Matthew 9

paralytic.jpgGreetings! 

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

He returned to his “own town,” Capernaum.  I wonder if He knew this man already?   

1Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

 3At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

 4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7And the man got up and went home. 8When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

When Jesus asked, “Which is easier: to say . . .,” it was an interesting way to phrase it.  If someone was faking it, of course it would be easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” than “Get up and walk.” One couldn’t prove that sins were forgiven or not, but one could certainly see if the paralyzed man could walk.  But saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” was actually a tougher thing to say because it was claiming to have the power of God. 

The Calling of Matthew

Jewish people hated tax collectors and considered them traitors.  Tax collectors worked for Rome and took advantage of the Israelites.   

 9As 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.

 10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

 12On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

 14Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

 15Jesus 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.

 16“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. 17Neither do men 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.”

A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman

 18While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

 20Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

 22Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.

 23When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, 24he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26News of this spread through all that region.

The sick woman could not have participated in worship because of her bleeding (it was part of the laws in the book of Leviticus).  Jesus restored her in more than one way.  It is hard to imagine being sick for that long and then being instantly and miraculously healed. 

Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute

 27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

 28When 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.

 29Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; 30and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

 32While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33And 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.”

 34But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

The Workers Are Few

 35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I used to reach that passage and assume it just meant to go evangelize the world.  But an author of a magazine article pointed out that He is also saying to ask the Lord of the harvest to send others out as well.  There are some people we want to reach with the Gospel that we may not be able to get to, such as certain family members.   But we can pray for others to be sent and we can be the answer to the prayer of others who want us to reach their loved ones. 

What passages stood out to you, and why? 

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9 Responses

  1. 17. Jesus brought a newness that could not be confined within the old forms. If He had not come into the world to save us, I don’t think it would be easy for me to follow all the laws set in Leviticus. How refreshing that Christ met the requirements of those laws and gave a new covenant to us – that of eternal salvation! What a blessing to those who believe! The Law is needed to remind us of our need for our Savior, but the Gospel is so much sweeter because it saves.

  2. v.27-33. He healed, and He cast out demons, and that authority/ability was eventually passed on. Too often we think ourselves incapable – certainly, we are incapable workign on our own, but our God is not, and He is always with us.

  3. Neil,

    You mentioned Thomas who was, in many ways, condemed for his doubt. In many ways, though, it seemed as if people only believed because of the very earthly results of that faith. I guess I find it odd that, if there is eternal life, there would be any need to prevent death and suffering in this world. It just does not seem internally consistent to me.

    As for the paralysed man and forgiveness: it is quite easy to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” and to mean it. Atheist that I am, I have no trouble conceiving of a God who is merciful and forgiving: I see those traits in humans every day and could not conceive of a God who is worse than we are. I’ve seen faith; I’ve seen forgiveness; and I’ve seen mercy. I’ve never, however, seen miraculous healing. Humans can forgiven each other’s faults but they cannot make a paralysed man walk (well, without modern medicine, and even then it’s touch and go).

    I read “say” as “do,” which may not be entirely inaccurate in ancient Greek. (Never studied Hebrew, so I won’t comment.)

    Maybe it’s the Bible-illiterate atheist in me, but I read v.37-38 as saying that the (presumably God-given) harvest alone is not sufficient to reach its end. A season of good crops, alone, cannot feed a village: human work and effort is necessary.

    If you want to take that on a symbolic level, I guess it would be that God’s existence is not enough to meet human needs: there must be corresponding human action to any beneficial act of God.

    Thanks for letting me comment. 🙂 I do appreciate your atheists-allowed policy.

  4. Hi Bridget,

    Re. preventing death and suffering in this world: I’m surely oversimplifying this and should probably do a separate post, but in a nutshell I think that is the free will concept at work. For us to be able to able to really love God (or anyone else) we must have the choose not to love. Otherwise we’d be robots. This, along with the concept of original sin, got us where we are. The message of the Bible is that as ugly as the death and suffering is in this world, God will redeem it completely one day.

    I was just thinking about healings this week. There was an example in a book on prayer we’re studying where a guy had a chronic ankle problem that therapy and surgery wouldn’t heal. Then some lady in Australia prays and it is healed that day. Only he didn’t find out about the prayer until days later when a letter came, then he realized why it was healed.

    Yet why hasn’t Joni Eareckson Tada been healed? She became a quadriplegic due to a teenaged diving accident. Yet her suffering has done great things for countless people and developed her own faith remarkably well.

    In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 Paul says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

    Paul says “light and momentary troubles” but we wouldn’t use that phrase to describe the beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, imprisonments, etc. he endured for the faith. But he had an eternal perspective. The church hardly talks about Heaven anymore. It seems like so many people bought into the boring, fluffy cloud stereotype when the real thing as described in the Bible is so much more.

    I think you are right regarding v. 37-38. One of the mysteries of God is that He uses flawed humans to carry out his plans. On the one hand, this makes little sense to me. Why not just do it himself when He is so much more capable? Yet I can attest that being part of that plan has brought the greatest joys in life. I don’t think it means that He couldn’t do all those things, but that He develops us by working through us – if we are willing (back to the free will thing, I think). It is a little like being a parent – you don’t do things for your kids that they can do themselves, even if they may not do it quite as well.

    Thanks again for commenting! All are welcome. This is the kind of dialogue I hoped for with the blog – people with different backgrounds asking questions, offering insights, etc.

  5. Neil,

    I guess I was asking the flip side of your answer: if there is no suffering, there is no free will (humans, via original sin, having the nature to do bad). What I don’t understand is why God would choose to alleviate the earthly burdens… isn’t the whole point that you have to wait for Heaven for all of that?

    I agree with your parent analogy: after all, that’s the only way anyone learns. My managers have always delegated work to me that they could do themselves in half the time, but I would never really be able to do it myself if they did it for me.

    Even so, it does not make sense for God to do everything himself: after all, what would the point of Earth be? Isn’t part of free will (again) choosing to do good instead of evil?

  6. Bridget,

    I think the reasoning for God relieving some earthly burdens goes something like this: God created everything to be good, so the burdens come from sin. He relieves some burdens (which we would refer to as miracles) for various reasons – to provide evidence for himself (Jesus’ miracles), out of compassion or in response to prayer, for example.

    I know why He doesn’t respond to every burden or prayer (free will would be gone, we learn through adversity, it might not be for our long term good, etc.), but of course there is still some mystery to why some prayers are answered and some are not.

    I’m not sure I completely followed the last paragraph. Yes, we can choose good with our free will, but if God did everything himself free will would be gone (maybe that is what you were saying?).

  7. good comments neil.

  8. Thanks for your response, Neil. I’ll digest.

    My last paragraph meant to say that, if God were to do everything himself (so as to ensure a perfect world), yes, there would be no free will. I guess I see free will as inherently imperfect: it includes the possibility of doing harm.

  9. Notice the faith of the men who brought the paralytic man. It was their faith that prompted Jesus to respond to heal and forgive the sins of the paralytic man. I believe that salvation is individual, as in Romans 10, those who call in the name of the Lord shall be saved. However based from the passage in Matthew 9, it also takes the faith of the believers to bring those people to come to know the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has tasked His Church to introduce those unbelievers to the only Savior, the Son of God, Jesus.
    We, as Christians, have the responsibility and privilege as well, to bring the good news to those who are spiritually paralyzed unbelievers.

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