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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 9

Verse 1

9:1 Having been requested to leave the country of the Gergesenes, .Jesus took passage in a ship and recrossed the Sea of Galilee. His own city means Capernaum as may be learned in chapter 4:13 where he changed his residence.

Verse 2

9:2 The palsy was a form of paralysis and rendered a man helpless. Jesus knew the hearts of all men and hence the words seeing their faith does not mean that what he saw was what gave him the information. The conclusion must be that what Jesus saw was an outward indication of faith. But the palsied man was not doing anything, hence as far as the direct evidence shows, the men carrying the bed were the only ones who had faith. Thus we have no positive authority for saying that the patient had any faith, notwithstanding which, the Lord gave him forgiveness for his sins. We also have no evidence that such a favor was being sought when they brought him to Jesus, but rather that they merely wished to have the afflicted man cured. Son is from TEKNON and Thayer renders it in this place, "affectionate address, such as patrons, helpers, teachers, and the like, employ."

Verse 3

9:3 Blaspheme is from a Greek word of virtually the same form, BLAS-PHEMEO, and Thayer defines it, "To speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate [accuse falsely]." In his own comments on the word he says it means, "Specifically of those who by contemptuous speech intentionally [emphasis mine, E. M. Z.] come short of the reverence due to God or to sacred things." Thus we see they accused Jesus of showing disrespect for God in claiming authority to forgive. In Mark's account of the same event they make that item the basis of their accusation (Mar 2:7).

Verse 4

9:4 The scribes were afraid to make their accusation so that others could hear it, but Jesus knew their thoughts and exposed them.

Verse 5

9:5 The thing Jesus declared to be done was invisible and thus open to question. He then proposed to make another declaration that would be visible if accomplished. Whether it is easier means that if he has the authority to do the one he also has it to do the other, for one would be no harder to do than the other for one endowed with divine power as he claimed to be.

Verse 6

9:6 Jesus then proposed to prove his power (from EXOUSIA meaning authority) to perform the invisible by doing the visible. Addressing the palsied man, Jesus told him not only to arise, but to take up his bed and go home. This evidently was the bed on which he was lying when the men came to carry him to Jesus.

Verse 7

9:7 It would require something more than imaginative "mind over matter" to enable a helpless paralytic to walk and carry a piece of furniture.

Verse 8

9:8 The aforesaid logic was suggested to the minds of the multitude and they expressed themselves to that effect. Nothing is said about the attitude of the accusers, and they doubtless hung their heads in shame. Glorify is from DOXAZO and Thayer defines it in this place, "to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate." Given such power unto men. The last word is from AN-THROPOS, and its universal meaning as given by Thayer is, "A human being, whether male or female," and hence the distinction is made between the brute creation and human beings. We are not told how much this multitude knew about the dual character of the person of Christ, but the outstanding appearance was that he was a man. That is why they marveled at his authority and might which could be accounted for only by giving the credit to God.

Verse 9

9:9 Receipt of custom is from one Greek word that means "tax office." The man who had charge of the taxes was called a publican, and that subject will be explained in detail in the next verse. Matthew was connected with that work when Jesus came along, and he was called to follow which he did. He was baptized by John since Jesus "came unto his own" who were the ones whom John baptized and prepared for him. It was in keeping with his instruction from John, therefore, for him to quit his secular employment and follow at the call of him for whom he had been made ready.

Verse 10

9:10 All men are sinners to some extent, but they are named as a class in this passage which means they were unrighteous in their life as a whole and hence regarded as an unworthy group. They are also classed with the publicans which shows they also were regarded as an unworthy group. They are referred to frequently in the New Testament, and I shall quote from the works of reference for the information of the reader. "The class designated by this word [publican] in the New Testament were employed as collectors of the Roman revenue. The Roman senate farmed the direct taxes and the customs to capitalists who undertook to pay a given sum into the treasury, and so received the name of publicani. Contracts of this kind fell naturally into the hands of the equites [military orders], as the richest class of Romans. They appointed managers, under whom were the portitores, the actual custom-house officers, who examined each bale of goods, exported or imported, assessed its value more or less arbitrarily, wrote out the ticket, and enforced payment. The latter were commonly natives of the province in which they were stationed, as being brought daily into contact with all classes of the population. The name publicani was used popularly, and in the New Testament exclusively, of the portitores. The system was essentially a vicious one. The portitores were encouraged in the most vexatious or fraudulent exactions, and a remedy was all but impossible. They overcharged whenever they had an opportunity, Luk 3:13; they brought false charges of smuggling in the hope of extorting hush-money, Luk 19:8; they detained and opened letters on mere suspicion. It was the basest of all livelihoods. All this was enough to bring the class into ill favor everywhere. In Judea and Galilee there were special circumstances of aggravation. The employment brought out all the besetting vices of the Jewish character. The strong feeling of many Jews as to the absolute unlawfulness of paying tribute at all made matters worse. The scribes who discussed the question, Mat 22:15, for the most part answered it in the negative. In addition to their other faults, accordingly, the publicans of the New Testament were regarded as traitors and apostates, defiled by their frequent intercourse with the heathen, willing tools of the oppressor. The class thus practically excommunicated furnished some of the earliest disciples both of the Baptist and of our Lord. The position of Zacchaeus as a "chief among the publicans," Luk 19:2, implies a gradation of some kind among the persons employed." Smith's Bible Dictionary, article, Publican. "TELONES, 1. a renter or farmer of taxes; among the Romans usually a man of equestrian [one who rides on horseback] rank. 2. a tax-gatherer, collector of taxes or tolls, one employed by a publican or farmer-general in collecting the taxes. The tax-collectors were, as a class, detested not only by the Jews but by other nations also, both on account of their employment and of the harshness, greed, and deception, with which they prosecuted it."--Thayer. "TELONES, a farmer of the taxes or customs, one who pays to the government a certain sum for the privilege of collecting the taxes and customs of a district. . . . Whence in the English Version, a publican. The public revenues of the Greeks and Romans were usually thus farmed out; and among the latter the purchasers were persons of wealth and rank, and in the later periods chiefly of the equestrian order. . . . The farmers-general had also sub-contractors, or employed agents, who collected the taxes and customs at the gates of cities, in seaports, on public ways, bridges, and the like. . . . In the New Testament in the later sense, a toll-gatherer, collector of customs, publican, the object of bitter hatred and scorn to the Jews, and often coupled with the most depraved classes of society." Robinson's Greek Lexicon. This long note will not be copied again, hence it will be important that the reader make careful note of its location for reference as occasion requires.

Verse 11

9:11 The information given with the comments on the preceding verse shows the Moral and social standing of the publicans and sinners. The significance of eating with others was different in ancient times from what it is now. I shall quote from Funk and Wagnalls Standard Bible Dictionary on this subject: "The moral aspects of eating are taken account of in a series of prescriptions and prohibitions on the manner, time, and articles to be eaten. 'Eating together' was a sign of community of life, and symbolized either adoption into the household, or entrance into irrevocable [unbreakable] covenant (Jer 41:1). This conception underlies the sacrificial meal in which God is taken as a participant. It was the worst form of treason, therefore, to break a covenant entered into through the ceremony of eating together." The Pharisees who pretended to be very righteous, wanted to appear shocked that a righteous teacher like Jesus would defile himself by associating with these low characters, especially on such an intimate occasion as eating a meal together.

Verse 12

9:12 Jesus does not admit that the Pharisees are as righteous as they claim, but if they are, they are inconsistent in criticizing Jesus for associating with sinners. These sinners are spiritually sick and are the very ones who need treatment. Incidently, the Lord made a declaration that condemns those who deny the good work of physicians. It is claimed that medicine is unnecessary, that it is not a good thing, and that sick people can be healed without a physician. And this in spite of the statement in Pro 17:22 that medicine "doeth good," and that Jesus said that the sick need a physician.

Verse 13

9:13 Learn what that meaneth. Learn the meaning of the statement, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. I request the reader to "learn" its meaning by consulting Isa 58:3; Eze 34:1-4; Hos 6:6; Joe 2:13; Mic 6:6-8. By these passages it will be learned that the self-righteous Jewish leaders in former times imposed on the poor and common people, then tried to get things even before the Lord by offering big material sacrifices. Under those circumstances the Lord would want these leaders to leave off their sacrifices until they had showed mercy to the unfortunate populace. Jesus wanted these same pretentious Jewish leaders before him to get this lesson so they would cease their selfish attitude toward the "sinners." A physician does not make calls at homes where all are in good health, and on that principle Jesus came to call on the sinners of the earth because they are the ones who are spiritually sick. If the Pharisees were as righteous as they professed to be, they should not expect Jesus to pay much attention to them.

Verse 14

9:14 Fasting was never commanded as a regular practice but was voluntarily done in times of grief or anxiety. At the time of this conversation John the Baptist had been slain, which is recorded later in this book, and his disciples were fasting in honor of his memory. Not that they were doing so just at the time they came to Jesus, but had been doing so oft or at intervals since his death.

Verse 15

9:15 Jesus represents himself as a bridegroom who is still present with the children which is used in the sense of friends. These friends would have no occasion to fast or mourn for their bridegroom because he was still with them. Fasting under these circumstances would be inappropriate. Days will come refers to the time when he would be taken from them and when that time happens they will mourn (Mar 16:10).

Verse 16

6-17 I have made one paragraph of the two verses because they are on the same subject, and whatever comments I wish to make will have a common application to both verses. But I shall first explain the literal meaning of the terms used, after which I shall offer my comments on the application. When fabric is old it is shrunk, and also weakened with age and easily torn. If a hole in it is repaired with new and unshrunk cloth, it will pull loose in shrinking and tear the old cloth. Bottles were made of the skins of animals, being closed tightly around the mouth somewhat like a leathern pouch. While these pouches are new they are moist and capable of expanding without bursting. New wine has to expand as it ferments, and if it is put into old pouches that have become dry, the expansion of the liquid will burst these vessels. The usual explanation of these illustrations is that it represents the folly of trying to mix the new religion that Jesus was introducing with the old one that Moses gave to the people of God. I do not believe that is the purpose of the illustrations and will give the reasons for my statement. It would be an abrupt change of subject from anything that had been said for several chapters. Nothing in the conversation between Jesus and the audience would call for the injection of a highly figurative argument concerning the comparative merits of the Old and New Testaments. On the other hand, the importance of the work of John and Christ, and of the truth that the first was to be replaced by the second, would justify some further teaching from Jesus on it. If the old garment and old bottles represent the old law, on which and into which the new law should not be put, then what constitutes the old cloth and old wine that is to be attached to it? I believe the whole point is simply a lesson on the subject of appropriateness. The disciples of John could fittingly mourn because he had been taken from them. Jesus was still with his disciples and they could not appropriately mourn. It will be well to recall the words of Solomon in Ecc 3:4, "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."

Verse 18

9:18 The word for ruler is defined by Thayer, "A ruler, commander, chief, leader." The word could hence be applied to various persons, but in this verse it means, "of the officers presiding over the synagogues." For a description of these synagogues and their uses see the comments at Mat-they 4:23. This man was a Jew and had learned enough about the work of Jesus to have the faith that he •expressed. He was consistent in his attitude, for if a person has the power to perform other miracles he also can raise the dead. Modern professed miracle workers betray their fradulent practices by refusing even to try raising the dead, because they know they have no miraculous power.

Verse 19

9:19 Jesus had previously showed his ability to work miracles by "absent treatment" (chapter 8:13). He therefore had some special reason for going to the ruler's house.

Verse 20

9:20 On the way to the ruler's house an afflicted woman sought relief from a chronic case of hemorrhage of blood of twelve years' standing. Her only contact with Jesus was that of touching the hem of his garment. There was no literal curative properties in the clothing of the Lord, but the woman thought there was and her faith was manifested by touching it which induced him to favor her.

Verse 21

9:21 The woman expressed her faith in words only to herself.

Verse 22

9:22 Jesus could read the thoughts of mankind and knew the woman said within herself. Turning, he made no mention of her touching his garment, but granted her the cure because of her faith. As usual, the recovery from her disease was immediate.

Verse 23

9:23 By this time Jesus had reached the ruler's house. As he entered he saw the minstrels (musicians) and the people making a noise. These words are from THORUBEO which Thayer defines at this place, "to wail tumultuously." The instruments that such minstrels used were flutes and they could be made to produce a turbulent "noise."

Verse 24

9:24 Not dead but sleepeth. The Bible as well as secular compositions uses both figurative and literal language, and the distinction should always be remembered or confusion may result. I shall quote Webster on the two words: "figurative, 2. Expressing one thing in terms normally denoting another with which it may be regarded as analogous [similar]; as figurative language, sense. Literal, 4. Of senses of words, conveying the primary meaning, opposed to figurative." With this authentic information we may form a convenient and correct formula as follows: "Figurative language is that based on appearances regardless of the facts; literal language is that based on the facts regardless of appearances." Jesus used the figurative because when a person is dead he "appears" to be asleep. The people did not recognize the figure but thought he was speaking literally and hence they laughed him to scorn. The last word is not in the original and the statment should merely say that they laughed at him. The same kind of circumstance as to language occurred in the case of Lazarus in Joh 11:11; Joh 11:14, except that Jesus used both figurative and literal language for his disciples.

Verse 25

9:25 This is another instance where Jesus saw fit to make bodily contact in performing the miracle. However, that would not account for it as far as any physical cause was concerned, for the same procedure would not raise the dead if performed by another without the possession of supernatural power.

Verse 26

9:26 Fame is from the Greek word PHEME and one word in Thayer's definition is, "report." The idea means to express the fact of the extent of the news about the deed, not so much the thought of Jesus from the standpoint of notoriety.

Verse 27

9:27 These blind men must have heard this report referred to in the preceding verse. Son of David means he was descended from David in the blood line. Many people in. Palestine were familiar with the prediction in the law that the Messiah was to come through that line. Their addressing him with this title not only acknowledged him to be possessed with miraculous power (others had possessed that), but that he was the fulfiller of the law and the prophets.

Verse 28

9:28 The blind men did not lose heart but followed Jesus until he had entered another house, and there they came to him for relief. Jesus knew all hearts and was aware of the faith in the minds of these men, but a public profession of faith is one of the acts that puts a man in favorable light before the Lord.

Verse 29

9:29 According to your faith is said on the same principle as that said to the centurion in chapter 8:13, "as thou past believed."

Verse 30

9:30 Eyes were opened. Thayer explains the last word to mean, "to restore one's sight," hence the passage does not mean their eyelids had been closed.

Verse 32

9:32 Dumb, possessed with a devil. The reader should consult the long quotation from the lexicons that is given at chapter 8:28. It will there be seen that being possessed with a devil did not always produce the same effect on the people. In the case of our present verse it produced dumbness in the man.

Verse 35

9:35 Jesus taught in the syna gogues because he could meet the Jews assembled there to hear the reading of the Scriptures. Gospel of the kingdom means the good news that the kingdom of heaven was near. Healing every sickness and disease is significant. Modern professed miracle workers will select such ailments that are not apparent so that their failure to effect a cure cannot be known.

Verse 36

9:36 The multitudes were worn out by foot travel in their quest for the favors they hoped to get from Jesus. Their condition caused him to be moved with pity, which fulfilled the many predictions that he was to be a man who could "be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb 4:15).

Verse 37

9:37 There were so many people who needed help that neither Jesus nor any other man could be bodily present with all of them. That is what he meant by harvest plenteous, laborers few.

Verse 38

9:38 The prayer intimated in this verse will call for something definite to be done. Jesus will himself bring about a fulfillment in the next chapter.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 9". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-9.html. 1952.