MATTHEW CHAPTER 9.
The Healing of the Palsied Man. Matt. 9, 1-8.
V. 1. And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. Jesus complied with the request of the Gerasenes to depart out of their neighborhood. Entering into the boat in which He had come over with His disciples. He crossed back to the western side of the Sea of Gennesaret, to the city of Capernaum, where He made His headquarters during His Galilean ministry. No sooner had He arrived there than the fact became known, and multitudes of people began to gather in the house and on the street. It was a day of grace for the whole city: Jesus was teaching, and His power went out to heal the sick, Luke 5, 17. An important incident: V. 2. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed; and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee. Matthew implies that there was a long process connected with the bringing of the sick man, which is told in detail by the other evangelists: The four friends bearing their burden, the impossibility of making headway through the crowds, the ascent to the flat roof, the uncovering of the tiles. Finally, the paralytic, bedridden and helpless as he was, was deposited in a cleared space before Jesus. A notable point: the Lord looks, above all, for faith. In this case He found their faith, that of the paralytic as well as that of his friends, by virtue of His omniscience. So satisfied was He with the result of His scrutiny that He addresses words of comfort to the sick man. The Savior's intuition read in his eye the need of an assurance involving more than mere bodily recovery. The consolation of the soul was what he aspired for; the despondence, due probably to a bad conscience, must be removed. An infinite tenderness in Christ's words: Take courage, cheer up, son! There is no reason to fear that the heavenly Father and I, His Representative, will condemn. He deals first with the disease of the soul, announcing, with absolute authority, the fact of the forgiveness of sins, applying it to this individual man. As sin is the greatest evil on earth and draws after it all the other evils that flesh is heir to, so forgiveness, pardon, is the greatest good that God can give to man, Ps. 103, 3. "This is the voice of the Gospel: Be of, good cheer, live, be preserved. The entire rhetoric of the Gospel is connected with this word: Son, be of good cheer. For it indicates that the heart must be driven to confidence with all arguments and examples that praise God's mercy, against all arguments and examples that tell of God's wrath.... That is the kingdom of Christ; who has it thus has it right. There is no work, but only the acknowledgment of all our misfortune and acceptance of all the gifts of God; there is nothing but just consolation; there these words go without ceasing: Be glad, do not be terrified in thy conscience on account of thy sins, that thou hast not done much good; I will forgive all that. Therefore there is no merit, but all pure donation. That is the Gospel: That demands faith, wherewith thou receive and hold these words, that it be not said in vain. For we have no other defiance with which He bids us boast than that God says: Be in high spirits, be cheerful, for I forgive the sin; boast of My forgiving, of that make a show. Then hast thou cause to boast and to glory, not on account of thy works." 80)
The condemnation of the scribes: V. 3. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. V. 4. And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? V. 5. For whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk? As usual, the enemies of Christ had their representatives in the people surrounding Jesus, to counteract, if possible, the influence of His teaching and of His miracles. It was not a rude interruption which they tried here, but their objection, to the omniscient mind of Christ, was as open as though they had shouted it at the top of their voice. They bring the accusation of blasphemy against the Lord, of an impious assumption of divine rights and powers. They challenge His prerogative, correctly stating that it was God's office to pardon sins, Luke 5, 21. Jesus read their thoughts as He read the mental state of the paralytic. His very searching and knowing of their hearts reproved their wickedness, and to this He adds the spoken rebuke: To what end, with the expectation of what, — what do you propose to accomplish with the evil thoughts that are in your hearts? His question to them: Both being equally easy to say, which takes the greater power and authority, which would prove the stronger argument as to divine omnipotence, the healing of the body or the healing of the soul?
The argument in deed: V. 6. But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. V. 7. And he arose and departed to his house. Far from admitting a pretension on His part which would amount to a blasphemy, He, the Son of Man, deliberately assumes a divine prerogative also in healing the body. The greater includes the smaller: the right and the authority to pardon sins implies the power and the ability to heal mere bodily ailments. If He had been guilty of blasphemy, He could not have had the authority to cure the sick man by a peremptory command. He, the true human being, is nevertheless not a mere man, but can command the sickness and restore the sick to complete health by a word of His almighty power. The man that had been chained to his cot in utter helplessness could now shoulder this same cot and walk out in the fullness of perfect vitality.
The effect upon the people: V. 8. But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. They were not interested in the scruples of the scribes and Pharisees; the miracle settled the matter so far as they were concerned. They were filled with the fear of amazement and reverence: A Healer in their midst that assumed and exercised divine rights, that manifested an authority over the soul as well as over the body! It may also be that the spirit of Christ was struggling in many of the hearts there present with the unbelief of the scribes. But finally they glorified, they praised God for giving such power to men, not only to the one man, Jesus, but through Him, to men that are His followers. "This power, which hitherto had been enthroned in the Most Holy Place as the prerogative of Jehovah, now stood embodied before them. Hence their joyous expression: He has given it to the Son of Man, and therefore to men." 81) God, through Christ, has given to men the power to forgive sins. It is the peculiar church power, by which the sins of the penitent sinners are remitted to them. "This power all men have that are Christians and are baptized, for therewith they praise Christ and have the word forgiveness in their mouth, that they can and may say when they want to and as often as it is needed: Behold, man, God offers thee His grace, presents to thee all thy sins, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven, only believe, then it is certain, or what other words one would use. This voice shall not cease among the Christians until the last day: Thy sins are forgiven thee, be full of gladness and comfort! ... Learn, then, that you can say and instruct others concerning the forgiveness of sins, that God in Baptism, in Absolution, on the pulpit, and in the Sacrament speaks to us, through the servant of the Church and through other Christians; them we shall believe, and we find forgiveness of sins." 82)
The Call of Matthew and His Feast. Matt. 9, 9-17.
V. 9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the receipt of custom. And He saith unto him, Follow Me. And he arose and followed Him. After Christ had performed the healing of the palsied man, He left the house in order to go down to the seaside, Mark 2, 13. On His way He passed the customhouse of Capernaum, which was in charge of Levi, the son of Alphaeus, who was after this called Matthew, and who proudly records the fact in his account of his call. This toll-house was a busy place, since the caravan road between Egypt and Damascus passed through the city. But at Christ's characteristic invitation Matthew promptly complies. He may have known Jesus before, he could hardly have missed hearing of Him. The call was more than a mere invitation, it was a direct enrolling of the publican among those that stood nearest to the Lord.
The publican feast: V. 10. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. Matthew, either upon his own initiative or at the suggestion of Jesus, caused a feast to be prepared, Mark 2, 15: Luke 5, 29. But here is a significant fact: publicans and sinners were the guests beside Jesus and His disciples. They were reclining, after the Oriental fashion, on special sofas, resting on pillows; scores, possibly hundreds, were present, all of the lowly, the social outcasts of the city, those whom the Pharisees had excommunicated from the synagogs. The latter took offense: V. 11. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? They regarded the whole festival as a scandalous affair, but lacked the courage to address Christ directly on this matter, hoping incidentally thus to alienate the disciples from the Master. Jesus, the Friend of the sinners, is a rock of offense to all self-righteous, proud hearts. They find His behavior savoring of the gutter, and criticize severely such as follow His directions in seeking sinners.
Christ's defense: V. 12. But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. V. 13. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Jesus heard the murmuring and took the fault-finders to task. He quotes a proverb in explanation of His own conduct, implying, at the same time, a criticism of their position. A physician naturally finds his field of activity among the sick, such as feel the need of his services. Those that are well, or deceive themselves into the belief that they are in perfect health, resent the suggestion of a physician in their case. Christ is the true Physician of the soul. He that is spiritually well, that is righteous and perfect, without sin, feels no need of the Savior of sinners. Though there are no just persons in the world that would honestly belong to this class, the great majority claim perfection, a complete righteousness, for themselves. They want nothing of Jesus, the Redeemer. Only the meek and lowly in heart, that feel their sin and the curse of sin, they come to the Friend of sinners and accept healing at His hands. Jesus reminds the Pharisees, who might have felt the inference, of the word of the prophet, Hos. 6, 6. Mercy goes before sacrifice. All service of the lips and sacrifices of the hands, all mere outward worship, all dead orthodoxy, is an abomination before the Lord. A merciful heart manifesting its sympathy in deeds of mercy pleases Him. But the Pharisees of all times have never felt the need of the mercy of God, and therefore have never tasted its sublime sweetness. For that reason they feel no mercy towards their fellow-creatures. All those that are called after the name of Christ must be filled with the enthusiasm of the mission of Jesus.
A question regarding fasting: V. 14. Then came to Him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not? V. 15. And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. Silenced on one point, the Pharisees attack on another, aided, in this case, by some disciples of John the Baptist. They were all of them rigorous in their asceticism, keeping all the prescribed fasts, as well as many of their own choosing, with painful regularity. They resented the absence of this legal tendency in the circle of disciples about Jesus, even while they felt themselves superior to the Galilean fishermen, and asked for an explanation. Jesus enlightens them: Friends of the Bridegroom, that belong to the inner circle, to the intimates, could not possibly think of fasting and mourning, indulging in all manner of sorrowful performances, while the Bridegroom is yet with them. But when the Bridegroom is taken from them, when Jesus shall fulfill His destiny in His passion and death, there will be a great difference. Then, in those days, they will grieve, John 16, 20 a. In the mean time, their whole life in His companionship was like a continual wedding-feast, with nothing but joy and happiness.
Further parabolic sayings: V. 16. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. V. 17. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. But they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. Just as Christ had emphasized the fitness of things in His apology for the disciples, He here insists upon proper congruity in religion, especially in external forms. To put a patch of unsecured, new and strong, cloth upon an old garment will usually result in disaster, since the patch, being stronger, will tear out at the edges, thus making the rent worse. The piety of the Pharisees, the religion of works which they flaunted before the eyes of the people, on the one hand, and the doctrine of Jesus, the preaching of the free grace of God through His blood, on the other, will never agree. If one insists on wearing his old garment of self-righteousness and works, and then believes it possible to cover an occasional revealing sin with the Gospel, he will find but poor comfort. His heart is still bound up in the old garment, and his miserable subterfuge will only make the incongruity appear the more glaring. It is just as foolish to keep new wine, grape-juice in the early stage of fermentation, in old skins that have lost their elasticity. The result is disastrous: The skins burst, the wine is spilled. But new skins and new wine are perfectly suited to each other. The sweet Gospel of the forgiveness of sins by the mercy of God does not fit into carnal, Pharisaic hearts. If the Gospel is preached to those that believe in works only, its richness is squandered. Such hearts cannot understand or keep it; they only take offense at the preaching of the Gospel, and are lost in spite of the Gospel. Only meek and lowly, believing hearts will accept the Gospel just as it reads, and will be kept by the power of God unto salvation.
The Daughter of Jairus. Matt. 9, 18-26.
V. 18. While He spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler and worshiped Him, saying, My daughter is even now dead; but come, and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live. V. 19. And Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. Jesus was still in earnest conversation with the Pharisees and the disciples of John, when there was an interruption. A ruler, or elder, of the synagog at Capernaum, a man of some influence, coming in, threw himself down before the Lord in the attitude of supplication. Matthew here, for the sake of brevity, mentions the cry of the ruler after he had received the actual report of his daughter's death, Mark 5, 35. His faith in the ability of Christ to heal, and even to bring back from death, is absolute. Even now she surely must be dead, but the touch of the great Healer's hand could restore her to life. Jesus, ever full of loving sympathy, ready, for the sake of a soul, to go also to the bedsides, went with the distracted father.
An interlude: (V. 20. And, behold, a woman which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment. V. 21. For she said within herself, If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole. V. 22. But Jesus turned Him about, and when He saw her, He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith had made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.) Another applicant for help, a woman that had a bloody flux, a disagreeable, weakening disease, rendering Levitically unclean, Lev. 15, having spent all her substance in the fruitless quest of health. From behind she came, partly from shame on account of her uncleanness and morbid sensitiveness due to her condition, partly from humility. Only the fringe of His coat she wanted to touch, the outer of the four tassels which Jesus, in accordance with the commandment, Num. 15, 38, wore to remind of the commandments. She had the firm conviction, based on her simple faith in His almighty power, that such a mere touching would suffice to render her whole. There was no cunning and superstition in her action. Only a living, strong faith could have such certainty that a mere touch of the garment's hem would restore to health. She hoped, incidentally, to remain undetected in the dense crowd which was pressing about the Lord, Mark 5, 30-32. But Jesus felt the touch, just as He knew of her presence and her eager desire. He turned around, and seeing her, He added His comforting assurance to the miracle which had even then taken place. All fear must vanish at His kind words, at His cheering tone of voice, in rhythmic cadence. She has entered, by her faith, into the close and honoring relation of a daughter to Him, and that same faith has gained from Him the fulfillment of her wish. She is a healed woman. He sets forth her faith as an example before the people, just as He found it necessary, about this time, to encourage the ruler with the words: Fear not, only believe, Mark 5, 36. "Thus thou seest what faith is and does, when it clings to the person of Christ, namely, such a heart as deems Him its Lord and Savior, the Son of God, through whom God reveals Himself and has promised us His grace, that for His sake and through Him He wants to hear and help us. That is the true spiritual, internal worship, when the heart deals with Christ and calls upon Him, though it speak not a word, and gives Him the right honor, believes Him to be the true Savior, who knows and hears also the secret desires of the heart, and proves His help and power, though He does not at once and externally permit Himself to be felt and handled in such a manner as we think." 83)
At the house of Jairus: V. 23. And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, v. 24. He said unto them, Give place, for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn. V. 25. But when the people were put forth, He went in, and took her by the hand; and the maid arose. V. 26. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. Jesus had purposely tarried and spent some time with the woman on the way over to the ruler's house. But now, coming into the house and seeing the flute-players and the noisy crowd of professional mourners which had even then gathered, mainly in the desire to share in the meat and drink which was forthcoming at such occasions, and hearing the confused din which arose from the motley assembly, He sternly bids them: Retire, move away, do not stay here. Not dead is the young girl, but she sleeps. Before Christ she was not in the final power of death, to Him her lifeless form presented only a sleeping maiden. The death of all the faithful is merely a sleep for some little time in the bed of the grave, from which there will be a glorious awakening when God will reunite soul and body. "Thus we also shall learn to look upon our death in the right way that we do not become frightened before it as unbelief does: That it is truly in Christ not a death, but a fine, sweet, short sleep, in which we, delivered from this present misery, from sin and from the true death's trouble and fear, safe and without all care, may rest a short moment as on a couch, until the time comes when He will wake and call us with all His dear children to eternal glory and joys." 84)
The scornful laughter, the derisive jeering of the crowd did not deter the Lord. After the house had been cleared of their distasteful presence, He went into the chamber of death with the parents and with His three favorite disciples, Peter, James, and John, took hold of the little girl's hand, and commanded her to arise. Here a body which had been claimed by death as its own was restored to life with all its manifestations. The maid could arise, she could walk, eat, and drink, perform all the usual acts of a living person. Christ, as the Fountain of life, can bring back to life even such as have submitted to the grim reaper. With His human voice He aroused the child from the sleep of death. Even in the state of humiliation the human nature of Christ is the source and the fountain of life.
Against the wishes of Jesus, who desired no notoriety for Himself, but wanted the parents of the maiden to contemplate the miracle in quiet thankfulness, the fame, the report of this resurrection spread through that entire region. It was a matter unheard of till now that a dead person was raised to life again. Jesus feared enthusiastic demonstrations.
Further Miracles of That Day. Matt. 9, 27-34.
V. 27. And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed Him, crying and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. There was no respite for the Lord since His power over diseases was now generally known. Waiting at the door were two unfortunates with an affliction very common in the East, especially in Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. They were blind from disease. The stories they had heard of the healing power of Jesus and the words which they had had occasion to listen to from His own mouth, had given them the conviction that this man must be the promised Messiah. For while they followed after Him, they cried loudly, calling Him the Son of David, and beseeching Him for help. Note: The opinion was generally held in Judea at that time, that the Messiah should be the Son of David, John 7, 42. Jesus was openly acknowledged as coming from this family. Matt. 12, 23; 15, 22; 20, 30. 31; 21, 9.15; 22, 41-45. The fact that these blind men thus publicly invoked Him amounted to a distinct profession of the Messiahship of Jesus. For that reason also the pleading cry: Have mercy on us! No grumbling against fate, no demanding of a just alleviation of an unmerited punishment; only mercy they beg.
The healing and its effect: V. 28. And when He was come into the house, the blind men came to Him; and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord. V. 29, Then touched He their eyes, saying. According unto your faith, be it unto you. V. 30. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straightly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. V. 31. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad His fame in all that country. Jesus had taken no notice of the cries of the men on the street, either for fear of awakening false expectations, or in order to test their faith. But they were persistent with that importunity which usually conquered Jesus. When He reached His house, His lodgings, they went directly to Him. The Lord has only one question to address to them, whether they have faith in His power to help, to which they assented with a glad Yes, Lord, thus both confessing faith in His ability and giving Him the honor due Him as the Lord of heaven. Then, without further hesitation, overcome by the force of their pleading in faith, He touched their eyes and thus opened and gave sight to them. As was their faith, so was their reward. Faith is the hand which takes what God offers, the spiritual organ of appropriation, the connecting link between our emptiness and God's fullness. It is faith which opens the heart of Jesus and storms the very gates of heaven. But this trusting faith is always an outgrowth of redeeming faith, of the firm reliance in the blood and merits of Jesus the Redeemer. The Lord, in dismissing the men that had thus received His bounty, sternly enjoined them, very emphatically charged them, on pain of His displeasure, not to spread the news abroad, to let no one know of the healing. The danger of a carnal movement, by which the people of Galilee would be roused into rebellion against the Romans, made it necessary for Him to impose silence upon them. But they, believing, probably, that it was only humility that prompted the Lord to make such a demand, and full of joy over the help which they had experienced, were most active in relating their glad news in that entire country, far beyond the boundaries of Capernaum.
The dumb demoniac: V. 32. As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil. V. 33. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake, and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. V. 34. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. Hardly had the men of the last miracle gone from the room, in fact, while they were leaving the house, another sufferer was brought to the great Healer. In this case the evil spirits had blunted the faculty of speech. There was no apparent physical defect, but the devil's power held the tongue and took from the man the ability to speak. No sooner, therefore, was the evil spirit cast out than the dumb could speak in connected discourse. Again the crowd present was filled with wonder, which found its expression in the saying: The like was never seen in Israel. It was unheard of that a man should have such unlimited power, even over demons. Never before, also, had the appearance of the final deliverance been so fully realized. The Messianic revelation was gradually entering into the consciousness of the people. The Pharisees tried to weaken the impression of the miracle by a theory which they had formed: In and through the prince of demons He casts out demons. They insinuate that there is intimate relation and fellowship between Christ and the powers of evil, that He is in league with Satan and can therefore command them at will. Christ purposely ignored the remark in this case, though He might easily have put them to silence. Matt. 12, 24-28.
Continuation of Christ's Teaching and Healing Ministry. Matt. 9, 35-38.
A ministry of the Gospel: V. 35. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogs, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Another summary of Christ's prophetical work, like chapter 4, 23-25. Repeatedly, without becoming weary, Jesus makes His trips through the Galilean country. The people of the country had full opportunity, not only to know the truth, but to become established in the truth. He visited not only all the cities, but also the villages, teaching in preparation for the acceptance of the message which He brought, preaching the Gospel-news itself, and giving proof of its divine character by the miracles of healing which He performed. The Gospel of the Kingdom He proclaimed, not of a kingdom of this world, neither a temporal principality nor a social reformation, but a communion of believers in union with Him as their Head. "That means to be in the kingdom of heaven, if I am a living member of Christianity, and not only hear the Gospel, but also believe." 85)
Christ's compassion: V. 36. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. V. 37. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest, truly, is plenteous, but the laborers are few. V. 38. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest. Christ's ministry brought Him into the most intimate touch with the people, gave Him the clearest insight into their moral and religious condition. Two pictures were suggested to His mind: A flock of sheep neglected in the desert, and a harvest going to waste for lack of reapers. The people whom He met were faint, overdriven, afflicted, beaten down, exhausted by long, aimless driving, completely worn out and scattered about. They had no faithful shepherds. The Pharisees and scribes vexed, worried their souls with their legal flaying, gave them thousands of precepts regulating the very minutest details of their lives, but neither taught them where to get the strength nor gave them the comfort of the Gospel. Most of the people were in the direst spiritual distress. A pitiful spectacle! But this is to arouse them to action. The harvest of God is always great, since He wants all men to be saved. When the souls have grown weary and surfeited with the husks of human doctrines and traditions of men, they are more apt to feel and realize their need of the Gospel of Jesus, as in the case of many of the Jewish nation, The laborers, that are in full sympathy with the Gospel-teachings, that are willing to work for Christ, are few. At that time only the Lord and here and there a true Israelite were laboring for the Kingdom. There is needed some of Christ's compassion, some of that divine commiseration which moved the heart of Christ; there is needed some of that willingness to work and, if need be, to suffer, which characterized the ministry of Christ; and there is needed, lastly, the force of heaven-storming prayers to the Lord of the harvest, to the great Lord of the Kingdom, that He Himself would thrust out, that He will urge and make willing the hearts of the laborers as He sends them forth to reap the souls for His eternal kingdom.
Summary. Jesus heals a paralytic, calls Matthew, takes dinner with him, and gives a lesson on humility and fasting, raises the daughter of Jairus, heals the woman with the issue of blood, gives sight to two blind men, drives out a dumb demon, and draws a lesson from His ministry.