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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Matthew 9

 

 

Verses 1-8

And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.

This incident appears to follow next in order of time to the cure of the leper (Matthew 8:1-4). For the exposition, see the notes at Mark 2:1-2.


Verse 9

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.

And as Jesus passed forth from thence - that is, from the scene of the paralytic's cure in Capernum, toward the shore of the sea of Galilee, on which that town lay. Mark, as usual, pictures the scene more in detail, thus (Mark 2:13): "And He went forth again by the sea-side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them" [ edidasken (Greek #1321) autous (Greek #846)] - or, 'kept teaching them.' "And as be passed by,"

He saw a man, named Matthew - the writer of this precious Gospel, who here, with singular modesty and brevity, relates the story of his own calling. In Mark and Luke he is called Levi [ Leues (Greek #3018), or, according to the preferable reading, Leuin (Greek #3017)], which seems to have been his family name. In their lists of the twelve apostles, however, Mark and Luke give him the name of Matthew, which seems to have been the name by which he was known as a disciple. While he himself sinks his family name, he is careful not to sink his occupation, the obnoxious associations with which he would place over against the grace that called him from it, and made him an apostle. (See the note at Matthew 10:3) Mark alone tells us (Mark 2:14) that he was "the son of Alpheus" - the same, probably, with the father of James the less. From this and other considerations it is pretty certain that he must at least have heard of our Lord before this meeting. Unnecessary doubts, even from an early Period, have been raised about the identity of Levi and Matthew. No English jury, with the evidence before them which we have in the Gospels, would hesitate in giving in a unanimous verdict of identity.

Sitting at the receipt of custom - publican, which Luke (Luke 5:27) calls him. It means the place of receipt, the toll-house or booth in which the collector sat. Being in this case By the sea-side, it might be the ferry-tax, for the transit of persons and goods across the lake, which he collected. (See the note at Matthew 5:46)

And he saith unto him, Follow me. Witching words these, from the lips of Him who never employed them without giving them resistless efficacy in the hearts of those they were spoken to.

And he "left all" (Luke 5:28), arose and followed him.


Verse 10

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house. The modesty of our Evangelist signally appears here. Luke says (Luke 5:29) that "Levi made Him a great feast," or 'reception' [ docheen (Greek #1403) megaleen (Greek #3173], while Matthew merely says, "He sat at meat;" and Mark and Luke say that it was in Levi's "own house," while Matthew merely says, "He sat at meat in the house." Whether this feast was made now, or not until afterward, is a point of some importance in the order of events, and not agreed among harmonists. The probability is that it did not take place until a considerable time afterward. For Matthew, who ought surely to know what took place while his Lord was speaking at his own table, tells us that the visit of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, occurred at that moment (Matthew 9:18). But we know from Mark and Luke that this visit of Jairus did not take place until after our Lord's return, at a later period, from the country of the Gadarenes. (See Mark 5:21, etc., and Luke 8:40, etc.) We conclude, therefore, that the feast was not made in the novelty of his discipleship, but after Matthew had had time to be somewhat established in the faith; when, returning to Capernaum, his compassion for old friends, of his own calling and character, led him to gather them together that they might have an opportunity of hearing the gracious words which proceeded out of His Master's mouth, if haply they might experience a like change.

Behold, many publicans and sinners - [Luke says, "a great company" (Matthew 9:29)], came and sat down with him and his disciples.} In all such cases the word rendered 'sat' is 'reclined,' in allusion to the ancient mode of lying on couches at meals.


Verse 11

And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

And when the Pharisees ["and scribes," add Mark and Luke], saw it, they ["murmured" or 'muttered,' says Luke (Matthew 9:30), and] said unto his disciples - not venturing to put their question to Jesus Himself.

Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? (See the note at Luke 15:2.)


Verse 12

But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

But when Jesus heard [that], he said unto them - to the Pharisees and scribes; addressing Himself to them, though they had shrunk from addressing Him.

They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick - q.d., 'Ye deem yourselves whole; My mission, therefore, is not to you: The physician's business is with the sick; therefore eat I with publicans and sinners.' O, what myriads of broken hearts of sin-sick souls, have been bound up by this matchless saying!


Verse 13

But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. But go ye and learn what that meaneth (Hosea 6:6), I will have mercy, and not sacrifice - that is the one rather than the other. "Sacrifice," the chief part of the ceremonial law, is here put for a religion of literal adherence to mere rules; while "Mercy" expresses such compassion for the fallen as seeks to lift them up. The duty of keeping aloof from the polluted, in the sense of "having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," is obvious enough; but to understand this as prohibiting such contact with them as is necessary to their recovery, is to abuse it. This was what these pharisaical religionists did, and this is what our Lord here exposes.

For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners [to repentance]. The words enclosed in brackets are of doubtful authority here, and more than doubtful authority in Mark 2:17; but in Luke 5:32 they are undisputed. We have here just the former statement stripped of its figure. "The righteous" are the whole; "sinners," the sick. When Christ "called" the latter, as He did Matthew, and probably some of those publicans and sinners whom he had invited to meet with Him, it was to heal them of, their spiritual maladies, or save their souls: "The righteous," like those miserable, self-satisfied Pharisees, "He sent empty away."

Remarks:

(1) How glorious is the grace which not only saves the chief of sinners, but places one of proverbially sunken class among "the princes of His people"! (See the notes at Matthew 1:3; Matthew 1:5-6.)

(2) How delightful is it to trace the deep humility with which this disciple ever after carried himself-whether in the genealogy which he gives of His Master, to which reference has just been made; or in avoiding, in the record of his own calling, what was to his own credit; or in noting, in his catalogue of the Twelve, as none of the other New Testament writers do, the justly branded class out of which he had been called. (See the note at Matthew 10:3.)

(3) But let us not fail to observe the compassion with which he sought to fetch in his old associates to the circle of the saved, "that they also might have fellowship with him" in the love of Jesus. There is no more certain evidence of genuine repentance and true disciplineship than this (See Psalms 51:12-13; Luke 22:32, second clause.)

(4) How grievously do they err, and pervert the simple, who represent the object of Christ's mission to have been merely to furnish a code of sound morality, or establish spirituality of worship, or certify the doctrine of the resurrection, or the like. He came to heal the sick soul, to raise the sunken to save sinners; to bring back to God the vilest prodigals, and beautify them with salvation. Such as want him not for this He passes by; they are not his patients, and they get nothing from Him. They may laud the purity and loftiness of His teaching and example; but they are strangers to Him as "the Balm in Gilead and the Physician there."

Since this discourse is recorded by all the three first Evangelists immediately after their account of Matthew's Call and Feast, there can be no doubt that it was delivered on that occasion. For the exposition of this important discourse, see the notes at Luke 5:33-39, where it is given mostfully.


Verses 14-17

Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verses 18-26

While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

For the exposition, see the notes at Mark 5:21-43.

Verses 27-34: These two miracles are recorded by Matthew alone.


Verse 27

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him - hearing, doubtless, as in a later case is expressed, "that Jesus passed by" (Matthew 20:30);

Crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. It is remarkable that in the only other recorded case in which the blind applied to Jesus for their sight, and obtained it, they addressed Him, over and over again, by this one Messianic title so well known - "Son of David" (Matthew 20:30). Can there be a doubt that their faith fastened on such great messianic promises as this, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened"? etc. (Isaiah 35:5); and if so, this appeal to Him, as the Consolation of Israel, to do His predicted office, would fall with great weight upon the ears of Jesus.


Verse 28

And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.

And when he was come into the house. To try their faith and patience, He seems to have made them no And when he was come into the house. To try their faith and patience, He seems to have made them no answer.

The blind men came to him - which, no doubt was what He desired,

And Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.

Doubtless our Lord's design was not only to put their faith to the test by this question, but to deepen it, to raise their expectation of a cure, and so prepare them to receive it; and the cordial-acknowledgement, so toughingly simple, which they immediately made to Him of His power to heal them, shows how entirely that object was gained.


Verse 29

Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.

Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you - not, Receive a cure proportioned to your faith, but, Receive this cure as granted to your faith. Thus would they carry about with them, in their restored vision, a gracious seal of the faith which drew it from their compassionate Lord.


Verse 30

And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.

And their eyes were opened: and Jesus straitly charged them. The expression is very strong enebrimeesato (Greek #1690) autois (Greek #846), denoting great earnestness.


Verse 31

But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.

But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country. See the note at Matthew 7:4, and Remark 4 on that section.)


Verse 32

As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.

As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil , [ daimonizomenon (Greek #1139)] - 'demonized.' The deaf-mute condition was not natural; it was the effect of the demon possession.


Verse 33

And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.

And when the devil (or 'demon') was cast out, the dumb spake. The particulars in this case are not given; the object being simply to record the instantaneous restoration of the natural faculties, on the removal of the malignant oppression of them, the form which the popular astonishment took and the very different effect of it upon another class.

And the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel - referring, probably, not to this case only, but to all those miraculous displays of healing power which seemed to promise a new era in the history of Israel. Probably they meant by this language to indicate, as far as they thought it safe to do so, their inclination to regard Him as the promised Messiah.


Verse 34

But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.

But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devels through the prince of the devils - `the demons through the prince of the demons.' This seems to be the first muttering of a theory of such miracles which soon became a fixed mode of calumniating them-a theory which would be ridiculous if it were not melancholy, as an outburst of the darkest malignity. (See the note at Matthew 12:24, etc.)

Remarks:

(1) So manifestly were these bodily cures designed to set forth analogous operations of grace on the soul, that in the case of opening the eyes of the blind, our Lord, before performing it, in one notable instance, expressly announced the higher design of it, saying, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5). Nor would it have been possible beforehand to tell with certainty whether the predictions of such glorious miracles (for example, in Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 42:7) - as inaugurating and distinguishing the Messianic economy-were designed to be understood literally, or spiritually, or both. Hence, we are to regard all such incidents as are here recorded as having higher aspects and bearings than any that terminate on the body; and on the same principle, the honour which our Lord here put upon the faith and patience of these blind men may surely be reckoned on by all who sigh to be "turned by Him from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God."

(2) How differently are the same operations and events regarded by the unsophisticated and the prejudiced! 'More light.' is the cry of many besides these prejudiced Pharisees. But what they want is more simplicity and godly sincerity, the sifting of which leaves the soul a prey to the darkest passions.

As the Mission of the Twelve supposes the previous Choice of them-of which our Evangelist gives no account, and which did not take place until a later stage of our Lord's public life-it is introduced here out of its proper place, which is after what is recorded in Luke 6:12-19.


Verse 35

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.

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]. The bracketed words are of more than doubtful authority here, and were probably introduced from Matthew 4:23. The language here is so identical with that used in describing the first circuit (Matthew 4:23), that we may presume the work done on both occasions was much the same. It was just a further preparation of the soil, and a fresh sowing of the precious seed. (See the note at Matthew 4:23.) To these fruitful journeyings of the Redeemer, "with healing in His wings," Peter no doubt alludes, when, in his address to the household of Cornelius, he spoke of "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good [ dieelthen (Greek #1330) euergetoon (Greek #2109)], and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38).

He had now returned from His preaching and healing circuit, and the result, as at the close of the first one, was the gathering of a vast and motley multitude around Him. After a whole night spent in prayer, He had called His more immediate disciples, and from them had solemnly chosen the Twelve; then, coming down from the mountain, on which this was transacted, to the multitudes that waited for Him below, He had addressed to them-as we take it-that discourse which bears so strong a resemblance to the Sermon on the Mount that many critics take it to be the same. (See the notes at Luke 6:12-49; and at Matthew 5:1-48, Introductory Remarks.) Soon after this, it should seem, the multitudes still hanging on Him, Jesus is touched with their wretched and helpless condition, and acts as is now to be described.


Verse 36

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted. [ eesan (Greek #2258) eklelummenoi]. This reading, however, has hardly any authority at all. The true reading doubtless is, 'were harassed' [ eesan (Greek #2258) eskulmenoi (Greek #4660).]

And were scattered abroad , [ errimmenoi (Greek #4496)] - rather, 'lying about,' 'abandoned,' or 'neglected' --

As sheep having no shepherd - their pitiable condition as wearied and couching under bodily fatigue, a vast disorganized mass, being but a faint picture of their wretchedness as the victims of Pharisaic guidance; their souls uncared for, yet drawn after and hanging upon Him. This moved the Redemmer's compassion.


Verse 37

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous. His eye doubtless rested immediately on the Jewish field, but this he saw widening into the vast field of "the world" (Matthew 13:38), teeming with souls having to be gathered to Him.

But the labourers - men divinely qualified and called to gather them in - "are few;"


Verse 38

Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest - the great Lord and Proprietor of all. Compare John 15:1 - "I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Husbandman."

That he will send forth labourers into his harvest. The word [ ekbalee (Greek #1544)] properly means 'thrust forth;' but this emphatic sense disappears in some places, as in Matthew 9:25, and John 10:4 - "When He putteth forth His own sheep." (See the note at Matthew 4:1.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-9.html. 1871-8.

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