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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Matthew 9

 

 

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Verse 2

GOOD CHEER

‘Be of good cheer.’

Matthew 9:2

This seems to be one of our Lord’s favourite expressions. Consider a few instances.

I. Because of sins forgiven.—‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee’ (St. Matthew 9:2). These words were spoken to a man ill in soul and body. But our Saviour saw that his soul needed healing first.

II. Because faith has saved.—‘Daughter, be of good cheer; thy faith hath made thee whole’ (St. Matthew 9:22, R.V.). Ill for twelve long years. She knew Christ could heal. Despairing of all other help, she hastened towards Him, and joined the mighty multitude which all down the ages have touched Him.

III. Because of Christ’s presence.—‘Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid’ (St. Matthew 14:27). The disciples are tossed on the sea. The wind was contrary. ‘The darkness deepens.’ Then in the fourth watch of the night, just before the dawn ‘Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.’ Do not we too know what it is to be tossed on a dark sea of sorrow and doubt?

IV. Because Christ has overcome.—‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (St. John 16:33). In the world, we are to have tribulation; we have found that true. In Christ, Peace; may we find that true also. But we are to ‘Be of good cheer’ because Christ has overcome the world, and He can cheer us when our hearts are breaking and the world is reeling under our feet.

V. Therefore:—

(a) Look to Christ for your joy.

(b) Share with others the gift He bestows.

The Rev. F. Harper.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Latimer repeated the Saviour’s words at the stake in Oxford: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley! We shall this day by the grace of God light such a candle in England as shall never be put out.”’

(2) ‘Frances Ridley Havergal’s dying message was, “The world needs bright Christians.”’

(3) ‘A devout Christian woman adopted the habit of writing down, daily, a record of the mercies and good gifts which crowned the life of each day. On the opposite side of the page she wrote an account of her daily crosses and sorrows, and at the end of the year she confessed that the benedictions so outnumbered the calamities that her life seemed like an unbroken golden chain, and every hour was a link that lengthened this chain of blessings.’

(4) ‘Talking about his life in a great Northern city, a well-known man said that whenever he felt put out, or worried, or cross, or vexed, or depressed, because things had not being going on as he wished, he went into one or other of the great hospitals, and what he saw there always sent him home calm, refreshed, and contented.’


Verse 2-3

THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS

‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.… This man blasphemeth.’

Matthew 9:2-3

It is in this pronunciation of forgiveness that the most important part of the teaching of the passage is to be found.

I. Attitude of the multitude.—The Evangelist does not endorse, but simply reports the feelings of the multitude. There may, then, have been a mixture of truth and error in their minds; when they spoke of ‘such power being given unto men,’—‘to mankind,’ that is; not, ‘on behalf of men.’ Their thoughts may have been entangled, their vision not perfectly clear. But they had got hold of a new truth. What was it?

II. Man’s power of forgiveness.—There is a sense in which we can pronounce authoritatively the forgiveness of our fellows. When a man has sinned against Society the ban may be taken off, the offender received and welcomed again; and when this is done, the sinner has a chance of believing in the forgiveness of God. But this was nothing new to the Jews. There is a sense, too, in which we can pronounce authoritatively the Divine forgiveness. But our pronunciation is only declaratory. ‘If you comply with such and such conditions, you will be forgiven.’ But this, too, was nothing new to the Jews.

III. Our Lord’s authority.—What struck them in our Lord’s language was His claim to be acquainted with the secrets of heaven. ‘I know, and I announce to you, that your sins are forgiven.’ This seemed to them some new power granted to men. If, then, they thought that God had granted to one man the power of authoritatively pronouncing the forgiveness of another man’s sins, so that that other would be certain of being forgiven, on the ground of his brother’s declaration, they were so far in error. The new truth was, that the power not merely of proclaiming but of dispensing forgiveness was possessed by One who belonged to the human race and who had a brother’s heart.

IV. What is forgiveness?—Not mere remission of penalties, but restoration to the forfeited position,—the being made right again with him whom we have wronged.

Prebendary Gordon Calthrop.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Blasphemy consists in hurting the fame, good name or reputation of another. The word is specially applied to anything said, that expresses or implies what is greatly derogatory to the character or prerogative of God. The blasphemer was to be put to death by stoning, his body hung on a tree, and then buried with shame. This was the turning point in the life of Christ, for the accusation of blasphemy, now muttered in the hearts of the Rabbis present, was the beginning of the process which ended, after a time, on Calvary. He knew it, and the shadow of the cross had already fallen on His soul.’

(2) ‘The absolving words were not optative only, no mere desire that it might be so, but declaratory that so it was; the man’s sins were forgiven. Nor yet were they declaratory only of something which passed in the mind and intention of God; but, even as the words were spoken, there was shed abroad in his heart the sense of forgiveness and reconciliation with God.… He did not, as the Church does now, in the name of another, and wielding a delegated power, but in His own name, forgive him. They also understood rightly of this Divine forgiveness of sins, that it was a Divine prerogative; that, as no man can remit a debt save he to whom it is due, so no one can forgive sins save He against whom all sin is committed, that is, God.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE DIVINE HEALER

I. Christ’s forgiveness.—He pardons the sins of the poor sufferer before Him, on His own authority as a King, which it would have been contradictory to have done, had He Himself been conscious of having sin and guilt of His own. It was at once a proclamation of His own sinlessness, and of His kingly dignity as the Messiah.

II. Faith the condition.—Whilst the faith of the four friends attracted the attention and elicited the respect of Christ, we must also remember that the sick man himself had faith to receive the blessing. The words of Christ to him imply this—‘Son, or child (he was probably a very young man), be of good cheer.’ The Saviour saw in him a state of mind and feeling different from theirs; aiming at an object distinct from that of the bearers, who only sought for his bodily healing.

III. Christ’s authority proved.—The cavillers should be doubly convinced—(a) by the proof which He gave that the thoughts of all hearts were open to Him; and (b) by the miracle.

The Rev. W. Oliver.

Illustration

‘In the Pilgrim’s Progress Christian is represented to be toiling under a heavy burden up a steep fenced way, till he came to a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below a sepulchre. “So I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up to the cross his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, ‘He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.’ Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder, for it was very surprising to him that the look of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold three Shining Ones came and saluted him with ‘Peace be unto thee.’ So the first said unto him, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’; the second stripped him of his rags and clothed him with change of raiment; and the third set a mark upon his forehead and gave him a roll with a seal on it which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate.”’


Verse 9

STEADY OBEDIENCE

‘And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He saith unto him, Follow Me. And he arose, and followed Him.’

Matthew 9:9

What is remarkable about Matthew is, not that he rose from his business and followed Christ, but that he was prepared for the call.

I. The commanding personality of Our Lord.—Matthew felt the touch of His authority; Christ’s looks of love searched the deeps of his soul. The whole scene is an admirable example of the way in which our Lord worked for men’s salvation. Human reformers have commonly begun by remodelling institutions and getting laws altered, on the principle that good institutions will make men good. He began at the other end, and went straight to men’s souls. He was a personal ministry. And this method He bequeathed to His Church, that it should exercise a personal ministry.

II. The testimony of experience.—God has led us to Himself by means of personal influence and example, as Christ called Matthew by a personal, individual call. As we look back over our spiritual history we recall the tender influence of our parents; the well-remembered face of some kind and loving teacher; the controlling examples of dear and trusted friends, and we recognise that God was working for and upon us through all these, that they were vessels of His choice for bringing home His truth to our hearts.

III. ‘Follow Me.’—We in our time and way are saying the words to those among whom we live day by day. If we do not say them openly, we say them by silent example and unconscious influence; we are drawing others after us one way or another, into closer likeness to the life of Christ or further from it.

Archdeacon Mackarness.

Illustration

‘We read in classic story how the lyre of Orpheus enchanted with its music not only the wild beasts but the very trees and rocks, so that they moved from their places to follow him: so Christ, our heavenly Orpheus, with the music of His gracious speech, draws after Him those less susceptible to benign influences than beasts and trees and stones, even poor hardened, senseless, sinful souls. Let Him but strike His golden harp, and whisper in thy heart, “Come, follow Me,” and thou, like another Matthew, shalt be won.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

CONVERSION AND CONFESSION

Matthew is introduced to us very shortly in the passage quoted as our text.

I. The call.—The call came at Capernaum, that busy seaport on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Here was a man who loved money. Make it he must, for it was only the pressure of supreme determination which could make a son of Abraham take up the ostracised position of one who farmed the taxes of the Roman people. Jesus knew him well, and the all-seeing eye of Christ had read something of the man’s character; had seen that there was an uneasy conscience behind the stern words he spoke to the widow and the orphan.

II. His conversion.—He rose up, left all to follow Christ. The obedience was immediate. The man passed through no period of probation ere he was received as one of Christ’s disciples. Jesus Christ took him as he was. Men have yet to learn Jesus Christ does not ask for any period of probation ere He receives them. There had been a preparation for this call. Matthew must have heard the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus Christ spoke to him that day, Matthew knew that there before him was a heart that was warm enough to woo him from his gold. Two elements in Christ’s methods of winning men are: He creates a dissatisfaction with things that are merely temporal, and offers a satisfaction which can meet the deep longings of the human soul.

III. His confession.—He invited to his house the other tax-gatherers of the town, and others with them. We note, in reading the account by Matthew himself, that he modestly omits to mention that he was the host on the occasion, or that the feast was a great one, as described by St. Luke. Why did he invite the tax-gatherers of Capernaum to meet our Lord Jesus Christ? First of all (a) for his own sake. There was to be a new life henceforth, and if a man is to follow Jesus Christ, he needs, with boldness and decision, make it known that he has taken this step. Matthew did it also (b) for his companions’ sake. He wanted his companions to know that the Heart of Jesus could receive such as they were. He desired to witness for Christ to his own set.

IV. Consequences of his obedience.—What were the consequences of Matthew’s obedience to the call of Christ? First of all the Gospel to Matthew, and then the Gospel from Matthew to the people. Though in many respects life is easier than it was, there is still the deep longing of the human soul which can only be met by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Has it come to you?

Rev. W. H. Stone.

Illustration

‘Not many years ago one of the leaders, or at any rate one of the most welcome of men in London society, holding a high position, heard the call of Jesus Christ, and determined henceforth to follow Him. To do what He would have him do was to be the mainspring of life, and he invited to his table the leaders of the various sets in society in which he had mixed, and after dinner they were somewhat surprised to see him rise to his feet to make a brief speech to them. He desired to tell them what he had found since he had known Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour. He desired to make them henceforth understand why his manner of life was to be different from what it had been. From that moment that man never turned back; he went on and on to a life of great usefulness and a glorious end.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

LEAVING ALL

In his own Gospel Matthew records the incident briefly, but St. Mark and St. Luke deal with it more at length.

I. When lie was called.—‘As Jesus passed forth from thence’ i.e. from the house where the palsy was cured. Our Lord must often have seen him before; perhaps he was already a secret disciple. St. Mark calls him Levi, and that was his earlier name. ‘Matthew,’ which means ‘the gift of God,’ was assumed after he had received God’s best gift, the loving call to Christ’s service.

II. Where he was called.—At the receipt of custom. Capernaum, a busy place by lake-side. Every boat of fish laded and every passenger who crossed lake had to pay a toll. Matthew was here at one of the toll-booths doing the work of the collector.

III. The words of the call.—Simple words, but it was not a mere request. It was a command; and it was a command, not merely to become a disciple, but like the call to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, a command to leave business, home, and friends, to become one of Christ’s own fellow-workers.

IV. Obedience to the call.—It was a willing, ready obedience. St. Luke says he left all—his books, his place, his chance of worldly ease and gain, his past life, everything—and followed Christ. He joined the little band whose daily privilege it was to be near Jesus Christ.

V. The call to us.—The obedience must be ready and willing, and we must be prepared to leave all. Are we?

—W. Taylor.


Verse 13

MERCY NOT SACRIFICE

‘Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’

Matthew 9:13

Let us look into the wonderful passage more closely.

I. A strange passage.—The passage is admittedly a difficult one, nor does the Christian at first gain comfort as he realises who it is that preserves the saying for us. We are apt to take Matthew to be the legalist, the strict Jew. But he was not the legalist we take him for, or at least, if his instincts led in that direction, the teaching of the Master gave them another point, for, by his traditions, he belonged to one of the two classes vitally concerned in the eternal authority of this saying of Jesus—and not less vital now than then—the class that pleads for mercy and the class that preaches sacrifice.

II. The preachers of ‘sacrifice.’—They were both of them at meat in the house; they were looking on rather than taking part in the company, but congratulating themselves that they were not of it. There was the Pharisee, the man of uncompromising religious habits. It is difficult to believe that Jesus only scouted all this religious niceness. Behind the strict observance of what was written and had been ratified by the Jewish Church, there might, of course, be oppression of the doer; but the obvious characteristic of the Pharisees as a class was their conscientious churchmanship, their sincere belief that God desired sacrifice and therefore ought to have it, that God delighted in burnt offerings and should not be denied the pleasure of receiving them. They stood out absolutely for sacrifice as a principle.

III. Those who need mercy.—And then there is the other sort of folk in the house. They are not like the Pharisees, and yet the Pharisees do not have the effect of making them feel as if they were out of place, because there is One present Whose Personality is more potent than that of the Pharisees, and He it is Who makes them feel at home. But, like the Pharisees, they have a sort of class name. Respectable people class them together as ‘publicans and sinners.’ Whatever their birthright, they had come to be outside the covenant. The others ranged comfortably within the four walls of the City of God, but these suffered without the gate. Their only chance was some hope in the word ‘mercy,’ and it filled them with a new and unimagined hope that there should stand One among them, in all the unmistakable respectability of a Rabbi, saying to these doctors of the Law: ‘Go ye and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’ Is there no warning here for us of the English Church? We are better, humbler men than the Pharisees in the text, but some sense of what we call the fitness of things, some consistent desire to stand upon the old paths, bids us postpone mercy to sacrifice, and so to some extent—let us be honest and say to a deplorable extent—we feel that the good news entrusted to us does not seem to be good news to the multitude, to whom it ought to mean as much as it means to us.

IV. ‘Mercy, not sacrifice.’—There are two classes of publicans and sinners to whom mercy needs to be extended before they can be brought to temper mercy with sacrifice, before they can appreciate the system as we have learned to appreciate it and to thank God for it. There is he who is called (a) the man in the street, using his Sunday for laziness or jollity, lapsing year by year more and more into an attitude of mind in which religion has lost any grip that ever it had. Jesus sat at meat with such, regardless of propriety; but if some preacher of the good news among us takes unconventional means of calling the wayfarer to hear the message, we begin to complain. And there is (b) the man in the study—more to be pitied than the man in the street, because he is more sensitive, more conscious of his position. He reads his Bible, he attends our services, he follows our theological progress, but he cannot go all the way with us in the knowledge of God, though he seeks earnestly and with tears. In his difficulties he pleads for ‘mercy, not sacrifice.’ Is it anything to us, all we that pass by? The coming in the flesh of the Son of God was proclaimed first to the men in the fields, to the shepherds who were an abomination to the scrupulous Pharisee. The Babe Himself was shown to the staid, wise men from country far. Neither class was within the system. The Son of Man from His cradle was as one who told men to go and learn what this meaneth, ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’

—The Rev. E. H. Pearce.


Verse 15

RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES

‘Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.’

Matthew 9:15

Observances must be secondary. So St. Paul tells the Galatians that he is afraid of them, because they observe days and months, and times and years. In his day and in his circumstances there was plainly something which made him throw his chief weight into the scale against all observances.

I. The reason of observances.—Our Lord, in answering the question of the Pharisees, why His disciples did not fast, gives us the precise measure of all such observances. If we had the Bridegroom always with us, we should never need them. But the Bridegroom leaves us sometimes, and then we cannot do without them. He has left us, and the Church has found just what He predicted, that much which was needless while He stayed became needful when He was gone.

II. The Church needs them.—The Church found that she must do what our Lord implied that she would have to do, provide for the needs of human nature in the ordinary fashion, and make rules to keep alive the warmth and power of faith, just as rules are made for the purposes of any ordinary human society. We are tempted to fancy that these observances must be a hindrance, not a help; that what is wanted are power, and life, and passion, not recurring seasons, and reminders of great events, and services in due order. But it is not so. Life and power are wanted; but they are not hindered by the rules of religious life; and meanwhile those very rules often aid them in their weakness.

III. Individuals need them.—What is true of the Church is true of each one of us. Observances have two uses for every soul. If the Lord be absent, it is by them that we seek Him. If the Lord be present, it is by them that we meet Him.

Archbishop Temple.


Verse 18

THE RULER WHO PLEADED FOR HIS DAUGHTER

‘A certain ruler.’

Matthew 9:18

We have in this incident an instance of a pious and good man trained and chastened by the Father of Spirits. All the interest of the story is centred in the father. We read of what he said, what he felt and suffered, what efforts he made to avert his daughter’s death, how deep was his affliction, and nothing at all of her.

I. A forgotten lesson.—We must regard this trial sent to Jairus as of the same class as that sent to David when his heart was so lifted up with the splendour of his military successes that he proposed to number the people. Thus we must think, then, of Jairus. An amiable, prosperous, easy-going man, whose lot had fallen to him in pleasant places, so pleasant as to render him indolent, and hinder his soul’s real life. He had come to love this present world; to enjoy its pleasures, and to cling to it more and more.

II. The trial.—To such a man it was that the trial came of the sudden illness and the rapidly approaching death of his only and idolised child. The man was shaken out of his accustomed decorum. There, on the open sea-beach, in the presence of the crowd, he flings himself down at Jesus’ feet, and embracing them, sobbed forth in hurried, broken sentences, his sorrow and his request. It is better to have real and deep feelings, though tumultuous, than a cold and selfish heart: and this was the lesson that he was being taught of God.

III. The sympathy of Jesus.—Such transport of parental love deserved, and was sure to receive from Jesus, full of sympathy and tenderness as He ever was, a merciful and gracious answer. And so our Lord seems to have got up at once, without question, and set off to the house of Jairus. The Providential discipline had done its appointed work.

IV. Is there amongst us a Jairus?—Is there any one, that is, who finds this life so pleasant and so sufficing, that he has no strong desire for the next, and only a very languid and tepid love for the ordinances and the practices of religion? Remember, vital religion and love of the world cannot co-exist. To such, who have fallen into Jairus’ error, may He give Jairus’ awakening.


Verse 21

WORSHIP AND SUPERSTITION

‘If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole.’

Matthew 9:21

This story records a most remarkable instance of our Saviour’s treatment of ignorance and superstition. It was a poor conceit of this woman, says good Bishop Hall, that she thought that she might receive so sovereign a remedy from Christ without His heed, without His knowledge. Christ healed, so she supposed, not by the exertion of His holy will, but rather by a certain magical influence and power which she thought dwelt in Him. But while this woman’s ideas were thus wholly wrong, being tinged with much superstition and ignorance, the result of her practised faith was wholly excellent.

I. Superstition and faith.—There is a very frequent temptation for us, to whom has been granted, as we rightly consider, a purer revelation of Christian faith, to think harshly and intolerantly of those avowed Christians whose minds are as yet unenlightened on many points of Divine truth. We are tempted to regard their superstitions as a gulf across which we cannot embrace our fellow-Christians. It is good, therefore, to remind ourselves of this miracle of Jesus Christ’s. There is much spiritual worship in much apparent superstition; and, still more, there is much spiritual idolatry in that pride of better knowledge which can only think scornfully of our fellow-Christians because, in their guileless ignorance, they have been accustomed to bow their knees before a statue or to attribute fictitious power to an image of stone.

II. Only one received the blessing.—There was nothing in the hem of Christ’s garment more than in the hem of any other to convey a blessing. A multitude was thronging all round Him, hustling against Him, and yet receiving no benefit. Only one woman in all of that crowd believed that His Sacred Person was full of healing blessing, so that if only she could come in contact with Him she would be at once healed. She recognised that one touch of Christ could overcome all the powers of darkness of this world. And He in turn recognised that touch of timid faith, even amid the pressure of the crowd. It is thus to-day within the Church of Jesus Christ. The Christ still conveys strength and healing to us through outward means. And if the hem of Christ’s garment had such power to heal and bless when touched by faith, how much more shall the Body and Blood of Christ, received by faith in our hearts, have power for the strengthening and for the refreshing of our souls!

—The Rev. Ivor Farrar.

Illustration

‘When Henry Martyn, the great and holy missionary, saw once in Spain a poor old crone bowing down and reverently kissing the feet of a stone image and bathing it with her tears, he reflected that, however much his understanding of the scheme of Redemption might be better than hers, very probably in faith and love she was his superior.’


Verse 24

NOT DEAD, BUT SLEEPING

‘The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.’

Matthew 9:24

We have three great lessons from this history.

I. A lesson against despair.—The first is never to believe that we are utterly dead to God and Christ. It is a lesson against despair. Satan and the world are always trying to make us despair. Satan is always telling us that we are spiritually dead The world is always ready to sneer at any attempt at amendment. How are we to escape from these? Where are we to find that which answers to the quiet room where none were present but Christ and the Apostles and the parents? Surely it is in the House of God that we find what answers to all this. Here, in the quiet house of His own Presence.

II. A lesson of hope for all.—It is a lesson of hope for priests who mourn over the apparent deadness of those for whom they watch and pray as those who must give account: for it teaches them that there may be life even under the very likeness of death, and that when God wills the hand of Christ may be laid upon the soul, and it will rise to new life and vigour. It teaches them where their true strength lies. The pastor’s strength lies not in mere fussy activity of his own, but in the power of Christ. How was it that this sick girl came to be healed? Was it not through her father’s persevering in bringing Christ to heal her? Other people told him it was useless. Other people told him he was troubling the Master to no purpose: that the girl was dead and gone, and that the end had come. But the father persevered, and when Christ came His verdict was a different one.

III. A lesson on the power of prayer.—It had been Christ’s Will and purpose to reward the faith of the father who had sought Him out and trusted Him, and thus, though late enough to try the father’s faith, He was not too late to grant the father’s prayer. And so it shall ever be with the prayer of faith. It is prayer which brings Christ Himself to the rescue of the perishing soul.

Illustration

‘Nature in winter puts on her shroud: the leaves fall, the limbs of the tree become bare, the earth is covered with a mantle of snow. But nature is not dead. By and by, under the warm sun, the snow will melt and the balmy air of spring will make the hedgerows green, and the trees put forth their leaves, and the snowdrops, crocusses, and other flowers will give promise of new life and beauty. The springtime of Nature is a picture of the Resurrection.’


Verse 29

THE FAITH AND THE GIFT

‘According to your faith be it unto you.’

Matthew 9:29

The measure of our faith will be always the measure of the gift. But, as many and as different as are the benefits which God bestows on us, so many are the states of faith in a man’s soul.

I. An overcoming faith.—If this principle be true, it sends us down to our own heart, to find that we have not obtained any particular blessing, because we have had, at the moment, so very small a measure of faith. I believe there is more in the verse than is generally understood—‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’ It is that the whole world, the whole universe, everything in it, every sorrow and every care, every temptation and every difficulty, faith can match with it continually, can ‘overcome’ it; but then the faith must be in proportion to the difficulty. ‘No faith’—all a blank. ‘Weak faith’—little peace, and little work. ‘Strong faith’—great things; delightful things; heavenly things. God is keeping to His own formula—‘According to your faith be it unto you.’

II. Faith is based upon promises.—God has given us, upon many subjects, and in many ways, certain distinct promises. Almost our first duty in life is to know God’s promises, and to gather them out and collect them up in our minds. Every one of these promises is good for eternity. It is with them faith deals—for its commission is to take the promise, and bring it to God, and get it honoured. Outside the boundary line of the promise, faith properly speaking, has no province.

—The Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘Whatever is poor or wrong about your soul, it is your faith which is at fault. Lay the blame in the right place. Attend to your faith. There are many of us who cannot find peace, though they seek it, and seek it honestly. The real clue to it all is, you are not taking God at His word. Another man feels, “I think I am forgiven, but I have no joy.” No; because you do not realise the fact that Christ, and the whole world, and life, and death, and heaven, and all things are yours. If you believed this, you would be happy. They are yours; nevertheless, “according to your faith be it unto you.” Another is entering upon some duty, and he enters tremblingly: he wishes to glorify God, but he feels it too much for him, and he is overwhelmed and afraid; and yet there stand by that man abounding promises. They are all written for you: and then, over them all, is this inscription, “According to your faith be it unto you.”’


Verse 35

THE GREAT PHYSICIAN

‘And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.’

Matthew 9:35

This feature of our Lord’s ministry was neither accidental or inevitable. Nothing in His work was accident; all was deliberate; all had an object. Nothing in His work was inevitable, except so far as it was freely dictated by His wisdom and His mercy.

I. Teacher and physician.—We may infer with reverence and certainty that Christ’s first object was to show Himself as the Deliverer and Restorer of human nature as a whole; not of the reason and conscience merely, without the imagination and the affections; not of the spiritual side of men’s nature, without the bodily; and therefore He was not only Teacher, but also Physician.

II. The present function of the human body.—We see in it at once a tabernacle and an instrument; it is the tabernacle of the soul and the temple of the Holy Ghost. And thus the human body is, in our idea, itself precious and sacred; it is an object of true reverence, if only by reason of Him Whom it is thus permitted to house and to serve.

III. The destiny of the body.—As we Christians gaze at it we know that there awaits it the humiliation of death and decay; we know also that it has a future beyond; the hour of death is the hour of resurrection. It is the Lord who ‘shall change our vile body.’

—Canon Liddon.

Illustration

‘To suppose that this union of prophet and physician was determined by the necessity of some rude civilization, such as that of certain tribes in Central Africa and elsewhere, or certain periods and places in mediæval Europe, when knowledge was scanty, when it was easy and needful for a single person at each social centre to master all that was known on two or three great subjects—this is to make a supposition which does not apply to Palestine at the time of our Lord’s appearance.’


Verse 36

SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD

‘When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.’

Matthew 9:36

The bearing of the Lord’s compassion and command here upon heathendom is divinely weighty. But its directest incidence lies another way. Its first message is for Christendom.

I. A religious country.—Our Lord, when He thus spoke out His great compassion, stood in the midst of a religious country. It was a land where the synagogue was everywhere.

II. Externals of religion.—To the Lord assuredly the mechanism and externals of religion were momentous things. He was Himself, in His sinless human humiliation, wonderful as the thought always is, a worshipper in the order of the Church of Israel. He opened His Messianic ministry in a synagogue. He was jealous for the sanctity of even the outermost precincts of the Temple. Church, Sacrament, Ministry—these are things as holy, as reverend, as precious in their essentials, as the direct institution of the Lord can make them. But all this must never becloud the Christian’s recollection of his Lord’s opinion of mechanism, even where it is Divine, without the Divine breath.

III. Religionism without God.—In our Master’s view, nothing was so deplorable, so repellent, so formidable, as religionism without the living God. He has nothing but a sacred disgust for the spirit which puts sacrifice before mercy, the traditional detail before the Word of God, the ecclesiastical subterfuge from affection and duty before the plain Divine command, the prerogatives of even a divinely-originated institution before equity and self-forgetting love. To Him, the shepherd void of living love is so little a shepherd that the flock, for all he is to them, is in a profound sense derelict.

IV. The message for to-day.—What is the message of all this to ourselves, in our dear Church to-day? God forbid that I should even seem to forget the noble evidences among us in a thousand quarters of the workings, in and through our Anglican ministry, of the Holy Spirit in His living power. But none the less—yea, all the more—it must lie upon the very heart of all of us to see to it that all this leaves us solemnly on the watch against religionism without the living God. For His power and presence in the wills and lives of His ministers, and in the wills and lives of the flock, there is no substitute, there is no second best. It will be still a shepherdless wilderness and a deserted harvest field without the life of Christ beating in our hearts, speaking in our witness, shining in our lives, and so winning living souls to the living God.

Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

SERVICE—PRAYER—METHOD

The Ministry of the Church must correspond to that of her Lord. Difficulties not greater now than then. See how He dealt with them. Take only one problem which is vexing the Church to-day—the spiritual destitution of the masses. It was a problem in our Lord’s day: how did He deal with it? He was moved with compassion, and His compassion crystallised into action. He went amongst them Himself; He bade His disciples pray for more labourers; He sent out the Twelve. These methods should be ours to-day.

I. Personal service (St. Matthew 9:35).—This the great need of the Church. We give our money; we need to give ourselves. Never will the masses be won until every Christian is a worker.

II. United prayer.—He stirred up His disciples to pray. When the Church prays for men, men will be sent.

III. Method (St. Matthew 10:1-5).—He sent forth the Twelve. In this development of our Lord’s ministry there are four great principles which should guide the Church in all time.

(a) Selection. The Twelve were chosen and trained before being sent forth.

(b) Association. ‘Two and two’ (St. Mark 6:7). We must mass our workers, not isolate them.

(c) Self-sacrifice (St. Matthew 10:9-10). This is a strong instinct in the Christian heart, and we err because we do not use it. Work amongst the masses needs men who will forgo the pleasures of life.

(d) Philanthropy. The Twelve were to ‘heal the sick’ as well as preach the kingdom. Gifts of healing withdrawn, but the principle of caring for men’s bodies as well as souls remains.

Bishop F. J. Chavasse.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 9:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/matthew-9.html. 1876.

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