“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”
– Matthew 9:35
Matthew 9 presents the contrast between faith and doubt. We see Jesus interact with people of great faith as well as people who doubted Jesus’ ministry and authority.
In , we see two men healed and put back on their feet. The first man was a paralyzed man. It is interesting to note that it was not the faith of just the paralyzed man that caused Jesus to have compassion on him – he also saw the faith of the people who brought the man to him. One thing we must be careful of is assuming that the man’s sin caused his paralysis. Just because Jesus says, “your sins are forgiven” does not mean that sin was the reason for the disability. Consider and Jesus’ healing of a man who was born blind. His disciples asked who had sinned to cause such blindness, but Jesus said that no one sinned. Instead, he was blind for the reason of displaying Jesus’ authority and power. Even today, some people believe illness and disability only fall upon those who disobey God, but we find that such suffering is a result of having a fallen world, not always personal sin.
In , some of the religious leaders said that Jesus was blaspheming. Blasphemy is an attitude of disrespect that finds expression in an act directed against the character of God. In this case, Jesus was claiming to have the authority to forgive sin, which only God would have such authority. Jesus demonstrates his authority by healing the man of his paralysis. The crowds were amazed but still did not fully understand his authority. As the end of says, “…they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” They still did not recognize that Jesus was God and that he possessed all authority.
The man who was paralyzed was literally set back on his feet, but another man was spiritually put back on his feet. In , we are introduced to a tax collector named Matthew, also known as Levi, who wrote this gospel. As you may know, tax collectors were not the most respected people of the time. Many considered them to be traitors for helping the Roman government and cheating people of their money. Tax collectors were down-right despised. The rabbi Jesus comes to him and simply says, “Follow me.” It is significant that we see no other response from Matthew than his standing and following. He leaves his tax booth – his former life and habits – and follows Jesus Christ. Jesus put this man back on his feet from being an outcast to being a rabbi’s disciple.
Jesus is sharing a meal with some tax collectors and sinners when the Pharisees come to question him about his actions. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus ate with these people because they were despised people which any other rabbi would avoid. Not to mention that eating a meal with someone was a significant act in relationships. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples why he did this. The reason they probably asked the disciples instead of Jesus himself was because they probably expected that the disciples would not have an answer. In , Jesus answers their question by using the image of a physician. What Jesus is conveying is that those who are spiritually sick are the ones in need of care, not the spiritually well or the spiritually pompous (in the case of the Pharisees). This is something the church desperately needs to remember as its mission: the church exists to help the spiritually sick. Too often, the church has a club mentality when it should really have a trauma center mentality.
Jesus quotes a verse from which states that God desires mercy instead of sacrifice. Jesus refutes the Pharisee’s legalism by saying that mercy is more important than offerings, sacrifices, rituals, and legalistic values. Jesus evidences this mercy by what he does with the tax collectors and sinners. The meal that he shares with them shows his mercy.
While the Pharisees came with a legalistic question, the disciples of John came with a ritualistic question. In , Jesus explains why his disciples do not fast – they do not fast because Christ (the bridegroom) is with them now! The day will come when Christ will die and they will mourn and fast. Fasting is not necessary for his disciples when Christ is there with them.
John was imprisoned at this time and his disciples were without a teacher. Jesus provides instruction to them using two picture illustrations. These illustrations show the necessity of renewal as a disciple of Christ. In , he uses an example of an unshrunken patch being used to repair a garment. When the garment is washed, the patch begins to shrink and makes the tear worse. This is like adding a little bit of Jesus to an existing belief system. Doing so is not going to make things better or solve the problem, it will only make things worse. The old belief system – the old life – must be thrown away and replaced by Jesus Christ. In , Jesus uses the example of pouring new wine into old wineskins. When wine ferments, it expands and stretches the wineskin. If new wine was put in an already stretched wineskin, when it expands it will stretch the wineskin too much and cause it to burst. Again, Jesus cannot be added to our old way of life. We must be renewed in him.
Jesus was not one who was easily intimidated. Being both fully God and fully man, he had confidence unlike any other person. At the start of , a synagogue leader named Jairus () came in faith to Jesus knowing that he could bring his daughter back to life. Seeing this man’s faith, Jesus, like Matthew in , puts himself at this man’s disposal and follows him.
On his way, Jesus shows that he is unintimidated by disease. A woman with a blood discharge came and touched the fringe of his robe in order to be healed of the disease which has haunted her for twelve years. Normally, it would be improper in Jewish culture for a women with this kind of disease to touch his cloak (), but the woman believed that touching his cloak would heal her. When Jesus saw her, he said that it was not the touching of his robe that makes her well, but the faith that she possessed.
When Jesus came to the house of the synagogue leader, he went to the girl’s bedside and touched her hand. This shows that Jesus was unintimidated by death. It would be unclean for him to touch a dead body, but he knew that she would not be dead much longer. In the gospels, Jesus seems to avoid the word “death” a lot. Instead, Jesus would use the word “sleep” which is reminiscent of which says that when we die, we are only asleep until we awake and are given either everlasting life or everlasting punishment.
Finally, we see that Jesus was not intimidated by disbelief. When he said that the girl was only asleep, he was mocked and laughed at. He put the hired mourners and musicians outside so they would not witness the miracle. Their disbelief proved them to be underserving of witnessing this. This shows that those trying to thwart the plans of Christ will be removed and will not witness his glory.
Jesus encounters two blind men in who beg Jesus for mercy. When Jesus asked the two blind men about their faith in his ability to heal them, they replied with an unwavering “Yes”! Jesus did not heal them because they had more faith than others, but he healed them because they simply had faith in him and his authority. When Jesus heals these men (and other times when he has healed), he tells them to not spread what has happened to them. There could be many reasons for why he would request this, but it is probably because it was not yet time for him to be arrested and crucified. There was much more he needed to do before his time would come.
Jesus also had a demon-oppressed man brought to him (). The demon caused the man to not be able to speak. When he cast out the demon, the crowds were amazed and declared that nothing had ever been seen like that before. This statement shows Jesus’ uniqueness in Jewish history. The Pharisees, however, claimed that Jesus cast out demons because he had a demon in him himself. This statement is simply illogical. After all, why would a demon want to remove another demon from someone else?
In , we see Jesus’ continued work of spreading the gospel and healing others. Jesus had compassion for the people because they were “harassed and helpless”. Their religious teachers were not edifying them spiritually, but were harassing them instead. They were lost like sheep because they really had no one to guide or direct them. Jesus says to his disciples that the field is ripe for harvest, but there are more people needed. Shepherds are needed to tend and lead the sheep. In the same way, the local church needs to see that the harvest is still plentiful – there are still people looking for guidance and direction to God. It is the church’s responsibility to provide the labor.