Gospel of Matthew Chapter Nine Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
He Cares For You
Verse 1: "Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city." The "sea" of this verse was the fresh water lake called Galilee, and "His own city" was very likely the town of Nazareth, the home of His earthly family (Luke 1:26-27). If you feel cheated by life, note that Jesus lived in humble circumstances. He understands and cares for you.
Verses 2-5: "And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic,'Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.' 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This fellow blasphemes.' 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said,'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?" For years I was privileged to visit patients in the spinal cord wing of a Veterans Administration hospital. The situation of each patient was somewhat alleviated by treatment, but the paralysis was not cured. Here was Jesus with a paralytic, responding to a much greater need than to walk, important as that may be. Instead of immediately saying something like, "Rise up and walk," He forgave the man's sins. Spectators thought "evil" of Him because they knew that only God can forgive sins. They didn't see, as we can, that He IS God. He knew the heart of the paralytic, knew that sin was related to his outward condition, and knew the thoughts of the spectators... just as He knows yours and mine. A question is: Why is faith in Christ different from the religions of this world? The answer is God's grace, His unmerited favor, which we don't deserve. None of us earn the right to be unconditionally forgiven or amazingly healed. The paralyzed man was a sinner like the rest of us. God may heal you outwardly, which is wonderful, but know that your greater need is to be healed deep inside, given the forgiveness that lasts forever.
Verses 6-8: "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—then He said to the paralytic,'Get up, pick up your bed and go home.' 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men." If you think you have gone too far and cannot be forgiven, prayerfully consider these verses. God loves you just like He loved the paralytic. His "forgiveness" is essentially a contract between two consenting parties—in your case, God and you. He offers forgiveness and if we accept His offer, the contract is complete and we are forgiven. Payment is also a necessary part of any valid contract and the Lord knows we are spiritual paupers who cannot pay, so "He purchased (us) with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). it's God's grace, the gift we did not earn—He does what we are unable to do. And then He HEALED the formerly paralyzed man.
Verse 9: "As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him,'Follow Me!'And he got up and followed Him." If you were a shopkeeper or factory owner, and the Son of God came into your business, saying "Follow Me," what would you do? Matthew was a Jew, working for the Roman government as a tax collector. It was a lucrative position, though one hated by his countrymen, and that booth would have contained a lot of money—some of which was his, while the rest belonged to the Romans. Sometimes God calls us to leave everything behind, and other times we are to stay within existing circumstances. Whatever the call, do what Matthew did—say "yes" to the Lord.
Verses 10-13: "Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, 'Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?' 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said,'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" Fortunately, we have Scriptures like Romans 3:23, which reveals that "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God." We are sin-sick and this disease of the soul is terminal. So when someone does something terrible to you, have mercy on them, understanding not only that they are sinners, but you are, too. Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 here—"I desire mercy and not sacrifice," which was shocking to His listeners because the sacrifice of animals was essentially the center of the Jewish religious experience. It's not unlike saying to a Christian, "I desire mercy, not (by comparison) baptism or communion." It certainly is a humbling experience for us to discover that God did not save us because we are such wonderful people, but instead we are saved because we are sinners in need of the Redemption that only God can give.
Verses 14-17: "Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?' 15 And Jesus said to them,'The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.'" Fasting involves not eating when it's time to eat, done for religious purposes. John the Baptist's followers apparently fasted often and they were concerned, outraged actually, that the disciples of Jesus did not fast. Answering them, Jesus compared Himself to a bridegroom, and His followers to the bride on their wedding day, an analogy also seen in places like Revelation 19:7. And note that something "new" presented to us is the key to all three analogies in these verses. Jesus was a surprise to His earthly contemporaries and He is "new" today, to all in this sinful world. He is the Answer to our need, just as the perfect bridegroom is to his happy bride, the right patch for a torn garment, and the perfect container for fine wine. As to the latter parable, new wine will cause an old wineskin to burst. All must be new for the Lord to be in us.
Verses 18-19: "While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, 'My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.' 19 Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples." Notice how quickly the Lord responds to differing needs. He's doing the same thing today, for your needs and mine. Millions are calling out to Him at any given moment, but instead of being in a human body with all its limitations, He is God in the place of God. We are unable to help more than one person at a time, but He ever responds to each one of us, in ways greater than our understanding. And see the faith of this Jew, the "synagogue official." You could draw the conclusion from the words in Scripture that as a people, the Jews had rejected faith in favor of religious observance, as it is true for many religious people today. But just like now, there are many among us who trust in the Lord as we all should—like this Jewish "synagogue official."
Verses 20-22: "And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, 'If I only touch His garment, I will get well.' 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said,'Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.'At once the woman was made well." Here's another interruption and another response from the Son of God—it's so important to note that God RESPONDS to whatever faith we have. In Leviticus 15:19-30, we find that under Old Testament Law, not only this woman, but anybody who touched her, was unclean in that religion and society. She had been isolated and alone, considered repulsive by others for twelve years. How important is faith? It's like plugging your radio or other device into the power source—you won't hear the music until you do.
Verses 23-26: "When Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24 He said,'Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.'And they began laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26 This news spread throughout all that land." Who decides we are dead? It isn't decided because our heart has stopped or some doctor says so—it's in God's time. We live our lives surrounded by people's rules, more than we understand. If something happens or doesn't happen, logically something else will follow, and we must do this or that. But God isn't bound by our rules. People may be shocked, or laugh or exhibit some other response, because they know what death looks like. But this little girl was ALIVE—because God made it so!
Verses 27-31: "As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them,'Do you believe that I am able to do this?'They said to Him, 'Yes, Lord.' 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying,'It shall be done to you according to your faith.' 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them:'See that no one knows about this!' 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land." The blind men had faith that He would heal them—and He did. Jesus knew their faith was real. Can you imagine how they felt, these adult men who did not see at birth or from some injury years before? And now they could see! Their excitement was overwhelming, over-shadowing any tendency to obey the words, "See that no one knows..." It is important to not only receive from the Lord, but also to obey Him. When He gives you something wonderful—listen... there may be more. Jesus was on a timetable to the cross, as directed by the Holy Spirit—spreading the news prematurely would affect that schedule.
Verses 32-34: "As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.' 34 But the Pharisees were saying, 'He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.'" Reading about this mute, demon possessed man can make us wonder: Just how much of the mental and physical illnesses of this world have their origin in the actions of the enemy? We really don't know, but as we pray for those in need, we should listen to the Lord—His response will help us pray more effectively. And note the jealousy of the Pharisees in Verse 34. Jesus could and can do what they could not do, and so they were jealous of Him. Their snide little minds ran counter to the purposes of God.
Verses 35-38: "Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples,'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'" Notice the reason why Jesus was here on earth, "healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness"—"He felt compassion for them," just as He cares for you and me. Enough to die in our place. You may feel uncared for, but the reason is that people failed you when you needed them. The problem is not God. He cares for you. Place your faith in the Lord, forgive those people, and pray for "workers into His harvest," as Jesus taught.
Father, I, too, have problems in my life, and I understand that if You speak the word, I shall be healed. Please help me, Lord. I need You. Bring forgiveness and healing into my life, and send those workers, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.