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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 9

 

 

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Verse 1

Matthew 9:1. He came into his own city — Namely, Capernaum. And they brought him a man sick of the palsy — The history of this miracle is related Mark 2:1-13, and Luke 5:18-26, with more circumstances than are here mentioned by Matthew, which passages the reader is therefore desired to consult, for the further elucidation of what is here recorded. And Jesus, seeing their faith — Both that of the paralytic, and of them that brought him, viz., their inward persuasion of his divine power, and their confidence in his goodness; said to the sick of the palsy, Son

A title of tenderness and condescension, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee — By this Jesus intimated, both to the paralytic and to those who brought him, 1st, that sin is the source of all our evils; 2dly, that, sin being forgiven, bodily distempers can do us no real or lasting harm; 3dly, that the primary end of his coming into the world was to save his people from their sins; 4thly, that remission of sins is the never-failing consequence of faith in Christ. Perhaps, however, Christ might speak thus, partly with a view to give the scribes and Pharisees occasion of some discourse.


Verses 3-8

Matthew 9:3-8. Behold, certain of the scribes, (Luke adds, and Pharisees,) said within themselves — That is, in their hearts, This man blasphemeth — Attributing to himself a power (that of forgiving sins) which belongs to God only. And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, which, it appears, they did not openly declare, (for Mark says, Mark 2:8, He perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves,) said: Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts — Namely, concerning me, on account of these words which I have spoken? For whether is easier, &c. — Do not both of them argue a divine power? Therefore: if I can heal his disease, I can forgive his sins, especially as his disease is the consequence of his sins, therefore these must be taken away, if that is. But that ye may know — May have evident proof, that the Son of man hath power on earth — Even in his state of humiliation, to forgive sins; then (turning from them) he saith to the sick of the palsy, Arise, &c., and he arose — Thus Jesus gave the Pharisees a twofold demonstration of his divinity: 1st, by showing that he knew their thoughts; for to search the hearts and know the thoughts of mankind is not in the power either of men or angels, but is the prerogative of God only; 2dly, by assuming to himself, and manifesting undeniably, that he possessed power to forgive sins. But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled — They were all amazed, says Mark, and glorified God, &c. — So, what was to the scribes an occasion of blaspheming, was to the people an incitement to praise God.


Verse 9

Matthew 9:9. And as Jesus passed from thence — That is, from the house in which the paralytic had been cured, he saw a man named Matthew — Modestly so called by himself: the other evangelists call him by his more honourable name, Levi; setting at the receipt of custom — In the very height of his business. The expression επι το τελωνιον, here rendered the receipt of custom, seems properly to mean the place where custom was received. Some late translators render it, the custom-house; “but have we any reason,” says Campbell: “to say it was a house?” The Syriac name is no evidence that it was; for, like the Hebrew, they use the word beth [house] with great latitude of signification. Most probably it was a temporary stall which could easily be erected in any place where occasion required. The word office, (signifying a place where any particular business is transacted, whether within doors or without,) seems an unexceptionable name for the place. And he saith unto him, Follow me — A word which was immediately attended with a secret power, so that he arose and followed him — He immediately obeyed the call, consigning, doubtless, his books and cash to some more careful hand. “Porphyry and Julian, two noted ancient enemies of Christianity, have blamed Matthew for thus rashly, as they are pleased to call it, following one of whom he had so little knowledge. But as it is evident that this publican lived in Capernaum, or near it, he must have often heard our Lord preach, (for it was the town where he ordinarily resided,) and may probably have been witness to a number of his miracles. Wherefore, the opposers of our religion must forgive us, if we affirm that there was neither rashness nor imprudence in the readiness which Matthew showed to follow Jesus when called. He may have been his disciple long before this, and only waited for permission to attend him.” — Macknight.


Verses 10-13

Matthew 9:10-13. As Jesus sat at meat in the house — Namely, of Matthew, (see Mark 2:15,) who, being desirous at once to show his respects to Christ, and to give his former companions and acquaintance an opportunity of enjoying his instructive conversation, made a great entertainment for him, Luke 5:29. And many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him — Being invited by Matthew. The publicans, or collectors of taxes which the Jews paid the Romans, were infamous for their illegal exactions. With these were now present several other open, notorious sinners. When the Pharisees saw it — When they observed that Jesus ate and openly conversed with these men, being offended, they said, Why eateth your Master, &c. — Thus they commonly ask our Lord, Why do thy disciples do this? and his disciples, Why doth your Master? The Pharisees pretended to greater strictness than Christ in keeping at a distance from sinners, but they were far from being strict in reforming themselves, or in zeal for love and doing good to their fellow-creatures. When Jesus heard that — The Pharisees, it seems, though they had not directed their discourse to Jesus, yet had spoken so loud as to let all the guests hear their censure. Hence it was necessary that Christ should show them the unreasonableness of it, and therefore he said, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick — Implying that, since the Pharisees thought themselves righteous persons, they had no need of his company and instructions, whereas the publicans, whom they called sinners, being sick, had the best right to it: and that as nobody ever blamed a physician for going into the company of the patients whose case he had undertaken; so, they could not blame him for conversing with sinners, since he did it not as their companion but as their physician, and therefore with a view to reclaim them. But go ye and learn what that meaneth — Ye that take upon you to teach others; I will have mercy, and not sacrifice — That is, I will have mercy rather than sacrifice: I love acts of mercy better than sacrifice itself. See this explained at large in the note on Hosea 6:6; as if he had said, In bringing sinners to repentance, which is the highest exercise of benevolence, I do what is more acceptable to God than offering sacrifices, however many or costly, or observing the most important ceremonial institutions, so unreasonably magnified by the men of your sect, who observe them on many occasions at the expense of charity.


Verse 14-15

Matthew 9:14-15. Then — While he was at table, came to him the disciples of John, with those of the Pharisees, Mark 2:18; saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often — Have frequently our days of solemn devotion, in which we fast, and offer up to God many prayers and supplications? but thy disciples fast not — Not at all, or very seldom, but on the contrary eat and drink freely. “In the law, we find only one fast-day enjoined, namely, the tenth of the seventh month, on which the national atonement was made. But the Jews, of their own accord, observed many other days of fasting; (see Isaiah 58:3;) and in our Lord’s time, days of this kind were more frequent than ever, especially among the Pharisees, who, it seems, generally fasted twice a week; Luke 18:12; and therefore as Jesus did not pretend to teach his disciples a more lax kind of doctrine than that of John and the Pharisees, the disciples of the latter were surprised to find them overlooking so essential a duty.” Jesus said, Can the children of the bridechamber — The companions of the bridegroom, mourn — Mourning and fasting usually go together, as long as the bridegroom is with them? — As if he had said, While I am with them, it is a festival time, a season of rejoicing, not mourning: or, as others paraphrase the words, As it would be improper for the guests at a wedding to fast and weep while the marriage solemnity continues; so it would be equally improper for my disciples to fast and mourn at the time when I am personally present with them to give them joy. But the days will come — And are at no great distance, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall they fast — After I am gone, all my disciples likewise shall be in fastings often — “Christ did not mean, as the Montanists affirm, that the Pharisaical fasts should be introduced into his Church when he was gone, but that his disciples should fast and mourn on account of the various calamities befalling them after his departure, and that they should repeat these fasts as often as the circumstances of distress and danger in which they were placed required it.” — Macknight.


Verse 16-17

Matthew 9:16-17. No man putteth a piece of new cloth, &c. — Our Lord, having assigned one reason why he did not enjoin his disciples to fast, namely, because it was not a proper time for it, now proceeds to give another. They were not ripe, or prepared for it, nor could have borne such severe injunctions. As if he had said, Nor do I now think it fit to lay such rigorous commands upon them, but rather to accommodate their trials to their strength; even as when a man is repairing clothes, he will not sew a piece of new cloth on an old garment, but rather chooses what is a little worn, for otherwise it will be found that the new, which is put in, being stronger than the other, taketh from the garment, and the rent is increased. The original words, ρακος αγναφον, properly signify, “cloth that has not passed through the fuller’s hands, and which is consequently much harsher than what has been washed and worn; and therefore, yielding less than that, will tear away the edges to which it is sewed.”

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles — Namely, bottles made of leather, then commonly used, as they are still in some countries. Else the bottles break — Such bottles, chiefly made of goats’ skins, when old, were not easily distended, and consequently would burst by the fermentation of new wine. But they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved — Thus our Lord would suit the doctrine he inculcated on his disciples, and the duties which he enjoined them, to their circumstances, and kindly proportion their work to their strength, with a tender regard to their weakness, till, by degrees, they should be fitted for more difficult and humbling services. “And from his example,” says Dr. Doddridge, “and the whole genius of his gospel, let us learn to make all proper allowances to those about us, that we may teach them, and train them up as they are able to bear it; not crushing them under any unnecessary load, nor denying them any indulgence which true friendship will permit us to grant them; lest the good ways of God should be misrepresented, disgraced, and abandoned, through our imprudent, though well-meaning severity: a caution to be peculiarly observed in our conduct toward young persons.”


Verse 18-19

Matthew 9:18-19. While he spake these things — Namely, in Matthew’s house, behold, there came a certain ruler — The rulers, in general, were Christ’s bitterest enemies; yet there were some of them of a different character: John 12:42. In particular, this ruler must have had a very favourable opinion of Jesus, and indeed great faith in his power, else he would not have applied to him for help in the present extremity, nor have done him so much honour as to worship or fall down before him: saying, My daughter is even now dead — Or, at the point of death: see Mark 5:23. But come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live — This his faith was probably built on the miracles which he knew Jesus had performed, for our Lord had by this time resided in Capernaum several months. And Jesus arose, &c. — No sooner had this ruler made his supplication, than Christ, ever ready to assist the afflicted, rose from table and went along with him, and so did his disciples. We learn from Mark and Luke, that much people also followed him, doubtless in hopes of seeing the miracle, and thronged him; that is, pressed upon him in such a manner that he could not walk without much difficulty.


Verses 20-22

Matthew 9:20-22. And, behold, a woman which was diseased — According to the circumstances of her disease, as mentioned by Mark and Luke, it was incurable by any human power, and she herself knew it to be so, having been afflicted with it for twelve years, and tried the skill of many physicians, probably of all that were of note in the country; and having spent all that she had upon them, and yet could not be healed by any, nay, nor relieved in any measure; for, after all their endeavours to remove her complaint, she was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. But having heard of Jesus, and the wonderful cures which he had wrought, she believed that his power was sufficient to heal her also. Being ashamed, however, publicly to mention her case, and learning that many had before been healed by touching him, she, out of bashfulness and humility, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment — The woman’s distemper being of such a nature as to render those unclean whom she touched, perhaps she durst not lay her hand on the person of so great a prophet, nor touch any part of his garment but its hem; to touch which, however, she believed was sufficient to effect the cure. For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole — Thus showing, as well the strength of her faith, as the greatness of her humility; and straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up, namely, by the invisible power which Christ secretly exerted, for he well knew both what was passing in her mind, and what she did. And Jesus turned him about, &c. — It was necessary that the ministry of the Son of God should be rendered illustrious by all kinds of miracles, and that the whole people of the country where he lived should have the highest idea and the firmest persuasion of his power. And it was for advancing these great ends, that the success of this woman’s attempt equalled the faith by which she was influenced. And for the same reasons, Jesus would by no means allow her faith to remain unnoticed and unapplauded. Therefore, immediately turning about in the crowd, he asked, says St. Mark, Who touched my clothes? This he did, that the woman might be brought to make a confession of the whole matter; that the power of her faith, and the greatness of the cure, might be made manifest, to the glory of God and for the instruction of others; and he might have an occasion given him of encouraging and comforting her, that she might persevere in the exercise of similar humility and faith, during the rest of her life. And when he saw her — When, in consequence of his making this inquiry, she came forward toward him, and confessed what she had done, he said, in a most gentle and condescending manner, Daughter, be of good comfort — Gr. θαρσει, take courage: thy faith hath made thee whole — Thou hast received a cure through thy faith in my power and goodness: hold fast that faith therefore unto the end. Doubtless she was struck with fear when Jesus turned and looked upon her, lest she should have offended him by touching his garment privately; and the more so because she was unclean according to the law. Leviticus 15:25. Hence Mark says that she came forward fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, and fell down before him. And the woman was made whole from that hour — “This incidental miracle appears very grand, when the relation it bears to the principal one is considered. Jesus is going to give a specimen of that almighty power, by which the resurrection of all men to immortality shall be effected at the last day; and behold, virtue, little inferior to that which is capable of raising the dead to life, issues from him through his garment, and heals a very obstinate disease, which, having baffled the powers of medicine for twelve years, had remained absolutely incurable, till the presence of Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, chased it away. The cure, though complete, was performed in an instant, and the woman knew it by the immediate ease which she felt, by the return of her strength, by the cheerfulness of her spirits, and by all the other agreeable sensations which accompany sudden changes from painful diseases to perfect health. This Mark expresses shortly and elegantly, ( εγνω τω σωματι,) She felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”


Verse 23

Matthew 9:23. When Jesus came into the ruler’s house — It appears from the parallel places in Mark and Luke, that while Jesus spake the last-mentioned words to the woman healed by touching his garment, a messenger came from the ruler’s house to inform him that his daughter, whom he had left at the point of death, was now actually dead, and that therefore he did not need to trouble our Lord any further, her case being now determined and hopeless. This affecting news no doubt moved her father greatly: but Jesus, pitying his grief, bid him not fear, but only believe, and she should be made whole — He did not say she should be raised from the dead, but expressed himself as if she had not been dead, but only sick; for, as he was infinitely above praise, so he never courted it. On the contrary, he generally refused those honours which, as it were, obtruded themselves upon him. Thus, when he came to the ruler’s house, though a great many friends and others accompanied him, he suffered none of them to go in with him except the three disciples whom he treated with the greatest familiarity, namely, Peter, James, and John, with the father and mother of the maiden. And even these he admitted for no other reason but that the miracle might have proper witnesses, who should publish it in due time for the benefit of mankind. With these attendants, having entered the house, he saw the minstrels and the people making a noise — Or, as Mark expresses it, he saw the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. — By minstrels, musicians are meant. The original word means flute-players. Musical instruments were used by the Jews, as well as the heathens, in their lamentations for the dead, to sooth the melancholy of surviving friends by soft and solemn notes. And there were persons who made it their business to perform this, while others sung to their music. Flutes were used especially on the death of children; louder instruments on the death of grown persons. Chardin says, that even now, in the East, the concourse of people where persons lie dead is incredible. Every body runs thither, the poor and the rich: and the former more especially make a strange noise.


Verse 24

Matthew 9:24. He said unto them, Give place — Mark, whose narrative is more particular, says, When he was come in, namely, into the house, he said unto them, Why make ye this ado and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. — As the company at the ruler’s house, when Jesus entered it, were employed in making such lamentation for the damsel as they used to make for the dead, it is evident that they all believed she was actually and finally departed: and when Jesus told them she was not dead, he did not mean that her soul was not separated from her body, but that it was not to continue in a state of separation from it; which was the idea the mourners affixed to the word death. His words, it must be observed, were spoken to those who were preparing for her interment, and performing the funeral rites belonging to it, and therefore only intimate that she was not so dead that they needed to make these preparations. He therefore expresses her state by saying that she slept, using the word in a sense somewhat analogous to that which the Jews put upon it when, in speaking of a person’s death, they call it sleep, to intimate their belief in his existence and happiness in the other world, together with their hope of his future resurrection to a new life. On this occasion, the phrase was made use of with singular propriety to insinuate that, notwithstanding the maid was really dead, she should not long continue so. Jesus was going to raise her from the dead, and would do it with as much ease as they awaked one that was asleep. And they laughed him to scorn — Luke adds, knowing that she was dead; for they had seen all the marks and proofs of death about her. And yet, if they had given themselves time to consider, they might have understood that he spake in this manner to intimate that he was going to raise her from the dead; and the rather, as he had been sent for by her parents to heal her miraculously. But his words were ambiguous, and the mourners naturally took them in the wrong sense. Thus, while Jesus predicted the miracle, to show that it did not happen by accident, he, at the same time, delivered himself in such terms as modestly to avoid the reputation that might have accrued to him from so stupendous a work.


Verse 25-26

Matthew 9:25-26. When the people were put forth — Namely, the mourners, who, having expressed the dispositions mentioned above, were not worthy to behold the miracle; he went in — Namely, into the chamber where the corpse was lying, accompanied by none but the three disciples above mentioned, and the father and mother of the damsel, they being of all persons the most proper witnesses of the miracle, which in reality suffered nothing by the absence of the rest. For, as they were all sensible that the child was dead, they could not but be certain of the miracle when they saw her alive again, though they might not know to whom the honour of her resurrection was due. And took her by the hand — As if he had been going to awake her out of sleep: and, with a gentle voice, but such as the persons in the chamber could easily hear, he said, Talitha cumi, which is, Damsel, arise. See Mark. And the maid arose — In an instant she revived and sat up, just like a person who, being called, awakes out of a soft sleep. Luke says, Her spirit came again; an expression which implies that she was really dead, and that the soul exists separately after the body dies; a truth very necessary to be asserted in those days, when it was denied by many. Withal, her flesh, her colour, and her strength returning in the twinkling of an eye, she was not in the weak, languishing condition of one who, being worn out with a disease, had given up the ghost; for she arose and walked, Mark 5:42, being of the age of twelve years. She was not even in the languishing condition of those who come to life after having fainted away, but was in a state of confirmed good health: for it appears she was hungry, and therefore Jesus commanded to give her meat, Luke 8:55. And her parents, seeing her flesh, and colour, and strength, and appetite returned thus suddenly with her life, were unmeasurably astonished at the miracle, Luke 8:56, as well they might. He charged them, however, that they should tell no man what was done, an injunction which could not mean that her parents were to keep the miracle a secret, which was impossible to be done; for as the whole family, their friends, and all the people collected together to mourn, were witnesses of her death, so her restoration to life could not be hid from them, nor from any that had communication with them. But he meant, that they should not officiously blaze it abroad, nor even indulge the inclination which they might feel to speak of a matter so astonishing. The reason was, the miracle spake sufficiently for itself. Accordingly Matthew here tells us, The fame of it went abroad into all that land — Words which imply not only that the report of it was spread throughout that country, and that it was much spoken of, which, all circumstances considered, it could not fail to be, but that the truth of it was inquired into by many, and that upon inquiry the reality of the miracle was universally acknowledged; and, as this is the proper meaning of the observation concerning this or any other of our Lord’s miracles, (namely, that the fame of them went abroad,) so the evangelists, by thus openly and frequently appealing to the notoriety of the facts, have given us all the assurance possible of the reality of the miracles which they have recorded. See Macknight. It may not be improper to observe here that Christ raised three dead persons to life: this child, the widow’s son, and Lazarus; one newly departed, another on the bier, the third smelling in the grave: to show us that no degree of death is so desperate as to be past his help.


Verses 27-30

Matthew 9:27-30. And when Jesus departed thence — Namely, from the ruler’s house; two blind men, who probably had heard of his being there, and waited for his coming out; followed him — As he went through the streets, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us — The title which they here give him, shows that they believed him to be the Messiah; for, at this time, it was not only universally understood that the Messiah would be a descendant of David, but son of David was one of the names then ascribed to him by the Jews; see Matthew 12:23; and Matthew 22:42-45. As these men were blind, they could have no evidence of Christ’s miracles from their senses. They believed them, therefore, on the testimony of others who had seen them. Viewed in this light, their persuasion of Christ’s power to cure them was an exercise of faith highly commendable in them, and which reflected great honour upon Jesus, as on the one hand it showed their sincerity and freedom from the prejudices which blinded the minds of the generality of the Jews; and, on the other, the truth and notoriety of his miracles. It was, therefore, for the glory of God and for the edification of others, that the strength of their faith should be discovered. This was done by their persevering to importune him to have mercy upon them, notwithstanding he seemed at the first to refuse them, and by the answer which they returned to his question concerning their faith. Then — When their faith was thus sufficiently manifested, he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you — And immediately on his speaking these words, their eyes were opened. Such is the mighty power of the prayer of faith, and such is the honour wherewith Christ often crowns it! And Jesus straitly charged them, &c. — “The word ενεβριμησατο, thus translated, is rendered by Phavorinus, to charge, to command, to appoint with authority: by Hesychius, to command, or charge with a threat. It signifies a rational, not a passionate earnestness and vehemence.” — Hammond. Christ’s command of silence, says Baxter, (namely, concerning the miracle,) “was partly to give us an example of avoiding ostentation and hypocrisy, and to be content with the approbation of God alone.” Of other reasons why he forbade his miracles to be divulged, see note on Matthew 8:4. These men, however, were so overjoyed on account of the miracle which Christ had wrought for them, and so full of gratitude to him for the restoration of their sight, that they could not forbear speaking of it wherever they came; by which means his fame was spread abroad in all that country. It had been expressly foretold by the prophet, that the Messiah should open the eyes of the blind; (see Psalms 146:8; Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 42:7;) and this is the first instance recorded by the evangelists in which Jesus proved himself to be the Messiah, by fulfilling those predictions.


Verses 32-34

Matthew 9:32-34. As they went out — Namely, the men that had been blind; behold, they brought to him a dumb man — Whose dumbness was owing to his being possessed with a devil. From the circumstance of this demoniac’s being dumb, Erasmus conjectures that he was also deprived of the use of his reason. If so, being insensible of his own misery, he had as little inclination as ability to apply for a cure. He could not even make his misery known by signs, and therefore needed to be brought to the Saviour by others. And when the devil was cast out — Namely, by the powerful word of Jesus; the dumb spake — Readily, distinctly, rationally, and fluently. And the multitude marvelled — Were astonished both at the greatness of the miracle and at the instantaneous manner in which it was wrought, as also at the many other miracles which they had just seen performed. Saying, It was never so seen in Israel — Not even in Israel, where so many wonders have been seen. “This reflection was perfectly just; for no one of the prophets, that we read of in the Old Testament, appears to have wrought so many beneficial miracles in his whole life, as our Lord did in this one afternoon.” — Doddridge. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils — Not being able to deny facts that were so notorious, in order to prevent the effect which they saw them likely to produce on the people, (namely, to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah,) being moved with the bitterest spite against him, they impudently, and contrary to all reason and common sense, affirmed that instead of being the Christ, or a prophet, he was a vile magician, who cast out devils by the help of Beelzebub, their prince. A calumny this which the Pharisees frequently uttered, but which our Lord fully confuted, as the reader will see in the notes on Matthew 12:22-30.


Verse 35-36

Matthew 9:35-36. Jesus went about all the cities, teaching in their synagogues — See on Matthew 4:23. When he saw the multitude he was moved with compassion — Having come from heaven to earth to seek and save lost sinners, he was affected to see such multitudes desirous of instruction, and yet destitute of it, and in danger of perishing without it, being either deserted or misled by their spiritual guides, and living in ignorance of the things which it most concerned them to know, and in a state of guilt and depravity. Because they fainted — The original expression: εκλελυμενοι, denotes here a kind of faintness, or weakness, which is caused by hunger and weariness. Perhaps the expression may refer partly to the fatigue of their frequent journeys in following Christ from place to place; for many of them came, not only from the several parts of Galilee, but also from Judea and Idumea, from beyond Jordan: and the borders of Tyre and Zidon. Faintness of soul, however, is undoubtedly intended here, rather than of body. And were scattered abroad — Gr. ερριμμενοι, an expression which, according to Elsner, means exposed to continual danger, as sheep having no shepherd. And yet this people had many teachers; they had scribes in every city, and the priests, whose lips should have dispensed knowledge, and at whose mouth the people should have sought the law, (Malachi 2:7,) were to be found in all parts of the land. But they had no teachers who cared for their souls; and none who were able, if they had been willing, to have given them such instruction as they needed. They had no pastors after God’s own heart. “The teachers just mentioned,” says Macknight, “were blind, perverse, lazy guides, who every day discovered their ignorance and wickedness more and more. They either neglected the office of teaching altogether, or they filled the people’s minds with high notions of ritual observances and traditions, to the utter disparagement of moral duties, which in a manner they trampled under foot; so that instead of serving God, they served their own glory, their gain, and their belly. Wherefore, any appearance of religion which they had, was wholly feigned and hypocritical; insomuch that they rather did hurt by it than were of real service to the interests of [piety and] virtue. Besides, the common people, being distracted by the disagreeing factions of the Pharisees and Sadducees, knew not what to choose or refuse. The case therefore called loudly for the compassion of Jesus, which indeed was never wanting to them at any time, for he always cherished the tenderest affection toward his countrymen; but it flowed particularly on this occasion, when he considered that they were in great distress for want of spiritual food.” And therefore being deeply touched with a feeling of their miserable condition, he resolved to provide some remedy for it; which, as the evangelist here states, he proceeded to do immediately, directing his disciples to intercede with God to send forth labourers into his harvest, and immediately afterward appointing and sending those labourers.


Verse 37-38

Matthew 9:37-38. Then saith he to his disciples — To quicken their devotion and zeal, The harvest — Namely, of souls to be gathered in, is plenteous — The multitudes that followed Jesus, and expressed so earnest a desire of receiving his instructions, gave him occasion of making this reflection. He compared Judea and the neighbouring countries to fields covered with ripe corn, where nothing was wanting but reapers. See John 4:35 : and L’Enfant. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest — Whose peculiar work and office it is, and who alone is able to do it; that he will send forth labourers into his harvest — The word εκβαλη properly means to thrust out, plainly implying the exercise of some degree of force. For it is an employ not pleasing to flesh and blood; so full of reproach, labour, danger, and temptation of every kind, that nature may well be averse to it. Those who never felt this, never yet knew what it is to be labourers in Christ’s harvest. He sends them forth, when he calls them by his Spirit, furnishes them with grace and gifts for the work, and makes a way for them to be employed therein. “Christ’s example here,” says Baxter, “teacheth preachers to compassionate a willing multitude, when they want sufficient teachers, and to pray God to send forth more labourers when there are too few; and not to give over labouring themselves without being utterly disabled, though men forbid them. Some parishes in London have each about seventy thousand souls, some sixty thousand, some thirty thousand; and all the city and county, and much more, have but one bishop, and the curates or preachers cannot be heard [each] by above three thousand at once, or thereabouts.” But how much greater is the population of London with its environs, and of the whole country, at the present day, than it was in Mr. Baxter’s time!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 9:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-9.html. 1857.

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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