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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 9

 

 

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Verses 1-38

Returning to His own city, Capernaum, He has brought to Him a man totally helpless, lying on a bed. This case of palsy is indicative of the complete debilitating effects of sin: man is left without strength through its ravages. Nothing is said of his being let down by others from the roof of the house, or other details (as in Mark and Luke), for again the purpose of Matthew is simply to emphasize the King's authority over the disease. That authority has been seen over the flesh, the world and the devil: now it is as clearly seen over disease, typical of sin's effects.

The Lord takes account of "their faith," for those who brought him had confidence in the grace of the Lord Jesus, as evidently did the man himself. But He first gives him assurance of far greater blessing that bodily healing. With tender encouragement He tells him his sins are forgiven. Certain scribes present consider this to be blasphemy, for He is manifestly speaking as representing God, for which they think He has no authority. They do not, however, express their thoughts, for they know His moral power is more than they can withstand; but He answers their thoughts. This itself shows Him to have, not only authority, but divine knowledge. He is not only King; He is God.

He questions them as to which is easier, to tell the palsied man his sins are forgiven, or to tell him to rise and walk. Of course neither would be effective by means of anyone but the Lord: now He would accomplish the latter to prove that the former Was as Positively true. In response to His word the man rose, took up his bed and went to his house. If the Lord has such manifest authority over sin's results, then He has authority over sin itself also, and as Son of Man has authority to forgive sins. This is instructive, for He has proven He is God in His discerning men's thoughts: nevertheless it is in Manhood that He has authority from God to forgive sins, for as Man He has come in pure grace to take man's place in making atonement for sins. More than this, the term "Son of Man" has a wider application than His connection with Israel, for it refers to His relationship to all mankind: He can forgive Gentiles too.

The crowds marvel and glorify God for His giving such authority "to men," but they fall far short of realizing that He is the unique Son of God, therefore in the highest, sense "the Son of Man."

In verse 9 however we see the authority of His word finding a willing response in the heart of one man. The writer of this Gospel, a tax-collector, is sitting to receive dues from the people. Only the words, "Follow Me" are sufficient to cause him to leave his lucrative business immediately and follow Him.

Matthew speaks in verse 10 of Jesus sitting at meat in the house. He omits what Luke tells us, that this was a great feast that Matthew (Levi) made in his own house (Luke 5:29). He was indeed following the Lord, for he had invited a great company of tax-gatherers and sinners, no doubt in desire for their hearing the word of God. The Pharisees were offended by the fact that this noted Teacher would lower Himself to eat with such people. But which of the Pharisees was not a sinner? Perhaps their fear of having themselves exposed led them to question the disciples rather than the Lord Himself. He does not however reprove their hypocrisy in considering themselves righteous and despising others. Rather, He justifies His work as divine Physician come to have mercy on the sick, those who realized their need of Him. Sadly, the Pharisees were blinded to the seriousness of their own sins, and felt themselves above the need of His merciful ministrations. Well might He tell them to go and learn what Scripture means, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice" (a quotation from Hosea 6:6). The formal sacrifices of religious Jews had become a matter of spiritual pride to them, which moved them to despise those in need instead of having compassion toward them. The Lord at least will have mercy, for He had come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous. Wonderful mission of divine love and grace!

The disciples of John the Baptist now come to the Lord directly with a serious question, not with a cavilling question such as the Pharisees addressed to His disciples. Why did both they and the Pharisees fast often, but Christ's disciples not at all? As to Pharisees, their fasting was generally a matter of spiritual pride, that is, of doing something they thought to be of human merit. John and his disciples had different motives, for they felt the sad desolation of Israel's spiritual condition, and this sorrow led to fasting.

But the Lord answers for His own disciples that His personal presence among them left them no cause for fasting. The very Source and Centre of all blessing was with them, as the bridegroom present among the sons of the bride chamber (those identified with Him before the day of marriage celebration). It was becoming for them to rejoice, not to mourn. However, the days would come when the bridegroom would be taken from them (and in fact by the cruel violence of men's rejection); then they would fast. Such is the character of our present day: we have reason to mourn the absence of our Lord, and the discipline of self-denial is only consistent. Fasting is therefore often seen in the book of Acts, but always linked with prayer, for prayer is of positive character, fasting a negative accompaniment, but not to be ignored.

But the bridegroom was not merely introducing some corrections into the Jews' religion, as though patching an old garment with a new piece of cloth. What He introduced was a totally new garment, for the grace of Christianity completely transcends the system of Judaism. A mixture of the new with the old would make worse the rent in the old. Israel had thoroughly broken the law. To mix grace with that which was totally in ruins would actually only add to the tragedy of the ruin. Rather than being of any help, it would more glaringly expose their failure.

More than this, the new wine of the Gospel of the grace of God can only be contained in new vessels. The law was given for man in the flesh, that is, the old vessel or wineskin. But if one is to take in and hold the new truth of the Gospel, he must be a new vessel, that is, be born again: if not, the Gospel will be virtually wasted on him, and he will perish. One who is not born again can neither appropriate or appreciate the preciousness of the grace of God in Christ.

From verse 18 two cases are considered together, beginning with the anxious intercession of a ruler of the: synagogue for his daughter, who he says may have by this time died. On his way to the house, the Lord pauses to take time with a woman who had for twelve years been diseased with an issue of blood.

The little girl pictures the virgin daughter of Zion, that is, Israel in he state of virtual death, all hope gone, for which the mercy of the Messiah alone is a resource. However, her recovery is delayed because of the need of the woman. Does this not teach Us that grace is at the present time obtained by Gentiles as the Lord is an His way to recover Israel ?

The woman timidly touches only the hem of His garment. If this was not the great faith of the centurion (Ch.8:10), yet it was faith, the confidence that the least contact with Him would heal her. His garments speak of His character as displayed in the world: this itself is enough to fulfil her need, though she may have had little realization of His glory personally.

He does not allow her, however, to go away without the assurance of His own word that her faith had healed her. Nothing but the simplicity of her trust in the right Person had accomplished this marvellous result. He would have her understand this well, that her faith might be all the more implicit in the fullness of His grace.

Little detail is given as to the case of this women or that of the daughter of Jairus, as is given in Mark's Gospel; for again the emphasis in Matthew is particularly on the authority by which He subdues every adverse thing. In the ruler's house, his daughter having died, the Lord rebukes the mourners for their noise making. To Him death was no more then sleep. When He speaks this way, however, they respond with scornful laughter, and find themselves put out of the house. Then His action confirms His word, as He takes the girl by the hand and raises her up alive. This is the picture of Israel's virtual resurrection from a state of death: the fame of this is spread abroad, as indeed all the earth will marvel at the wonder of Israel's revival in the age to come.

Though Matthew's Gospel begins with the declaration of Jesus Christ as "the Son of David," yet not until now (verse 27) do we hear Him addressed as such, as the two blind men (not the same as at Jericho later--ch.20:30) cry to Him for mercy. The wise men had spoken of Him as King of Israel, when He was an infant. But in His going forth to preach the word, He is not first presented in this way. Rather, the Father declares Him to be Hi s beloved Son (Ch.3:17). Even Satan (though questioningly) uses this name Son of God (Ch.4:3-6), while demons fully acknowledged Him as this (Ch.8:29). This truth as to His person must be first established, then it is precious to see individuals by faith recognizing His Messiahship.

He questions the two blind men, do they believe in His ability to answer their request? No doubt He does this to draw out the decision of their faith. In answer to their affirmative response, He speaks and acts according to their faith: their eyes are opened. He is indeed the Son of David, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 42:7.

His forbidding them to tell the matter is evidently connected with their recognizing Him the be Son of David; for though He is King, He had not come to reign, and He desires no advertising in such a way as to incline people to think the kingdom had arrived. But the men did not have that implicit faith that simply obeys if His word, though they admired Him for what He had done. They spread abroad His fame as though He had come to reign, which He had not. May we remember not only to admire our Lord, but to fully obey Him.

We have seen Israel's long blind condition pictured in the two blind men; now her mute state of bearing no witness for God is illustrated in the dumb man brought to Him. Evidentially the demon who had taken possession of him had caused his dumbness, just as Israel's allowance of demon influence has closed her mouth as regards all witness for God. (This does not at all indicate that all illness results from demon possession, as some have dared to insist.) When the Lord comes in power and glory and casts out the evil spirit that has long held Israel in bondage, then in submission to Him they will speak His praises.

The Pharisees accuse Him (not to His face, however) of using demon power to cast out demons. Later, when the evident falsehood of this smouldering animosity kindles into a stronger flame (Ch.12:24), He exposes and solemnly reprimands their wickedness. In this case He answers their folly by travelling to all the cities and villages, teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. After so great a manifestation of miracles of grace, the later malignance of the Pharisees becomes the more reprehensible. The gospel of the kingdom emphasizes God's authority rather than His grace. The gospel of the grace of God is more peculiarly appropriate following the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 20:24).

The heart of the blessed Lord is moved with compassion in seeing the crowd milling in aimless confusion as sheep without a shepherd. Have we not often felt similarly in observing the crowds on today's city streets? Let us then take to heart His urging His disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth labourers into His harvest. There is no lack of work for them, yet they are few, which is as true today as it was then.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 9:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-9.html. 1897-1910.

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