of the man’s sins, and the healing of his diseases, as works of a wholly different kind.

Verse 3

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

This man blasphemeth. — Because our Lord assumed a power to forgive sins, which they justly agreed belonged only to God. See Mark 2:6-7. The offended only can forgive the sin of the offender; and had not Christ been God, that is, the Being offended by the sin of man, he would have been guilty of the charge, as taking into his own hands the office of God. Blasphemy, in the sense in which it is here used, and as in other instances applied by the Jews to Christ, signifies, not any reproachful, profane words, malignantly directed against God, but the arrogating of what is proper only to God by a creature; which species of blasphemy the Jews held rendered a man liable to condign punishment.

Verse 4

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Why think ye evil in your hearts? — Why do ye unjustly account me an impious person and a blasphemer? Their thinking evil signified, not that they were wrong in assuming that God only could forgive sin, but that they had formed a rash and injurious opinion of Christ; which also had this farther “evil,” that they ought to have admitted him to be the Messiah because of his miracles, and ought to have so understood their Scriptures as to conclude that the Messiah was a Divine person.

Verse 5

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Whether is easier? — To a mere mortal man both are impossible: as no man can authoritatively forgive sin, so no man can work a true miracle of healing by his own power. To the Christ, as God, on the contrary, both were equally “easy.” He could forgive the sins committed against himself, and he could heal diseases by virtue of his omnipotence. It may be said that the disciples of Christ had the gifts of healing, but not the authority to forgive sin; and one to them was therefore “easier” than the other. Certainly not. The disciples could no more heal than they could forgive sin. The works of this kind which they performed were done in “the name” of their Master, and professedly by his communicated power alone. Of “themselves they could do nothing,” and they constantly disclaimed it. The argument of our Lord here is, in fact, (although the time was not come for a full manifestation of the truth of his Godhead, and therefore he uses a sort of parable in action to indicate it,) that “none can forgive sins but God only;” but that the working of a miracle of healing by his own original and essential power was the proof of his Divinity, and of his consequent authority to forgive sins. Then in their presence he commands the man to arise, take up his bed, the light portable mattress on which he had been brought, and walk; thus demonstrating his Divine authority to forgive sins, by his omnipotence to heal diseases.

To this demonstration was added, in the present case, Christ’s knowledge of their thoughts and secret reasonings; — and Jesus knew their THOUGHTS. But wherever pride and prejudice possess the heart, the clearest proofs either pass unnoticed, or they are quickly forgotten. Yet this knowledge of the thoughts of the heart ought to have commended Christ to the scribes, since one of their rules for trying the Messiah when he should appear, was his power to discover the hearts of men. Hence in subsequent times they objected the want of this quality to the false messiah Barchochebas. “Bar Cozeba,” says the Talmud, “reigned two years and a half. He said to the rabbins, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They replied, ‘It is written of Messiah, that he is of quick understanding, and judges; Isaiah 11:3: let us see whether this man can tell whether one is wicked, or not, without any external proof.’ And when they saw that he could not judge in this manner, they slew him.” That our Lord knew the thoughts of the objectors on this occasion, and that they gave no outward indication of them by words or signs, is clear from the narrative, — Then certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

Verse 8

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Glorified God, which had given such power unto men. — They acknowledged the power of healing, but they still thought it a derived, and not an original one. The mystery of “Emanuel, God with us,” was not yet, doctrinally, fully declared, but was left to be inferred from the actions of our Lord, and the occasional allusions to his superior nature, which occurred in his discourses. See the note on Mark 2:3.

Verse 9

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Matthew sitting at the receipt of custom. — The other evangelists call him Levi, so that he had two names, and was called by either, indifferently; as Simon Peter is sometimes simply called Simon, and sometimes Peter.

At the receipt of custom. — The τελωνιον , or custom house, or collector’s booth; for such buildings were erected at the foot of bridges, the mouths of rivers, in towns, and at the landing places along the seashore, where the publicans, that class of them called portitores, received the imposts on passengers and goods. Matthew was thus employed when he received his call to follow Christ; that is, to give himself wholly up to follow him, renouncing all secular concerns, in order to be employed in a spiritual work. He had probably been a disciple previously, but he now received his ministerial call. The promptitude of his obedience is to be remarked; and especially, knowing as he did that the call implied the entire sacrifice of worldly gain. He was a publican, and probably; like others of that race, had been sufficiently ardent in the pursuit of wealth; now grace triumphs over the habits of the man, and he leaves all to follow Christ, and to embrace a life of poverty and persecution.

Verses 10-11

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

As Jesus sat at meat in the house, &c. — That is, the house of Matthew, who, as St. Luke informs us, had made “a great feast” for the entertainment of Christ and his disciples, to which he invited many of his fellow publicans, that they might have the opportunity of hearing his conversation. This appears to have been done very publicly; for when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto the disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? for as the publicans were regarded as unclean and unholy persons, no Jew professing sanctity would eat with them, or indeed with the common people. — With them it was a mark of holiness to maintain a haughty distance and separation from sinners; saying tacitly, “Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou.” Christ often exposes this hypocrisy; and teaches us by his example that if we have superior knowledge and superior holiness, we are compassionately to employ both for the benefit of mankind. The “sinners” usually mentioned with the publicans were not Gentiles, but those Jews who pursued what were thought unlawful callings, as publicans, usurers, feeders of swine, &c., or were notorious for vicious conduct: these were put upon the same level in public estimation as the αλλοφυλους , or Gentiles, whom they called sinners by way of eminence.

Verse 12

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

They that be whole need not a physician. — These words conveyed a sharp reproof to the Pharisees. A teacher of the law was, according to their sayings, “a physician of the soul.” “If then,” as though Christ had said, “this is your profession, if you even boast of your superior skill in the law and the way of salvation, where ought the physician to be but among the sick? since the whole have no need of him.” On this ground our Lord justifies himself. He was indeed the great, the true, the infallible Physician, ιατρος κακων , a healer of wounds; των της ψυχης παθων αριστος ιατρος , the best Physician of the diseases of the soul, as Philo says of the Divine Logos; and where should he be busied but among those whose cases most called for his compassion and most needed his skill?

Such were the publicans and reputed sinners; not indeed that they were in a worse moral condition than the Pharisees, but they were more sensible of their case, more ready to acknowledge their spiritual maladies, and more willing to observe the prescribed rules of cure. He had gained one soul from among the publicans of Capernaum, in whose house he was then eating bread; and he might win many others.

Verse 13

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But go ye and learn what that meaneth. — Go and learn τι εστιν , what that is, a phrase used by the Jews when they were about to explain a text of Scripture, and draw an argument from it, study it, and get out its sense. The passage referred to is Hosea 6:6: “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt- offerings.” Christ quotes only the former part, as being sufficient for his purpose; but the latter clause shows that the former was to be taken comparatively. God had appointed sacrifice; but when mercy and sacrifice could not both be performed, then sacrifice must give place to mercy — positive institutions to moral duties. The sense of the passage is well given in the Chaldee paraphrase: “For in those that exercise mercy is my delight, more than in sacrifice.” The argument of our Lord is, therefore, — If even the appointed sacrifices of the law may give place to the superior claims of mercy, much less can your vain traditions, as to the holiness and unholiness of persons, be pleaded against the exercise of the greatest mercy; mercy to the souls of men perishing in their sins; and in thus caring for their immortal interests, I do that which is more acceptable to God than all the minute ritual observances an which you pride yourselves and despise others.

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. — Some suppose our Lord to speak of the few truly righteous persons who were living in Judea; persons who, like Simeon, Anna, and others, were “waiting for the redemption by the Messiah;” but this is scarcely apposite to his design. He had to justify himself for rather seeking the society of the common people, “the publicans and the sinners,” than that of the great professors of sanctity. That the latter needed repentance is certain, as well as that our Lord, by his general preaching, called all to repentance, the Pharisees as well as others; but knowing their character, and the hopelessness of their case, he did not give his principal labours to them; they were encased in pride, hypocrisy, and self-esteem; they had cultivated religious delusions until they had become infatuated by them; and he turns, therefore, from them in the more simple-minded, to sinners, it is true, but men who had not been taught by a guilty sophistry to give to vice the character of virtue, and to feed a false confidence with forms of external sanctity and exactness of ritual observance. Euthymius has well conceived the sense of the passage: “I came not to call you Pharisees, who fancy yourselves righteous, but those who acknowledge themselves sinners, and seek a method of expiation.”

Verses 14-15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But thy disciples fast not. — Those who were reputed the most holy men among the Jews carried fasting to excess. These fasts were not, however, the public fasts, enjoined by the law, but those which the head of any school might enjoin upon his disciples, or any individual appoint for himself as a branch of moral discipline. The Pharisees fasted twice a week; but beside these fasts innumerable occasions were thought to call for the practice of this duty. The disciples of John practised this kind of austerity, and, as it would seem from the question proposed, as frequently as the Pharisees; and they appear to have been offended that the same mortification did not distinguish the followers of Christ. John himself was now in prison; and as from him they could obtain no information on this point, they came to Jesus, probably supposing that he would bind this duty more strictly upon his followers. Our Lord’s answer probably indicates that John’s disciples had multiplied their fasts since their master had been imprisoned; and his reply is, that though their afflicted and bereaved state might justify their fasting, yet no such necessity was yet laid upon his disciples, their Master being still with them. But, he adds, the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.

The children of the bedchamber, οι υιοι του νυμφωνος , the sons of the bride-chamber, or perhaps του νυμφιου , as some versions have it, the sons, or friends of the bridegroom, were those who formed a part of the marriage procession, and were admitted to the festivities which followed. Images, to express seasons of rejoicing, are constantly drawn by ancient writers from marriage feasts. Νυμφιου βιος , “the life of a bridegroom,” is a Greek proverb for feasting. To these friends of the bridegroom our Lord compares his disciples. While he remained with them it was a period of great rejoicing, as appears from the sorrow they manifested when they had the first intimation of their Master being taken from them. To such a season frequent fasting, as implying mourning would have been obviously unfit; and the Jews would well understand the force of his reply, because it was a maxim with them to relax their rules of fasting, and other strict ceremonial services, in favour of those who were engaged in attending marriages. But after Christ’s departure from them, then he intimates seasons of mourning and persecution should come, either rendering fasting proper, as a religious act, or obliging them to fast, in the sense of suffering hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake; to the latter of which, also, our Lord may refer, and perhaps principally. Thus, St. Paul puts it among his sufferings, that he was “in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

Verses 16-17

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

New cloth, — new wine. — The argument is, that his disciples were not yet trained up to a severe discipline; which renders it probable that by their future fasting, in the preceding verse, he speaks figuratively of their various persecutions, and the sorrows consequent upon them. For if he spoke of fasting literally, what reason could be given why the disciples of Christ should not be able to fast, even to austerity, as well as the disciples of John, who were probably taken out of the same classes of society? Some, indeed, have supposed that these disciples of John were of the sect of the Essenes, who, as well as the Pharisees, were severely trained to fasting; but this is a mere conjecture, for which no evidence appears. Christ rather takes occasion, from this interlocution of the disciples of the Baptist, to show that, as a tender Master, he gradually trained up his disciples to endure hardships “as good soldiers,” by not placing them in the outset in circumstances of such formidable trial as might have been injurious to them; and it appears that through the whole time of his ministry and continuance with them, they were exposed to no serious persecutions, not even “scourging in the synagogues.” — The new cloth has been rendered unfulled, or undressed cloth, αγναφος , for the sake of heightening the idea of harshness or rigidity, and so accounting for such a piece of cloth sewed to or upon an old garment making the rent worse. This is somewhat hypercritical, as the word by implication means simply new; and any piece of strong, new cloth sewed to an old and tender garment would be likely to make the rent worse.

The bottles here mentioned were made of skins. These skin bottles were used by the people of the east to preserve their water on journeys, their milk, wine, and other liquids; and from Homer it appears they were also in use among the Greeks at the siege of Troy. They are still used in Spain, and are called barrachas. New bottles of this kind were stronger than those which had been some time in use, and were, therefore, more fit for new wine, which was apt to ferment; while old wine, having passed the state of fermentation, might be put into old and weaker skins. These sayings of Christ have the character and form of proverbs; they are maxims of concentrated practical wisdom, adapted for instruction in cases beside that to which they were first applied. In the religious education of children, in dealing with new converts, and in having regard to the different habits and prejudices of men in general, we must have respect to the strength of the bottle and the quality of the wine we put into it. All things should be suited to persons and to circumstances; and greater care is often necessary in attempting to do good, than in abstaining from injury.

Verse 18

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A certain ruler. — He was the ruler of one of the synagogues at Capernaum, and his office was to preside over the assembly, and direct the worship. He would also be one of the council or court of three. For the courts of judicature among the Jews were the great sanhedrim of seventy- one at Jerusalem; the lesser council of twenty-three judges in the larger cities; and in the smaller towns a court of three judges, which appertained to the synagogue. A synagogue was not formed, except where there were “ten men of leisure;” men read in the law, who were the elders of the synagogue: from these the judges of the court of three were to be selected. These were collectively called αρχισυναγωγοι , rulers of the synagogue; though this title was given by way of eminence to the president, who also presided over the synagogue worship. The ruler and judge of one of these synagogues now applies to Christ; and though, being a resident in Capernaum, he knew the poverty in which our Lord lived, yet he comes publicly and worships him, that is, pays him the most profound reverence as a superior; and though he had left his daughter dying, and believed that she had already expired, yet such is his faith, that he doubted not that Christ could raise her to life.

My daughter is even now dead. — Luke informs us she was his “only daughter;” Mark calls her his “little daughter.” According to the Jewish rule, a daughter, until twelve years of age, is called “a little one,” and at twelve years and a day she is called a young woman. When the father left the house she was, as it is expressed in Luke, “a dying,” and the words αρτι ετελευτησεν ought to have been rendered, not is even now dead, but, is even now dying, at this very moment; or, she is by this time dead, which appears to have been his persuasion, and indeed proved to he the fact.

Verse 20

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And, behold, a woman which was diseased, &c. — This occurred in the street of Capernaum, or in the immediate vicinity, while Jesus was going from the house of Matthew to the house of the ruler. The Jews were commanded, throughout all their generations, to wear a fringe and a riband of blue at the bottom of their robe, as a mark to distinguish them from other people. This is what our version has translated “the hem.” The Pharisees greatly enlarged the size of this fringe or hem on their robes, as intending to declare themselves still more distinguished than the common Jews for their regard to the laws of their nation. Our Lord, no doubt, wore his of the customary size. It is an absurd notion of some commentators, that this woman touched the hem or edge of his garment, under the idea that, like the showy fringes of the Pharisees, it had some particular sanctity. To touch the hem of the garment was an act of reverence; here it was also an act of extraordinary faith; not that she thought that there was any virtue in the garment of our Saviour, but it pleased him to heal many by touching him, as stated, Luke 6:19; and she had probably heard of that fact, and having the strongest faith in the power and compassion of Christ, she touches his garment too, not as though that had virtue, but as knowing that to all to whom he willed that grace the power flowed forth from himself.

The disease of the woman rendered her unclean by the law, Leviticus 15:25, and doomed her to keep separate from all others; and the delicacy of her complaint prevented her front making a declaration of her case. In these painful circumstances, she had no other resource than to approach secretly and silently, casting herself by a strong faith upon Christ’s knowledge of the thoughts of her heart, as well as upon his power and mercy. And she was dealt with in great tenderness. After what would appear, in an unclean person, not only an act of rudeness, but, according to all Jewish notions, of great criminality, to touch any one, and much more a superior, she might well for the moment be greatly agitated; but every feeling of this kind was assuaged by the words of Christ, Daughter, be of good comfort, or courage; and her faith was honoured by the perfect cure of an inveterate malady, upon which human skill had been often exerted in vain. See note on Mark 5:25.

Verse 23

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The minstrels and the people making a noise. — Anciently the Jews simply bewailed the dead for a number of days. — Music, as here, was introduced in later times from the heathens, with whom it was common. The “minstrels,” αυληται , were players on a kind of pipe; and their office appears to have been to lead the funeral dirge which was sung by vocal performers. This was “the noise” the people were making when our Lord arrived, and there were doubtless many of them; for a poor man when his wife died “had not less,” says Maimonides, “than two pipes, and one mourning woman.” The opulent, of course, employed a large number. Expensive follies have thus in all ages been indulged at funerals.

Verse 24

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He saith unto them, Give place, &c. — “This,” says Dr. Donne, “was not because he disallowed those funeral solemnities; but because he knew that there was to be no funeral solemnized.” The reason for his excluding them was probably both because he disapproved of a Gentile custom, and because he chose that other and more credible persons than these vagrant hirelings should he the witnesses of the miracle. The persons he allowed to be present were, as appears from St. Mark’s account, Peter, James, and John, with the father and mother of the deceased.

The maid is not dead, but sleepeth. — Here, as in many other cases, our Lord uses terms in a figurative sense, and therefore enigmatically. The hireling mourners, understanding him literally, “laughed him to scorn,” by which they unconsciously strengthened the evidence of the truth of the miracle, by attesting the reality of the maid’s death. Our Lord obviously meant that she was not finally and hopelessly dead, and that, with reference to her being so soon awakened to life, she might be said to sleep. To sleep, indeed, is a common euphemism for death, and in Scripture generally implies a reference to the resurrection; with still greater propriety therefore, might it be used of cases of miraculous restoration to life, as here and in the instance of Lazarus.

Verse 26

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And the fame thereof went abroad into all that land. — It spread rapidly, for it was the first instance in which our Lord had raised the dead to life; and so notable a miracle, implying his possessing the very fulness of the Divine power, could not but make a powerful impression. Here the person had recently departed; in the case of the widow’s son, he was in the act of being carried to his grave; and in the instance of Lazarus the corpse had lain in the grave, and had become corrupt. But what can withstand the life-giving energy of the Son of God? Not the deeper death of the soul of man can resist his power. Of how many myriads may it he said, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins?” These miracles are not only glorious attestations of his mission and Divinity, but teach us to look up to him as the great fountain of spiritual life.

Verses 27-31

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Two blind men followed him, &c. — He permitted them to follow him through the streets of Capernaum from the house of James to his own, or that of Matthew, which he had left, in order to try their faith, and that they might be a testimony against the inhabitants, who, it appears, generally rejected him, by proclaiming him through the streets as the “son of David,” one of the most usual designations of Messiah. In the house, and not till then, he healed them, on profession of their faith in his power which, in such case, seems always to have implied the belief that he was the Messiah, and not a mere ordinary prophet, and for that reason, among others, to have been required. But he straitly, that is, earnestly, charged them, See that no man know it. The charge was strict; but not, as many translators have taken it, harsh and minatory, making our Lord act and speak in a threatening character, quite out of keeping with the occasion and his usual manner; for, as Campbell observes, “the Syriac translator who better understood the oriental idiom, renders the Greek verb by a word which implies simply, he forbade, he prohibited.” He had already wrought sufficient miracles in Capernaum to convince those who sincerely desired to know the truth, and greater publicity could only have produced a malicious resentment in those whose state of heart had indisposed them to be influenced by the clearest evidence. He might wish also to repress the popular feeling in his favour, which might have led them to proclaim him as their civil prince, according to their mistaken views of the Messiah, when he should he fully manifested. In the excess of their feelings these men restored to sight disobeyed the injunction; but the knowledge of the fact that he had forbidden them to publish the miracle might lead the people to think that the time for manifesting himself in that exalted, regal character in which they expected he would invest himself was not fully come, and therefore the end of the injunction was not frustrated.

Verses 32-33

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

They brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil &c. — He was dumb in consequence of the possession; for they who argue from the circumstance, that the demoniacs of the Gospel were often afflicted with other diseases, that the possessions themselves are only to be understood of these maladies, according to a superstitious mode of speaking, forget that even the Jews did not say of every dumb man, nor of every insane and epileptic man, that he had a devil. Those were particular cases only, in which the disease and the possession are distinctly mentioned, and the former was manifestly the consequence of the latter. Some were possessed who do not appear to have had any particular disease, as Mary Magdalene; others had maladies induced by diabolical agency; and a third class might have their infirmities exasperated. When, therefore, it was said reproachfully, “Thou hast a devil, and art mad,” the meaning was, not that in their view madness and possession were the same thing, but that in his case both occurred; for all madness they certainly did not attribute to possession, any more than all cases of dumbness. In the case of the text, possession had been manifested by its peculiar indications, and the dumbness was one of the corporeal effects; hence, as soon as the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke.

Verse 33

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.

This was not a hyperbolical exclamation; for when had such a number of miracles, so great and so affectingly beneficent, been performed in a few hours? — the curing of the profluvious woman, the raising the daughter of Jairus to life, the restoration of sight to two blind men, and the ejection of an evil spirit, in the course of one afternoon! To which Jesus immediately added many more; for it is added, “he went about all their cities teaching &c., and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”

Verse 34

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He casteth out devils through the prince of devils. — This was said upon the cure of the dumb demoniac just mentioned, from which it would appear that the Pharisees of Capernaum first invented this hypothesis, to excuse their unbelief, and pervert the people; or, according to others, the whole case may have been deliberated upon by the Pharisees of Jerusalem, and the sect everywhere have been instructed to apply this solution to those instances of clear and unequivocal miracles, the occurrence of which could not be denied. It will be seen in the sequel how our Lord refuted this blasphemy against the Spirit of God. Here it is sufficient to remark that those who were bent upon rejecting Christ and his doctrine were obliged either to give up their opposition, or to take refuge in some theory, however absurd, to account for the miraculous evidences of it. This is the constant resort of unyielding pride and determined infidelity to this day. Yet even this was overruled for the benefit of future times. The very objection so often repeated, and by the Pharisees generally urged, admitted the facts of the miracles. It followed also from the very view of the case they so perversely took, that the conduct of Christ in performing his mighty works, and the nature of the works themselves were subjected to the severest scrutiny of his fiercest enemies, who yet were obliged to admit a supernatural cause, though they wickedly brought in the agency of Satan. Unmoved by these reproaches, this base ingratitude of returning evil for good, our blessed Lord makes his second tour of Galilee, preaching “the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every manner of sickness;” thus, says Bishop Horne, “leaving behind him, wherever he went, the warmth of a fervent charity, the light of evangelical truth, and the fragrance of a good report of something done for the benefit of man and the glory of God.”

Verse 36

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He was moved with compassion on them. — This is perhaps better than Campbell’s translation, which is simply “he had compassion on them,” though there is great truth in his remark, “that critics often hunt after imaginary emphasis, through the obscure mazes of etymology.” The word comes from σπλαγχνον , used in the New Testament only in the plural, τασπλαγχνα , which signifies the chief intestines, the heart, liver &c.; and as the heart was considered the seat of the kind affections, so the word is used for compassion, love, mercy. It is, however, employed when no particular emphasis is intended; so that we are to collect the degree of the emotion rather from the circumstances of the case or in some adjunct, than from etymology. Here it is evident that our Lord was influenced by a strong emotion of compassion, as the whole passage shows. He viewed the multitudes that followed him as sheep neglected by their shepherds, the false and vain and worldly Jewish teachers, and therefore εκλελυμενοι , or as Griesbach reads, εσκυλμενοι , exhausted by fruitless wanderings in search of food, and ερριμμενοι , scattered, and therefore exposed to every danger. In these figurative expressions he manifestly refers to the spiritual condition of these eager multitudes, not to their being faint and dispersed through the fatigue of following him, an interpretation which destroys all the force of the context.

The body of the people had been kept in ignorance, or had only been taught great errors; yet they had hung upon his lips, heard with interest and astonishment his heavenly doctrine, and glorified God on account of his miraculous works, instead of ascribing them like the Pharisees to Satanic agency. Here then was a hopeful prospect among a population utterly neglected by their pretended shepherds, fainting for want of true spiritual food, and exposed to danger because “no man cared for their souls.” These were the considerations which awoke the strong and melting compassions of the Son of God; and he turns therefore to his disciples, and in equally beautiful and impressive figurative language, drawn from another source, addresses them, and engages their prayers in their behalf the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye, therefore, &c. The numerous ears of corn standing thick in the fields represent the multitudes destitute of instruction, yet ripe for it; and the labourers εργαται , the reapers, are diligent ministers who gather in the harvest into the garner of the Church: the Lord of the harvest is God himself, who alone has the power to send forth such labourers; to displace them when remiss and to send others; and without whose authority and commission every man is but a busy and mischievous intruder: and the sending forth the labourers indicates the constraining “necessity” which is laid upon them to urge them to their task; for though the word is sometimes used, as John 10:4, with no idea of coaction, yet it has usually a strong sense, and may justify some of our earlier versions, which render it “that he will THRUST forth labourers into his harvest;” that is, by his powerful influence upon them, awakening their zeal and inflaming their charity. Authority and efficacy are thus implied on the part of the master; a deep sense of the importance of the work and of their unworthiness and unfitness for it, on the part of the servants. It is under such moving views that we are taught still to regard the destitute portions of mankind; and for the increase of true labourers we ought always to be directing our prayers to the “Lord of the harvest,” recognizing his authority, but also appealing to his merciful purposes as to our race at large. Very strikingly connected are this exhortation of our blessed Lord, and his own proceeding, in the solemn appointment of his apostles, as recorded in the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 9". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/matthew-9.html.
 
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