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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 9

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

In the last verse of the foregoing chapter, the Gadarenes with one consent desire Christ to depart out of their coasts; here we find our Saviour, according tho their desire, departing from them into his own city, which was Capernaum; for Bethlehem brought him forth, Nazareth brought him up, and Capernaum was his dwelling-place.

From their desire of Christ's departure, and from Christ's departing accordingly to their desire, we learn, That the blessed Jesus will not long trouble that people with his presence who are weary of his company and desirous of his departure.

Verse 2

Observe, 1. The patient, One sick of the palsy; which being a resolution of the nerves, weakens the joints, and confines the person to his bed or couch. As a demonstration of Christ's devine power, he was pleased to single out some incurable diseases (as the world accounts them) to work a cure upon, as the leprosy and palsy.

2. The physician, Jesus Christ; he alone is that wise, faithful, and compassionate physician, that can and doth cure both soul and body.

Observe, 3. The moving and impulsive cause of this cure, Jesus seeing their faith: that is, their firm persuasion that he was clothed with a divine power, and able to help; together with their confidence in his goodness, that he was as willing as he was able; and no sooner did they exercise their faith in believing, but Christ did exert his divine power in healing. It was not the sick man's faith, but the faith of his friends: the faith of others may prevail for obtaining corporal benefits and temporal blessings for us; thus the centurion's faith healed his servant, and Jairus's faith raised his daughter.

Observe, 4. The marvellous afficacy and power of faith: it obtained not only what was desired, but more than was expected; they desired only the healing of the body, but Jesus seeing their faith, heals body and soul too, saying, Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee; intimating, that diseases proceed from sin, because Christ first speaks of forgiving them; yet it is conceived that Christ rather speaketh here of the temporal remission of the punishment, than of the eternal; because that depends on our own faith, and not on others.

Verse 3

See here, how the best of men are sometimes charged with saying and doing the worst of things; to do well and bear ill, was the portion of Christ himself, and may be the portion of the holiest of those that belong to Christ; the innocent Jesus was accused of blasphemy, of sorcery, and of the blackest crimes. Innocency itself can protect no man from slander and false accusations.

Verse 4

Our Saviour here gives the Pharisees a twofold demonstration of his godhead: first, By letting them understand that he knew their thoughts; for to search the hearts, and to know the thoughts, of the children of men, is not in the power either of angels or men, but the prerogative of God only.

Secondly, By assuming to himself a power to forgive sins; the Son of man hath power to forgive sins. Our Saviour here, by forgiving sins in his own name, and his own authority, doth give the world an undeniable proof and convincing evidence of his godhead: for, Who can forgive sins, but God only?

Verse 7

Note here, The multitude marvelled, but not believed; they admire our Saviour for an extraordinary man, but did not believe in him as the Son of God: they praise God for giving such power to heal the bodies of men: but not for sending his Son into the world, to save the souls of men.

Learn hence, That the sight of Christ's miracles is not sufficient to work faith in the soul, but requires the concurring operation of the Holy Spirit; the one may make us marvel, the other must make us believe.

Verse 9

Observe here, The number of our Lord's apostles not being filled up, what a strange election and choice he makes; Matthew, a grinding publican is the man.

Learn, Such is the freeness of God's grace, that it chooses, and such is the efficacy of it, that it overpowers and brings in, the worst of sinners unto God; Matthew, a publican; Zaccheus, an extortioner; Manasseh, a murderer; Paul, a persecuter; all these are brought home to God by the power of converting grave.

Observe, 2. Matthew's ready compliance with God's call, He arose, and followed Christ. When the inward call of the Spirit accompanies the outward call of the word, the soul readily complies, and presently yields obedience to the voice of God.

Christ oftentimes speaks by his word to our ears, and we hear not, we stir not: but when he speaks by his Spirit to our hearts, Satan shall not hold us down, the world shall not keep us back, but we shall arise, and follow our Lord and Master. Bp. Hall

Verse 10

Observe here, Christ invites Matthew to a discipleship, Matthew invites Christ to a feast; the servant invites his master, a sinner invited his Saviour. We do not find, wherever Christ was invited to any table, that he refused to go; if a Pharisee, if a publican invited, he constantly went; not for the pleasure of eating, but for the opportunity of conversing and doing good; Christ feasts us when we feast him.

From Matthew's example, learn, That new converts are full of affection towards Christ, and very expressive of their love unto him. Such as before conversion disesteemed him, do afterwards kindly and respectfully entertain him; Matthew touched with a sense of Christ's rich love, makes him a royal feast.

Observe farther, How at this feast many publicans and sinners were present, of Matthew's acquaintance no doubt, and probably invited by him, that they might also see Christ, and be partakes of the same grace with him.

Whence we learn, That grace teaches a man to desire and seek the conversion of others; and such as are truly brought home to Christ, themselves, will study and endeavour to bring in all their acquaintance to Christ also.

Verse 11

See here, what a grief it is to wicked men to find others brought in to Christ; the wicked pharisees murmur, repine, and envy, instead of admiring Christ's condescension, and adoring his divine goodness: they censure him for conversing with sinners; but Christ tells them in the following verses, that he conversed with them as their physician, not as their companion.

Verse 12

As if our Lord had said "With whom should the physician converse, but with his sick patients? Now I am come into the world to do the office of a kind physician unto men: surely then I am to take all opportunities to help and heal them: they that are sick need the physician: but for you Pharisees, who are whole and well in your own opinion and swelled with a conceit of your own righteousness, I have no hopes of doing any good upon you; for such as think themselves whole desire no physician's help.

Learn hence, 1. That sin is the soul's malady, its spiritual disease and sickness.

2. That Christ is the physician appointed by God for the cure and healing of this disease and malady.

3. That there are multitudes spiritually sick, who yet think themselves sound and whole.

4. That only such as are sensible of their spiritual sickness, are subjects capable of cure, and the persons whom Christ is a healing physician to; They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

Verse 14

The Pharisees themselves had a contention with our Saviour in the foregoing verses; here they set on the disciples of John, to contend with him about fasting, alleging that the disciples of John fasted often, Christ's disciples not at all.

Our Saviour owns it, that his disciples did not fast at present, for two reasons.

1. Because it was unsuitable to them. 2. Because it was intolerable for them.

It was unsuitable to them, because of Christ's bodily presence to them; this made it a time of joy and feasting, not of mourning and fasting: whilst Christ the Bridegroom is with them, they must feast and rejoice; when removed from them, there will be cause enough to fast and mourn.

Christ is the bridegroom and his church the bride, which he has espoused and married to himself; and whilst his spouse did enjoy his bodily presence with her, it was a day of joy and rejoicing to her, and mourning and fasting was improper for her.

Again, this discipline of fasting was at present intolerable for the disciples; for they were raw, green, and tender, and could no more bear the severities of religion at present, than an old garment could bear a piece of new stiff cloth to be set into it, which will make the rent worse, if the garment comes to a stretch; nor no more than old bottles can keep new wine. Thus, says Christ, my disciples are young and green, tender and weak, newly converted, they cannot bear the severer exercises of religion presently; but when I am ascended into heaven, I will send down my Holy Spirit, which shall enable them to do all the duties which the gospel enjoins.

Hence we may gather, That young converts, till grown up to some consistency in grace, must not be put upon the severer exercises of religion; but handled with that tenderness and gentleness which becomes the mild and merciful dispensation of the gospel. Our Saviour here commends prudence to his ministers; that they put not their people upon duties beyond their strength, but consult their progress in Christianity, and the proficiency they have made in religion, and treat them accordingly.

Verse 18

Observe the humble posture in which this man came unto Christ, namely, falling at his foot and worshipping him; which was not only a sign of tender affection towards his daughter, but an evidence of his faith in our blessed Saviour; yet his confining Christ's power to his bodily presence and to the touch of his hand, was a token of the weakness of his faith; come, says he, and lay thine hand upon her, and she shall live. As if Christ could not have cured her, without either coming to her, or laying his hand upon her.

Note here, That although all that come to Christ are not alike strong in faith, yet our blessed Redeemer refuses none that come unto him with a sincere faith, though in much weakness of faith. Jesus arose, and followed him.

Observe the humble posture in which this man came unto Christ, namely, falling at his foot and worshipping him; which was not only a sign of tender affection towards his daughter, but an evidence of his faith in our blessed Saviour; yet his confining Christ's power to his bodily presence and to the touch of his hand, was a token of the weakness of his faith; come, says he, and lay thine hand upon her, and she shall live. As if Christ could not have cured her, without either coming to her, or laying his hand upon her.

Note here, That although all that come to Christ are not alike strong in faith, yet our blessed Redeemer refuses none that come unto him with a sincere faith, though in much weakness of faith. Jesus arose, and followed him.

Verse 20

While Christ is on his way to the ruler's house, a diseased woman comes behind him, touched his garment, and is instantly healed; the virtue lay not in her finger, but in her faith; or rather in Christ, which her faith instrumentally drew forth.

Observe here, how faith oft-times meets with a sweeter welcome than it could expect. this poor woman came to Christ trembling, but went away triumphing; Christ bids her be good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole.

Verse 23

Our Saviour being come to the ruler's house, finds the people very busy preparing for the interment of the dead corpse with music and other solemnities. This custom of having music at funerals came from the heathens; no mention is made thereof in the Old Testament: we read of tearing the flesh, shaving the head, eating the bread of mourners, also of funeral songs, but these were only sung with the voice; but instruments of music at funerals came from the Pagans. Weeping and lamentation are the most proper funeral music; them nothing sounds so well as a sigh, nor is any thing so much in season as a tear: yet are all demonstrations of immoderate and excessive mourning both hurtful to the living and dishonourable to the dead; nor is it an argument of more love, but an evidence of less grace.

Observe next, In what sense our Saviour affirms, that the damsel was not dead. Mortua est vobis, mihi dormit, says St. Jerome; She is dead to you, but asleep to me: I can as easily raise her from death, as you can awake her out of sleep. Her soul was separated from her body, but not yet fixed in its eternal mansion.

Souls departed are under the conduct of angels, good or bad, to their several places of bliss or misery. Probably the soul of this damsel was under the guard of angels mear her dead body, waiting the pleasure of Christ in reference to it; either to restore it again to the body, or to translate it to its eternal mansion.

Note here, That from these words of our Saviour, the maid is not dead, but sleepeth, the Jesuits plead for their doctrine of equivocations and mental reservations, alleging, that when Christ said, she is not dead, he reserved in his mind, in respect of my power. But the words of Christ were plainly spoken to those who were preparing for her interment and funeral rites, and accordingly only intimate, that she was not so dead as that they needed to make these preparations, he being come to awake her as out of sleep.

Verse 27

The ruler, and others who came to Christ for cure and healing, believed him to be a man unto whom Almighty God had communicated divine power.

But it is observable, that these poor blind men did believe him to be the Messiah, by their calling him the Son of David; and according to their faith, so was their success: their faith capacitated them for a cure.

But why did our Lord enjoin the blind men silence, and straitly charge them to tell no man of the cure? Herein the great modesty and humility of Christ appeared, in avoiding all ostentation and commendation; as also a due care of his own safety, lest the publishing of his miracles should create him untimely danger from the Pharisees.

Verse 32

Still our Lord goes about doing good; before, he healed the diseased, here he helps the possessed.

Learn, 1. That amongst the many calamities which sin has rendered human nature liable and obnoxious to, this is one, to be bodily possessed by Satan. This man's dumbness was caused by the devil's possession.

Learn, 2. That one demonstration of Christ's divine power, and a convincing evidence of his being truly and really God, was, his casting out devils by the word of his power.

Verse 34

See here the dreadful and sad effects of blindness, obstinacy, and malice: the Pharisees charge Christ with making a contract with the devil, affirming that he derived his power from him; but how unlikely was this, that Satan should lend our Saviour a power against himself, and for the destruction of his own kingdom? O how dangerous is a wilful and obstinate oppostion of the truth! It provokes God to deliver a person up to final obduracy.

Verse 35

Observe here, 1. Our Saviour's great work and business in this world; it was doing good both to the bodies and souls of men; the most pleasant and delightful, the most happy and glorious work that a person can be employed about.

2. His unwearied diligence and industry, in this great and good work; He went about all the cities and villages, preaching the gospel, and healing diseases; he travelled from place to place, to seek occasions, and to lay hold upon all opportunities, of being useful and beneficial to mankind.

Observe, 3. The particular instance of our Lord's goodness and compassion towards the people in those cities and villages where he travelled: they wanted the preaching of the gospel, that is, faithful dispensers of it. For though they had the scribes and Pharisees to teach them, they instructed them rather in their own traditions than in the simplicity of the gospel; Christ pities the people as sheep without a shepherd.

Thence learn, That idle and lazy, unskilful and unfaithful, labourers in Christ's harvest, are no labourers in his account. They were as sheep having no shepherd. He who doth not instruct his flock, and feed them with the sincere milk of the word, from a heart full of love to God and of compassion to souls, deserves not the name of a true shepherd. Dr. Whitby.

Verse 37

As if Christ had said, "There is a great number of people that are willing and prepared to receive instructions, but there are but few who are able to instruct these poor people in the ways of righteousness and truth; therefore pray and plead with God, that he world provide skilful and faithful ministers to be sent out to preach the gospel throughout the world."

Note here, 1. That God's church is an harvest-field.

2. That the ministers of God are labourers in his harvest under God, the Lord of the harvest.

3. That to God alone doth it belong to send forth labourers into his harvest; and none must thrust themselves in, till God sends them forth.

4. That the number of faithful labourers in God's harvest is comparatively small and few.

5. That it is the church's duty to pray, and that earnestly and incessantly, to the Lord of the harvest to increase the number of faithful labourers, and also to increase their faithfulness.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 9". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/matthew-9.html. 1700-1703.
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