Matthew 9

Structure

Cycle 2: The Paralyzed Man (Mt. 9:1–8)
Following Jesus: Tax Collectors and Sinners (Mt. 9:9–17)

1. The call of Matthew (Mt. 9:9)

2. The meal with sinners (Mt. 9:10–13)

3. The question from John’s disciples about fasting (Mt. 9:14–17)

Cycle 3: Additional Miracles with a Focus on Mission (Mt. 9:18–10:4)

Verse 18-24 Three miracles

a. Jesus raises the synagogue official’s daughter (Mt. 9:18–19, 23–26) and heals the hemorrhaging woman (Mt. 9:20–22)

b. Jesus heals two blind men (Mt. 9:27–31)

c. Jesus exorcizes a mute man (Mt. 9:32–34)

Verse 35-10:4 The focus on mission

d. Summary of Jesus’s ministry and appeal for more workers (Mt. 9:35–38)

e. Jesus commissions the twelve disciples (Mt. 10:1–4)

 

Theme

Jesus as Pioneer and Perfecter of the Kingdom shows His authority and passion by His miracles and words, and His compassion for the broken and the sinners. It is at this point, when the display of authority and mercy have met together that Jesus prepares workers to go out into the Kingdom, and to advance the mission in which God’s grace renews people through the power of the Kingdom Word.
 

Thesis of Mt. 9:32-38

What: Christ’s redeeming ability vis a vis the devil is set in the context of the shepherding heart of Christ and the harvest mission of the kingdom.

How: Through mention of the miracles which prove power and the heart that proves compassion

Why: To prove that Christ alone is the fulfillment of prophecy to fulfill the mission.

Whereunto: That we would follow Christ’s mission bringing the news of the kingdom

 

Exposition of the verses

In this third miracle of the cycle of miracles, Jesus shows His authority to forgive sins. For the people a simple saying, but in the Kingdom this is of much more value than the healing of any disease. People get sick again and will die, but the forgiveness of sins concerns the eternal life. This story is the first time in which Jesus comes in direct conflict with the scribes and Pharisees, but this conflict will continue in chapters 9-17 and play a very important role in Matthews gospel. The root of this conflict was perhaps in Jesus’ harsh words against the false righteousness of the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20) and His superseding authority in comparison to these scribes (Mt. 5:29).
 

Verse 1-8 The Paralyzed Man

In verse 1, Jesus travels back to Capernaum, and heals a paralyzed man in a house. Although Matthew doesn’t mention that the man was led down through the roof, Marc and Luke do. Matthew does not seem too concerned about the chronological place of this healing, but more the topical and theological reasons. Also, he does not mention anything regarding the disciples anymore. The push-back on Christ’s mission is escalating. Jesus is compassionate tot the man, for He calls him τέκνον, meaning “child.” Jesus’ miracle is called blasphemy, though this is exactly the opposite of what Christ does: He glorifies God while they blaspheme. When Jesus turns back, He returns to the people who have witness His miracles a little while ago. And they come with new illnesses, and new needs.
It is the faith of the man’s friends that is rewarded, though the friends do not play a further role in the story. The link between the forgiveness of sin and the healing of the man is debated. The story doesn’t tell that the forgiveness of sin was necessary as a means to physical restoration. Perhaps Jesus addresses a spiritual state in the man’s heart, which the friends didn’t know.
The true translation of verse 4 states that Jesus “saw” rather than “knew” the hearts of the Pharisees, possibly by their body language. He knew the evil thoughts in their hearts (Mt. 12:34–35; 15:19). Jesus asks what is harder to say, and what is harder to do. Obviously forgiving sins is easier to say, but harder to do, since it required an act of God. If Christ will heal the man, it is a proof of His authority to have forgiven this man as well.
Verse 7 focuses in on the response of the crowd. The text reads “fear” in the crowd, which likely refers to amazement. As France says, “fear in Mt. 14:26–27; 17:6–7; 27:54; 28:4–5, 8 is the response to supernatural phenomena, and that sense would be appropriate here: Jesus has just demonstrated that he wields a superhuman authority.” Concluding of this story we must say that we do not know if this sickness came through sin or not. Throughout history, humans have suffered many physical illnesses, ensuing from Adam’s sin (Gen. 3). Jesus, as the last “Adam” (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22) now releases from sin’s bondage and heals (Ps. 103:3), showing that in the Kingdom of God, sickness has no place.
 

Following Jesus as Disciple: Tax Collectors and Sinners (9:9–17)

Verse 9-13 The Call of Matthew

Verse 9 tells us that Jesus encounters a tax collection office near Capernaum. There is debate over why Luke and Mark both call this man Levi, and Matthew calls him “Matthew.” According to Turner, Jews could have two Semitic names (Acts 4:36). Perhaps Jesus gave Levi the name Matthew as he did Simon the name Peter. The call of Matthew is similar to the call of the other disciples in chapter 4, and is close to the final list of the twelve disciples in chapter 10. This is another example of the kind of disciple Jesus choses.
Jesus enters into the house of the man, where he has prepared a meal for his friends. This makes the Pharisees even more furious. A meal was a sign of identification, so Jesus sharing a meal with a tax-collector was beyond their approval. A tax-collector had frequent association with Gentiles, so were considered unclean as well. Sinners in the eyes of the Pharisees were those who didn’t observe the Jewish law, so tax-collectors were sinners of the “highest rank.” But Jesus again shows that there will be a banquet in the kingdom where sinners and outlaws and Gentiles eat together.
In verse 12, Jesus answers the accusations of the Pharisees. He compares sin with a disease (Mt. 8:16–17; 9:1–8). Jesus says “Go and learn.” This means that He considers them ignorant in biblical truth. He calls the Pharisees to reflect on Hos. 6:6, which says, “I desire compassion, not sacrifice.” For the Pharisees, the rituals have taken over personal integrity, something that Christ strongly refuted (Matt. 5:7; 12:7; 1 Sam. 15:22; Jer. 7:22–23; Ps. 40:6–8; Heb. 10:4–9). For Jesus, the healthy are those who think that they are righteous, and the “sick” are those who need Jesus to heal their lives. Jesus does not think low of the law, but the start of obedience to it must come from the heart.
 

Verse 14-17 The Question about Fasting

The question that John’s disciples ask regarding fasting seems to indicate that the Pharisees and they themselves were fasting and that Jesus’ disciples didn’t. John lived a very ascetic lifestyle (Mt. 3:4; 11:18; cf. Luke 1:15), and they likely fasted two days in the week (Luke 18:12) and on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:34; Num. 29:7-11), which Jesus also kept. Jesus uses three metaphors to answer. The first is of a wedding, the second of the mending of garments, and the third of wine-making. Jesus compares Himself to the groom here, and tells the men that the time of fasting will be when the groom is gone, which will be shortly. The banquet wedding is used in the Bible to speak of a future blessing and fellowship with God (8:11-12; Isa. 25:6-10). God is often described as bridegroom (Isa. 54:5–6; 62:4–5; Hos. 2:16–23). John the Baptist used this image to describe Jesus (John 3:29; cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25–32; Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17). The mention of the bridegroom’s being (violently) taken away (cf. Isa. 53:8) is a veiled prediction of Jesus’s being arrested and crucified (cf. Matt. 10:16–33, 38; 12:38–40; 16:21; 17:9–13, 22–23; 20:28; 26:11).
Jesus’ second response in verse 16 is come complicated. The metaphors show the incompatibility of the new with the old. The old is Pharisaic piety, and the new is the new teachings of Jesus. Turner sees Matthew 9:14–17 as a key text on continuity and discontinuity in biblical theology. Jesus does not replace Moses. Yes the disciples will fast again, but not like Christ has never come. The final clause of Mt. 9:17, “and both are preserved,” is crucial. Does Jesus mean to say that the new wineskins and new wine are both preserved or that the old wineskins and new wine are both preserved? In view of Mt. 5:17–20 and Matthew’s overall teaching, the second option is preferable. Jesus, as the ultimate teacher of Israel, preserves the law but in the new context of the righteousness of the inaugurated kingdom, not in the old context of Pharisaic tradition.
 

Verse 18-34 Three Miracles

The women
An official approaches Jesus with much reverence and faith. Jesus had proven that when He would lay His hands on the sick, they would be healed (Mt. 8:3, 15), and this is what the man hopes for. Jesus follows the man, and this is the point where the story of the hemorrhaging woman starts. Matthew mentions that the girl is already dead, while Luke and Mark speak of an ill girl. The story of the unclean (bleeding) woman is sandwiched between the story of another unclean (dead) woman (both dead and bleeding women were considered to be unclean). The stories are therefore linked together.
Purity regulations regarding menstruating women were given in Lev. 15:19-33. It was a greater problem than just physical illness due to constant bleeding, but everything the woman touched was rendered unclean. This meant severe social restrictions for her. But Jesus heals, and it is her faith that moves this divine action. Jesus mentions the word σῴζω, which refers to divine deliverance. In the gospels this means divine deliverance (Matt. 8:25; 14:30; 24:22; 27:40, 42, 49) as well as spiritual (Mt. 1:21; 10:22; 16:25; 19:25; 24:13) deliverance, since the two are deeply intertwined.
In verse 23, the commotion around the officials’ daughter continues. Playing flute was the sign of mourning. These people were often hired, and even the poorest families would hire at least two flute players (see also Mt. 11:17; Ezek. 24:17, 22; Jer. 9:17–22; 16:7; 48:36; Hos. 9:4; Amos 5:16; 2 Chron. 35:25; Rev. 18:22). Jesus tells them the girl is sleeping. Sleeping can be an euphemism for death (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 27:52; John 11:11–12; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thess. 4:13).
Jesus dismisses the crowd, desiring this deliverance to be a private and not a public matter (as also Elijah and Elisha performed these miracles in private). The event was not kept private, for it became known in “all that region.” This points to the northern shore of the lake and perhaps more widely the Jewish areas of Galilee, the area where Jesus’ own continuing mission.
Those two stories of healing are presented by Matthew as centered around Christ. It is Christ’s authority, and not about men. He is on earth to forgive sins, and to have compassion over the physically and spiritually ill.
 

Verse 27-31 Jesus heals two blind men

The story of the two blind men has no parallel in Mark and Luke. These two men follow Jesus persistently right into a house. One calls Him “son of David,” recognizing Christ’s authority to heal. The NT generally accepts and asserts Jesus’ Davidic origin as a given (e.g. Acts 2:29–36; 13:22–23; Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8), but the title “Son of David” seems to have a special resonance for Matthew. It is used by others about Jesus, usually as here when approaching him to ask for help (cf. Mt. 15:22; 20:30, 31), but also in discussing (Mt. 12:23) or proclaiming (Mt. 21:9, 15) his messianic status. Later on, His Davidic origins are taking into question (Matt. 12:3; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 43, 45).
The healing which occurs in these verses is relatively private in this house (perhaps Jesus’ house in Capernaum), again with faith playing a big role, and Jesus command for silence, very strongly. Again, Isaiah 42 comes in view, Jesus did not want a spectacle. He did not desire clashes with the Roman and Jewish authorities, but wanted personal obedience from men and women who heard His words.
 

Verse 32-34 Jesus exorcizes a mute man

This story of healing is again left out in Mark and Luke. Matthew speaks here of a connection between the muteness and the demon possession. Though Jesus had healed mutes and demon possessed before, this story is different. Though demonic possession had resulted in physical illness before, it is the exorcism that plays the most important role. Also here, Jesus encounters more resistance from the Pharisees than in the previous accounts. The Pharisees now attribute this healing to demonic power. Jesus later speaks of this (Mt. 10:25), and later of the sin that will not be pardoned (Mt. 12:22-37).
This healing ends the third set of miracle stories, and starts a second discourse on missions (chapter 10). Jesus has presented himself as a healer of leprosy, paralysis, fever, demon possession, blindness, and muteness, powerful over death.
 

The focus on mission (9:35-10:4)

The mission discourse starts in Matthew 10, but has some beginnings in these final verses of chapter 9. Jesus has proven His authority through His works. Just as the verse in Mt. 4:23, 9:35 serves as an inclusio, bookends that bracket the two “books” of Jesus’s words and deeds within a missional perspective. It summarizes Jesus deeds, and gives an opening for the story that follows. This passage has again no parallel with Luke and Mark.
The mission of the “gospel of the Kingdom” speaks of itinerant preaching of the disciples, going from village to village with the good news. The mission consists of the same elements as Jesus’ mission, preaching and healing and showing the power and love of God. Jesus love for Israel is filled with compassion, for He sees their lack of leadership (1 Kings 22:17; Ezek. 34:5; Zech. 10:2; Mark 6:34). Instead of Shepherds, the leaders are predators, exploiting vulnerable and hungry sheep, and therefore Jesus sends a new group of leaders who are true Shepherds, with servant hearts, into the world to lead the lost flock in God’s ways.
In the last two verses of this chapter, the metaphor changes to a harvest. There is a bountiful harvest, but not enough workers, true and faithful workers. In this metaphor there is an urgency regarding Israel’s situation. Matthew’s reference to harvest shows the metaphor of union with Christ (Mt. 3:8–10, 12; 6:26; 13:30, 39; 21:34; 25:24, 26), of bearing fruit of righteousness. Mainly the Old Testament has spoken of harvest as a negative metaphor (Isa 17:4–6; 24:12–13; Jer. 51:33; Hos 6:11; Joel 3:13; cf Rev 14:14–20), namely of judgment, but here God’s harvest is positive. That Jesus speaks of few workers is really an understatement, for He is the only worker (besides John the Baptist), and it is Immanuel (God-with-us) who Himself is the sender, the initiator of this heavenly kingdom-message.
The opposition that is ahead for the disciples as shepherd-harvesters is also implied in Matt. 5–9. Jesus has taught that his disciples’ righteousness must surpass that of the current religious leaders (Mt. 5:20). His authoritative teachings transcend the influence of these current leaders (Mt. 7:28–29). At the eschatological banquet, many of these leaders will be displaced by those who acknowledge Jesus’s authority (Mt. 8:11–12). Certain of these leaders accuse Jesus of blasphemy and of being in league with the ruler of the demons when he casts out demons (Mt. 9:3, 34). So it is no wonder that Jesus pictures Israel as sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36) and calls for more harvesters (Mt. 9:37–38). And it is not surprising that the current leaders will oppose the disciples’ mission (Mt. 10:14–42).