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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Matthew 9

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The Gospel According to Matthew

Commentary by DAVID BROWN

CHAPTER 9

Mat 9:1-8. HEALING A PARALYTIC. ( = Mar 2:1-12 Luk 5:17-26 ).

      This incident appears to follow next in order of time to the cure of the leper ( Mat 8:1-4 ). For the exposition, see on JF & B for Mr 2:1-12.

      Mat 9:9-13. MATTHEW'S CALL AND FEAST. ( = Mar 2:14-17 Luk 5:27-32 ).

      The Call of Matthew ( Mat 9:9 ).

      9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence--that is, from the scene of the paralytic's cure in Capernaum, towards the shore of the Sea of Galilee, on which that town lay. Mark, as usual, pictures the scene more in detail, thus ( Mar 2:13 ): "And He went forth again by the seaside; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them"--or, "kept teaching them." "And as He 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, 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 on JF & B for Mt 10:3). Mark alone tells us ( Mar 2:14 ) that he was "the son of Alphaeus"--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 capable jury, with the evidence before them which we have in the Gospels, would hesitate in giving a unanimous verdict of identity.
      sitting at the receipt of custom--as a publican, which Luke ( Luk 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 seaside, it might be the ferry tax for the transit of persons and goods across the lake, which he collected. (See on JF & B for Mt 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" ( Luk 5:28 ), "arose and followed him."

      The Feast ( Mat 9:10-13 ).

      10. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house--The modesty of our Evangelist signally appears here. Luke says ( Luk 5:29 ) that "Levi made Him a great feast," or "reception," 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 till afterwards, 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 till a considerable time afterwards. 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 ( Mat 9:18 ). But we know from Mark and Luke that this visit of Jairus did not take place till after our Lord's return, at a later period from the country of the Gadarenes. (See Mar 5:21, &c., and Luk 8:40, &c.). 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" ( Luk 5:29 ) --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.

      11. And when the Pharisees--"and scribes," add Mark and Luke ( Mar 2:6 Luk 5:21 ).
      saw it, they said--"murmured" or "muttered," says Luke ( Luk 5:30 ).
      unto his disciples--not venturing to put their question to Jesus Himself.
      Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?--(See on JF & B for Lu 15:2).

      12. 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--that is, "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." Oh, what myriads of broken hearts, of sin-sick souls, have been bound up by this matchless saying!

      13. But go ye and learn what that meaneth-- ( Hsa 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 intercourse 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 italicized words are of doubtful authority here, and more than doubtful authority in Mar 2:17; but in Luk 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 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."

      Mat 9:14-17. DISCOURSE ON FASTING.

      See on JF & B for Lu 5:33-39.

      Mat 9:18-26. THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD HEALED.--THE DAUGHTER OF JAIRUS RAISED TO LIFE. ( = Luk 8:40-56 Mar 5:21-43 ).

      For the exposition, see on JF & B for Mr 5:21-43.

      Mat 9:27-34. TWO BLIND MEN AND A DUMB DEMONIAC HEALED.

      These two miracles are recorded by Matthew alone.

      Two Blind Men Healed ( Mat 9:27-31 ).

      27. And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him--hearing, doubtless, as in a later case is expressed, "that Jesus passed by" ( Mat 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" ( Mat 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," &c. ( Isa 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.

      28. And when he was come into the house--To try their faith and patience, He seems to have made them no answer. But
      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 acknowledgment, so touchingly simple, which they immediately made to Him of His power to heal them, shows how entirely that object was gained.

      29. 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.

      30. And their eyes were opened: and Jesus straitly charged them--The expression is very strong, denoting great earnestness.

      31. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country--(See on JF & B for Mt 8:4).

      A Dumb Demoniac Healed ( Mat 9:32-34 ).

      32. As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil--"demonized." The dumbness was not natural, but was the effect of the possession.

      33. And when the devil--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 marvelled, 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.

      34. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils 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 on JF & B for Mt 12:24, &c.).

      Mat 9:35 - 10:5. THIRD GALILEAN CIRCUIT--MISSION OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.

      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 till 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 Luk 6:12-19.

      Third Galilean Circuit ( Mat 9:35 ) --and probably the last.

      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--The italicized words are of more than doubtful authority here, and were probably introduced here from Mat 4:23. The language here is so identical with that used in describing the first circuit ( Mat 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 on JF & B for Mt 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 Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with Him" ( Act 10:38 ).

      Jesus Compassionating the Multitudes, Asks Prayer for Help ( Mat 9:36-38 ). 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 on JF & B for Lu 6:12-49; and JF & B for Mt 5:1, 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.

      36. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted--This reading, however, has hardly any authority at all. The true reading doubtless is, "were harassed."
      and were scattered abroad--rather, "lying about," "abandoned," or "neglected."
      as sheep, having no shepherd--their pitiable condition as wearied 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 Redeemer's compassion.

      37. 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" ( Mat 13:38 ), teeming with souls having to be gathered to Him.
      but the labourers--men divinely qualified and called to gather them in.

      38. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest--the great Lord and Proprietor of all. Compare Jhn 15:1, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman."
      that he will send forth labourers into his harvest--The word properly means "thrust forth"; but this emphatic sense disappears in some places, as in Mat 9:25, and Jhn 10:4 --"When He putteth forth His own sheep." (See on JF & B for Mt 4:1).

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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