Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic and then heals him as proof that he has authority to forgive sins. Jesus calls Matthew to be a disciple. John’s disciples ask questions about fasting. A girl is restored to life, and a woman touches the tassels of his garment, to receive her healing. Jesus heals two blind men and delivers a mute man who was demonized. Jesus says the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Heals a Paralytic (Matt. 9:1-8)
1 After Jesus got in the boat, he crossed over to the other side and went to his own town. 2 And look! They brought to him a paralytic laid up on his mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, son! Your sins are forgiven!” 3 Then look! Some teachers of the law said among themselves, “This man blasphemes!” 4 And Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For what is easier? To say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’? Or to say, ‘Rise up and walk!’? 6 So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins”: then he said to the paralytic, “Arise, pick up your mat, and go to your home!” 7 And so he got up and departed for his home. 8 When the crowds saw this, they feared and glorified God who gives such authority to people.
From Matt. 8:1 to 9:34, there are three blocks of three miracles each (8:1-17; 8:23-9:8; 9:18-34) broken up by three discipleship sections (8:18-22; 9:9-13; 14-17) (Osborne, p. 280).
Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 cover this miracle, but they show the men digging a hole in the roof and lowering the paralytic. You’ve heard of John the Baptist or the Dipper? We may as well nickname Matthew the Trimmer, because he frequently trims such colorful details from a pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or passage or unit of Scripture, while Mark and / or Luke keeps them. Why? It’s anyone’s guess. We could take the psychological reading and say a tax collector didn’t like an untidy narrative but eliminated the complications just to get to the bottom line. I like that explanation; though standard NT scholars may laugh it out of court, I don’t.
In any case, differences ≠ contradictions, and there is coherence or unity of the Gospels, in the big storyline.
Including data points in one Gospel
Omitting data points in another Gospel
= Differences ≠ Contradiction
= Differences ≠ errors
How can there be a contradiction when one Gospel is silent on some minor details which the other Gospel includes? There is no contradiction.
Celebrate the massive number of similarities in all four Gospels. The essence or meat of each parallel story is the same. Don’t let the postmodern critics bring down your trust in the Gospels or distract you from the main message, regardless of the minor differences. The postmodern critics read these ancient texts in bad faith, assuming that the original writers were deceivers and plagiarists. The postmodern critics are part of their sneering and hyper-skeptical age.
I urge everyone to see the critics for who they are and not take them seriously.
This section of Scripture has a longer commentary here:
The proper name “Jesus” was inserted in this verse for clarity. It is not in Greek.
Notice how Matthew trims away the twelve disciples and focuses just on Jesus who gets in the boat. Once again, he is Matthew the Trimmer. His writing style comes across, to me, as very streamlined and unadorned.
Capernaum is Jesus’s adopted hometown. In Matt. 11:23, he will denounce Capernaum for not repenting even though the people there saw mighty works. Remarkable. Sometimes people, as a whole, are so hardened that they will not receive a message—the message. It makes me wonder whether I too have some hard spots in my soul and spirit.
“look!”: it is an updated translation of “behold!” It means something unexpected or noteworthy is happening. “Observe!” “Pay attention!”
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
In this verse they had faith for their friend to be healed. They directed their faith towards Jesus the healer. They acted before the paralytic was healed. They had such confidence in the healing power of Jesus that they broke through the barriers—now that’s the faith that God likes!
“Courage!” I love this word of exhortation. The “son” or young person must have been apprehensive. “Would he heal me? Am I worthy to be healed? What if he rejects me?”
“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
“forgiven”: it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one and the Shorter Lexicon’s. It means to forgive.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
It would be over-generalizing to believe that sin always leads to sickness. However, Jesus turns his attention to forgiveness first. The Gospels do not argue that sickness was always a direct personal result of sin (2 Kings 13:14; Jn 9:3), as many people in Jesus’ day, both Jewish … and Gentile … thought. That Jesus did not always pause to forgive sins shows that he did not always connect disease and sin in a causal relationship … but Jesus’s healing of the human body also functions as a dramatic illustration healing for the human character (13:15). The Gospels do, however, suggest that when these problems are intertwined, God wishes to deal with both (Jas. 5:14-16).
But here we see that sin was somehow connected to this young man’s paralysis. Since we don’t know the details, let’s not speculate. Yet in our prayers for the sick today, ask God for special knowledge—a word of knowledge—to know whether the sick person you are praying for has any kind of unconfessed sin in his life. He may not even be saved. Lead him to Christ before you pray.
I’m no expert in Hebrew, but the Hebrew word for “forgive” that only God can offer is salach (pronounced sah-lahkh) (see Works Cited link, below, and the commentary on the Torah, p. 771). It is found forty-seven times in the Hebrew Bible. Let’s focus on Leviticus, since the temple and the sacrificial system in Jerusalem loomed over Judaism, even up in Galilee; it is in this book and the sacrificial system where forgiveness can be obtained. (In many of the other references, people pray that God would forgive sins [2 Chron. 6:21, 25, 27, 30, 39], or God himself pronounces forgiveness on people: “I will forgive their iniquity” [Jer. 36:3].) In Leviticus, which prescribes specific offerings for sins, the priest pronounces that the offerer is forgiven, but only after the right offering is done. Then the priest uses the “divine passive”; that is, the Torah says repeatedly, “his sin will be forgiven,” implying that God is the one forgiving. Here’s a sample verse: “With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the Lord for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven” (Lev. 19:22, emphasis added). Note the passive “will be forgiven.” However, the entire context shows that Jesus is not passively declaring sins forgiven, as the priest did, but actually forgiving sin.
Read more about this passage here:
However, you may not accept that Jesus used the word salach. If so, commentator Keener says that the authority to forgive sins is an “attribute Jewish people did not even associate with the Messiah” (p. 289). This indicates that Jesus the Messiah is still speaking in a new and authoritative way which traditionalist would find blasphemous.
“teachers of the law”: they were also called scribes or legal experts. You may learn about them at this link:
Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts
They were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (David E. Garland, Luke: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, 2011], p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others. Too self-focused.
They were probably muttering amongst themselves. In Jewish theology, only God could forgive your own sins and someone else’s sins. You can forgive the sins of someone who sinned against you, but you cannot do this of someone else’s sins who did not sin against you. And you are not permitted to forgive as a third party in a conflict between two persons. Jesus broke the rules, in their theology. This indicates high Christology. He saw himself as God incarnate.
Jesus literally “saw” their thoughts, but we can expand it to “perceive.” He was using the gift of the word of knowledge; that is, by the Spirit he got access to their thoughts. Or he may have overheard them muttering and mumbling.
But in case he did use the Spirit to perceive their thoughts, see my post about the word of knowledge, once again:
Jesus ministered by the power and anointing of the Spirit, according to the main message of Scripture (Acts 10:38), though some theologians say that he used his divine nature. It is likely that the Father and the Spirit cooperated with his divine nature, so the first and third persons of the Trinity is working together in the Son of God. His entire ministry was about doing what the Father did and in a similar manner. 19 “Jesus then replied and said to them, “I tell you the firm truth: The Son is unable to do anything on his own, unless it is something he sees the Father doing, for the things that he does—the Son also does those things in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows to him everything that he himself is doing” … (John 5:19). “Unable” should not be over-interpreted, but simply means that in his ministry, the Father empowered him.
Let’s discuss Jesus’s fearless confrontation with these religious leaders.
As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back physically. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus! With anointed words!
Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to these oppressive religious leaders. He ministered to “regular” people, but confronted oppressive leaders.
Which is easier? To string words together in a speech without backing them up? Or to speak the same words and back them up with a healing? Jesus just pronounced over the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. That’s easy to do. But now Jesus demonstrates his authority to forgive sins by healing the young man. Miracles confirm the Word.
Some interpreters argue that it is easier to heal the man than to say his sins are forgiven, because Jesus will die on the cross for them, which is much more difficult than to heal the man’s broken body. However, that line of teaching exercises too much interpretive gymnastics, our minds making connections two thousand years later, bundling things up that the people in this section of the Gospel did not focus on. Jesus was not dying on the cross then and there. Instead, the straightforward interpretation is that it is easier to say the man’s sins are forgiven because people cannot see with their own eyes the effects of this pronouncement. In contrast, they are about to see with their own eyes the physical healing of paralysis. By analogy you or I can say an inner work in the soul is done, but it is more difficult to say a leg is lengthened because viewers can measure the leg. It is more difficult to say, “Get up and walk!” than it is to say “your interior sins are forgiven.”
Blomberg is right:
Jesus asks whether it is easier to pronounce a person forgiven or healed. Whichever might be easier to do, it was obviously easier to “say” that someone’s sins were forgiven without fear of contradiction. So to prove his authority for making the easier claim, he performs the harder task (the typically Semitic from-the-lesser-to-the-greater logic). So clear is his reasoning for Matthew’s original audience that the quotation is broken off midsentence. At once Jesus commands the paralytic to walk and carry his mat back home, and the man does so. Jesus’ claim is thus vindicated. (Comment on 9:4-8)
“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
The man’s healing was done. When Jesus told him to take courage, the man didn’t need to fear, after all. On the healing proclamation, he did what he was told. Streamlined and straightforward. I like it.
The people’s response is interesting. They showed reverential fear and awe, and they also glorified and praised God. The two are linked. So far so good. But then the other reaction is from the religious leaders who see Jesus’s words as blasphemous. Jesus does not respond gently to them; the false accusations could damage his godly reputation. So he confronted the leaders.
However, the people also concluded that God gave such authority “to men.” It’s not clear that anyone else around the first century could pronounce healing with such decisive results. But evidently they were not convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Maybe that’s why Capernaum would come under Jesus’s pronouncement of judgment for not believing in him (Matt. 11:23). They could not connect the miracles and his authority to forgive sins with his Messiahship.
“people”: the Greek is often translated as “men,” but in this context the term is generic, so I provide the more inclusive term “people.” However, if you believe women could not have such authority given to them at the time of Jesus, then go back to the traditional “men.”
As to Jesus’s divine authority to forgive sins, C. S. Lewis commented on the parallel passage in Mark’s Gospel, arguing for the deity of Christ. His comments there are relevant here:
Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offenses against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money?
Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. (Mere Christianity)
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only “men.” However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context (Matt. 4:4; 10:36; 12:11, 12; 12:43, 45; 15:11, 18). So a “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say. So I chose “people.”
The healing was instant, and Matthew makes a point of it. No gradual healing for this man in this circumstance, with this skeptical audience. (Sometimes healings are gradual.) Jesus needed to demonstrate that the Son of Man could forgive sins. Did the paralytic convulse a little as strength and feeling surged through his body? Or did he just get up smoothly without adjustments to his body? Probably the latter thing happened. He just got up and picked up his bedding.
He glorified or praised God on the way home. His friends or relatives had to scurry down from the roof and catch up to him. Did the men look triumphantly at the crowd as they passed by, when the people had refused to let the stretcher go through? No word on their offer to repair the roof! The text is silent, but it is fun to speculate about small things like this.
What was so strange, wonderful, remarkable? First, a paralytic got his complete, instant healing. Second, the ex-paralytic’s sins were forgiven, after all. Third, the Son of man—the Messiah—was standing right in front of them. Fourth, this was an honor-and-shame society, and the people saw the Pharisees and teachers of the law get their comeuppance, and some of the less pious in the crowd must have snickered at their expense. The powerful were shamed, while the paralytic was honored. Fifth, quarreling and quibbling over matters of the law and traditions was cut apart like the Gordian knot was cut through. It is God breaking in and crushing these empty discussions, demonstrating his love and power. Sixth, the Pharisees had strong political views, and Jesus lifted their sights to the kingdom of God. Politics about Israel doesn’t matter, standing in contrast to the soon-to-be global kingdom (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).
I really like how Turner summarizes this pericope or section of Scripture:
But the authority to forgive sins is much greater than the authoritative words and actions, since it gets to the root of the problems and illnesses that are symptoms of sin. Teaching against sin does not cause sin to stop, let alone secure its forgiveness. Sick people may be healed, but sooner or later they will get sick again, and ultimately they will die. As great as Jesus’s authority in these domains is, it pales in comparison with his authority to forgive sins. Such authority is at the heart of Jesus’s mission to save people from their sins (1:21) by giving life as a ransom for them (20:28), thereby inaugurating the new covenant (26:28; cf. Jer. 31:31). As God’s beloved Son, Jesus acts with a divine prerogative. He does not blaspheme (Matt. 9:3); he saves. (p. 248)
GrowApp for Matt. 9:1-8
A.. Just before praying for the young man, Jesus spoke courage into his heart. Do you need courage while you are sick? Do you have faith to be healed by your loving Father?
Jesus Calls Matthew (Matt. 9:9-13)
9 Then Jesus went on from there and saw a man sitting at the tax booth, called Matthew, and said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10 And it happened that as he was reclining to eat in the house, look! Many tax collectors and sinners were coming and reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they began to say to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “The healthy have no need of a doctor; however, the sick do. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” [Hos. 6:6] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Some unfriendly critics of Christianity cannot believe that a man would give up such a lucrative business on the command of two words. It is psychologically nonbelievable. In reply, however, recall that I have observed that Matthew should be nicknamed Matthew the Trimmer. He has the habit of omitting many details. Secondly, everyone in the area must have heard of the miracles and teachings which Jesus did. Surely Matthew did too. (Mark 2:13 says Jesus was also teaching the people.) Third, it could be that Matthew was feeling guilt for his probable corruption and his status as a sinner. A change was needed, he may have thought.
To find out who Matthew / Levi was, please see the post:
Quick write-up about him:
Matthew would have collected taxes under Herod Antipas either at the lake where ships brought back trade goods (if they were collecting taxes from fishermen) or more likely along the Via Maris, the major trade route from the north that passed by Capernaum. The taxes would have been paid on trade goods as well as on fish caught by commercial fishermen in the lake (two different groups of tax collectors). (Osborne, comment on 9:9).
“Eating with sinners connoted approval of them; by contrast, a pious person normally preferred to eat with scholars” (Keener, p. 293)
Let’s look at tax collectors more closely, since the pericope is about him and his ilk.
Tax collectors were considered awful and evil, for they took advantage of people and charged too much, so they could skim money off the top. They were also in league with Rome.
Their identity and roles can be read in a little more detail at this link:
The main point is that tax collectors were considered bad in the eyes of the people.
Luke and Mark say that Levi (Matthew) prepared a great feast in his house (Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32). Once again, Matthew trims such details.
“sinners”: it is the adjective hamartōlos (pronounced hah-mahr-toh-loss and used 47 times and 5 times in Matthew), and it means as I translated it. It is someone who does not observe the law, in this context. But let’s explore the term more thoroughly.
BDAG defines the adjective as follows: “pertaining to behavior or activity that does not measure up to standard moral or [religious] expectations (being considered an outsider because of failure to conform to certain standards is a frequent semantic component. Persons engaged in certain occupations, e.g. herding and tanning [and tax collecting] that jeopardized [religious] purity, would be considered by some as ‘sinners,’ a term tantamount to ‘outsider.’” Non-Israelites were especially considered out of bounds [see Acts 10:28].)” “Sinner, with a general focus on wrongdoing as such.” “Irreligious, unobservant people.” “Unobservant” means that the sinner did not care about law keeping or observing the law.
“recline”: that’s how they ate back then. Contrary to Da Vinci’s Last Supper, where everyone was sitting in chairs at a table, they used to lie on the floor with mats at a low table or maybe the food was on other mats.
“disciples”: The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
Here it is probably the twelve, and not the second-tier disciples in a house like this.
“Pharisees”: You may learn about them at this link (and look under v. 10):
“disciples”: see v. 10 for more details.
“tax collectors”: As noted, you may learn about them at the above link:
“sinners”: see v. 10 for more comments.
As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the paralytic, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus!
Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to these oppressive religious leaders.
“healthy”: it could be translated as “strong.”
“sick”: the adverb is kakōs (pronounced kah-kohss), and it is the standard word in its various forms for “bad” or even “evil.” It can be translated more literally as “having ‘badness.’” We should not see this one word in this one verse as moral sickness, but the term does mean that in other verses, more often than not. Here it means physical illness or sickness.
“but go and learn what this means”: the Pharisees prided themselves on knowing Scripture, and here Jesus is telling them to go back home and learn what this verse really means. They called him “teacher,” and now he is about to school them (Osborne on 9:12)!
“righteous”: first, some interpreters say that certain people are righteous in their behavior. Paul testified that before he came to Christ he kept the law blamelessly and was faultlessly righteous in the law’s terms (Phil. 3:4-6). The law, particularly the Ten Commandments, are not that difficult, particularly for the extra-scrupulous. He was an ex-Pharisee, much like the ones at this feast. I have no doubt that he kept the law, outwardly. Even “Average Joes and Janes” don’t steal or commit perjury or commit adultery, nor do they make images of gods. They can live free from coveting their neighbors’ possessions, in outward appearance. This interpretation says Jesus was not calling the Pharisees to repentance, because they were indeed righteous on a social level and by outward appearance, but he was calling the sinners and tax collectors to repent. Note, however, that Jesus did in fact call Matthew, and not the Pharisees.
Second, some interpreters say he is using irony. The issue is of the heart. Jesus deepens the requirements and turns them into love for God first. If we love God, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15). In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49), Jesus deepens the requirements of the law to the heart, and everyone fails in some way. Therefore, they are unhealthy in some way before God and need him through Christ. No one can be righteous enough for God, and if the Pharisees saw their own need, they would realize this. It is they who need the doctor—the healer of their souls. Jesus is calling them to repentance, if they could only but see it.
My preference: the second interpretation, with some truths in the first one. All Jews, even the extra-devout, need Jesus their Messiah. Jesus association with sinner scandalized the extra-devout Jews of his day, just as it scandalizes the extra-devout Christians of ours. But we cannot live in isolation from those who need the message of the kingdom the most (Turner on 12-13).
Jesus’s call goes out to anyone who sees his need for the kingdom and the King. Anyone can respond. But if anyone thinks he is self-sufficiently healthy, then he probably won’t respond to the call.
Jesus quotes this verse from Hosea 6:6 because the Pharisees were so enmeshed and bogged down in the finer points of the law, particularly the laws about the clean and unclean, that they forgot about the deeper and relational truths.
See my posts about the clean and unclean in Leviticus:
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice”: This is the Semitic way of saying “mercy rather than sacrifice.” “A rather than B” or “A is much more important than B.” The negation (“not”) is not absolute (Carson). In Hosea’s cultural context, he was not absolutely denying sacrifice, just its over-emphasis. And so it goes with the righteous (in their own eyes). Jesus would like to reach them too. And many priests (different from Pharisees) converted to their Messiah (Acts 6:7). Saul the Pharisee also converted (Acts 9:3-9). Generalization always have exceptions.
Characteristically, only Matthew has Jesus quote the Old Testament (Hos 6:6). “Not X but Y” is a Semitic idiom for “more Y than X.” Hosea did not abolish the sacrificial cult but graphically emphasized the priority of interpersonal relationships over religious ritual. On mercy see under 5:7. Jesus introduces the quote with the command “go and learn,” a standard charge from rabbis to their disciples. Jesus is dealing the Pharisees a double rebuke by treating them first as learners rather than teachers and second as beginners who have yet to learn Scripture correctly. His logic is impeccable; the Pharisees have no reply. “I have come” hints at his prior existence in heaven, from which he was sent. (comment on 9:12-13)
GrowApp for Matt. 9:9-13
A.. Matthew seems to have responded quickly to Jesus’s call to follow him. Did you respond quickly, or did it take time, when he called you?
Questions about Fasting (Matt. 9:14-17)
14 Then the disciples of John approached Jesus, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Then Jesus said to them. “The friends of the bridegroom cannot mourn while the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.
16 And no one places a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for its patch pulls away and the tear gets worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins; or else the wineskins tear, and the wine spills out, and the wineskins are ruined. Instead, they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Mark 2:18-22 and Luke 5:33-39 also cover this event in Jesus’s ministry. Once again, Matthew trims some elements, though he stays a little more closely to Mark’s version.
In the previous pericope or section, the Pharisees criticized Jesus’s behavior because he ate with tax collectors and sinners. The disciples of John did not like Jesus’s apparent free-wheeling and free-dealing license of living it up, while the disciples of John and the Pharisees don’t do such frivolous things. They fast and offer prayers. Fasting was commanded on special occasions (Lev. 16:29-34; 23:26-32; Num. 29:7-11). Individual fasts were done for God’s deliverance (2 Sam. 12:16-20; 1 Kings 21:27; Ps. 35:13; 69:10. Others fasted to turn aside calamity (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:6; 1 Kings 21:9; Jer. 36:6, 9; 2 Chron. 20:3-4). Isaiah said fasting should be done accompanied by justice and good works and releasing those in bondage (Is. 58).
“disciples”: see v. 10 for more comments.
Let’s look at the practice of fasting from a biblical point of view. There are all sorts of ways to fast:
Eating no food, but drinking water, which is standard;
No food and no water, but only for a short time (Acts 9:9);
No delicacies (Dan. 10:3);
And anything in between.
In the OT the purposes of fasting were, as follows:
Preparing for God’s law (Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9, 18);
Preparing for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31);
Showing grief at time of death (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12);
Showing remorse for sin (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1; Ps. 35:13);
Praying in time of national need (2 Chron. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21; Est. 4:16; Joel 2:15-17);
Praying for personal reasons (2 Sam. 12:16, 21; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3-4);
But be warned: prophets criticized fasting for outward show (Is. 58:3-7; Jer. 14:12; Zec. 7:4-10).
In the NT, the purposes of fasting were as follows:
Jesus fasted to overcome temptation and prepare for his ministry (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13);
Saul fasted after his conversion to humble himself and work out the massive change in his worldview (Acts 9:9);
Part of worship (Acts 13:2);
Preparing for ministry (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23);
Sending off for ministry (Acts 13:3; 14:23);
Jesus’s disciples did not fast while he was there, but when he was gone, they would fast (Matt. 9:14-15);
Jesus criticized fasting for its outward show (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 18:9-14).
You can look up those verses to expand on those reasons. It is interesting, however, that nowhere does it say in the NT that believers should fast to prove their remorse and sorrow for sin. Forgiveness is not added to or enhanced by our outer show of works (fasting is a religious work). Forgiveness of sins is received by repentance and faith in Jesus (Acts 13:38).
In this section about the old and the new, from here on, Jesus will be the center of these illustrations. He will be the bridegroom and the new.
Jesus is the bridegroom who is with them (see Immanuel, “God with us,” in 1:23). The kingdom of God has broken through, by his coming. While he is with the friends of the bridegrooms (literally “sons”), it would be out of place for them to be severe and austere with fastings and offering prayers of pleading and begging. It is time to celebrate. In Greek the question is formulated to expect the answer, “No, no one can make them fast.”
So when will the bridegroom be taken? It is his death on the cross and burial in the tomb. The wording that the bridegroom being taken away (cf. Is. 53:8) is a prediction of Jesus being arrested and crucified (cf. Matt. 10:16-33, 38; 12:38-40; 16:21; 17:9-13, 22-23; 20:28; 26:11) (Turner on 9:14-15). The disciples were scared. Would they also be arrested, as revolutionaries? No doubt they fasted, though not ritually, and offered prayers. The point is that the celebrations were about to be over. Now what happens at the resurrection and the ascension? They had to get on with the work of preaching Jesus and the kingdom of God. Then it will be time for regular fasting and prayer.
Let’s take a step back. The image of the groom and wedding often comes in the context of messianic times (Is. 54:5-6; 62:4-5; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2:14-23). Even in Judaism at the time of Jesus the association between the metaphor of wedding and the Messianic Age was known. God is portrayed as the bridegroom of his people. Fasting was appropriate to usher in the Messianic Age, but now it is here at its beginning. No need to fast to bring it in. Jesus is hinting—for those with enough biblical knowledge—that the Messiah is right here, in front of them. While he is, let’s celebrate. Matthew and other NT authors use the “already” and “not yet” aspect of the kingdom through the wedding and marriage imagery. It is already here, but it is not here in its fulness: (Luke 12:35-36; Matt. 22:1; 25:1; Eph. 5:23-33; Rev. 19:7; 21:2). Those verses in the Revelation describe the kingdom that is here in its fulness.
The next illustration is deliberately designed to look absurd. No one puts an unshrunk patch on an old garment.
In this verse, the new and the old don’t fit or match. Jesus is the new, and the old is Judaism and the old law. The way of the Pharisees, with their interpretations and maintaining the traditions—one interpretation piled on top of another—has to be thrown out. Or at least the new garment cannot be used to repair the old. There’s a mismatch.
Wineskins were made of treated and groomed animal skins, and the neck of the animal was used for the opening of the large container. After a while, the skin became brittle. Putting new wine, which expanded with fermentation, would burst the old brittle skin.
Obvious parallel: Jesus is the new wine, and old Judaism is the brittle wineskin. God is doing a new thing. You see, you have to imagine Pharisees and teachers of the law roaming the country and going into towns—sometimes living in them—dishing out rules and regulations on how to keep the law. They read their history in the Hebrew Bible. They knew that God had judged their nation because the ancient Israelites broke the laws of the covenant (together called the law of Moses). So their motives were honorable. But things just got too complicated.
Now Jesus comes along, to take God’s way with man in a new direction. He is currently ushering in the new kingdom, the new covenant. God is in the process of leaving behind the old. With the cross, the resurrection and the ascension, the departure from the old will be completed, and the new direction will go full force.
Jesus’s point here is that old Judaism is on the way out. In Matthew, when national Israel rejects its Messiah, God will place Judaism and the whole Levitical system under judgment (Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems.
This verse drives home the previous one. New wine is for a new container. Discard the old, brittle container. The old religious system and the establishment in Jerusalem will keep the old because it is comforting and intoxicating. However, it is better to choose the new wine. It will open up a great horizon as to who God is.
Gospel and law are brought together only in Jesus. Jesus has not come to amalgamate Judaism with Christianity. New forms are needed. The OT has not been annulled but fulfilled, and this requires the Torah of the Messiah, a new set of ethical norms and gospel practices established by Jesus. The Palestinian church did not realize the fullness of what Jesus meant and considered themselves the new messianic sect of Judaism. It was not until the Gentile movement had begun that they gradually understood the enormity of this truth (Osborne, comment on 9:17).
One needs new containers that are more flexible. So too the new age Jesus inaugurates brings new practices appropriate to the changed circumstances, most notably in this context the joy of celebration rather than the sorrow of fasting. “Both” at the end of v. 17 refers to both “wine” and “wineskins” (the two nearest antecedents), not to the old and the new, despite the popular view that sees Matthew redacting his sources in a more conservative direction to make Jesus say that the old is preserved by means of the new. (Blomberg, comment on 9:16-17)
GrowApp for Matt. 9:14-17
A.. Jesus’s point is that the new must replace the old and be put in a new container. Read Isaiah 43:18-19. What new thing is God doing in your life?
Jesus Raises a Ruler’s Daughter and Heals Woman with Issue of Blood (Matt. 9:18-26)
18 While he was saying these things, look! One of the rulers came and fell before him and said, “My daughter just now died. However, when you come and place your hand on her, she will also live!” 19 So Jesus got up and followed him, and his disciples did too.
20 Then another unexpected thing! A woman discharging blood for twelve years approached from behind and touched the tassels of his garment, 21 for she was saying to herself, “If only I might touch his garment, I’ll be healed.” 22 Then Jesus, turning and seeing her, said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has healed you.” The woman was healed from that very moment on.
23 Jesus came up to the ruler’s house, and when he saw the flute-players and the crowd making a racket, 24 he began to say, “Go away! For the girl has not died, but she is sleeping!” Then they ridiculed him. 25 But when the crowd was shooed out, he entered and took her hand, and the girl got up. 26 Then this report went out into that entire land.
Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56 also treat this event in Jesus’s ministry, and you can tell by the number of verses how much longer their versions are. Matthew the Trimmer or Streamliner.
This is a double-story about two females who got their miracles. One was a little girl; the other a woman.
From here to v. 26, Matthew is about to interlock the stories of two very different people. On the one side stands Jairus the synagogue ruler, who was rich and powerful, but his daughter is dying. And on the one side stands an unnamed, unclean woman, who was socially degraded and rejected in her unclean status. Jairus has to fall at the feet of Jesus, and he has his plea answered. He was raised up. Even the rich can be accepted if they humble themselves. A real lesson there. The unclean woman was already very humble and needy and also fell at the feet of Jesus. She too was healed and raised up.
“look!” This is an updated translation of the older word “behold!” If you prefer to go the traditional route, then run with “behold!” Though I tend to translate more literally, I sometimes go with the “feel” of the passage, when the Greek allows it.
“fell before”: this one verb in Greek can often be translated as “worship,” but here he fell before him. He prostrated himself. The ruler was desperate.
“ruler”: A synagogue ruler, who was important in this society, was rich, but what is wealth when your daughter is dying? The ruler had faith by his strong words and by his humility and worshipful posture before Jesus (cf. 2:2, 8, 11; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25). Again this is Matthew’s high Christology. The ruler’s confession shows that he really had strong faith. My daughter just died—however!—if you come and touch her, she will live! Remarkable.
“Then another unexpected thing”: this phrase also updates the older word “behold!”
It seems Jesus instantly responded and followed him. Personally I would be shaking in my soul. “God if you don’t come through, I’m a goner. Everyone will laugh at me forever!” But I am not like Jesus; he had perfect confidence in God and the Spirit.
“disciples”: see v. 10 for further comments.
“unexpected thing”: It is the verb “behold!” It is a surprising development in the narrative.
“blood”: what caused her inability to stop the blood flow for twelve years? A cyst? A lesion? We don’t know, but God did. Read the laws in Lev. 15:19-30 at my post:
She herself was unclean. Anything she sat on was unclean. Anyone who touched her was unclean. If anyone touches her or anything she touched, then he will have to rinse his hands, but if he does not, then he has to take a bath and wash his clothes. The rituals go on. I can understand the law from a sanitation point of view. Bodily fluids from a man (Lev. 15:3-6, 16-17) or woman can spread disease, without proper washing. Good law. Yet it is still remarkable that he did not mind one bit about her touching him. He was clean, and she was unclean. When the story finishes, she was made clean.
“Touching a hem was an ancient symbol for deep trust and prayer, thus highlighting her faith” (Osborne, p. 349, note 9).
She got her healing, instantly. The verb could be translated as “saved.” The verb is sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times in the NT), and is passive (“be saved”). Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive voice it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Clearly the first definition and “saved from disease.”
As noted throughout this commentary on Matthew, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Once again, Jesus uses the word courage, which instills strength in her (see v. 2). She seems to have had a lot of faith, however. But would it work?
He also called her by the encouraging name “daughter.” This expresses a desire to relate to her. He used a kind term here. Let’s say she reached puberty at age twelve. When did she get her blood flow that did not stop for twelve years? At fourteen or fifteen years old? Twenty? Whatever her age, we have to add twelve years on to it. So she was at least in her mid-twenties, maybe in her thirties. So when Jesus called her “daughter,” he was showing, yes, authority, but also compassion. He sees himself as a minister-Rabbi, not an older brother. Further, Jesus wanted to invite her into his new kingdom; she was part of his new and true family. She was disqualified from fully participating in Israel’s religion, but not in Jesus’s family.
“has healed”: the verb is sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times in the NT), which means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. Here it means saving or healing the body. See vv. 20-21 for more comments.
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or piss-tiss), and see v. 2 for more comments. In this verse she had faith to be healed, because her faith was directed at Jesus.
“from that very moment on”: the people back then did not have clocks, so it is best to translate the phrase by instantaneous healing.
In this pericope, both physical and spiritual healing or salvation is in mind. Her affliction excluded her from participation in Israel’s worship, but not in God’s new family. Further, for all we know, she either had been married but her husband divorced her, or she was never married because of her affliction. The text is silent, but let’s face it. She was not marriageable or worthy to remain happily married, by the standards of society back then. But Jesus made her “undamaged” goods. Keener suggests that her condition rendered her unmarriageable or divorceable (p. 304).
Were the weepers and mourners in the house—no doubt a big house to host all the people who were there? Mark says that when they got to the house the crowd was outside weeping and wailing and then some were emoting inside the house too. Luke assumes that the readers would guess that the crowd would be outside too, in his version. It is not good to allow in doubters and skeptics and those who don’t have faith.
Jesus was about to teach the crowd a lesson by speaking words of irony, a deeper truth. Yes, the girl really was dead, but it is as if she were sleeping, as far as his limitless perspective was concerned. To them, she really was dead. To him, she was only asleep. Sleeping is a common metaphor for death (John 11:11-14; Acts 13:36 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-14).
A free translation of “but she is sleeping” could be “but she is taking a nap!” Jesus was about to take the girl out of her temporary pause in her mortal life. This means that Jesus gave them hope. But rather than celebrate, they ridiculed, because they were operating according to what they saw. The Greek word for ridiculed has a sharp edge to it, implying “scorned, mocked him.” They used their own eyes and tested her breath and concluded, correctly, that she was dead. But Jesus sized up the true and higher situation—he was the resurrection and the life (John 11:17-27)—and concluded that this raising her from the dead was easy for him. She was merely sleeping. Now all he had to do was wake her up. So the lesson he was teaching the crowd was that nothing is impossible with God. He didn’t defend himself or give a theology lesson. He acted. He healed her. That quieted the mockery.
See your situation from a God’s-eye view. Have faith. Don’t doubt or fear. Your perspective and ability are limited. God’s perspective is infinite and his power to heal when his Son is on the scene speaking words of faith is strong.
Jesus took decisive action and shooed them out—or his disciples did. The Greek could be translated as “expelled.”
Blomberg answers the criticism that there is a contradiction between Matthew and Mark and Luke:
As consistently throughout his Gospel (and esp. with miracle stories), Matthew abbreviates Mark, this time to such an extent that he seems to contradict the parallel accounts (Mark 5:21–43; Luke 8:40–56). Instead of coming to plead with Jesus while his daughter is still alive, Jairus apparently arrives only after her death. Yet to call this a contradiction is anachronistically to impose on an ancient text modern standards of precision in story telling. What is more, in a world without modern medical monitors to establish the precise moment of expiry, there is not nearly so much difference between Matthew’s arti eteleutēsen in v. 18 (which could fairly be translated “just came to the point of death”; cf. Heb 11:22) and eschatos echei in Mark 5:23 (which could also be rendered “is dying”). What is important is not the precise moment of death but Jairus’s astonishing faith. On any interpretation, this influential religious leader believes that Jesus can miraculously reclaim his daughter’s life. (Comment on 9:18-19)
Blomberg is right to point out the main lesson from the passage. It is is Jairus’s faith, even when confronted with his dying daughter. We must not miss the forest (bigger picture) because of the trees (micro-analysis). Also, our faith must not be so brittle that it snaps in two when discrepancies emerge in the three accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. God inspired men, not androids.
See my series on the reliability of the Gospels, and begin with the Conclusion, which has quick summaries and links to the other articles in the series:
Postmodern critics of the Gospels read them in bad faith, assuming that the ancient authors were liars and plagiarists. They employ no subtlety and finesse and care. They drink from the well of their own times.
I urge everyone to see the critics for who they are, part of the hyper-skeptical age.
Now Jesus initiates action because he knew the results.
First, he took her by the hand. That act takes faith in his Father, who was about to work a miracle.
In a related episode, Peter will raise Tabitha-Dorcas from the dead, and he shooed the weepers and mourners out of the room (Acts 9:36-43). Peter too will also command the girl to get up, and she will. He learned from his Lord and was in fact filled with the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 2:1-4), who empowered him to work the same miracle.
Other accounts of resurrections are recorded in the OT. In contrast to Jesus, who moved with more authority, Elijah stretched himself over a boy and raised him from the dead (1 Kings 17:21), and Elisha touched a child with his staff and then later lay over him (2 Kings 4:31, 34-35). Jesus issued a command and took the girl by the hand to get her up.
This girl’s “resurrection” is not the same as Jesus’s resurrection, for his body was transformed and glorified. Her body simply recovered from the dead and when she was older she died, like everyone else of her generation. So we should call it a “resuscitation” from the dead.
Then Matthew records the normal flow of events. This specific report spread throughout the whole land or region.
Turner is right on (comment on 9:25-26):
The two miracles in this double story address two basic issues of human existence: the depths of parental love and the pain of chronic disease (in this case resulting in social ostracisms due to ritual impurity). The synagogue ruler’s love for his little girl confronts the power of death when he takes the initiative to plead for Jesus to touch and heal her. Jesus defeats death, and a family is spared the shattering loss of a child. In light of Matthew’s already / not-yet conception of the kingdom, the raising of the little girls points to the ultimate resurrection of the dead by Jesus’s power (cf. Dan. 12:2; Matt. 13:43; 27:52; John 5:25-29; Acts 17:31).
GrowApp for Matt. 9:18-26
A.. Jesus’s plan was interrupted. As he was going to raise a girl from the dead, a woman got her healing. Both females got their blessings. How flexible are you when events interrupt your life?
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men (Matt. 9:27-31)
27 Then Jesus went on from there, and two blind men followed him, crying out and saying, “Have mercy on us, son of David!” 28 As he went into the house, the blind men came up, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” They said, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith, let it be done for you!” 30 Then their eyes were opened. And Jesus warned them sternly, saying, “See to it that no one finds out!” 31 But they left and spread the news about him throughout the entire land.
This is not the same story of healing a blind man or men in Matt. 20:29-34 (two blind men) and Mark 10:46-52 (Bartimaeus) and Luke 18:35-43 (one blind man).
These men were desperate, and they showed it by making a scene. It’s not accurate to say they were pestering him, but they wanted their healing, and they went for it. They cried out or shouted their need for mercy, which meant their healing. In Greek the word mercy can be a verb, so it could be translated as “Pity us!” Or we could invent a verb: “mercify us!” But that translation is too awkward, so let’s not do that.
Son of David was a popular Messianic title; it reflects the future age when the eyes of the blind would be opened and the ears of the deaf would be unstopped and the lame would leap like a deer (Is. 35:5:5-6). Jesus was ushering it in right now, in part. Later in his ministry he will correct the popular view and say that if the Messiah really was David’s son, then why does David call him Lord (Matt. 22:41-46)?
“Yes, Lord”: The two men have already affirmed him to be the son of David, so the title cannot be weakened to “Yes, sir,” though they do not full grasp—and no one did at this point in time—what his Lordship means. But we have high Christology here (Osborne, comment on 9:28). .
Jesus went into the house of an unnamed person. It was not his house because v. 9 says he went on from his hometown, Capernaum. In any case, the two men must have come right up to the door, unless they barged into the house and approached him. Jesus is about to commend them for their faith. Sometimes you have get so desperate that you have to the socially unaccepted thing, like the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years. She touched the tassel of his garment.
Sometimes Jesus could ignore people—seemingly ignore—or remain silent, in order to find out what is in the person requesting the answer. He did this to the Canaanite woman, who pushed into God’s kingdom just before the right time, and she insisted on getting some crumbs falling from the kingdom citizens’ table. Jesus really liked her penetrating insight and verbal wit and honored her request (Matt. 15:21-28). Her daughter was healed. “Just before the right time?” What does that mean? It means that during his earthly ministry he was reaching out to Israel, and then after his resurrection and ascension he would go global. The Canaanite woman knew nothing about this, so she desperately made her request.
Then Jesus asked the blind men a direct question. Faith really is the language of the kingdom. Not whining. Not complaining. Not begging and pleading from unbelief, but a strong confidence, directed to the Lord. Their answer “Yes, Lord” was easy and true for them because they would not let go of their demand for healing. They really did believe he could do this.
“believe”: see v. 2 for more comments.
He touched them and spoke a word of encouragement. Yes, our answer is in accordance with our faith. It could be translated as “in response to your faith,” not “in proportion to your faith” (Blomberg’s comment on 9:29-31). Either way, if you don’t have faith, build it up. First, do you believe miracles are for today, or have they ceased? If you believe they have ceased, then your chance for a healing is virtually nil. But if you believe they are for today because God’s character does not change (Heb. 13:8), then the door is open to getting your miracle. Now we move on to the second point. Second, you build your faith by reading the Word. Third, you build your faith by coming to believe that your loving Father wants to heal you. Do you have the revelation of his love deep in your heart and soul? If you do, then rest as you pray. “Loving Father, I believe you love me and want me well. I trust you to heal me.” Internal rest is a sign that you have faith in your loving Father. The two blind men did not have assurance that their Father was loving, but they went right for his representative: Son of David.
They got their healing miracle.
A commentator whom Osborne quotes translates the Greek “according to your faith let it be done for you” simply as “You believe it, you have it” (comment on 9:29-30). Excellent. Osborne adds: “There is no meritorious aspect to faith; rather, it allows one to participate in the God-given blessing” (Osborne, comment on 9:29-30). In other words, be careful of turning faith into a work or exalting it to an extra-high status. Don’t put your faith in your faith. It simply opens the heart to receive.
Jesus warned them not to spread the news around, because he did not want to reveal his Messiahship just yet. He wanted to keep it hidden, so people would push in and see it by faith and by his teaching. They should have been wise enough to see it by his own person and teaching. Also, I’m sure he knew that national Israel represented by the Jerusalem establishment was going to reject him, and he intended that their rejection would bring judgment down on the old system represented by the temple. It was going to be destroyed. He wanted the priestly establishment to be a victim of irony; that is, they thought they knew the way of the Lord and what the Messiah would look like, but they miscalculated. He was standing right in front of them, but their “wisdom” and “knowledge” of the law blinded them. That’s irony. You think that you know, but you do not; you are actually ignorant.
But of course, how do you keep something like that silent? They did not.
GrowApp for Matt. 9:27-31
A.. How desperate and faith-filled are you for the Lord? If you are desperate, please be sure that you have as much confidence as the two blind men did. Their faith propelled them forward to act.
Jesus Heals a Mute Man (Matt. 9:32-34)
32 As they were leaving, look! they brought him a demonized mute man. 33 After the demon was expelled, the mute man spoke, and the crowd was amazed, saying, “Never has anything like this appeared in Israel!” 34 But the Pharisees were saying, “By the ruler of demons he expels demons!”
“look!” it is an updated translation of the older “behold!” See v. 2 for more comments.
It could be translated as “a mute man who was demonized.”
We have two reactions: the one by the people and the one by the Pharisees. The Pharisees will expand on this false belief later (12:24).
“demonized”: the one verb is translated simply. There are two main ways in the Greek NT to express demonic attacks to varying degrees, from full possession to just attacks: “have a demon” and “demonized.” The latter term is used often in Matthew: 4:24; 8:16, 28, 35; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22, but only once in Luke (8:36), and Mark four times (132; 5:15, 16, 18). John uses the term once (10:21). In Luke 8:26-39, Luke uses both “have a demon” and “demonized,” so he sees the terms synonymously. “Demonized” comes from the verb daimonizomai (pronounced dy-mo-nee-zo-my), which just adds the suffix –izo to the noun daimōn (pronounced dy-moan). It is a very convenient quality about Greek (English has this ability too: modern to modernize). Just add this suffix to a noun, and it turns into a verb. So it looks like “have a demon” and “be demonized” are synonyms. The context determines how severe the possession was.
In these verses the demon was the source of the muteness. Not all muteness is demon-caused, but this case was.
The people were astonished. There were some Jewish exorcists circulating throughout that part of the small world, but no one had ever seen such authority.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
“Pharisees”: you can learn about them at this link:
And of course Satan counterattacks by telling lies. The Pharisees were authority figures, and their words here could very well dampen the enthusiasm of the people, so that they no longer attribute to Jesus his Father-ordained authority. The irony: they were actually the ones speaking by satanic authority, yet they thought they had things figured out and nailed down. Wrong again.
In our own lives, let’s watch out for Satanic counterattacks.
GrowApp for Matt. 9:32-34
A.. Jesus set a man free from a demonic attack. How has Jesus delivered you from sin that overpowers you and even a demonic attack?
The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Workers Few (Matt. 9:35-38)
35 And so Jesus circulated around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and every sickness.
36 And seeing the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep not having a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest, so that he would propel workers into his harvest.”
This summary section or pericope, which we find in Matt. 4:23-25 and 8:16-17. Here v. 35 are almost an exactly worded with 4:23. The verses here are also rich and full of meaning. They will launch Jesus’s commission to the twelve in the next chapter.
Let’s unpack this pericope.
First, Jesus had a teaching ministry, which he exercised in their synagogues (not his synagogues). In Luke 24:27, 44-46, Jesus opened up the Scriptures and taught his disciples about how he fulfilled them. I don’t think Jesus went quite this far at this time, because he wanted the people to press in with faith and connect the dots between him and Messianic Scriptures.
Second, the “good news” comes from the Greek noun euangelion (pronounced you-ahng-gee-on, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). It simply combines “good” or positive” (eu) and “report” or “news” or “announcement” (angelion). So literally it means “good news” or “good report” or “good announcement.” The gospel is good news, not bad news.
Third, “kingdom”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
Fourth, “healing”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
Part and parcel of the kingdom coming and being manifested is healing and deliverance. Jesus was ushering it in. Renewalists believe that they too, by the power and authority of Jesus, can see healings and deliverances from demons. They too can pray for the sick and demonized, and they will recover.
However, this verse is a summary or generalization. We will read that many people did not repent, even after they saw the miracles. Capernaum, his adopted hometown, will be particularly pointed out as stubborn (11:23-24). Nazareth, Joseph’s hometown and where Jesus grew up, also rejected him, even though they saw the mighty works he did (13:53-58). Mark reports that his mighty works were minimal because of the hometown’s unbelief; all he could do is heal a few sick people (Mark 6:5). He marveled at their unbelief (Mark 6:6).
We should therefore be careful about over-interpreting these summary verses. On the other hand, let’s not discount them either. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that sometimes people just are not healed down here on earth, so let’s not freak out when the healing doesn’t happen. But let’s pray for healing in faith, every time it is needed and people ask for it.
Please see my post on why some people don’t get healed:
“their”: And here we have another instance of their (see 4:23; 7:29; 8:34; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54; 22:7; 22:16). Why does Matthew keep saying “their synagogue or their city or their teachers of the law? My opinion: his community has moved well past Judaism and must distinguish between the newly formed Christian community and the Jewish community.
Jesus was moved with compassion. The verb could be translated as “felt compassion,” but this attribute which God shares with us cannot remain static or unexpressed. It has to be active, or else it cannot be compassion.
Let’s explore the verb and the related noun more deeply. The verb is splanchnizomai (pronounced splankh-nee-zoh-my) and is used 12 times, exclusively in the Gospels. “It describes the compassion Jesus had for those he saw in difficulty” (Mounce, New Expository Dictionary, p. 128). BDAG defines the verb simply: “have pity, feel sympathy.”
BDAG further says the noun splanchnon (pronounced splankh-non) is related to the inward part of the body, especially the viscera, inward parts, entrails. But some update their translation with the noun as “heart.” So the verb is also related to the inward parts of a person. It could be translated as “Jesus felt compassion in the depths of his heart.”
As an important side note, in Hebrew the verb raḥam (pronounced rakh-am, and used 47 times) means “to have compassion on, show mercy, take pity on and show love.” The noun raḥamim (39 times) (pronounced rach’meem) means “compassion, mercy, pity.” Both words are related to the word for “womb,” when a woman feels close to and love for the human life growing there. It’s deep in God, too.
The idea of “sheep without a shepherd” is frequent in the OT (esp. Ezek 34:5-6 but also Num 27:17; 1 Kgs 22:17; 2 Chr 18:16; Zech 10:2 …), always concerning the failure of Israel’s leaders. In Ezek 34 God had to rescue the nation because of false shepherd, the leaders, had failed them. So the people here have no one to guide them and are “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6; 15:24), so that Jesus feels great pity for their helpless state. This picture fits the crowd closely, for they flock after Jesus but have no purpose or direction. They are enamored with him but unwilling to make a commitment. They have been “beaten up” by the leaders but are helpless to do anything about it. The answer is found in 2:6, in the prophecy of Mic 5:2 that from Bethlehem would come “a ruler who will shepherd … Israel.” That answer is standing before them, but they do not realize it. (comment on 9:26)
Wow. Well said. Today, in the American church, people have no shepherds (except a remnant of pastors who do the right thing and work hard at their jobs). But more and more churches are being overwhelmed with bad teaching and corrupt morals and unbiblical practices.
Four-part series on how one should not practice lawlessness, particularly church leaders:
The Greek construction here is a strong contrast: men … de (pronounced mehn … deh). It could be translated as “on the one hand … and on the other” …. Or the second half could take the phrase “in contrast.” The point is that the need is great and obvious. This verse and the next one sets up the commissioning of the twelve in the next chapter, so the disciples better be careful what they pray for, unless they really want to go out on a mission.
“disciples”: see v. 10 for further comments.
“propel”: the verb ballō (pronounced bahl-loh), serving as a stem for many prefixes in many context, has many meanings, but the basic one is “throw.” Here it means “propel outwards.” Outward from what? From the source of the kingdom of God and his authority. Those who are commissioned will be sent out by the Father and from the Father.
And it is so interesting that we have the privilege to pray to the Lord of the harvest, so that he would send workers into his harvest (not our harvest). While we pray, we may be changed, and we’re the ones whom he sends out!
Once again, I rely on Turner to summarize this pericope:
The most important theme of Matt. 5-9 in general and 9:35-38 in particular is Christological. As Immanuel, God-with-us, Jesus’s words and deeds epitomize the character and compassion of his Father in heaven. His ethical teaching and his compassionate acts exemplify the values and the power of the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus speaks of the need for additional workers for the harvest. The previous emphasis on discipleship (8:18-22; 9:9-7) indicates the kind of workers for whom the disciples are to pray in 9:38. Judging from the sobering instructions in the mission discourse in Matt. 10, these workers will need to endure much opposition. (comment on 9:37-38)
So get ready for the commissioning of the disciples in Matt. 10, next.
GrowApp for Matt. 9:35-38
A.. Have you ever prayed for the Father to send out workers to the harvest? What if he sends you into your small world? Any ideas how you could work in his harvest field?
Summary and Conclusion
Jesus continues his ministry of authority from Matt. 8.
First, he forgave a paralytic of his sins, and the teachers of the law grumbled that he was blaspheming because in their belief system a human could not forgive the sins of someone else, particularly when the man in need of forgiveness had not asked.
Second, Jesus called Matthew and ate at his house (so says Mark’s and Luke’s version). The Pharisees grumbled at this because he associated with sinners. Eating dinner was a special occasion, and a righteous man like Jesus “must not” do such a thing. Actually, the righteous Messiah should do exactly this.
Third, in a great interlocking scene of two females, a girl and a woman, Jesus responds to the faith of the girl’s father, and right in the middle of her story, he responds the humility and faith of the woman with the discharge of blood for twelve years. Both stories end marvelously. Both females are healed.
Fourth, Jesus heals two blind men. Scholars are puzzled as to why Matthew pairs two persons or even animals. So in these instances Matthew is not the Trimmer. In any case, the two men won’t leave it alone and take no for an answer. They press in and almost compel Jesus, so to speak, to heal them. He honored their tenacity. He did heal them, according to their faith.
Fifth, Jesus heals a mute man who was demonized. As soon as the demon is expelled, the man receives back his speech. Not all diseases or malfunctions are caused by demons, but this man’s muteness was. There is a lesson here for all of us. Use biblical discernment (not the kind that “discernment ministries” advocate, which is merely criticism heaped on brothers in Christ people with whom the discernment ministries don’t agree. And typically, these ministers have a shriveled and unbiblical pneumatology [doctrine of the Spirit]). No, ask the Spirit to show you if the disease is caused by demons.
Sixth and finally, Matthew offers a summary verse that says Jesus healed every disease and sickness. We learn in John 5:1-17 that Jesus healed only one man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, even though many sick and lame were there, waiting for their healing. So the summary verse in Matt. 9:35 must not be over-generalized. On the other hand, it must not be downplayed, either. Jesus certainly healed numerous people, as they reached out to him or the healthy friends and family members brought the sick to him.
Jesus certainly does not heal everyone in a town by a generic, one-size-fits-all prayer. “To everyone in Capernaum, I stretch out may hands in a blanket prayer for ye all. I command ye all to be healed, even without your knowing that I am praying this for you!” No, people have to reach out to him in faith. Then the fireworks happen.
I refer to a community of Bible scholars. They are excellent and humble me. But their commentaries may be too technical for many in the laity. I hope that I have simplified things.
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: The New American Commentary. Vol. 22 (Broadman, 1992).
Carson, D. A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. (Zondervan, 2010).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans 2007).
Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth and Helways, 2001).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Eerdmans 1999).
Olmstead, Wesley G. Matthew 1-14: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2019).
Osborne, Grant R. Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2010).
Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008).