Matthew 9 Bible Commentary

B. W. Johnson’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of Matthew 9)
The Ministry at Capernaum.

SUMMARY.--A Paralytic Healed. The Charge of Blasphemy. Christ's Power to Forgive Sins. Matthew Called. Eating with Publicans. New Cloth on an Old Garment. The Daughter of Jairus. The Woman with Bloody Issue Healed. The Damsel Restored to Life. Two Blind Men Made to See. Preaching in the Synagogues.

      1. He entered into a ship. The last chapter left the Savior in the country of the Gadarenes on the eastern side of the lake. He now returns to Capernaum. Came into his own city. Capernaum, so called because, after leaving Nazareth, he made Capernaum his Galilean home.

      2. They brought to him a man sick of the palsy. Compare Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26. A helpless paralytic, unable even to walk, but anxious to be brought to the great Healer. Seeing their faith. That of the four bearers of the helpless man, and the man himself. The sick man and his friend showed their faith by overcoming great obstacles in order to come to Christ for help. Mark informs us that there was such a crowd that the palsied man had to be let down through the roof. Saith to the sick of the palsy. Palsy is a contraction of the word paralysis. A disease which deprives the part affected of sensation or the power of motion, or both. Thy sins be forgiven thee. The Revision says, "Thy sins are forgiven." The Greek is in the past tense. Possibly he had brought his sickness upon himself by means of his sins; but was now penitent.

      3. Certain of the scribes said within themselves. They had scented heresy from afar, and came from Jerusalem to pry into the teachings of the Prophet of Galilee, as the people called him, (see Luke 5:17). Scribes. The learned class, the official expounders of the Scriptures, the theologians, the jurists, the legislators, the politicians, and, indeed, the soul of Israel. This man blasphemeth. By professing to forgive sins, the prerogative not of man, but of God. If Christ were but a man, as they imagined, the scribes would have been right. And yet, so far, he had not said that he forgave the sins, but merely declared them forgiven. This was the beginning of the opposition that ended with the cross. On the same accusation of blasphemy, now first made, the Sanhedrim condemned him to death (Matt. 26:65).

      4. Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? They had said nothing aloud, but he read their hearts.

      5. Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee. To say, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," was easy, for no visible result could test the saying. To say, "Take up thy bed and walk," was not apparently so easy, for failure would cover with confusion. He said the last, leaving the inference--If I can do the most difficult, then I can do the easier.

      6. But that ye may know. By doing that which is capable of being put to the proof, I will vindicate my right and power to do that which in its very nature is incapable of being put to the proof of the senses. The Son of man cannot simply mean a man, or a mere man, since the powers in question do not to men as such. The true sense is determined by Daniel 7:13, where the phrase is confessedly applied to the Messiah, as a partaker of our nature. Hath power on earth to forgive sins. "Authority" is a better rendering than "power," and it is so given by the American Revision Committee. He had "authority" from the Father who had sent him, and who had committed judgment to his hands on earth. Sins are against God, and therefore only God can forgive them; for in the nature of things only he can forgive against whom the offense has been committed, but Jesus was "God manifest in the flesh." I can forgive sins committed against myself, but not those committed against my neighbor, much less those against God. Christ's argument here affords a fair test of all priestly claims to absolve from sin. If the priest has power to remit the eternal punishment of sin, he should be able, certainly, to remit the physical and temporal punishment of sin. This Christ did; this the priest does not, and cannot do.

      7. And he arose, and departed to his own house. It may be regarded as an enacted parable of sin and redemption. The paralytic typifies the sinner, by his original helplessness (Isaiah 40:30; John 6:44; 15:5); faith was demonstrated by his earnestness to come to Christ in spite of obstacles (Psa. 25:15; 86:2, 7); and the power of divine grace, in the ability to obey Christ's command, received in the very attempt to comply with it (Phil. 4:13).

      8. The multitude . . . marvelled. Why should they not? "His name shall be called Wonderful" (Is. 9).

      9. Saw a man named Matthew. Compare Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32. Such is the modest introduction of himself that Matthew gives. He was also called Levi (Luke 5:27). At the receipt of custom. He was a tax collector, a publican, whose business it was to collect the Roman taxes. Follow me. Like Peter, Andrew, James and John, he was called from his business, and left at once. Like them, he was probably a disciple of John, and before this a disciple of Jesus, but now called to apostleship. Arose and followed. Thus promptly the call of Jesus ought always to be obeyed.

      10. As he sat at meat. At a meal. In the house. The house of Matthew. Matthew made a feast (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29). Many publicans and sinners came. Matthew's old associates. Luke says they were invited. Publicans. Collectors of the Roman tax, usually Jews, but hated because they collected a hateful tax, often, too, grasping and unscrupulous. Sinners. Persons excommunicated from the synagogue. An orthodox Jew would not eat with them. When the term sinner is applied to a woman, it usually means an outcast.

      11. When the Pharisees saw it. They were not at feast, but were on the watch. Why eateth your Master? etc. The strict Jews would not eat with Gentiles, and these classes were regarded by them on a level with the heathen (Acts 11:3; Gal. 2:12).

      12. They that are whole need not a physician, etc. In other words: "If these people are as sinful as you allege, they are the very ones who need a Savior."

      13. I will have mercy and not sacrifice. See Hosea 6:6. The Pharisees had never learned the meaning of this passage, which teaches that kind hearts and helpful deeds are more pleasing to God than outward ceremonial. Sacrifice is right, but mercy is first in importance. I came not to call the righteous, etc. My mission in the world is to save sinners.

      14. Disciples of John. Some who still held aloof from Christ, and really sympathized with the Pharisees (Luke 5:33). Why do we and the Pharisees fast often? The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12), and these disciples imitated them. They could not understand why he did not require similar austerities.

      15. The children of the bride-chamber mourn. The friends of the bridegroom, for the bride was brought to his father's house. Fasting was usually a sign of sorrow. He was himself the Bridegroom, and still with his disciples. When the bridegroom will be taken from them. An allusion especially to the crushing sorrow when he was crucified and buried. Real fasting takes place when there is real occasion for it. See Acts 13:2; 14:23; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27.

      16. No man putteth, etc. Two illustrations follow to show the folly of patching up, or reforming, an old, worn out religion like Judaism. New cloth. Cloth that has been shrunk. In shrinking it would tear the old cloth around it, and make a worse rent than before.

      17. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles. New wine is unfermented wine. The bottles were not of glass, but of skin, the kind that is still used in Palestine, where nothing changes. Old skin bottles would become tender with age and burst during the fermentation of the wine.

      18, 19. There came a certain ruler. One of the rulers of the synagogue (probably of the synagogue of Capernaum). One of the elders and presiding officers, who convened the assembly, preserved order, invited readers and speakers. His name was Jairus (Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give this account. From them we learn that the maiden was twelve years old, was dying when the ruler started, was dead when he spoke to Jesus. Compare Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56.

      20. On his way to the house of Jairus another miracle was wrought. And, behold, a certain woman. I think the circumstances of the narrative render the inference almost certain that this account was meant for the consolation of those multitudes of stricken women in all ages who seem to be afflicted with sorrows in very unequal measure, compared with the stronger, and generally, also, the more depraved, sex.--W. H. Thomson, M.D. An issue of blood. A hemorrhage either from the bowels or the womb, probably the latter. Came behind and touched the hem of his garment. The ordinary outer Jewish garment was a square or oblong piece of cloth, worn something like an Indian blanket.

      21, 22. Touch but his garment. The Jews paid to the fringe a superstitious reverence. Sharing the superstition, this woman touched it in hope of cure. Thy faith hath made thee whole. Literally, thy faith hath saved thee. Her faith, of course, had not been the cause of her cure. Christ's power had been that. But her faith was the condition on her part. Hence it might be represented as having "made her whole." The student should observe that hers was not a passive faith, but it led to action. A passive faith is a dead faith.

      23. And when Jesus came into the ruler's house. He healed the woman on the way. Saw the minstrels. The Jews, like other Orientals, were wont to employ professional mourners, minstrels who made plaintive music, or wailed.

      24. Give place, for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. The reality of the death is not denied, but only the fact implicitly assumed, that death will be followed by a resurrection, as sleep is by an awakening. Laughed him to scorn. The company of mourners was certain that the child was dead and, understanding neither the language nor the power of Jesus, laughed in derision.

      25. When the people were put forth. Luke (8:51). says that Peter, James and John, and the father and mother of the maiden were permitted to remain He took her by the hand. As we learn from one of the parallel accounts, he said to her, Talitha cumi. This is Aramaic, the language generally spoken by the common people in Palestine at the time of Christ. The words mean: "Rise, my child." They were immediately obeyed. She arose, and walked.

      26. The fame went abroad. Mark dwells emphatically upon the astonishment felt by the parents (see Luke), but shared doubtless by the three apostles.

      27. Two blind men followed him. This account is given only by Matthew. Blindness is still very common under the burning sun and among the blinding sands of the East. No sight is more common than blind beggars. The want of attention to the eye when first diseased is one reason why this affliction is so common. Have mercy on us, thou son of David. The title, "son of David," applied to Jesus by these blind men, as well as by those healed at Jericho, implied his Messiahship, as it was understood that the Christ was to be the son of David.

      28. The blind men came to him. Not until he was come into the house he was seeking. Believe ye that I am able to do this? He demands, as condition of the blessing, that there should be an expression of faith.

      29. According to your faith be it unto you. Faith is the hand which takes what God offers, the spiritual organ of appropriation.

      30, 31. Jesus strictly charged them, etc. Their changed condition would sufficiently tell the story without their indiscreet babbling. They failed to obey, which they should have done, whether they understood the reason of the command or not. Note the three great lessons about our Lord: (1) He is the Life. He not only breaks the bonds of mortal death, but endows the soul with spiritual life. (2) He is the infallible Physician. Diseases of the body, sorrows of the heart, and sins of the soul that no man can heal, disappear at his touch. (3) He is the Light of the world. At his word sightless eyes see. At his word darkened souls are flooded with light.

      32, 33. A dumb man, possessed with a devil. Compare Luke 11:14. A complication of physical and spiritual maladies. See note on Matt. 8:29. It was never so seen in Israel. Filled with wonder at the cure, the multitude declared that no prophet had ever done such wonders. They were right.

      34. The Pharisees said. With their usual perverseness they gave a sinister explanation. By the prince of the devils. In other words: He gets power from the devil, instead of God, to cast out demons.

      35. Jesus went about all the cities. He began to widen the area of his ministry.

      36. When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion. The Lord seldom looked upon a crowd of the poor, lost, human beings without being moved with tender compassion. Because they fainted, and were . . . as sheep having no shepherd. A figure representing their spiritual condition. They "fainted" under the burdens placed on them by pretended shepherds, Pharisees and scribes. They wandered, as sheep left without care.

      37. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. First the people are represented under the figure of sheep, scattering abroad, without a shepherd's care; next as a ripe and abandoned harvest, ready to be lost unless reapers are sent to gather it.

      38. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest. The Lord of the harvest is Christ. When we pray the Lord for anything we must work to fulfill our own prayers. If we pray for laborers, we must be willing to become laborers ourselves, or to send and sustain other laborers.