Matthew 8 – 9

The Powers of the Kingdom: Demonstrated by Miracles
Matthew 8 – 9
The Powers of the Kingdom. The Lord has just explained the principles that would characterize His coming kingdom in Matt. 5-7. Those principles might present to us what sounds like a very idealistic vision; i.e. a kingdom characterized by righteousness, humility, love for enemies, etc. And there are so many obstacles to it coming to fruition. In Matt. 8-9 we get the powers of the kingdom displayed. Not only was Christ the great Teacher, but He had the power needed to make it happen and bring in the Millennium. This is outlined in Heb. 6:5. Israel had tasted (sampled):
  • the “good word of God” (corresponds to Matt. 5 – 7)
  • the “works of power of the age to come” (Matt. 8 – 9)
At the same time, these accounts are interspersed with sections that take up the subject of discipleship, and the proper spirit of those who will enter the kingdom. 
What kind of power? The miracles of Christ show not only power, but good power… or, power in grace. The power of God had been shown before in the Old Testament, but most often in judgment (the flood, fire from heaven, earth opening, etc.) but rarely in grace. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Christ’s power was always employed in grace, for the deliverance from the evil consequences of sin, with one exception; the judicial cursing of the fig tree, which is a picture of Israel who rejected grace, and never yielded fruit for God.
Chronology of this section. The Gospel of Mark proves that the order of events given in Matthew is not chronological. For example, the healing of the leper took place long before the sermon on the mount was given. In Mark 1 we have the Lord preaching in their synagogues through all Galilee, and casting out devils, and that is when the leper came to Him (Mark 1:40-45)! Then in Mark 2 the sick of the palsy that was borne of four is given, but in Matthew we don’t have the sick of the palsy until ch.9, after a storm and healing of a demoniac (end of Matt. 8), which Mark describes in Mark 4 and 5. Therefore, one of the two Evangelists must not be chronological. By Mark’s strict notes of time we know that it must be Matthew that isn’t chronological. In Mark 3 the Lord goes up into the mountain where the Sermon on the Mount would have begun. Thus, the healing of the leper was considerably earlier than the sermon on the mount, which Mark does not give us, because his viewpoint is the service of our Lord, not the great doctrinal expositions.
A composite picture is given to us of the powers of the world to come, but only a sample of it: (1) leprosy healed, (2) paralysis healed, (3) fevers healed, (4) natural disasters abated, (5) demonic possession cured, (6) governmental forgiveness of sins, and (7) blindness healed. All these will be characteristic of the coming Millennial kingdom. Could you find any better place to live than the Millennial earth, as we have seen all the powers of the world to come invested in the Messiah? Yes! The Fathers house is beyond compare! That is the eternal home of the heavenly saints, although we will reign with Christ over the Millennial kingdom.
Ten Signs to the Nation of Israel. Later in ch.12, the Jews ask for the Lord to do a sign before them. This was a deep insult, because they had no intention of believing on Him. In ch.8-9 we find they were given more than adequate proof of His messianic identity. Ten signs in total, five in each chapter.
  1. The Leprous Man Healed (Matt. 8:2-4)
  2. The Centurion’s Servant Healed (Matt. 8:5-13)
  3. Peter’s Sick Mother-in-law Healed (Matt. 8:14-15)
  4. The Storm Calmed (Matt. 8:23-27)
  5. Two Demoniacs Healed (Matt. 8:28-34)
  6. The Paralytic Healed (Matt. 9:1-8)
  7. The Woman with Bloody Flux Healed (Matt. 9:20-22)
  8. Raising the Ruler’s Daughter (Matt. 9:23-26)
  9. Two Blind Men Healed (Matt. 9:27-31)
  10. The Dumb Demoniac Healed (Matt. 9:32-34)

First Dispensational Outline: A Leper, Centurion, and Mother-in-law (8:1-17)

Descending the Mountain (v.1)

 And when he had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. v.1 The mountain is the place of communion, prayer, and of teaching. The valley is the place of business, ministry, and of action. But the Lord is God of the valleys as well as the God of the hills (c.p. 1 Kings 20:28). We have seen the Messiah as the One who possesses all wisdom (on the mountain), now we see him as one who possesses all power (in the valley).

The Leprous Man: The Remnant in the Lord’s Time (vv.2-4)

2 And behold, a leper came up to him and did him homage, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou art able to cleanse me. v.2 Mark seems to make it clear that the healing of the leper (compare) occurs before Jesus comes down from the mountain (see note above on Chronology). The expression “and behold” here in v.2 makes no reference to time, showing that the Spirit is collecting this story in the Divine compilation, while the order is not chronological. Leprosy speaks of the uncleanness and unpleasantness of sin. Palsy brings out more the thought of powerlessness (Rom. 5:6). Both are true of the sinner. Leprosy is a disease that is manifested in outward destruction and rotting of the body, which is but evidence of the disease that works within. The same is true of the disease of sin. It is a root within us that manifests itself in fruit (sins). A person is not a sinner because he sins; rather, he sins because he is a sinner (see notes on Rom. 5:12). The healing of the leper speaks of the Messiah’s offer of moral cleansing to the corrupted nation of Israel (who was sick, Isa. 1:6) if they would come to Him, which they will in a future day (Zech. 13:1). This leper did what all men (and Israel) need to do… come to the Lord and give Him His proper place.
3 And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, I will; be cleansed. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. v.3 He condescends to touch this unclean man. There was no danger that the Holy One could contract the disease. It shows that only a sinless Messiah could “save His people from their sins”. There are seven times in Matthew where the Lord touches someone, and every time it results in blessing; Matt. 8:3; 8:15; 9:20; 9:29; 14:36; 17:7; and 20:34. Here we have a hint as to the dispensational teaching of this passage. Healings that require a touch have to do with Israel. Healings that do not require the physical act have a higher character of faith, and thus have more to do with Gentiles. The leper was at first unsure of the Lord’s will, but Christ’s response shows His heart; “I will”.
4 And Jesus says to him, See thou tell no man, but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses ordained, for a testimony to them. v.4 He was to do “as Moses ordained” making it clear that it was not yet time for the law to be set aside, because the cross had to come in first. The very ones who had pronounced the leper “unclean” must be made to pronounce him “clean”. It was important that the man not publish it abroad, but go straight to the priest “for a testimony to them”. If he published it, the news would have come to the priests through the rumor mill, and may have been misinterpreted, or at least it could give the priests an excuse to discount it. But if he appeared directly in their presence, the evidence would have been irrefutable and damning to their conscience. What would it mean to the priests when the cleansed leper showed up before the priests for the ceremony? It would be like the sounding of trumpet, a loud and clear signal that the Messiah was here (Psa. 103:3)!

The Centurion’s Servant: Present Period of Gentile Blessing (vv.5-13)

A Dispensational Order. The account of the centurion (compare) is found in Matthew and Luke (7:1), but it is preceded by the healing of the leper only in Matthew. This is because Matthew is a dispensational book, and the order gives us a picture of God’s dispensational ways. In Luke you get added details, that the centurion sent the elders of the Jews to the Lord with his first message, who commended the centurion for his Zionism. Those details are left out in Matthew to give the account a strictly Gentile flavor though it be in a Jewish gospel! Matthew leaves out something that would puff up the Jew, and Luke includes something that would smite the conscience of a Gentile… namely, a godly Gentile “laying his hand on the skirt of a Jew”.
 5 And when he had entered into Capernaum, a centurion came to him, beseeching him,v.5 If the leper represents the faithful of Israel, this centurion represents the Gentiles. The healing of his servant does not require the physical touch of our Lord. It speaks of the Gentile’s relation to Christ, we “henceforth know no man after the flesh (physical, national, earthly connections), but if we have known Christ according to the flesh, henceforth know we Him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). God was going to show that the natural children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were going to be cut off, and those less privileged – yet having faith – would be brought into blessing.
6 and saying, Lord, my servant lies paralytic in the house, suffering grievously.v.6 It was the centurion’s servant that was sick, but here we see the centurion’s own personal faith being brought forward in a beautiful way. The paralyzed man gives us a picture of the helplessness of the sinner. It was when we were “yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).
7 And Jesus says to him, “I” will come and heal him. v.7 The Lord’s heart is seen, willing to come. In Luke 7 we see that He actually started toward the man’s house. The same expression is used with the leper and the centurion, with Jew and Gentile; “I will”. God’s sovereign grace is needed by all!
8 And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not fit that thou shouldest enter under my roof; but only speak a word, and my servant shall be healed. v.8 The people said in Luke 7:4 of the centurion, “He is worthy” but he said, “I am not worthy.” This is the general spirit that characterizes the sinner who come to Christ in this period of Gentile blessing. Not only were we afar from God, but we were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, etc. See this dual condition of misery in Eph. 2. He says “only speak a word”. This brings in the character of the Word of God, by which sinners are blessed in this 2000 years of grace while Jesus is absent.
9 For “I” also am a man under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say to this one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my bondman, Do this, and he does it. v.9 The centurion recognized the principle of true authority, of the chain of command. This was an important part of the Roman military system. He was under authority from his master, and having authority over approximately eighty soldiers (the word “century” in Latin means one hundred, but over time it shrank to a band of 60-80 soldiers). The centurion knew that those under authority must obey their master, and he knew that Jesus was Lord of all, and had authority over all diseases. “In the word of a king there is power” (Ecc. 8:4). God’s anointed King was in the midst of Israel. See Matt. 28:18.
10 And when Jesus heard it, he wondered, and said to those who followed, Verily I say unto you, Not even in Israel have I found so great faith. v.10 The character of faith seen in this man is higher than that among the Jewish remnant, and it foreshadowed the great harvest of Gentiles: first in the 2000 years that have expired since, when the gospel of God’s grace is going out, and second in the millennium, after the gospel of the kingdom has gone out.
11 But I say unto you, that many shall come from the rising and setting sun, and shall lie down at table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; v.11 In the kingdom of heaven in the manifestation phase, there will be a place for the blessing of Gentiles. The prophetic scriptures witness to this; Isa. 56:3-5, Zech. 2:10, Zech. 8:23, Psa. 47:9. Not revealed here is the special character of blessing unique to the Church, which is largely made up of those who have pre-trusted before the masses of the Gentiles (Eph. 1:13). They will “lie down at table”, enjoying fellowship of the saints during the thousand year reign of Christ. However, the Kingdom is not the same as the Church, and the Covenantal Theologians are wrong in claiming that this verse puts Abraham, etc. in the Church. Old Testament saints are part of the first resurrection, part of the heavenly saints who will reign with Christ over the earth in the kingdom of their Father.
12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. v.12 Those who should have enjoyed the blessing by natural birth will instead fall under the judgment of God.
13 And Jesus said to the centurion, Go, and as thou hast believed, be it to thee. And his servant was healed in that hour. v.13 The salvation which is by faith is immediate and effectual.

Peter’s Sick Mother-in-law: The Restoration of a Remnant (vv.14-15)

A Dispensational Order. This event (compare) happened earlier than the centurion, but Matthew places it here to complete a dispensational picture. Its shows that while the blessing of God would flow to the Gentiles, and the children of the Kingdom would be cast out, yet God’s heart is always toward His ancient people, and will not abandon the promises to Israel.
¶ 14 And when Jesus had come to Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law laid down and in a fever; v.14 The woman’s proper name is not given. Her relation to Peter (the apostle of the circumcision) is what is identified. If leprosy spoke of the defilement of sin, and palsy the helplessness of sin, then a fever speaks of the restlessness of sin, the result of a tremendous infection. This will be the case of Israel in a future day. They will have a “fever” in a national sense. The “king who shall do according to his own will” will be on the throne, and the faithful will be seized with violent persecution, and put under great pressure to apostatize.
15 and he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and served him. v.15 Messiah will appear, and the remnant will be delivered from their tribulation. This is a lower class of faith then required at the present time, because the physical touch is involved. The effect for the remnant will be immediate. Naturally, when a person recovers from a fever there is great weakness that subsides only gradually. Peter’s mother-in-law was working again immediately, just as the Jews will once again be a fruitful vineyard for Jehovah (Song. 8:10-12).

Multitudes Healed: Millennial Blessing, the Curse Removed (vv.16-17)

 16 And when the evening was come, they brought to him many possessed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were ill; v.16 This was a new day, by Jewish reckoning. It speaks of that wonderful time when the Messiah will appear, the Devil will be banished, and the curse will be removed. Compared with vv.28-34, these verses emphasize the aspect of healing. At the end of the chapter it is power over the forces of Satan.
17 so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaias the prophet, saying, “Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” [Isa. 53:4] v.17 The prophecy of Isaiah 53:4 was fulfilled by the Lord in His daily ministry. Note that this does NOT refer to His atoning work on the cross. When the Lord did a miracle, He did not heal merely like a rich man handing out dimes. Truly, the miracles brought out His divine power, but Jesus also entered into the circumstances of the suffering person in spirit, as this quotation reveals. In this way, His divine sympathy entered into the depth of the suffering He relieved. His name is Emmanuel, or “God with us”… God coming down into our place.

(The Cost of Discipleship) (8:18-22)

 18 And Jesus, seeing great crowds around him, commanded to depart to the other side. v.18 At the sight of great crowds, the Lord departs. Great popularity is not characteristic of those who will inherit the kingdom. From the Gospel of Luke, we know that the following conversations took place after the transfiguration, which Matthew does not record until chapter 17. But why? For this reason: while the Lord had unshakable love in His heart toward Israel in spite of their unbelief (Peter’s mother-in-law), yet there was no love for Him on Israel’s part. A nice way to remember these two men are:
  • Mr. Impetuous – One who volunteered quickly without counting the cost.
  • Mr. Procrastinator – One who delayed following Christ for personal reasons.

Rejection: Discipleship will Cost you Personal Comfort (vv.19-20)

19 And a scribe came up and said to him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou mayest go. v.19 A certain scribe, who was moved by enthusiastic admiration of Jesus, volunteers to follow the Lord. However, he had no conception of the rejection associated with being a disciple. It is easy to make glib promises without counting the cost.
20 And Jesus says to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven roosting-places; but the Son of man has not where he may lay his head. v.20 Jesus answers him by showing that true cost of discipleship… there was less natural comfort in the path of the rejected Son of man than the most unworthy animal. What a thing for the Messiah of Israel, the Creator of all things, to have to say! “Foxes” are sly, and undeserving, while “birds” are small, and common. This scribe was a carnal Jew, who saw the miracles and sought a place of prestige with the Messiah. But the Lord had not so much as a bed, let alone a place of eminence among men.
Son of Man. This is the first time the Lord uses the expression “Son of Man.”

"Son of man" is a title Christ has in special connection with mankind; as either the rejected sufferer at the hands of mankind and on behalf of mankind as the one who assumes the responsibilities of the whole human race, or as exalted heir and head of all that God has purposed for mankind. The Old Testament spoke of a coming "Son of Man" that would reign over all creation and have an everlasting kingdom (Psalm 8:4-8; Daniel 7:13-14). But "Son of man" is a title Christ took in rejection as well as in glorification. The connection between the suffering and glory of the Son of man is beautiful.

Read more…

Priorities: Discipleship will Cost you Natural Relationships (vv.21-22)

21 But another of his disciples said to him, Lord, suffer me first to go away and bury my father. v.21 There are two ways that this could be read. (1) This man could be saying that he couldn’t follow the Lord right then because of his love for his father. But once his father died, and all his obligations to him were cleared up, then he would be free to follow Christ. (2) This man’s father had just died, and the funeral was to follow shortly. His familial responsibility was thus urgent, naturally speaking. Once this most urgent natural business was cleared up, then he would be free to follow Christ. I am not sure which is right. It would seem a bit harsh if the Lord was telling this man to absent his father’s funeral… but then “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12). On the other hand we have later scriptures that show us that Christians need to care for their own (see 1 Tim. 5:8). In either case, this man has a divided heart. The key words are “me first”. See Matt. 10:37. Expositor William Kelly feels the father had actually died. Based on the Lord’s response (v.22) I would tend to agree with Kelly. Also, burials in those days could take weeks, including the mourning period (Num. 20:29). This man wasn’t asking for just the morning off, but for a leave of absence.
22 But Jesus said to him, Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. v.22  The transcendent call of Christ is “Follow me”. The claims of nature must give way to the claims of Christ. He must have the preeminent place (Col. 1:18). The Lord uses the word “dead” in two ways. We know this because the physically dead cannot take any action. He is saying, “Let the spiritually dead bury their physically dead.” The putting forward of natural and physical claims is a mark of those who are spiritually dead.

The Messiah’s Power Over Every Other Force (8:23 – 9:8)

Three Spheres of Power. We have seen the Lord’s power over sickness in vv.1-17 (leprosy, palsy, and fever). Then we have had some instruction on discipleship in vv.18-22. Now we are shown that the Messiah’s power is not limited to healing sickness. He is shown to have power:
  • Over the Forces of Nature: the Storm Calmed (8:23-27) 
  • Over the Forces of Satan: Two Demoniacs (8:28-34) 
  • To Governmentally Forgive sins: the Paralytic Healed (9:1-8)
Three spiritual impediments to the establishment of the kingdom. It is not only the results of sin in the body (leprosy, palsy, fever) that the Messiah will relieve. The establishment of the Kingdom requires spiritual power because there are great spiritual obstacles:
  1. The Storm: The masses whipped up into a state of turmoil (raging sea) by Satan during the tribulation period (Rev 13:1). 
  2. The Demoniacs: All the power of Satan employed to bind men to his will, “exceeding dangerous” (Rev. 16:13-14). 
  3. The Sick of the Palsy: The governmental results of Israel’s sin down through the centuries, resulting in hardship, loss, and sorrow (Isa. 1:4-7).

Power over the Forces of Nature: the Storm Calmed (vv.23-27)

Demonstration of power over the elements. The Lord is not merely a divine weatherman, with mere knowledge of the elements. Rather, He has control over the forces of nature, which He displayed in calming the storm (compare). The Old Testament clearly predicts that the Messiah would possess power to control the elements. See Psa. 65:7; Psa. 89:8-9; Psa. 107:25; and Psa. 148:7-8.
23 And he went on board ship and his disciples followed him; v.23 When does this event actually take place? Mark 4 tells us that it was on the evening of the day when the seven parables of Matthew 13 were uttered, long after the other events mentioned in this chapter. The Spirit includes it here in Matthew to give us a picture of the power of Christ on behalf of the faithful remnant during the tribulation, while separated from Christ so that they can learn His power on their behalf!
24 and behold, the water became very agitated on the sea, so that the ship was covered by the waves; but “he” slept. v.24 In the tribulation, Satan will stir up the sea, a picture of the masses of the Gentiles. The Great Red Dragon of Rev. 12, in his hatred for the man child, continues his proxy war with the saints. The little ship seems to be almost engulfed by the waves, and the Lord sleeps in perfect peace (Isa. 26:3)!
25 And the disciples came and awoke him, saying, Lord save: we perish.  v.25 It will take the pressures of the tribulation, when the remnant is almost overwhelmed by Satan, to draw out the voice of faith, appealing to the silent and slumbering Savior. With us too, there is no trial too great that we cannot cry out to Him, who responds with “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
26 And he says to them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then, having arisen, he rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. v.26 We have a double rebuke. First, the Lord rebuked the disciples for their little faith.1 Had they remembered the Lord’s words in v.18 (Mark 4:36) when He “commanded” them to depart with Him, there was no need for fear. Second, He rebukes the wind and sea. Like a well-trained dog, they immediately obey His command! The Creator was on earth in the form of a man.
27 But the men were astonished, saying, What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? v.27 Not only was this storm allowed by God to try their faith (v.26), but also to manifest the dignity of the Person of Christ (v.27)! How could a weary man asleep on a pillow the next minute command the forces of nature? It can only be explained by the Person of Christ. All the efforts of Satan succeed only in making the Lord display His glory.

Power over the Forces of Satan: Two Demoniacs (vv.28-34)

vv.28-34 At the start of the Millennial kingdom, Christ will demonstrate His power over Satan by binding him and banishing him to the “abyss” or the bottomless pit for the thousand years (Rev. 20:1). He will do the same to the whole demonic host (Isa. 24:21-22). The host of the high ones will be gathered in the pit. The Jews understood this, and so did the demons. Here Jesus shows that He had this very same power over Satan (compare).
28 And there met him, when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, two possessed by demons, coming out of the tombs, exceeding dangerous, so that no one was able to pass by that way. v.28 We are told elsewhere (Mark 5 and Luke 8) that one of these men was called by the name of Legion, because many devils were entered into him. It is the worst possible predicament to be in. Here in Matthew we find that there were actually two possessed; two is the number of testimony, and we often get pairs in Matthew’s gospel (e.g. two blind men, Matt. 9:27-31) for a witness to the nation of Israel.
29 And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Son of God? hast thou come here before the time to torment us? v.29 The demons “believe and tremble” (James 2:19). They recognize what the Nation of Israel refused to recognize… Jesus as Son of God. They know that before the Kingdom is set up, the “host of the high ones” will be cast into the abyss. They are now worried that their time loose on earth will be cut short. It was not yet the time for that, but only to demonstrate that Christ had the power to do it.
30 Now there was, a great way off from them, a herd of many swine feeding; 31 and the demons besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine. vv.30-31 It seems from this request that demons seek embodiment in some way. About to be driven from men, they pleaded to be allowed to take possession of the bodies of the unclean swine. The number of the swine was about 2000 (Mark 5:13). From the following verses it would seem that humans have a higher capacity for possession than animals. Two thousand swine couldn’t survive what two men could suffer with for years. It is instructive that the demons do not even attempt to resist Him! His power is known to the angelic world.
32 And he said to them, Go. And they, going out, departed into the herd of swine; and lo, the whole herd of swine rushed down the steep slope into the sea, and died in the waters. v.32 Here we have the curtain pulled back to see the true character of Satan as the Destroyer. This is what his heart is like, but he appears as an Angel of Light (2 Cor. 11:14) and men are deceived. He is bent on destroying anything he can… how different than the heart of Christ! If these demons are forced to give up possession of the two men, they would try to spoil the Lord’s testimony in Gadara by drowning the swine.
33 But they that fed them fled, and went away into the city and related everything, and what had happened as to those possessed by demons. 34 And behold, the whole city went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to go away out of their coasts. vv.33-34 What were Jews doing feeding swine? That was against the law, because swine were unclean animals. This is an example of the Jews’ inconsistency, which Paul addresses at the end of Romans 2. They wouldn’t eat pork, but would raise swine for a profit in selling to the Gentiles. The trans-Jordanic Jews were especially liberal. They “begged him to go away”, because they didn’t like having their unclean occupation exposed, nor the pecuniary loss of their herd. He had just healed the demoniacs…. but their swine were of far greater value to them than the souls of men. In this account we see two aspects of Satan’s power. The first aspect is blatant and loud… it is the bondage of the body, seen in the demon possessed man. The second aspect is subtle and quiet… it is the bondage of the heart, seen in the city’s desire to get rid of Jesus. Prophetically, these city dwellers represent the apostate nation of the Jews, and the two who are delivered represent the faithful remnant in the tribulation. The first time the Lord came across the sea to Gennesaret/Gadarenes He was rejected by Israel (Matt. 8:34). This represents the rejection of Christ at His first coming. But the second time He crossed the sea and entered that country He was received (Matt. 14:34)! This speaks of His reception by the faithful remnant at the 2nd coming of Christ! Mark and Luke give us the added details that “Legion”, one of these demoniacs who became a disciple of Jesus. He went abroad preaching the good news of the blessing Christ had brought to him. He carried the message throughout the whole district of Decapolis!
Matthew 9. In general, this chapter is a continuation of the subject in chapter 8, namely the demonstration of the powers of the kingdom. However, in chapter 9, the Spirit brings out the effect of the presence of Jesus upon the religious leaders of Israel. In chapter 8 it was more power because of His greatness, but in chapter 9 it is that power in grace toward others.

Power on Earth to Forgive sins: the Paralytic Healed (vv.1-8)

Power on earth to forgive sins. The third great impediment to the establishment of the Kingdom is the sin of Israel. This is the deepest issue. Old Testament scriptures spoke of the Messiah’s power to forgive sins; “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases” (Psa. 103:3). We see a strong connection being made between sins and sicknesses. Sickness is the governmental consequence of sin. The whole Kingdom of Christ will experience freedom from sickness as a result of sins being governmentally forgiven; “and the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity” (Isa. 33:24). See also Psa. 130:3-4; Mic. 7:18-19; Daniel 9:24; Jer. 31:34; especially Zech. 13:1. Before the cross, eternal forgiveness was not known. Old Testament saints never had the settled conscious knowledge of sins forgiven in the eternal sense (Eph. 1:7). After the cross, the eternal aspect of forgiveness was revealed. Read more… This is why the Lord emphasizes “power on earth”; because governmental forgiveness has to do with this life only. However, in the Millennium, both aspects of forgiveness will be offered (on earth, and for eternity) because they will have the cross to look back on.
 And going on board the ship, he passed over and came to his own city. v.1 Jesus gave the people of the Gergesenes what they wanted… He went away. “His own city” was Capernaum, where He had done His greatest miracles. In this chapter the true light is shining on those who were the more privileged, and the more responsible.
2 And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, laid upon a bed; and Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, Be of good courage, child; thy sins are forgiven. v.2 This is the same man which was borne of four, as we read elsewhere (compare). To be let down through a ceiling was an extraordinary way of bringing the man to Jesus, but those details are left out in Matthew. See note above on forgiveness of sins on earth. The Lord was revealing to this man that God had forgiven his sins, and this is reason to be of good courage. “Their faith” makes it clear that the palsied man as well as the friends who brought him had confidence in Jesus’ power and desire to help the paralytic.
3 And behold, certain of the scribes said to themselves, This man blasphemes. v.3 The Jewish leaders knew that only Jehovah could forgive sins, and anyone who could do so on earth must be God. In their view, Jesus was a blasphemer, claiming to be Jehovah. But in reality, this was Jehovah on earth, in the Person of Jesus!
4 And Jesus, seeing their thoughts, said, Why do “ye” think evil things in your hearts? v.4 The evil thing they thought was that Jesus was not really who He said He was (God).
5 For which is easier: to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Rise up and walk? v.5 It isn’t easier to actually forgive sins than to heal the palsy, but it is easier to say it. In truth, forgiving sins took the work of Calvary. But to say “thy sins are forgiven” did not necessitate any outward results for it to be real. However, to say “rise up and walk” required an outward physical change that defied the laws of physics and chemistry.
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then he says to the paralytic,) Rise up, take up thy bed and go to thy house. 7 And he rose up and went to his house. vv.6-7 To show that He could do what was easy to say but hard to perform (forgive sins on earth), Jesus now shows that He could do what was hard to say but easier to perform (healing the paralytic). We so often get the order backwards, focusing on what is outward and impressive. But Jesus met the deeper, less obvious need first, the forgiveness of sins. This was why He came (Matt. 1:21)! “Take up thy bed” is an action that shows complete deliverance from the condition of weakness. “Son of Man” is the Lord’s title in connection with all of mankind. It is a title He takes in rejection as well as in glorification. As Son of Man He deals with Man’s deepest need, and as Son of Man He will usher the Millennial earth into a scene of blessing. Read more…
A picture of millennial healing. This clearly speaks of a time when God will take the government of the world into His own hands, and when Christ will take His own throne. In the present dispensation the Lord does not necessarily heal our sicknesses in addition to forgiving our sins. But He will do that for Israel in a coming, final dispensation. To believing Gentiles in the Millennium, God will prove that He has forgiven Israel by healing all their sicknesses and restoring their place as head of all nations.
8 But the crowds seeing it, were in fear, and glorified God who gave such power to men. v.8 The sad result is that the scribes were not touched, only the people glorified God. And even the people did not give God what He was really looking for. They saw the power of God on earth given to men, but did not see that God Himself was on earth in the Person of Jesus!

(The Nature of Discipleship) (9:9-17)

Chronology of these events. By comparing with Mark and Luke we can see that healing the palsy and the calling of Levi took place long before the events of Matthew 8 (see Mark 2). But in Matthew the Spirit of God puts them here for special moral and dispensational purposes. Morally, this section establishes the nature of discipleship. Dispensationally, this section establishes the blindness of Israel, particularly of the religious leaders.

A Disciple is Characterized by Following Christ (v.9)

 9 And Jesus, passing on thence, saw a man sitting at the tax-office, called Matthew, and says to him, Follow me. And he rose up and followed him. v.9 Matthew does not seek out Jesus. In fact, there is no evidence of faith on his part before Jesus calls him. He responds immediately to the voice of the Messiah. Matthew, also called Levi (Mark 2:14), was the tax collector of the port of Capernaum. He became one of the twelve. Here we have the most basic description of a disciple: one who is called by and becomes a follower of Jesus. There was shame connected with publicans because of their reputation. Matthew is found at the tax office, and it is beautiful to see the call of discipleship displace the love of money! The Lord calls him during a work day! The call of discipleship is not at our convenience.

A Disciple is Characterized by Grace (vv.10-13)

10 And it came to pass, as he lay at table in the house, that behold, many tax-gatherers and sinners came and lay at table with Jesus and his disciples. v.10 The Lord was now making a public display of the grace of God by sitting down with those that were the despised of the people. Publicans had a bad reputation for embezzling money from the people. Sinners were a special class who had become identified with certain public sins; this is clear because all men are sinners, but these are distinguished. Note that it was a public place, and there was really no appearance of evil, only a connection with those who were despised by the religious class. Also, note from vv.12-13 that His purpose wasn’t to fellowship with evil, but to bring these sinners to repentance!
Note: as the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus had liberty to meet with sinners in a way that we ought to be careful of. For example, He met alone with a degraded gentile woman in John 4. Mere men (even Christian men) ought to avoid any situation like that. But the same grace that Jesus showed in these circumstances ought to characterize His disciples.
11 And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples, Why does your teacher eat with tax-gatherers and sinners? v.11 The display of grace was completely incompatible with the religious mindset of the Pharisees. Notice that they go to His disciples. Often unbelievers will ask disciples questions as a way to insult the Master behind His back, without really wanting the answer.
12 But Jesus hearing it, said, They that are strong have not need of a physician, but those that are ill. v.12 The Lord uses a natural illustration to explain why He went to the sinners. Those who are healthy do not need a doctor, and those that think they are healthy do not seek one. But those who are sick need a doctor. These publicans and sinners were the ones the Great Physician came to save, because they would acknowledge their sinful condition.
13 But go and learn what that is — “I will have mercy and not sacrifice” [Hosea 6:6]; for I have not come to call righteous men but sinners. v.13 These Pharisees were going to need to think on that. Perhaps considering their own state in light of the Word of God would make them reevaluate their perceived spiritual “health”. The quotation from Hosea 6:6 is employed by the Lord to show that, even from the Old Testament, mercy shown to the needy meant more than sacrifices and offerings. The principle of the Lord’s ministry was that He was here for those (“sinners”) who could be honest with themselves and with God about their true moral condition.

A Disciple is Characterized by Understanding the Times (vv.14-17)

Two principles. We get two things that a disciple must know with regard to understanding the times (compare):
  1. The portion and behavior of the disciples has to do with Christ and the place that He fills (vv.14-15).
  2. It is impossible to carry forward old Jewish forms into a new dispensation of grace (vv.16-17).
 14 Then come to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees often fast, but thy disciples fast not? v.14 This is another group that approached the Lord at Levi’s table. These were disciples of John that were reticent to join the Lord. Fasting, which John taught, was approved by the Pharisees as well. These disciples were bothered by the fact that the Lord’s disciples did not carry on this sign of self-denial. They were focusing on the bad state of Israel so closely that they had not noticed the Messiah was present!
15 And Jesus said to them, Can the sons of the bridechamber mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them? But days will come when the bridegroom will have been taken away from them, and then they will fast. v.15 As long as the Messiah was present on earth, He was to be the source of all their joy. It would be absurd for them to fast while He was with them. The time would come when He would be absent, and then it would be proper to fast. At the present time, Christ has been rejected, and we mourn. But Christ is risen and glorified, and the Spirit is present… therefore joy is characteristic! During the tribulation period, fasting will be fitting for the remnant.
vv.16-17 A new dispensation was coming in! The old garment and the old bottles – although instituted by God Himself in the Old Testament – now must be set aside in Christianity.
16 But no one puts a patch of new cloth on an old garment, for its filling up takes from the garment and a worse rent takes place. v.16 The principles of grace (Christianity) are not “patches” for, or improvements to, the legal Jewish system. This has been the downfall of Christendom. A “Christianized” form of Judaism will never work! The system will soon unravel, and much injury will be done to the Name of Christ.
17 Nor do men put new wine into old skins, otherwise the skins burst and the wine is poured out, and the skins will be destroyed; but they put new wine into new skins, and both are preserved together. v.17 Now a stronger illustration: bursting bottles. The new wine of Christian grace is incompatible with the old skins of Judaism. The old bottles are rigid and brittle, like the law written in tables of stone. Grace stoops to bring the glad tidings to sinners; Judaism cannot tolerate such diffusion of grace. The result of the mixture will be (1) spilled wine, and (2) broken bottles. That has been the case in Christendom. By refusing to forsake the old religious forms, (1) grace has been spoiled (Rom. 11:6), and (2) the law has been denied its proper place. The law has its “lawful” application to the unbeliever, but is not useful to the Christian as a rule of life (1 Tim. 1:9). God has new bottles for the new wine! “The inner virtue and power of Christianity must clothe itself with its own proper forms”.2 We must hold Christian doctrine with a Christian attitude. It isn’t that fasting is wrong, but that we must do it with Christian intelligence.

Second Dispensational Outline: The Ruler’s Daughter & Infirm Woman (9:18-26)

A dispensational outline. If we can see that vv.18-26 is a dispensational outline, it explains why the interruption in v.20 occurs. God’s ways with the nation of Israel have been interrupted by a period of Gentile blessing. But at the close of this period, He will resume His dealings with the ancient people, and bring about Israel’s national resurrection.

The Faithful in Our Lord’s Day: The Ruler comes to Jesus (vv.18-19)

 18 As he spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler coming in did homage to him, saying, My daughter has by this died; but come and lay thy hand upon her and she shall live. v.18 The ruler’s maid (compare) is a picture of national Israel, who needs Christ. She has no life apart from Him. The ruler is a picture of the faithful remnant who owned Israel’s true condition, and longed for Christ to heal the nation (e.g. Nicodemus). Notice however, that this man longs for the physical touch, unlike the centurion in Matt. 8 who reckoned that a spoken word would be enough. The ruler is the Jewish remnant, and the natural thought of a Jew is to have the personal, visible presence of the Lord on earth (e.g. Thomas); whereas Gentiles are content to walk by faith, not by sight!
19 And Jesus rose up and followed him, and so did his disciples. v.19 The Lord immediately follows the ruler, showing that His errand was toward Israel at His first coming, and made every effort to restore them to Jehovah. Sadly, they stumbled at the stumbling stone (Rom. 9:31-32), and their fall opened the door of blessing to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11-15).

A Period of Gentile Blessing: The Woman with Bloody Flux (vv.20-22)

20 And behold, a woman, who had had a bloody flux for twelve years, came behind and touched the hem of his garment; v.20 The woman (compare) simply touches the Lord’s garment on His journey to heal the ruler’s daughter. In the same way, the 2000-year period of Gentile blessing is a suspension in God’s dealings with Israel… a parenthesis! Her condition was an internal hemorrhage that was slowly draining her life away; a fitting picture of the Gentiles, though she may not have been one herself. She touched the border of the Lord’s robe, which would have been that blue fringe worn by every pious Israelite, according to the Mosaic Law (Num. 15:38-41; Deut. 22:12), and which marked Him out as the Heavenly Man.
21 for she said within herself, If I should only touch his garment I shall be healed. v.21 There is a commendable humility in what she was thinking. It was not a request – like the ruler – for Him to come to her house. Rather, just a passing touch would be enough to alter her life for now, and for eternity! This is how a Gentile sinner comes to the Savior today. What marks a Gentile of faith today is the realization that they are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have no claim to blessing. But they have glimpsed the Savior’s heart, and faith rises up to lay hold of Christ!
22 But Jesus turning and seeing her, said, Be of good courage, daughter; thy faith has healed thee. And the woman was healed from that hour. v.22 A special emphasis is laid on salvation by faith alone. Notice that the Lord commented on the centurion’s faith as well in ch.8; but not so the ruler. The role of faith without sight is characteristic of Gentile blessing!

The Future Jewish Remnant: Raising the Ruler’s Daughter (vv.23-26)

 23 And when Jesus was come to the house of the ruler, and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a tumult, v.23 When the Lord resumes His dealings with Israel again, He will find in the “house” (Israel) a tumult being made. This noise of musical instruments, etc. speaks of the Jewish sacrifices being resumed in the first 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th week. Under protection from the West, Israel will resume their sacrifices without repentance toward Jehovah.
24 he said, Withdraw, for the damsel is not dead, but sleeps. And they derided him. v.24 Israel today is not permanently dead (Rom. 11:1) but is merely sleeping. Read Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones to show that Jehovah is able to and will one day make them live again (Ezek. 37). They are dead in the sense that there is no power in themselves to rise. He says “withdraw” to the musicians, etc. Through the process of the Great Tribulation (last 3 1/2 years) God will, through persecution, separate the mass of apostate Jews from those who really have faith. He will not allow the restoration of Israel be connected in any way with the arm of the flesh (John 6:63).
25 But when the crowd had been put out, he went in and took her hand; and the damsel rose up. v.25 By Jehovah’s gentle leading of the remnant (taking her hand) the Nation of Israel will be revived! “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Hos. 6:2).
26 And the fame of it went out into all that land.  v.26 Just as the raising of the ruler’s daughter announced the Messiah at His first coming, so the restoration of Israel will witness to the whole world of the Messiah at His second coming!

The Messiah’s Power to Heal Israel’s Spiritual Condition (9:27-34)

Israel’s Spiritual Blindness Healed: Two Blind Men (vv.27-31)

 27 And as Jesus passed on thence, two blind men followed him, crying and saying, Have mercy on us, Son of David. v.27 The two blind men (compare) form an adequate testimony that Christ had the power to heal Israel’s spiritual condition of darkness. Their cry “Son of David” shows that they recognized Christ’s connection with Israel, and the Nation’s need of Him.
28 And when he was come to the house, the blind men came to him. And Jesus says to them, Do ye believe that I am able to do this? They say to him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it unto you. 30a And their eyes were opened; vv.28-30a Notice that the Lord doesn’t heal them in the street, like the woman with the issue of blood. He has a specific timetable for Israel, and will restore them when He comes to the house, shortly after His appearing. There will be a preceding period of “crying” on the part of the remnant which will be rewarded at that time. He pauses before healing them to question their faith, ensuring that the work was deep in their hearts. So with the remnant, there must be a deep work of faith before they are restored. Their eyes were opened, “nevertheless when it [Israel] shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16) and Israel will be given a new heart of flesh, and will finally see Christ!
30b and Jesus charged them sharply, saying, See, let no man know it. 31 But they, when they were gone out, spread his name abroad in all that land. vv.30b-31 The Lord did not want to be publicized as merely a wonder-worker. He desired people to be impressed by His message rather than His works. Faith in His person is what saved, not merely faith in His miracles. But they were so excited that they could not contain themselves, and so they published it abroad.

Israel’s Spiritual Bondage Healed: the Dumb Demoniac (vv.32-34)

 32 But as these were going out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed by a demon. v.32 A second type (compare) is presented, strengthening the encouragement that Israel will never be forgotten by God. Israel’s condition was not only one of spiritual blindness, but of bondage to Satan. The dumbness is a result of demonic possession. Israel has been unable to offer the praise that Jehovah wants because Satan has ensnared them in his traps.
33 And the demon having been cast out, the dumb spake. And the crowds were astonished, saying, It has never been seen thus in Israel. v.33 When the Beast and Antichrist are in the Lake of Fire, and Satan and his host of high ones are banished to the abyss, Israel will flourish again! The nations will look on throughout this saga with great interest and delight.
34 But the Pharisees said, He casts out the demons through the prince of the demons. v.34 The reaction of the religious leaders to the whole of Matt. 8-9 was to attribute all the Lord’s working in grace to the power of Satan. This is, in principle, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, a sin from which there is no repenting (Matt. 12:31-32).
  1. The expression "O ye of little faith" is a gentle rebuke, repeated four times in Matthew: first in Matt. 6:30 in regard to care; second in Matt. 8:23 in regard to fear; third in Matt. 14:31 in regard to doubt; and fourth in Matt. 16:7-8 in regard to reasoning in divine things. All four instances have to do with failure in simple faith. And yet the Lord never says to His own "O ye of no faith".

  2. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.