Matthew 9:1

"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town." NIV translation

Jesus left the region of the Gadarenes just as they had requested and it reminds us that Jesus will not stay where He is not wanted. As the Son of God, He owns all things and all places so He could have rightly stayed and tried to convince the people to drop their religion. His leaving was a practical example of His teaching about throwing pearls to pigs at the end of His Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 7:6). Jesus was not looking for people to tweak their philosophy/religions but was, in fact, offering people a new way of life. This new way is not to be added to their old lives but involves a radical transformation. Unfortunately, this principle has been forgotten over the years and now it seems that people believe that Jesus is just another thing to add to their lives. A lot of the efforts of believers are aimed at showing others that Jesus is worth adding to their lives instead of showing that He is the way to an entirely new life that will last forever. These efforts may produce a large number of "followers" but not "true disciples" as Jesus taught at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Those that accept Him as an add-on to their lives will only do so until they find a new teaching that they like better. This happened in the early church and caused men to believe that you could lose your salvation but the apostle John explained that they had never really accepted this new way of life (see 1 John 2:19).

Matthew 9:2

"Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'" NIV translation

Mark gives us more details about this and, in fact, these men had to dig a hole in the roof to get this man on the mat to Jesus (see Mark 2). It is somewhat confusing to see Jesus' reaction as He does not address the physical problem but instead tells the man that his sins are forgiven. It has been said that this is a case of the sins of the man causing the physical problem but that may not be the case. Is it possible that Jesus was trying to show them (and us) that, if you take care of the spiritual matters, then, you can deal with the physical? We remember that Jesus was trying to get people to focus on the more important spiritual matter of salvation but the people kept focusing on the physical healings. The same type of thing happens even to this day with scheduled "miracle" and "healing services" in many places. Often, there is a parade of people looking for the physical blessing and not hearing anything about how to have a new life in Jesus Christ. As we see here, this is nothing new but it is sad.

Matthew 9:3

"At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, 'This fellow is blaspheming!'" NIV translation

These teachers of the law thought that Jesus was committing blasphemy by not showing proper respect to God by saying that He could do what only God can do. Once again, this goes to the heart of the matter in that they still only saw the physical man in front of them and not the Son of God. We are reminded that Jesus had already been baptized and, at that time, God had declared to the world that Jesus is His Son (see Matthew 3:17). Even to this day, religious leaders will accuse you of blasphemy if you stand on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the same struggle between religion and grace that we saw on the other side of the lake and it reminds us that this is a struggle that all men must face.

Matthew 9:4-6

"Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up and walk"? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the paralyzed man, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.'" NIV translation

We see, here, that these teachers of the law did not even have to say what they were thinking but Jesus knew and addressed the issue. This is a reminder to all of us that God knows what is in our hearts and our minds whether we give voice to the things or not. Jesus calls their thoughts "evil" and that brings up the question of: What is an evil thought? The answer is simple as any thought that is not in agreement with the will and ways of God is evil. Their thought of defending the honor of God was evil as it was a rejection of Jesus as the Son of God. We see that Jesus immediately asserts His authority by using the name Son of Man. This title is used in two ways in the Bible and is used to describe Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jesus. In the cases of Ezekiel and Daniel, the term was used by an angel (messenger from God) and it concerned the last days. Daniel first used the title to describe Jesus in his vision of the four beasts and the last days. Daniel saw this Son of Man receiving authority directly from God in heaven. These teachers of the law would have been very familiar with Daniel's vision and its meaning. With these words, Jesus was once again proclaiming the fact that He is the Son of God and that, as such, He has the authority of God from heaven.

Matthew 9:7 & 8

"Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man." NIV translation

We see that the paralyzed man was healed as a demonstration of Jesus' authority and the crowd realized it. This caused them to give praise to God. In this we are reminded that the new life that Jesus offers begins with a recognition of the fact that He has the authority to bring new life.

Matthew 9:9

"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." NIV translation

Jesus left Peter's house in Capernaum and was probably travelling along the main road that went from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast. The "tax collector's booth" was much like what we would think of as a tollbooth along a toll road. The tax collector would sit there and collect taxes for the Roman Empire based on what a man was carrying. Although during Old Testament times the area of Galilee was considered to be an area of foreigners (Gentiles), at this time, it had become very strict in its observance of religious laws and rituals. The tax collector was considered to be among the lowest of the low by the Jews because of their cooperation with the Romans and the fact that they would charge even more than was required by the Romans. They (and their entire family) were considered to be unclean and were expelled from the synagogue. To the religious, there was no hope for the tax collector and the synagogue would not even accept donations from them. The name of the man sitting at this booth is Matthew which is his apostolic name but his given Hebrew name was Levi son of Alphaeus. In Jesus' calling of this man, we see that this new life is available to everyone (even the lowest of the low in the eyes of the religious). We also see that this life involves a change of identity as Levi would come to be known as Matthew, the author of this gospel account. The Hebrew name "Levi" means joined and was associated with the priesthood as that was the tribe of Israel that was set aside for service to God. This Levi would have been a huge disappointment to his family as, in Judaism, a person's name is considered to be an indication of their destiny. The father and mother would have named him Levi in hopes that he would be a great servant of God through the religious system. The Greek name "Matthew" means "gift from God" and would describe his mission to share the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ with the world.

Matthew 9:10 & 11

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'" NIV translation

Many of Matthew's friends and acquaintances came to eat with them at his house and this was noticed by the religious Pharisees. In their religion, one could become unclean even by associating with those that were considered to be unclean. So what was the significance of being unclean? If one was ceremonially unclean, they could not go to the temple or to the synagogue until their days of purification were up. The daily prayers were recited at the synagogue and so the people would not have been able to take part in prayer. Because of that fact, the unclean would have been considered to be out of fellowship with God. We notice that the Pharisees did not bring their question to Jesus but, instead, asked His disciples about what He was doing. That reminds us of a pattern of operation of the devil. The devil will often use the weak in faith to attack those that are stronger and his favorite weapon is religion. So, what was Jesus doing at the table with these religious and social outcasts? He was offering them fellowship with God that they were denied under the religious laws.

Matthew 9:12 & 13

"On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" NIV translation

Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea who called Israel to have their relationship healed by the Lord (see Hosea 6:6). Hosea's words had pointed to the fact that healing for their relationship would only come through the efforts of the Christ and not through their own religious efforts. The people of Hosea's day were going through religious rituals and were far from God and it was much the same way in the region of Galilee during Jesus' ministry. Why did Jesus set up His ministry headquarters in Capernaum (Galilee)? There were a lot of the religiously sick there and it was like Jesus was setting up a hospital where it was needed most. The Hebrew word that is translated as mercy is "hesed" and it can refer to right conduct towards one's neighbor as well as loyalty to God. In effect, Jesus was saying that in order to love God they must love their neighbor more than their religious rituals. They were not doing so when they shunned people because of their job or other perceived sin.

Matthew 9:14

"Then John's disciples came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?'" NIV translation

The first thing that jumps out here is the fact that "John's disciples" came to Jesus and it makes me wonder who these disciples were. The "John" is talking about John the Baptist who came in the spirit of Elijah calling the people to repentance. He recognized Jesus as the Son of God and even baptized Jesus. These disciples of his must have traveled around with him as he went about preparing the way for the Messiah by announcing His coming. That brings to mind the question of why they would be following John instead of following (being a disciple of) Jesus. They were clearly religious as they compared their fasting to that of the Pharisees and yet they came to Jesus to question the devotion of His followers. This point shows us the danger of even a little bit of religion trying to mix with the grace of God. These disciples of John considered themselves to be above the common man just as the Pharisees did because of their religious ritual. The root of this is pride and we are reminded that it was pride that caused Satan to oppose God and to try to replace God. The same type of thing has led to the many denominations of our day as each one chooses a piece of religion as their foundational principle. It has become like a business slogan or a marketing pitch. Today there are those that are more a disciple of their pastor or megachurch worship leader than they are of Jesus Christ. When this happens, it causes division in the total body of Christ as those who meet in another place are looked down upon as being not as religious. John's disciples would not have been seeing the transition from physical to spiritual that was happening in Jesus' ministry. They would have been constantly seeing people be baptized physically but they would not have seen the spiritual authority that was demonstrated through the miracles of Jesus. In short, they would have still been stuck in religion instead of walking in the power of Christ. It is the same with many in the church today as they are going about their religious activities without seeing the power of God displayed around them. In this, we see that our "new way of life" in Jesus Christ is following Him (being His disciple) and not being a member of any religious organization or following a famous pastor (being his disciple).

Matthew 9:15

"Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.'" NIV translation

Jesus answered their question by comparing His disciples to the guests at a wedding. In many parts of the world, a wedding and its celebration can last for a week or even more. This is a time for great joy and a place where mourning would be out of place and unwelcome. Fasting was first prescribed by God as a part of the activities on the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 23:27). This was to be a time of mourning over one's sins as well as the sins of the nation of Israel as a whole. Throughout Jewish history, the practice of fasting was expanded to the nation at times when they faced great danger. It was to be a sign of mourning and repentance in the hope that God would intervene on behalf of His people to protect them. It would also be practiced by prophets in preparation for receiving divine revelation. Jesus went on to explain that, even though now was not the right time, there would be a time when His disciples mourned. This probably happened on the day that Jesus was crucified and probably for a period afterward. The disciples would have had all three reasons to fast as they would have remembered the sin of abandoning their Savior when He was arrested, they were facing the danger of being arrested and killed because they were His followers, and they were surely seeking answers from God concerning what had happened. So what does this mean for us as Christians living in our new way of life? Our sins have been forgiven (even our future sins) so we do not have that reason to mourn. Most of us do not face arrest or death because of our faith in Him so we do not have that reason. We have the very Spirit of God living inside of us and so we have God's direction and wisdom at our disposal each and every day without the need to fast. That leaves us with fasting as a special period of time for the individual to deny their physical body to focus more intently on the things of God.

Matthew 9:16 & 17

"'No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.'" NIV translation

Jesus continues to answer the question of John's disciples with a lesson on religion and grace. They would have been familiar with the concept of mending clothes and of transporting wine and so Jesus used those examples to show them that religion and grace cannot be mixed. We are reminded that John's disciples would have been Jews and, to them, nothing was legally established without two witnesses (examples). In the first example, if you sew a new piece of cloth over a hole in an old piece of cloth, the new piece will shrink when it is washed while the old will not. This will cause the new cloth to pull on the old and make the rip worse. In the second example, a new wine skin has the ability to stretch while an old one would already be stretched to its limit. This stretching was necessary as the grape juice would age (ferment) and give off gases which would cause the pressure to build in the skin. If the skin could not stretch, it would break and be ruined as the wine spilled onto the ground. So, what does all of that have to do with the struggle between religion and grace? Jesus was (and is) offering people a "new" life and this is not compatible with the old life of trying to achieve righteousness through our own actions. It is a life of freedom and, if you understand and accept that gift (grace), you will not feel the need to follow religious rituals. With the wineskin example, we see that the destruction of religion might take a little bit of time (such as the time it takes the grape juice to ferment) but the result is the same. As we grow in our faith, the religious trappings will fall away and we will be left with simply trusting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Matthew 9:18

"While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, 'My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and and she will live.'" NIV translation

While Jesus was teaching about the difference between religion and grace, a leader of the local synagogue came to him for help. Often, we go over this story and do not stop to think about what it took for this man to seek assistance from Jesus. As a leader of the synagogue, Jairus would have been a very religious man and it was forbidden to go to the house of a tax collector. By doing so, he would have been considered unclean by the other religious leaders and he would not have been able to take part in activities at the synagogue for awhile. He would have been very desperate to do this and, as we see, he was driven to this point by the death of his daughter. He had heard about the miracles that Jesus had performed and, as a last resort, he went to Him for help. This is a picture of the fact that we must be at the end of our rope, without any hope of helping ourselves to be saved by Jesus. Surely this man had tried everything else to save his daughter but, after they had failed, he finally came to the One that could help. In doing so, he had to completely abandon his religion and accept the gift of grace.

Matthew 9:19

"Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples." NIV translation

We see that Jesus did not refuse the request for help but got up from His meal and went with the man. We do not know what John's disciples were thinking about this but it was a demonstration of the fact that religion bows before Jesus. This is a reminder that this new life is available to even the most religious of men but, the more "religious" you are, the harder it is to ask for that help. If you step out of your religion and into faith, Jesus will answer the call and, when He does, He brings the very power of God to work in your life.

Matthew 9:20 & 21

"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.'" NIV translation

While Jesus and His disciples were with Jairus, the synagogue ruler, on their way to his house, an unclean woman touched the hem of Jesus' cloak (coat). We see that she had been subject to bleeding from her private parts for twelve years and that would make her unclean in the eyes of the religious leaders. This prolonged bleeding was probably caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which is a complication that can occur from a sexually transmitted disease. Therefore, she would have been an outcast and unable to take part in the religious services. In the eyes of the people, she would have been without hope but, as we see, she not only hoped that Jesus could heal her but she knew it. She boldly acted on that hope as she not only recognized the power of Jesus but also the compassion of our Lord. You see, her intentional touching of another person, while she was unclean, would have probably resulted in severe punishment.

Matthew 9:22

"Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed at that moment." NIV translation

Just as she had hoped, her touch was met with healing and compassion instead of anger and rejection. This brings to mind the question: What would Jairus have thought when he saw this event? He was walking with Jesus to his house and so he must have saw the entire exchange. He probably would have felt some of his religious indignation rising up and maybe even shock at seeing the compassion that was shown to this unclean and probably adulterous woman. As a religious leader, he would have been used to applying the Levitical laws without any compassion but he was being introduced to this new way of life which is grace. In this new way of life, grace is received from God through Jesus Christ but it is also given through our display of compassion for others. That reminds us of the fact that religion condemns while grace provides comfort as well as assistance. Jesus was demonstrating to Jairus that grace is a two-way street; you receive it from God but you also give it to others. It is not an obligation but a natural reaction.

Matthew 9:23 & 24

"When Jesus entered the Synagogue leader's house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, 'Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.' But they laughed at him." NIV translation

Going on, Jesus and his disciples came to Jairus' house and found the mourners at work. This crowd of mourners would have been hired to wail and musicians were hired to play music. On seeing this, Jesus informed them that the girl was only sleeping and not dead but they did not believe Him. This is a picture of the fact that our new way of life involves a choice to believe in the words of God even when they contradict the things that we see around us. In our old life, we were influenced by events and our surroundings as they interacted with our flesh. Our new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ means that the greatest influence in our lives is the Word of God as we are empowered by the Spirit to see and understand His will. These mourners were probably influenced by the fact that, if what Jesus said about the girl was true, they would have been put out of a job. This is a reminder to us, as well, that our choice to believe in the words of Jesus will most definitely cost us something. That may only be our feeling of self-reliance but it might also include friends and even family ties.

Matthew 9:25 & 26

"After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand , and she got up. News of this spread through all that region." NIV translation

We remember that this was the house of one of the leaders of the synagogue in Capernaum and Jesus went and did what would have been unthinkable to the religious people. Under the Law of Moses, touching a dead body would make you unclean which meant separation from God. Jesus continued to demonstrate the difference between religion and grace as He touched her and she was raised to life again. Once again we see that religion brings death while grace brings new life. Matthew tells us that the news of this event spread throughout the region and we are reminded that this was Galilee and was a very religious area.

Matthew 9:27

"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!'" NIV translation

As Jesus left the synagogue ruler's house, two blind men followed Him. "Son of David" was a popular Jewish title that referred to the coming Messiah. The fact that they were blind reminds us that our ability to be saved does not depend on our own physical abilities. They must have heard what Jesus had done and they recognized the signs of the coming Messiah as described by the prophet Isaiah and others. In Isaiah 35, we see that physical healings were to accompany the spiritual healing as a demonstration of the authority of the promised Messiah.

Matthew 9:28

"When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord,' they replied." NIV translation

Why did Jesus ask these men this question and what did it mean? As we saw, physical healing was to be a sign of the Messiah and so, by agreeing that He was able to heal them, they were acknowledging that He was the Messiah. This is a reminder that all that is required of us is to believe in Him and His power. That is why His grace is the exact opposite of religion where man has to do something.

Matthew 9:29-31

"Then he touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith let it be done to you'; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, 'See that no one knows about this.' But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region." NIV translation

The phrase "According to your faith" has been widely misinterpreted to mean that the healing was to be based on the quantity of their faith. The phrase actually speaks of the fact that all that was required of them was to believe in Him not reaching some higher measure of faith. Measuring the level of faith is more of a religious concept and can lead to a self-righteous attitude which is the opposite of grace. Once again, we see that Jesus told them to keep this to themselves because He did not want crowds to gather thinking that He was going to overthrow the Roman authorities.

Matthew 9:32 & 33

"While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.'" NIV translation

As the former blind men left, we see that another man was brought to Jesus for healing because he could not speak. Jesus recognized that the root of the problem was a demon and ordered it to leave the man. Matthew does not give us a whole lot of details but we see that the crowd recognized the work. As with the blind, Isaiah had also predicted that the mute would speak when the promised Messiah arrived. We are reminded that Jesus was in a religious area and that the people would have heard about Isaiah's prophecies.

Matthew 9:34

"But the Pharisees said, 'It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.'" NIV translation

We see that, on the other hand, the religious leaders accused Jesus of using Satanic power to cause the demon to leave the man. Even though that idea did not make any sense, they were clinging to it and we might ask the question of why. By this time, it was becoming pretty widely known that Jesus was healing people and even driving out demons. Many were coming to believe that He was the promised Messiah even if they did not really understand what that meant. The Pharisees and other religious leaders would have saw this as an attack on their authority and even their means of support for their daily needs This is the same attitude that was described of the Nicolaitans in Jesus' letters to the churches of Revelation. In His letters to the churches Jesus made a point of condemning the practice of that group. They were essentially in the same position as these Jewish leaders as they put themselves between the believer and the Messiah so that they could act like a mediator. This was so that they could have power over them and also provided for their physical needs. Jesus was traveling around this area and showing the people that they had personal access to the Messiah and no mediator was required.

Matthew 9:35

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." NIV translation

Jesus continued the pattern of His ministry throughout the region of Galilee. His pattern was that He would go to the local synagogue and quote a piece of scripture and explain how it pointed to His ministry to mankind. The "good news" that Matthew speaks of in this verse is the fact that the promised Messiah had come to restore the broken relationship of mankind with God. As He went, he healed those who needed it as it was an opportunity to demonstrate the power and authority which was going to be a sign of the Messiah according to prophecy.

Matthew 9:36

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." NIV translation

This verse tells us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds that came to Him and that brings up the question of: What is compassion? The simple meaning is that He saw the suffering of the people and took action. Because of His love, He acted on their behalf with physical healings but He also told them of how they could be whole spiritually. The short definition of compassion is love in action.

Matthew 9:37 & 38

"Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" NIV translation

Seeing the large crowds from just this little area of Galilee, Jesus explained that there are even more crowds in other areas that are ripe for hearing the good news that the Messiah has come. He also told the disciples that they were going to need to pray for more people to do this huge work. That makes me ask the question of: Why, as God, did He not just appear in the sky, announce that He is here, and make every knee bow? As we see here, He is the Lord of the harvest and it is His field. The simple answer is His compassion for mankind. That same compassion will be a natural part of our new way of life in Him.

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