Matthew 9: The first stirrings of trouble

For the text of Matthew 9, click here. In an interesting turn of events after Jesus returns to the other side of wherever He “crossed” to, He doesn’t just heal a paralytic, but first forgives him of his sins. Until now, Jesus had been healing people and speaking with God’s authority, but now He forgives of the sins of the paralytic without the requisite rituals and the people around Him have a problem with that. They say He is “blaspheming”. The definition of “blaspheme” is:
    1. to speak impiously or irreverently of (God or sacred things).
  1. to speak evil of; slander; abuse.
The people who saw Him forgive the sins of the paralytic didn’t believe He had the authority that has been established within the text. They had probably heard of Jesus but not seen Him before. As scribes who it sounds like would have delivered information such as the Sermon on the Mount were it given by anyone else, I think they would have known the Law and the rituals and everything else that Jesus was supposedly going against to forgive the person of their sins. Of course, Jesus heard this and got a little irritated with them. His response recalled that it was easier to forgive someone of their sins than to heal them and then He healed the paralytic anyway. He also mentions that He forgave the paralytic so that everyone would know that He had authority to forgive sins. What confuses me about the exchange is that Jesus had previously preached to do deeds in private and previously told people not to tell of His works, but this happened in front of these scribes and He called them out and wanted them all to know that He can forgive sins. Since so many people already appear to know that He can heal, and after speaking with such authority on the Laws and the Prophets at the Sermon on the Mount, I guess Jesus was steadily showing them the full measure of His authority. From there, He calls up Matthew to follow Him in that same way that makes free will sound questionable. This makes Matthew the fifth disciple after the two sets of fishermen. Within that paragraph, Jesus is sitting with tax collectors. It looks like He makes this connection on account of Matthew, since he was sitting in a tax booth when he was called. The Pharisees can’t help but make comments, first about that He was with tax collectors, and then about fasting. I love Jesus’s response about both. He basically says that He’s with the tax collectors because they need Him more and expands upon the possibility of bringing in those believers who would sit at the table with Abraham from the conversations with the centurion in the last chapter. He also references the words of the prophet who said:
4What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. 5Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. 6For I desire steadfast lovea and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
He instructs them to go and learn what it means to desire love instead of sacrifice and that He isn’t there for the people who are already righteous but the ones who need to learn it. From there, the next conversation Jesus had with them was the one about fasting. They asked about why everyone fasted except Jesus’s followers. First, He tells them that they don’t fast because He’s with them and then goes on to make two examples that sound like so much more. It’s the famous wine skins analogy. It basically the point that Jesus and what He brings to the table is the same kind of thing, but a totally new version of it that can’t be held in by the old ways. I think time has proven that point too…. again with the evangelism of bringing in others to be at the table of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The next story has someone referred simply as a “ruler” in it. There’s a link in the study section to the other places this story comes in future books and it’s expounded there that this person is a “ruler of the synagogue” and his name is given. So, this is not a ruler of another country or anything. A ruler of a synagogue is the person who takes care of the building. Jesus then heals 5 people. He heals the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, two blind men, and a mute. Within these interactions, a few other interesting things happen. Jesus is called the “Son of David” for the first time by the blind men, which is a call back to the prophecies and that they were promised a son of David. He also tells them not to tell anyone about it which is something that happens rather sporadically. The mute is actually demon-possessed and the Pharisees claim that Jesus casts out demons “by the prince of demons” which sounds like they means that Jesus works for the devil to me. So now they have said that He blasphemes and is working for the devil. At the end, Jesus comments about the crowds of people following Him and how few people there are to tend to their needs:
37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
What I find interesting about this thought process is that Jesus is going to be the only one preaching and teaching for a while, but He wants them to pray for many more laborers. How immediately is this prayer meant to be? Let’s remember that He doesn’t even have all of His disciples yet. On that note, though, what’s with not picking disciples from the crowds of people following Him? Was Jesus looking for these 12 people or was there some other reason these people were “called” out of whatever they were doing? It’s not exactly the kind of thing I can just figure out one day, but it’s certainly puzzling.
For downloadable study guides, click here. Chapter links go to the ESV translations at but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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