Hello! I’m glad you are reading through Matthew with our church. Today we read about Jesus healing a paralytic man and the calling of Matthew the tax collector as a disciple. Jesus also teaches about fasting, raises a girl from the dead and heals a sick woman, two blind men and closes the chapter by teaching that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
JESUS HEALS A PARALYZED MAN / 9:1-8
9:1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.NIV The events in 8:28-34 had occurred on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Jesus and the disciples had gotten there by boat, 8:18, 23). The events Matthew placed at the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9 are not in chronological sequence (see the Harmony of the Gospels at the end of this commentary). Matthew continued his story by placing Jesus back into a boat and crossing over the sea to return to his own town, Capernaum. This city became Jesus’ base of operations while he was in Galilee. This event may have occurred at Simon Peter’s house (8:14-17). Matthew may have been preserving his topical arrangement, keeping several of Jesus’ miracles together in this section.
Capernaum was a good choice for Jesus’ base of operations. It was a wealthy city due to fishing and trade. Situated on the Sea of Galilee in a densely populated area, Capernaum housed the Roman garrison that kept peace in the region. The city was a cultural melting pot, greatly influenced by Greek and Roman manners, dress, architecture, and politics.
9:2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”NIV Some men, remembering that Jesus had healed many people in Capernaum on an earlier visit (8:14-17), brought a friend who needed Jesus’ help. The friend was a paralytic, and the men carried him, lying on a mat, to Jesus. The “mat” was like a stretcher that the men could carry.
Matthew’s Gospel explains how Jesus saw their faith. There was such a crowd gathered around the door to the house that these men carrying the man on the mat could not get through to the house. So they went up on the roof and took off enough tiles to lower their friend through the roof to Jesus below (Mark 2:1-4). Jesus “saw their faith” acted out in their determination. They knew that if they could just get near Jesus, Jesus could heal. Jesus referred to the faith of all the men who came but spoke only to the paralytic. Son (Greek, teknon) was simply a term of affection, used even with adults.
Matthew omitted some of the details of this story to focus on Jesus’ words that revealed a new aspect of his authority. Thus far, Matthew has shown Jesus’ authority in his teaching (7:28-29), in healing of diseases (8:1-17), over any other allegiance (8:18-22), over nature (8:23-27), and over demons (8:16, 28-34). In this miracle, Matthew showed Jesus’ authority to forgive sins.
Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Take heart . . . your sins are forgiven.” Several verses in the Old Testament indicate that sickness and death result from humanity’s sinful condition (see, for example, Psalms 41:3-4; 103:2-3; and James 5:13-18 for the New Testament parallel). So God works forgiveness and healing together. That does not mean that we can measure a person’s spiritual health by looking at his or her physical health. But all sickness and death are the result of evil and sin. This man was paralyzed because of sin (in the world and in every human heart)—that was the root cause. Jesus spoke first to that condition. The man needed spiritual healing, so Jesus forgave his sins. Then Jesus healed the man. Both the man’s body and his spirit were paralyzed; he could not walk, and he was not yet one of Jesus’ disciples. But the man’s spiritual state was Jesus’ first concern. If God does not heal us or someone we love, we need to remember that physical healing is not Christ’s only concern. We will all be completely healed in Christ’s coming kingdom; but first we must become his disciples.
God offers the same forgiveness given to the paralytic to all who believe. The Greek word aphientai, translated “forgiven,” means to leave or let go, to give up a debt, to send away from oneself. When we say we have forgiven a person, we mean that we have renewed our relationship despite the wrong that the person did. But we cannot erase or change the act itself. But the notion of aphiemi goes far beyond our human forgiveness, for it includes the “putting away” of sin in two ways: (1) The law and justice are satisfied because Jesus paid the penalty that our sins deserved; thus, they can no longer be held against us. (2) The guilt caused by our sin is removed and replaced with Christ’s righteousness. We are so forgiven that, in God’s eyes, it is as if we had never sinned. If Jesus had done this and nothing more for the man, the man should have been satisfied. If Jesus had healed his body and had not dealt with his sinful condition, the man would have been ultimately worse.
|LIFE APPLICATION – TO BE FORGIVEN|
|Spiritual sickness is Jesus’ primary concern. He wants people to enjoy a right relationship with God—faithful discipleship, sturdy assurance of God’s love for them, freedom from spiritual oppression. So Jesus intentionally relieved the paralytic of the burden of his sins first, and then, second, of his physical paralysis.|
|When you think of the good things Jesus brings to you, thank him for forgiveness first of all. With sins forgiven, you are made right with God. With sins forgiven, your biggest problem— beyond your own skill to correct—has been solved. Jesus has become your Savior, the greatest gift of all. Bring others to Jesus, so they may experience his blessings upon their lives.|
9:3 Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”NRSV These scribes (also called teachers of the law) were the legal specialists in Jesus’ day. Jesus’ teaching and popularity had led to special investigation by the powerful leaders of the Jewish faith. These scribes had come from Jerusalem to Capernaum (Luke 5:17). Jealous of Jesus’ popularity and power, these men hoped to find something to criticize or even condemn in Jesus’ teaching. When they heard Jesus tell the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven, they were shocked. The people in Jesus’ day took blasphemy very seriously. Offenders died. Even an unproven accusation of blasphemy could prove life-threatening. In such a climate, the charge of blasphemy worked almost as well as a contract for murder. Blasphemy meant to curse, revile, or insult the name of God. Innocent persons could be accused, convicted, and killed without having a chance to defend themselves. In fact, the public cause of Jesus’ death was blasphemy. Those directly responsible for his execution wanted the charge posted: “This man said, I am King of the Jews” (John 19:21 nrsv).
The religious leaders hotly debated the offense of blasphemy in the first century. Some said that a person had to use the divine name to be accused. These scribes, however, took the assumption of divine prerogatives (forgiving sins) as also constituting blasphemy.
Therefore, because only God can forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be God. In Jewish law, blasphemy was punishable by death (Leviticus 24:16). In labeling Jesus’ claim to forgive sins as blasphemous, the religious leaders showed they did not understand that Jesus was God. Jesus had God’s power and authority to heal bodies and forgive sins. Forgiveness of sins was a sign that the messianic age had come (Isaiah 40:2; Joel 2:32; Micah 7:18-19; Zechariah 13:1). Unfortunately, it did not occur to these Jewish leaders that perhaps this man was their Messiah.
9:4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”NRSV God is all-knowing, and Jesus is God. He had access to all the information; he knew every person’s thoughts (see 12:25; 22:18). Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (niv). Jesus’ glory and divinity were veiled by his humanity and mortality. While Jesus walked as a human on this earth, he never ceased to be God. When Jesus was born, God became a man. Jesus was not part man and part God; he was completely human and completely divine. Jesus Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form. As a man, Jesus was subject to place, time, and other human limitations. He did not give up his eternal power when he became human, but he did set aside his glory and his rights. In response to the Father’s will, he limited his power and knowledge.
When Jesus became human, he restrained the full use of his powers, yet he could still see each person’s thoughts, intents, and motives. Jesus perceived the thoughts of these scribes, who were accusing him of blasphemy. Jesus may have read their minds, or he may have read the questions in the expressions on their faces. In any case, they could not hide their hostility at Jesus’ words. Their thoughts of Jesus as a blasphemer were evil.
|LIFE APPLICATION – DEALING WITH SKEPTICS|
|When people dust off your witness, dismiss you as a fanatic, or quickly change the conversation from faith to furniture, you might feel offended. “Forget them!” you might say. “Hopeless!”|
|Jesus’ response to skeptics was to engage them. His question showed that he was interested in them. Even though they were often severely accusatory, Jesus kept talking to them. He did not write them off. Sincere questions have a way of keeping a conversation going.|
|In your witness, don’t be discouraged by skeptics. Just show compassion as Jesus did, and keep the conversation open, honest, and friendly.|
9:5 “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?”NRSV It would take someone of great power and authority to forgive sins. Yet the statement concerning forgiveness of sins could be said without verification. Healing the paralyzed man would be open to immediate public verification. Jesus was offering to do an easier task (healing the man) as public evidence that the more difficult, “secret” task was also accomplished. The scribes understood sickness to be the result of sin. Jesus then proposed the converse—if he could heal a person, then could he not also forgive sins? Jesus wanted to show that he had the power to forgive sins by showing that he had the power to make a paralytic stand up and walk.
Jesus accepted the premise that words matter. He repeatedly made claims that were outrageous, arrogant, and deceptive unless absolutely true. But he backed up his words with his work. He rested his claim to be God on his statements and actions. Confronted with undeniable evidence, people still refused to believe.
Unfortunately, people today reject Jesus with practically no evidence. Sometimes, we are so worried about presenting ourselves as Christians that we fail to present Jesus himself to those around us. We should seek to gain a hearing. But when we have their attention, our subject ought to be Jesus. When people actually find out what he did and said, they will have a clearer reason to respond to the invitation to believe. They may still reject Jesus. But they won’t be able to say to us, “You never told me.”
|LIFE APPLICATION – BACKUPS|
|It’s easy to tell someone his sins are forgiven; it’s a lot more difficult to reverse a case of paralysis! Jesus backed up his words by healing the man’s legs. Jesus’ action showed that his words were true; he had the power to forgive as well as to heal. Talk is cheap; our words lack meaning if our actions do not back them up. We can say we love God or others, but if we are not taking practical steps to demonstrate that love, our words are empty and meaningless. How well do your actions back up what you say?|
9:6-7 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—”Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home.NRSV Jesus again used the term “Son of Man” (an Old Testament name for the Messiah), a favorite designation for himself (alluding to Daniel 7:13; see also Matthew 8:20). The name claimed authority, for only one of highest authority (God himself) could forgive sins. The use of the title also reveals that Jesus was anticipating his future role as Judge. Only here and in Luke 7:48 does Jesus talk about forgiving sins. He came to do just that (Matthew 1:21), and his death would make forgiveness available to all people. But with those whom Jesus met and touched, he also had the authority to forgive their sins when he perceived that they would understand and accept.
Jesus’ authority extended from spiritual healing to physical healing. The physical healings revealed this to the world. One who could heal a paralytic could also forgive sins. Jesus spoke to the doubtful scribes, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. But Jesus didn’t even finish his sentence. He broke off part of the way through and allowed the miracle to speak for itself.
Jesus spoke with commanding authority, showing that he expected immediate obedience. He said to the paralytic—”Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” Jesus told the paralytic to stand up on his previously useless legs, to take his mat with arms that may also have been previously useless, and to go home. Jesus’ mission was to preach the gospel. His great power served to reveal his authority. Thus, Jesus sent the man back to his home with a new life because he had forgiven the man of his sins. The man did as Jesus said. He stood up and went to his home.
The healing unmistakably revealed Jesus’ power and authority. The scribes who questioned Jesus’ ability to forgive sins (9:3) saw the formerly paralyzed man get up and walk. Jesus’ question in 9:5 forced their answer: Jesus had the power to make the paralyzed man walk; thus, he also had the authority to forgive his sins.
9:8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.NIV Jesus did this miracle in front of the crowd that had gathered in this home to hear Jesus speak (Mark 2:2). The phrase “they were filled with awe” implies amazement as well as fear. Such fear was appropriate in the presence of one who displayed such authority (that is, authority to forgive sins). What was the result of this awe? The people praised God. While the scribes had previously called Jesus a blasphemer, the people recognized God’s power and realized that Jesus had authority from God. (Matthew does not tell us if some of the scribes changed their minds.) The difference between the scribes’ rejection and the crowd’s awe is a major theme in Matthew (see 9:33-34; 12:13-15; 14:34-15:2; 15:29-31 compared to 16:1-4). That God had given such authority to men probably means that the people were recognizing that a man—Jesus—displayed God’s power.
JESUS EATS WITH SINNERS AT MATTHEW’S HOUSE / 9:9-13
9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.NIV Matthew (the author of this Gospel) was a Jew who worked for the Romans (specifically for Herod Antipas) as the area’s tax collector. (In Mark and Luke, he is called “Levi.” Most people in this day had two or three names: a Jewish name, a Roman name, and possibly a Greek name. Levi was his Jewish name, Matthew his Roman name.) He collected custom duties from the citizens as well as from merchants passing through town. (Capernaum was a customs post on the caravan route between Damascus to the northeast and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.) Tax collectors took a commission on the taxes they collected, so most of them overcharged and kept the profits. Thus, most Jews hated tax collectors because of their reputation for cheating, their support of Rome, and their constant contact with “unclean” Gentiles. A Jew who accepted such an office shamed his family and friends and was excommunicated from the synagogue.
The tax collector’s booth was an elevated platform or bench. Everyone knew who Matthew was, and anyone passing through the city who had to pay taxes could find him easily. Matthew’s tollbooth taxed commercial goods being transported from the sea to land routes (his booth was “by the sea,” Mark 2:13-14 nkjv). This would not have been the first time that Jesus had seen Matthew, for Jesus had often walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Apparently Jesus saw in Matthew what he could use in his ministry. For example, we can see Matthew’s attention to detail and careful record-keeping skills in the way that he wrote this Gospel. Certainly Matthew had seen Jesus before and, with the crowds, probably had been impressed and intrigued with this man.
Then one day Jesus walked right up to Matthew’s booth and said two simple words: “Follow me.” The words are in the imperative mood, meaning this was a command, a call to discipleship, not an invitation (see 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21). Jesus called Matthew to “follow”—that is, to walk the same road. That Jesus called such a notorious person into his circle of disciples certainly must have shocked the other disciples, as well as the trailing crowd. Following upon the discussion of Jesus’ ability to forgive sins (9:1-8), this episode dramatically demonstrated the range of sinners that Jesus could and would forgive.
Matthew recognized that Jesus was not inviting him; Jesus was calling him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew’s radical obedience would cause a great change in his life. Already ostracized by fellow Jews, Matthew’s decision to follow Jesus would make no difference in this regard. But Matthew was probably very wealthy—tax collecting was a lucrative occupation; so when Matthew walked away from his booth, he snubbed Rome and a lifetime of potentially great wealth. Several of the other disciples could always return to fishing, but Matthew could never turn back.
|LIFE APPLICATION – GET UP AND GO|
|When Jesus called Matthew to be one of his disciples, Matthew got up and followed, leaving a promising career and a wealthy lifestyle. When God calls you to follow or obey him, do you do it with as much abandon as Matthew did? Sometimes the decision to follow Christ requires difficult or painful choices. Like Matthew, we must decide to leave behind those things that would keep us from following Christ.|
9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.NIV Matthew responded as Jesus would want all his followers to do—he followed his Lord immediately, and he called his friends together to meet Jesus too. Matthew held a dinner for his fellow tax collectors and other notorious sinners so they also could meet Jesus. Matthew, who left behind a material fortune to gain a spiritual fortune, was proud to be associated with Jesus.
At Matthew’s house there gathered a crowd that Jesus could not reach in the synagogues. The tax collectors had been excommunicated. The term “sinners” referred not only to immoral and pagan people, but also to the common people who were not learned in the law and did not abide by the rigid standards of the Pharisees. The Pharisees regarded these people as wicked and opposed to the will of God because they did not observe the rituals for purity, which enabled them to eat with others. These people gathered at Levi’s house, where they knew they had a welcome, and they ate with [Jesus] and his disciples and listened to the message this marvelous teacher had for them. As portrayed in the call of Matthew, this message may have been that in the kingdom of heaven the distinctions between people break down.
9:11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”NRSV According to the Pharisees, contact with these tax collectors and sinners made a Jew unclean; to sit and eat with such people was particularly heinous. Sharing fellowship around a meal indicated close association and identification with that person. The Pharisees would have nothing to do with such people, expecting them to change before dealing with them. But not so with Jesus.
The Pharisees were the legal specialists of the time. They interpreted the law but were especially concerned about the “rules” for life that became as binding as God’s written law in the Torah. Their job was to teach the Scriptures and the Law and to protect them against anyone’s willful defiance. They saw themselves as righteous and everyone else as sinners.
Then along came this man, Jesus, who was popular, taught with great authority from the Scriptures, and claimed to speak for God himself. Yet, he also ignored their laws and seemed to condone sin by keeping company with sinners. They watched Jesus and followed his every move, and their anger continued to boil as he flouted their man-made rules, which they often elevated above the laws of God (see, for example, 15:1-20).
The Pharisees, so strict in their observance of their laws as they attempted to retain their “purity,” refused to eat with common people because the sins of the commoners might make them ceremonially impure. So it surprised the Pharisees when Jesus sat down to a meal with these tax collectors and sinners. Here was a man who seemed to have the entire law at his fingertips, who taught with great authority, yet who stooped to the level of the poor, unlearned, common people—even sinners! Thus, the Pharisees pulled his disciples aside and asked why Jesus did this. They fashioned their question as an accusation. In this instance, Jesus probably stepped on every Pharisaic regulation about eating—and the Pharisees were not happy about it!
|LIFE APPLICATION – SEPARATISM|
|The Pharisees were noted for their separatism. Today, separatism promotes the idea that Christians should show the world the value of the gospel by being “separate” from the world—that is, don’t mix, don’t adopt the world’s bad habits (smoking, drinking, playing cards, going to movies, and dancing have all been on various churches’ lists of no-no’s). Some churches have expanded the idea of separatism to include keeping apart from anyone (including other Christians) who are not as “separate” as they should be. (For example, in the 1950s some white Protestant churches refused to associate with Billy Graham when Catholic and black church leaders first appeared on the evangelist’s podium.)|
|This story teaches us to be very careful of separatism. True, Christian disciples are called to a different lifestyle. But it’s wrong to think that we witness to Jesus’ gospel when we refuse to associate with people who don’t believe, or believe in ways not quite to our preferences. In fact, the disciple who sits in a tavern with a friend, or goes to the office party, would appear to be more like Jesus than the one who righteously stays away. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who sin; God’s message can change anyone.|
9:12-13 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”NKJV The Pharisees’ question apparently made its way to Jesus’ ears, and Jesus had an answer for the self-righteous, influential religious leaders. The first part of Jesus’ answer was from a common proverb on the healthy and the sick. Those who are well do not seek out a physician; the
|physician’s waiting room is filled with those who are sick. They recognize their need and come to the one who can make them well. The physician, in turn, spends his time helping the sick get well.||Mere outward correctness and attention to forms and ceremonies will not do. God must have reality.
Harry A. Ironsides
Jesus then told these self-righteous Pharisees to go and learn what this means, implying that they did not understand their own Scriptures. Rabbis said, “Go and learn,” to students who did not understand or apply correctly God’s Word and needed to go back and study more. The Pharisees thought they knew Scripture perfectly; Jesus told them to go back and study again the words of God spoken through the prophet Hosea, I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). Hosea’s words were not a blanket condemnation of the sacrificial system of the Jewish nation at the time; rather, God was condemning a thoughtless, mechanical approach to sacrifice. A religious ritual helps when carried out with an attitude of love for God. If a person’s heart is far from God, ritual will become empty mockery. God did not want the Israelites’ rituals; he wanted their hearts. Jesus challenged the Pharisees to apply Hosea’s words to themselves. The Pharisees’ rigid guidelines had created an artificial distinction between the “righteous” and “sinners.” As a result, the religious leaders, who should have guided and taught the people, had instead separated themselves. Thus, the “worship” of the religious leaders was as empty as a sacrifice given without thought of God. God wants a heart attitude that includes a right relationship with him and with others, an attitude that reaches out to those in physical and spiritual need.
Jesus carried the proverb a step further and explained his messianic mission. “I am here because these are the people who realize their need and welcome me.” Jesus did not come to call the righteous (used ironically—those, like these Pharisees, who thought they were righteous) to repentance, for the self-righteous do not recognize their sinfulness. But these sinners saw their need. This was Jesus’ audience. Jesus, the Great Physician, healed people of physical illnesses, but he knew that all people are spiritually sick and in need of salvation. Luke recorded Jesus’ words about his mission as, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 nrsv).
|LIFE APPLICATION – THOUGHTLESS WORSHIP AND WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE|
|Perhaps the greater proof of Matthew’s conversion wasn’t his willingness to follow Jesus but his immediate invitation to others to also meet the Lord. The people each of us tries to reach with the gospel usually have limits and boundaries. Most often, these limits are self-imposed. Like the Pharisees, we may conclude that a person’s reputation or past behavior cuts him or her off from even the opportunity to meet Christ. If so, we are wrong. People still need to hear. The gospel gets compromised more often by our failure to express it than by our failure to express it in the “right context.” Is your approach to non-Christians more like Matthew’s or like the Pharisees’? Invite someone outside your “world” into your home or church.|
RELIGIOUS LEADERS ASK JESUS ABOUT FASTING / 9:14-17
The Pharisees questioned Jesus about those with whom he had fellowship at meals. They also questioned why Jesus and his disciples feasted instead of fasting on the customary days. Jesus showed the need for joy because the Messiah had come.
9:14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”NRSV The disciples of John were the remaining disciples of John the Baptist, a group that lasted into the second century (see Acts 19:1-9). These men and the Pharisees were fasting—that is, they were going without food in order to spend time in prayer, repenting and humbling themselves before God. The Old Testament Law set aside only one day a year as a required day of fasting for all Jews—the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). The Pharisees, however, fasted on Mondays and Thursdays (see Luke 18:12) as an act of piety, and most likely they promoted this among the people.
The tense of the verb for “fast” indicates that the feast at Matthew’s house happened at the very time that these people were fasting, apparently on one of the weekly fasting days. John’s disciples fasted as a sign of mourning for sin and to prepare themselves for the Messiah’s coming. John the Baptist was in prison, and these disciples found themselves siding with the Pharisees on this issue; they were fasting when they should have been feasting with Jesus. Naturally this caused a question: Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?
9:15 And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”NRSV In the Bible, people would fast in times of disaster and as a sign of their humility and repentance. Fasting represented mourning. During that time, the people approached God with humility and sorrow for sin. Fasting focused their attention on God and demonstrated their change of heart and their true devotion (see, for example, Judges 20:26; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 8:21; Joel 1:14; Jonah 3:5). While Jesus walked the earth, his presence was a cause for celebration—the Messiah had come! The people did not need to mourn; they needed to rejoice. Jesus’ presence was as joyous as the presence of the bridegroom at a wedding feast. The picture of Jesus as a “bridegroom” comes from the Old Testament description of the wedding feast that God will prepare for himself and his people (Isaiah 54:5-6; Hosea 2:16-20). Wedding guests do not mourn or fast; a wedding is a time of celebration and feasting. Likewise, Jesus’ coming was a sign of celebration, not mourning and fasting. Jesus did not condemn fasting—he himself fasted (Luke 4:2). He emphasized that fasting must be done at the right time for the right reasons.
Jesus knew, however, that soon he (the bridegroom) would be taken away from them. The Greek word translated “taken away from” is aparthe; a similar verb is used in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) in Isaiah 53:8, a verse prophesying the Messiah’s violent death. “The days [that] will come” refers to the days of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Jesus’ disciples would indeed fast and mourn during those days. John 16:20 says, “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (niv). The disciples would grieve for their crucified Master, and the world (the mass of people opposed to Jesus) would rejoice. But the disciples’ grief would not last long; their sorrow would turn to joy when they saw their risen Lord.
|LIFE APPLICATION – CELEBRATE!|
|When you gather to worship, count it all joy. Jesus is with you there, and where he is, let no one be droopy or melancholy. Severe religion wants people to be excessively sober, serious, and quiet. But Jesus invites us to worship happily, cheerfully, with an enthusiasm that accompanies the reunion of best friends. Let your worship be like a wedding celebration.|
9:16 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.”NRSV There are several interpretations of the “old versus the new” (see 9:17 which speaks of the “new wineskins” and the “new wine”):
- Law versus grace. The old cloth and old wineskins represent people under the Old Testament Law, and the new cloth and new wineskins represent people under grace. This view, preserved by dispensationalists, stresses the complete break of the Old Testament view of obedience with the New Testament.
- Old covenant versus new covenant. The old cloth and old wineskins represent the older and partial understanding of God’s will that had only a glimmer of understanding of God’s grace as exemplified in the gospel. The new covenant would reflect a new way of understanding what true faithfulness to the law would be under Christ’s authority. This view does justice to “so both are preserved” (9:17) because it sees the revealed will of God as present in both old and new. But limiting Jesus’ words to apply to time in history alone misses his point.
- Old system of spirituality versus new system. This view sees continuity in the revealed will of God, both in the Old Testament Scripture and in the New Testament message of Christ. The old cloth and wineskins referred to the old system of application of the law (rigid, legalistic) as typified by the worst teaching of the Pharisees. The old forms and traditions were characterized by the sorrow of fasting. The new attitude of spirituality is characterized by the joy of feasting as seen in Christ and his disciples. New attitudes and methods would be needed. When new attitudes are present, both the understanding of the will of God in Scripture and the new forms will be preserved.
Jesus’ arrival on earth ushered in a new time, a new covenant between God and people. The new covenant called for a new way of expressing personal faith. The newness of the gospel could not be combined with the legalism of the Pharisees any more than a piece of unshrunk cloth should be used as a patch on an old cloak. When the garment is washed, the patch will shrink, pull away from the old garment, and leave a worse tear than before.
The Christian church was never meant to be a sect or adaptation of Judaism; rather, Christ fulfills the intent of the Old Testament Scripture. The Jews, patiently waiting for their Messiah, should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah and should have believed the Good News. The apostle John wrote, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 nkjv). Both law and grace express God’s nature. Moses’ law emphasized God’s law and justice; Jesus Christ came to express God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness. Moses could only give the law; Christ came to fulfill the law perfectly (5:17). The law reveals the nature and will of God; Jesus Christ reveals the nature and will of God. But while the law could only point out sin and condemn us, Jesus Christ gave his life to bring us forgiveness of sin and salvation. The parables of the cloth and the wineskins (9:17) apply to more than just fasting or to the Pharisees. They speak of Jesus’ entire mission and the new era he inaugurated by his entrance into human history.
9:17 “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”NRSV In Bible times, people stored wine in goatskins sewn around the edges to form watertight bags (called wineskins). New wine expanded as it fermented, stretching its wineskin. After this wine had aged, old and brittle wineskins would burst if fresh wine was poured into them. New wine, therefore, would always be put into fresh wineskins. The new wine was the newness of the gospel as exemplified in the person of Jesus Christ (John 2:1-11). Like old wineskins, the Pharisees and indeed the entire religious system of Judaism had become too rigid to accept Jesus. They could not contain him or his message in their traditions or rules. Their understanding of faithfulness to the law had become unsuitable for the fresh, dynamic power of Christ’s message. They were the self-appointed guardians of the “old cloak” and the “old wineskins.”
Jesus did not come to abolish or annul the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (5:17). But this fulfillment required new approaches and new structures. Jesus’ words and so both are preserved, reveal that the new wine needed to be preserved in new forms. The new way of obedience to the law would be found in the authoritative teaching of Jesus. Jesus did not come to patch up the old religious system of Judaism with its rules and traditions. If he had, his message would have damaged it. His purpose was to bring in something new, though God’s prophets had told about it centuries before. This new message said that God’s Son would come to earth to offer all people forgiveness of sins and reconciliation. The gospel did not fit into the rigid legalistic system that had become the Jewish religion.
|LIFE APPLICATION – FULFILLED WINESKINS|
|Jesus repeatedly challenged the thought of the day that moved from timeless truth to wooden, thoughtless practice. He pointed out that a rigid application often contradicts the original truth from which it came. He openly charged people with rejecting God’s Word by substituting tradition for truth.|
|In the present context, Jesus was using the cloth and wineskin illustrations to roll back worn-out applications. Jesus didn’t reject fasting; he rejected fasting without purpose and fasting for the wrong reasons. We must ensure that our attitudes and methods for ministry convey the same commitment to the eternal truth of God’s Word but portray flexibility in how we communicate it. Are we locked into worn-out traditions for worship and ministry? Are we open to fresh new ways to bring Christ to the world?|
JESUS HEALS A BLEEDING WOMAN AND RESTORES A GIRL TO LIFE / 9:18-26
In this new kingdom, joy predominates (9:15) and love in action takes the place of rigid law keeping. Matthew followed the previous account of Jesus’ words to the questioning Pharisees and disciples of John the Baptist with the account of Jesus reaching out to two more unclean people—a woman with a bleeding disorder and a dead child—healing one and raising the other to life. His compassion outweighed legalism.
9:18-19 While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.NRSV Jesus was interrupted at his meal by a man who came with a need. Mark and Luke say this man’s name was Jairus (Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41). He was a leader of the synagogue. The synagogue was the local center of worship, and Jairus was a lay person elected as one of the leaders (a synagogue could have more than one leader or ruler, see Acts 13:15). The synagogue leaders were responsible for supervising worship services, caring for the scrolls, running the daily school, keeping the congregation faithful to the Law, distributing alms, administering the care of the building, and finding rabbis to teach on the Sabbath. The leader of the local synagogue exerted great influence in his community, yet he knelt before Jesus, indicating homage and courtesy as he came with his urgent request. Neither position nor pressure could stop Jairus from coming to the one man who could help his daughter. (Mark and Luke add that she was twelve years old—see Mark 5:42 and Luke 8:42; Luke also adds that this was his only daughter.)
Matthew abbreviated this story by quoting the father as saying, “My daughter has just died.” In Mark’s account, we read that the daughter was dying, but while Jesus was on the way, news came that the little girl had died. Matthew intended to stress Jesus’ authority over death, so he shortened the story, retaining Jesus’ words and focusing on his power.
While Jesus could have healed (or raised) this young girl by speaking the word (as he had done with the centurion’s servant, 8:5-13), that was not Jairus’s request. Still, Jesus responded to his faith. Jesus apparently heard the urgency in Jairus’s voice and saw the strain of worry on his face, so he got up and followed him, with his disciples. Mark adds that there was also a large crowd who went along. Thus, so many people filled the streets that they pressed around Jesus (Mark 5:24).
|LIFE APPLICATION – AN EQUALIZING NEED|
|Shock and grief made the synagogue leader bold. A long series of disappointments had created a similar result in the suffering woman. The first came to Jesus for his child’s life; the second came to Jesus to make her whole. The ruler couldn’t bear to lose his twelve-year-old child, while the woman couldn’t wait to lose her twelve-year-old problem. They were two of many people driven to Jesus by their needs.|
|Jesus met people in their need. His response was neither calculated nor mechanical. He never ignored people because of their status or position. He clearly wanted people to acknowledge his lordship, but he willingly helped them with no assurance of their gratitude or understanding.|
|We imitate Christ when we help people any way we can while also offering them the gospel. We must do so lovingly and generously, even if they do not respond to the message.|
9:20-21 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”NIV In the crowd pressing on Jesus was another desperate person in need of divine help. A woman had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. This bleeding was painful and may have been a menstrual or uterine disorder. She had been to many doctors, had spent all her money, but had received no cure (Mark 5:26). The bleeding caused the woman to be in a constant condition of ceremonial uncleanness (see Leviticus 15:25-33). She could not worship in the synagogue, and she could not have normal social relationships, for under Jewish law, anyone who touched her also became unclean. Thus, the woman had been treated almost as severely as a leper.
In these two stories we find two people who sought Jesus out—Jairus on behalf of his daughter, and this woman for her incurable disease. Both came in faith, knowing that Jesus could take care of their particular problem. Jairus had already petitioned Jesus, and Jesus was on his way. This woman had heard about Jesus’ miracle-working power (apparently for the first time) and had come to Capernaum to find him (tradition says she was from Caesarea Philippi). She worked her way through the crowd and came up behind Jesus. She believed that she only had to touch the edge of his cloak (the tassels) and she would be healed. Tassels were attached to the outer garment to remind Jews to follow God (Numbers 15:37-38; Deuteronomy 22:12). The effort to touch Jesus’ garment was due to the popular belief that the clothes of a holy man imparted spiritual and healing power (see Mark 6:56; Acts 19:11-12). She may have feared that Jesus would not touch her if he knew her condition, that Jesus would not risk becoming unclean in order to heal her. Or she may have feared that if her disease became known to the crowd, the people who had touched her would be angry at having become unclean unknowingly. The woman knew she could receive healing, but she tried to do it as unobtrusively as possible. She thought that she would just be healed and go away.
|LIFE APPLICATION – TOUCHING HIM|
|Lots of people were touching Jesus that day, bumping against him, reaching out to shake his hand (or the equivalent), moving alongside the crowd. But one person touched him in faith. That person discovered Jesus’ healing power.|
|Mere curiosity, merely following the crowd, or casually brushing up against Jesus does not represent the faith Jesus looks for, the faith he responds to. The woman was desperate; she believed Jesus could help; and she was determined, even if a bit bashful. We follow her example when we truly lay our needs before Jesus in prayer, believing he can help us. Do that today with your worries and cares. Divine help will be there for you.|
9:22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.NRSV Mark describes in detail the process of this healing (Mark 5:25-34) and places the healing before Jesus’ words to the woman. Characteristically, Matthew was focusing instead on Jesus’ authoritative words. Someone had touched him in order to be healed. Clearly Jesus healed the woman; her faith appropriated the healing, and Jesus perceived what had happened. He turned, saw the woman who had been healed (in Mark he asked who had touched him, but he already knew). Then he spoke words of comfort to the woman, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Jesus spoke to the woman in gentle words, calling her daughter, revealing a father-child relationship. She came for healing and received it, but she also received peace and a relationship with God himself because of her faith. Jesus explained that it was not his clothing that had healed her; rather, her faith in reaching out to the one person who could heal her had allowed that healing to take place. Not only did she have faith, but she had also placed her faith in the right person. She was instantly delivered from her bleeding and her pain.
|LIFE APPLICATION – NEVER GIVE UP|
|God changed a situation that had been a problem for years. Like the leper and the demon-possessed men, this diseased woman was considered unclean. For twelve years, she too had been one of the “untouchables” and had not been able to lead a normal life. But Jesus changed that and restored her. Sometimes we are tempted to give up on people or situations that have not changed for many years. God can change what seems unchangeable, giving new purpose and hope.|
9:23-24 When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.NRSV Mark explains that messengers then arrived to tell Jairus that his daughter had died. But this did not stop Jesus. He took Peter, James, and John and continued on to the leader’s house. The flute players and the commotion (loud crying and wailing) were all part of the customary ritual of mourning. Lack of weeping and wailing was the ultimate disgrace and disrespect. Some people, usually women, made mourning a profession and were paid by the dead person’s family to weep over the body. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, was an important person in the town. Thus, at the death of his only daughter, the townspeople demonstrated their great love and respect for Jairus and his family by weeping and wailing.
Jesus spoke words of encouragement, only to be laughed at. His words, the girl is not dead but sleeping, probably made Jesus appear rather stupid—certainly anyone could tell death from sleep. Neither was she just in a coma from which Jesus would awaken her as some have proposed. The girl was indeed dead, and everyone from the family to the mourners knew it. Jesus knew it too, but his words tested the faith of the crowd and revealed to Jairus the hope beyond all hope of what Jesus was about to do. She was dead, but Jesus would bring her back to life, as if awakening her from sleep. Jesus used the image of sleep to indicate that the girl’s condition was temporary and that she would be restored. Luke explained that when Jesus lifted her up, her spirit returned to her (Luke 8:54-55).
9:25-26 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.NKJV Jesus’ words sounded ridiculous to the faithless crowd. Their laughter became their judgment—they would not witness the miracle, for Jesus put them all outside of the room. Then Jesus took the child’s father and mother and the three disciples who had come and went in where the child was, in an inner part of the house. Jesus had come to earth to conquer sin and death, and in this dramatic but quiet miracle, he would show his disciples that power. And two bereaved parents would receive back their beloved daughter.
Jesus did no incantations and spoke no magic words, as other healers of the day normally did. He simply went to the girl’s bedside and took her by the hand. The fact that Jesus touched the girl’s hand would have amazed the proper synagogue leader and the disciples. Touching a dead body meant to become unclean. But Jesus had already dealt with a demon-possessed man and a woman with an incurable issue of blood and had touched and healed them. Touching the dead girl confirmed once again that to Jesus, compassion was more important than the letter of the law.
Jesus took the girl’s hand in his, he issued a command (Mark 5:41), and the dead child arose. Just as the healings Jesus performed were always complete, so the rising of this young girl from the dead was complete.
This was not the first time the disciples had witnessed the raising of a dead person. Luke 7:11-15 records Jesus raising a boy near the village of Nain. Yet, even in this instance, the disciples were amazed. When the girl came back to life, perhaps the disciples may have wondered (as they did after Jesus calmed the storm), “Who then is this, that the dead can be brought back to life?” Jesus would raise yet another person—his friend Lazarus (dead and buried for four days—recorded in John 11). Then finally, most dramatic of all, Jesus himself would rise from the grave and spend time with the disciples before returning to his Father. Jesus had authority and power over humanity’s greatest enemy—death.
Mark explained that Jesus had commanded the parents not to advertise the miracle (Mark 5:43). However, despite Jesus’ command to the contrary, the report of this went out into all that land.
|LIFE APPLICATION – HOPE|
|It’s terrific to heal, preach, feed, and help people, but still there lingers death as our last and greatest enemy. Here Jesus shows his power over that problem too.|
|“What is your only hope in life and in death?” asks the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”|
|When you approach death, be confident in Jesus’ saving power. When loved ones die, treasure the hope of eternal life. Jesus’ power will surely carry us through that last portal to our home in heaven.|
JESUS HEALS THE BLIND AND MUTE / 9:27-34
9:27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”NRSV Jesus and the disciples returned from there (that is, from Jairus’s house, 9:23), most likely with a crowd continuing in their wake. Two blind men also followed him. These men cried out for mercy, meaning that they wanted Jesus to help them. Isaiah had prophesied that a day would come when God would open the eyes of the blind (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:7). These men called Jesus Son of David, a popular way of addressing Jesus as the Messiah. It was known that the Messiah would be a descendant of David (Isaiah 9:7). This is the first time this title is used in Matthew.
9:28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied.NIV Jesus didn’t respond immediately to the blind men’s pleas, but they persisted, following Jesus indoors, right into the house where Jesus was staying. They knew Jesus could heal them, and they brought their request to him.
The focus of this story is the power of faith. Jesus asked these blind men first if they had faith (Do you believe . . . ?). Then he healed them according to their faith (9:29). These men answered Jesus’ question about their belief, saying, “Yes, Lord.” The use of the word “Lord” reveals their faith in Jesus’ power and authority to heal them.
|LIFE APPLICATION – “YES, LORD”|
|How simple and profound. The blind men showed their faith in plain talk that says, “Yes, Lord, you can do it!”|
|The “Amen” that closes our prayers is like saying “Yes, Lord.” “Amen” is not just a period at the end of a sentence, or a courtesy closing at the end of a letter. It is our vote of confidence that Jesus, our Lord, can do it. Let your Amen be as strong and simple, direct and plain, as if you had followed Jesus into the house and asked him for help, person to person. Occasionally, to help remind you of its meaning, say at the end of your prayers, “Yes, Lord, you can do it!”|
9:29-31 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened.NRSV These blind men had proven their faith in Jesus to heal them by coming to him with their need and following him right into a house in order to receive healing. Because these men believed, Jesus touched their eyes and their eyes were opened. The words “according to your faith” do not mean “in proportion to,” but “in response to.” This healing was a powerful example that Jesus was the Messiah. Healing of the blind had never occurred in the Old Testament or in Judaism before Jesus.
Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.”NRSV Jesus told these men to be quiet because he was concerned for his ministry. Jesus did not want to be known as just a miracle worker; he wanted people to listen to his words that would heal their broken spiritual lives. Jesus’ mission was to preach the Good News of the kingdom of God. If crowds descended on him to see amazing healings and dead people raised, they would not be coming with the heart attitude needed to hear and respond to the gospel. The disciples would understand Jesus’ miracles and talk about them after his resurrection—then they could write them down for all of us to read and marvel at as well. But these blind men were too excited to heed Jesus’ words. Jesus had sternly ordered them to keep quiet but they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.NRSV Obviously the blind men would not be able to hide their healing for long. The power of God and the miracle were so great that no one could keep silent. What, exactly, did Jesus expect? Jesus simply wanted these men to keep the details to themselves and think about them. He wanted them to worship quietly and treasure in their hearts what Jesus had done. He wanted them to focus on the spiritual aspect. Above all, he did not want more advertisement of his healing power. But the men could not contain themselves; they told everyone in that area what Jesus had done.
|LIFE APPLICATION – EASY DISOBEDIENCE|
|Sometimes we think that conversion will solve the world’s problems because converted people will obey Jesus and live under his commands. But here we see two faith-filled blind men, newly healed, who receive a direct command and almost immediately disobey. How easy it is!|
|Sometimes we mistakenly let joyous feelings become our guide, instead of listening to Jesus’ word. Or we think we know better (“He can’t be serious?!”) and so disregard Jesus’ words. Thus, gospel-preaching churches have supported slavery, apartheid, oppression, and bigotry—failing to obey the words of Jesus.|
|Take Jesus’ words seriously, and live by them. Give Jesus priority over your own hunches, preferences, and exuberance. Show your commitment to Jesus by obeying him.|
9:32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus.NIV Jesus could hardly come or go without someone in need coming to him! This time, as Jesus and his disciples were leaving, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. The word translated “could not talk” is kophos, which can mean deaf, unable to talk, or both. Such disabilities are not always the work of demons, because Jesus healed many people of illness and disability without casting out demons. Matthew wanted his readers to understand, however, that in this situation a demon was at work. While Jesus was on earth, demonic forces seemed especially active. Although we cannot always be sure why or how demon possession occurs, it causes both physical and mental problems. In this case, the demon made the man unable to talk. (For more on demons and demon possession, see commentary on 8:28-34.)
9:33-34 And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.”NRSV Matthew avoided detail about the exorcism of the demon (he had already established Jesus’ authority over demonic powers, see 8:16, 28-34) and focused instead on the reaction of the crowd. After Jesus cast out the demon, the mute man was able to speak.
Once again, the ever-present crowds were amazed. They had never seen anything like this. The teachings Matthew recorded in chapters 5-7 established Jesus’ authority; the miracles grouped in chapters 8 and 9 revealed Jesus’ power and divinity. The crowds saw God’s power at work in Jesus and began to realize that he was one of the greatest prophets.
The religious leaders, however, saw something entirely different: But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”NIV In these words of the Pharisees, Matthew was showing the full extent of their rejection of Jesus. This chapter has the Pharisees accusing Jesus of four different sins: blasphemy, befriending outcasts, impiety, and serving Satan, the prince of demons. In Scripture Satan is constantly portrayed as the imitator of God, so the Pharisees may have been referring to this belief. They tried to explain Jesus away by saying that he was only imitating God but was really in league with Satan—and that’s why the demons obeyed him.
Matthew showed how Jesus was maligned by those who should have received him most gladly. Why did the Pharisees do this? (1) Jesus bypassed their religious authority. (2) He weakened their control over the people. (3) He challenged their cherished beliefs. (4) He exposed their insincere motives. While the Pharisees questioned, debated, and dissected Jesus, people were being healed and lives changed right in front of them. Their skepticism was based on jealousy of Jesus’ popularity. The opposition to Jesus was intensifying; Jesus was far too powerful and popular for the Pharisees’ comfort.
JESUS URGES THE DISCIPLES TO PRAY FOR WORKERS / 9:35-38
From 9:35 through 10:42, Matthew recorded a second discourse of Jesus, focusing on mission. (The first discourse was the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in chapters 5-7.) Jesus continued to share the Good News of the kingdom to all who would listen, and he exemplified the task and pattern his disciples would follow after his return to heaven.
9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.NKJV This verse introduces the next discourse that Matthew recorded (from 9:35 through 10:42). This verse also mirrors 4:23, a verse that introduced the last recorded discourse in chapters 5 through 7.
Jesus went about all the cities and villages. Again, Jesus’ ministry is described as teaching, preaching, and healing. These were the three main aspects. “Teaching” shows Jesus’ concern for understanding; “preaching” shows his concern for commitment; and “healing” shows his concern for wholeness. His miracles of healing authenticated his teaching and preaching, proving that he truly was from God.
The Good News of the kingdom was that the promised and long-awaited Messiah had finally come. His healing miracles were a sign that his teaching was true.
9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.NKJV Wherever Jesus went, crowds gathered.
|But when Jesus saw these multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them. The word “compassion” describes the deep inner mercy of God, often described in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel compared Israel to sheep without a shepherd (Ezekiel 34:5, 6; see also Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17); Jesus saw the weary and scattered people as sheep having no shepherd. The word for “weary” can also mean “troubled,” “bewildered,” or “despondent.” The word for “scattered” is also “prostrate” or “thrown to the ground.” The two words are near||Today I noticed for the first time that Jesus’ compassion on the multitudes was not only because they were many, but because they were scattered, divided, and distressed . . . So it is among our tribes [of Auca Indians]— scattered, but not many. Yet they merit His mercy. Thus God confirms my way with these encouragements from His Word.
synonyms that stress man’s helplessness without God. Jesus came to be the Shepherd, the one who could show people how to avoid life’s pitfalls (see John 10:14; 1 Peter 2:25). Jesus considered the Pharisees to have failed in leading the people to God, who were therefore left without a shepherd.
9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”NKJV Jesus looked at the crowds following him and referred to them as a field ripe for harvest, but the laborers to bring in the harvest are few. These “laborers” were the disciples, then few in number. Jesus commanded his disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers. The “Lord of the harvest” refers to God. The verb translated “send out” is a strong term, meaning to “thrust forth.” In this context it speaks of a strong push to get workers into the field. These laborers must warn people of coming judgment and call them to repentance. Many people are ready to give their lives to Christ if someone would show them how. We are to pray that people will respond to this need for workers. Often, when we pray for something, God answers our prayers by using us. Be prepared for God to use you to show another person the way to him. Chapter 10 will describe this mission and what it will involve in more detail.
|LIFE APPLICATION – MISSIONS|
|Missions finds its motive in the heart of Jesus (“He was moved with compassion”) and its strength in the prayers of the church.|
|Churches which prefer projects to prayer are missing the power, and missions will eventually fizzle there. Churches where zeal comes from “saving the lost” or “rescuing the perishing”— with emphasis on hurry and efficiency because time is short— miss the heart of Jesus’ own motives.|
|The keys to success in missions are to grow closer to Jesus’ heart for people and to pray. Whatever else your church does, learn to love and learn to pray.|
Source: Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.