Read the Passage: Matthew 9
Miracles (9:1–9, 18–34)
In Matt. 9:1–8 we read of Jesus meeting a man so severely paralyzed that friends must carry him to Jesus. Interestingly, without even asking for healing or forgiveness, Jesus declares, “So, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matt. 9:2). The narrative is clear that Jesus was not implying that this man’s condition was because of his sin (cf. Luke 13:1–5; John 9:1–3); rather, Jesus was teaching the onlookers—the scribes—a truth about himself. Immediately, Jesus is accused of blasphemy by the scribes, to which he poses a question, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’” (Matt. 9:5). Of course, it is easier to say that your sins are forgiven, for it is inherently unverifiable, yet is harder to accomplish. So, in order to show his authority to forgive sins, Jesus then gives the harder command, which is easier to accomplish. The man, then, rises and departs.
In Matt. 9:18–34 Matthew records four miracles of Jesus: the raising up of Jairus’ daughter, the healing of a woman with a flow of blood, the healing of two blind men, and the healing of a man who was both mute and demon possessed. In performing these miracles Jesus was demonstrating both His divine power and the essence of God’s divine program. In short, Christ was showing that He is God and that the gospel entails the counteraction of sin. Indeed the reason why the individuals whom Jesus healed were afflicted was likely not because of their own sin, but because of the general sinfulness of humanity. A commonality between those who were healed is their faith. Clearly, Jesus did not perform miracles in order to generate faith; rather, He performed miracles for those who already had faith.
In Matt. 9:9 Matthew records the call of Jesus upon his own life to follow Him. In humility, the only detail Matthew records is the fact that he was formerly a tax collector. Following this, in Matt. 9:10–13, Matthew notes Jesus’ practice of eating with tax collectors and other sinners. This would have been a social taboo for the spiritual elite in Jewish society, including rabbis. Consequently, the Pharisees question Jesus’ disciples about this scandalous practice. Christ’s response is to quote Hos. 6:6, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Sacrifice, which is not a bad thing in-and-of itself, is external and can become ritualistic. Mercy, on the other hand, is inward and requires life-change. Jesus was teaching the Pharisees that their failure to minister to the outcasts was a mark legalism and works-based righteousness. Clearly, they understood his critique (cf. Matt. 9:34).
In Matt. 9:14–17 Matthew records a second query of Jesus. On this occasion, the question came from the disciples of John the Baptist, and the topic was fasting. Essentially, these disciples wanted to know why they and the Pharisees fasted, yet Jesus and his disciples did not. Christ’s two-fold response is interesting. First, at Matt. 9:15, Jesus teaches that his time with the disciples was like a wedding feast—a time for joy and drinking—and not a time for fasting. Second, at Matt. 9:16–17, by using two illustrations Jesus essentially taught that it is not appropriate or required to invoke or to observe Old Testament ceremonial rituals in conjunction with the gospel. Note that while many people in the Bible did observe a fast, the only fast required of all Jews in the Old Testament was at the yearly Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27, 32).
After recording Jesus’ performance of a number of authenticating miracles in Matt. 8:1–9:34, in Matt. 9:35–36 Matthew gives a general, summary description of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew writes that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matt. 9:35). A few observations about these verses are in order: first, note that Jesus went to where the people were—that is, into “all the cities and villages.” Second, note that Matthew identifies three aspects of Jesus’ ministry, which are parallel to the church’s ministry. These are: teaching, preaching, and healing. In Matt. 9:37–38 Matthew comments on the mission of God, as he notes that the need is not for a greater harvest; rather, the need is for laborers to work in the plentiful harvest fields.
- Why do so many Christians find it easier to trust God for eternal salvation than to trust God for material provision?
- While Jesus’ miracles produced ridicule (Matt. 9:24), wonder (Matt. 9:33), and slander (Matt. 9:34), they did not result in faith. Why?
- What are the non-negotiables of the gospel message? What, at a minimum, must someone know in order to be saved?
- Are Christians to fast today? What is the purpose of fasting? How might a fast be properly observed?
- How do we reconcile God’s sovereignty in salvation with Jesus’ command to pray for the Lord to send out laborers in to the harvest?