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Bible: What Does Matthew 9 Teach Us About Healing and "The Harvest"?
Jesus Heals the Paralytic
Jesus and Adversaries
Now the Lord joins His disciples in the boat, and they row Him back to Capernaum, where Jesus forgives a paralytic whom the people bring to Him after He sees their faith (vv. 1-2).
Question: Was this “salvation forgiveness,” or forgiveness of the sins that caused the man’s paralysis?
Is personal faith always necessary for Jesus to heal and forgive?
Seeing the faith of this man’s friends apparently sufficed for Him to say the word.
Present with them are scribes who think that Christ, a man, is blaspheming because He claims to forgive sins (v. 3).
[Of course, they would be correct if Jesus were just a man.]
Perceiving these thoughts about Him and His claim, the Lord exposes their error by physically healing the paralytic, thus proving to them that He, the Son of Man and their divine King/Messiah, has power to forgive (vv. 4-6).
Questions: Did Jesus draw upon His omniscience to know their thoughts, or did He simply exercise His infallible human intuition?
By publicly healing the paralysis, the Lord validated His claim to forgive sins.
As the disciples marveled at Jesus’ power earlier (cf. 8:27), so the multitudes do now.
Amazingly, both groups, while willing to glorify God for giving “such authority to men,” seemingly do not yet acknowledge Jesus as God incarnate (v. 8).
More Important than Ritualism
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Jesus and Levi
Now Matthew the tax collector records his call to the apostolic ministry, as Jesus summons him to follow Him (v. 9).
Immediately, the writer whisks the reader away to a dinner party at an unspecified house—Luke writes that Levi (Matthew) invited his new spiritual family to his own home (cf. Lk. 5:29), where many "undesirables” (“tax gatherers and sinners”) join Christ and His disciples, drawing the Pharisees’ ire (vv. 10-11).
[See Ryrie 21 for more data about these “unwelcome” guests.]
Jesus’ response jabs at the Pharisees’ self-deception, saying, in essence, “You may think that you are ‘well’ (that is, righteous); however, you are, in fact, sick and sinful.
These folks, on the other hand, know that they are unhealthy, and so come to Me to be made well” (v. 12).
Instructing them to learn God’s perspective toward humanity, He quotes Hosea 6:6 to show that the LORD demands inward spirituality as well as ("more than") outward conformity to religious rituals (v. 13).
John the Baptist’s former disciples, also attending Levi’s celebration, respectfully (?) broach the issue of fasting, specifically questioning the lack thereof among Jesus’ followers (v. 14).
Using the bridegroom metaphor, the Lord explains that it is impossible for “the sons of the bride chamber”—His disciples—to mourn when the groom—Jesus—is (partying) with them.
[Ryrie mentions that John’s men were probably fasting because they had just lost their leader (New Testament Study Bible, 21).]
Christ’s next words function as a prophecy of the groom’s forcible removal from His friends—that is, His arrest and crucifixion—whereupon the latter will fast as John’s disciples now do (v. 15).
More metaphors follow—an unshrunken patch on an old garment, and new wine in old wineskins—as Jesus instructs His hearers not to mix the teaching of the new age of “grace” with that of the old era of “law” (vv. 16-17).
[He seems to indicate that the Jews have so distorted God’s law with their traditions that it needs a patch; the only way to restore the truth is to start afresh.]
Christ Raises a Dead Girl to Life
Seemingly on the heels of this latest teaching comes an urgent plea for the Lord to restore life to a dead girl.
The girl’s father, a ruler (synagogue official, NASB), displays the proper approach: worship of and faith in Christ (v. 18); therefore, Jesus and His disciples follow the man to his home (v. 19).
[Unlike the centurion who trusted in Jesus’ powerful word of command (8:8), the ruler needed Him to visit his home to touch his daughter.]
While on the way, Christ Himself is touched—at least the hem of His garment is (cf. Num. 15:37-39)—by a woman who believed that His power could heal her twelve-year hemorrhage (vv. 20-21).
The Lord rewards her faith with an immediate healing (v. 22).
[Notice again Jesus’ joyful announcement: “Be of good cheer” (v. 22; see also 9:2).]
Arriving at the ruler’s home, He finds the traditional, professional flutists and wailers noisily carrying on, and tells them to leave, “for the girl is not dead, but sleeping” (vv. 23-24a).
These women, taking His reference to sleeping literally, dismiss the Visitor as a charlatan (v. 24b).
Undoubtedly, at the ruler’s insistence, the mourners go outside, and Jesus proceeds to restore the girl’s life to her (v. 25).
Soon the message, “News Alert! Jesus Restores Life to Dead Girl,” is spreading throughout the region (v. 26).
Jesus Gives Sight to the Blind
"Jesus, Son of David"
Two blind men now follow Him into “the house,” addressing Jesus with the Messianic title “Son of David” (vv. 27-28; cf. Matt. 1:1).
[Why did the Lord wait until they entered the house to deal with their problem?]
Again, before applying His hands to their eyes, He requires the candidates to profess faith in His power to heal them; perhaps He withheld blessing from some people because He knew that they did not truly believe that He could heal them (v. 29).
Once healed, the men become rabid evangelists, despite Jesus’ warning to keep the miracle private (vv. 30-31).
[Did He truly expect them to be able to keep this phenomenon quiet?]
Jesus Restores a Man's Hearing
The Lord of the Harvest
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Matthew records one final healing of a specific individual—a mute whose condition was caused by a demon (v. 32)—before summarizing Jesus’ total ministry (v. 35), His motivation (v. 36), and His exhortation to His disciples (vv. 37-38).
Verses 33-34 indicate the divergent reactions to the mute man’s recovery: the multitudes marvel at the event (v. 33b), but the Pharisees attribute it to Satan’s power (v. 34).
Jesus does not neglect to minister anyplace, no matter how large or how seemingly insignificant, teaching torah in houses of worship, proclaiming the good news that the kingdom was in their midst in the Person of its King, and healing every kind of disease and sickness wherever He traveled (v. 35).
Having His eyes wide open to the various serious physical and spiritual wants of “the multitude,” the Great Shepherd, churning deep inside, extends Himself to meet as many of those needs as He can as an individual (v. 36).
Knowing, however, that He Himself is not going to remain on Earth much longer, He exhorts His disciples [learners, 10:1] (soon to be apostles [sent ones, 10:2]) to do something about the issue.
Using more metaphorical language, Jesus sees “the harvest”—great multitudes of the unsaved and of the hurting—as plentiful and “the laborers”—the small handful of believers committed to “reaping” or meeting spiritual and physical needs—as few (v. 37).
Recognizing this reality (and He hopes that His disciples recognize it, too) [“Therefore”], He commands His men to ask “the Lord of the harvest”—perhaps the Holy Spirit (but more likely the Father), since nowhere does Scripture say that Christians should pray to the Spirit—to send out more reapers (v. 38).
© 2014 glynch1