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Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament Schaff's NT Commentary
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ scn/ matthew-9.html. 1879-90.
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/
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CHRONOLOGY. Matthew inserts this group of events here; Mark and Luke at a later point. We accept the chronology of Mark, who explicitly says that Jesus crossed the sea on the evening of the day the parable of the sower was delivered. The events of this day are recorded more fully than those of any other during the ministry in Galilee. The order in Matthew is probably owing to his desire to group together important miracles. The incidents mentioned in Matthew 8:19-22, which are placed very much later by Luke (the only other Evangelist who records them), probably occurred just before our Lord crossed the lake. There is a reason why Luke should vary from the order of time, but Matthew would hardly insert them here, unless the chronological order called for it. There is, however, an appropriateness in their position so near Matthew 8:17 (see Matthew 8:20, and the opening section of chap. 9 ). These variations of order show the independence of the Evangelist.
After a day of conflict and toil, our Lord seeks repose in the evening on the lake (Matthew 8:18); He is detained by doubting disciples (Matthew 8:19-22); sleeps calmly during the storm (Matthew 8:23-24), but is awakened by fearful disciples (Matthew 8:25); He calms the elements (Matthew 8:26), and ‘little faith’ changes to great wonder (Matthew 8:27). Reaching the other side, His conflict with sin and Satan is renewed; the fiercest demoniacs, possessed with the most numerous company of demons, meet Him (Matthew 8:28-29); permitted to enter a herd of swine, the demons destroy these (Matthew 8:30-32), which occasions a concourse from the city to ask Him to leave them (Matthew 8:33-34); He departs (chap. Matthew 9:1 probably never to return. The whole section is a vivid sketch of the various forms of weakness and opposition our Lord always encounters. The central event (the stilling of the tempest) is the most significant one.
Matthew 9:2. The accounts of Mark and Luke are more particular.
And, merely resumes the narrative, without implying connection with what precedes.
Behold. A remarkable miracle. Luke intimates that many other cures were performed just before, and both he and Mark mention the crowd. The account of the latter renders it probable that this took place in the house where He generally resided.
They brought to him a paralytic. Not being able to enter the house, the four who bore him carried him to the housetop, and, actually breaking up the roof, let him down (Mark).
Lying, or, more literally, ‘laid,’ on a bed.
Seeing their faith, not only of the bearers, but of the man himself, since what follows shows his strong faith.
Son, be of good cheer. Words of affectionate address, fully given by Matthew alone. ‘Son’ implies that a new relation was now to exist between them, since Christ thus addressed His chosen disciples (Mark 10:24). The ‘good cheer’ came before the bodily healing, as a result of a purely spiritual blessing.
Thy sins are forgiven. A positive declaration, ‘they have been, and are now forgiven.’ Certainly not a concession to the popular notion that such sickness was a direct judgment for sin. There is no proof that the disease was in this case the fruit of indulgence. The man’s conscience was aroused through his sickness; our Lord first of all gives him spiritual health; afterwards bodily health; proving His authority to pardon by His power to cure, He thus places ‘forgiveness’ not only before but above miraculous healing. The general connection between sin and suffering is assumed throughout.
CHRONOLOGY AND CONNECTION. Three Evangelists join together the events we group in this section. Mark and Luke, however, place them immediately after the healing of the leper near Capernaum. We agree with most harmonists in placing the miracle wrought on the paralytic and the calling of Matthew together at the earlier period, and inserting the feast between the return from Gadara and the healing of Jairus’ daughter. Jairus came to our Lord while at the feast in the house of Matthew (Matthew 9:18). The Evangelist must needs speak of the feast, and properly prefaces that account by telling of his call. As however the latter event was preceded by an instructive miraculous incident (the healing of the paralytic) in the same city, it too was inserted. Mark and Luke, having placed the call of Matthew (Levi) in its proper chronological position, mention the feast in the same connection.
Matthew 9:2-8: Christ reads the secrets of the heart, to reward faith and rebuke cavilling; confirms the free forgiveness of the gospel by visible signs; the Pharisees account that blasphemy (Matthew 9:3) which redounds to the glory of God (Matthew 9:8). The miracle on the soul and on the body joined together; Christ’s greater work includes the less. How Christ forgives, once for all, He gives joy with pardon and through pardon. Christ’s authority on earth to forgive is His, as the Son of man; God gives to men through the Son of man. Matthew 9:9. The modesty of the Evangelist even when he mentions himself; his implicit obedience. The publican becomes an Apostle. Matthew 9:10-17. The converted publican brings together his old associates and his new ones. The Pharisees murmur. The reproof: ( 1 ) a warning; ( 2 ) an encouragement The Master knows of but one distinction among men; namely, whether they feel or do not feel their need of Him. Mercy the most acceptable sacrifice. The disciples of the preacher of repentance fall into legalism, when they do not find Christ The kingdom of heaven a marriage-feast, even in the days of mourning. New life, new forms; not new forms, new life. The old form useless when antiquated; the new form useless if it does not express the new life. The incongruity of legalism and the gospel; the gospel bursts the restraints of the old Judaism.
Matthew 9:3. Certain of the scribes. Many ‘Pharisees and doctors of the law’ were present, from all parts of the land (Luke 5:17).
Said within themselves, i.e., in their hearts, as is plain from Mark 2:6.
This man, not necessarily a term of contempt
Blasphemeth. The parallel passages base the charge on the correct premise, that God only can forgive sins. The language of our Lord must therefore have been authoritative.
Matthew 9:4. Knowing, by divine insight, rather than from the expression of their countenances.
Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts. A rebuke of the substance and the secrecy of their opposition. Bold language; it assumes, that opposition to Christ’s power to forgive sins is in itself wicked. Our Lord thus claims much for His Person. According to the usual chronology, this was the first indication of hostility on the part of the Pharisees, although in John 4:1, there is a hint that this existed. If John 5:0 precedes the Galilean ministry, they had already sought to kill Him (John 5:16). The usual view, however, places that feast immediately after the call of Matthew. The Pharisees may have objected to a declaration of absolution without the sacrifice required by the law. Pharisaism has often opposed such direct absolution, calling for priestly intervention.
Matthew 9:5. For, as a proof that the thoughts were evil.
Which is easier, etc. Archbishop Trench correctly sets forth the argument: ‘In our Lord’s argument it must be carefully noted that He does not ask,” Which is easiest, to forgive sins, or to raise a sick man?” for it could not be affirmed that that of forgiving was easier than this of healing; but” Which is easiest, to claim this power or to claim that; to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk?” And He then proceeds:” That is easiest, and I will now prove my right to say it, by saying with effect and with an outward consequence setting its seal to my truth, the harder word, ‘ Rise up and walk.’ By doing that which is submitted to the eyes of men, I will attest my right and power to do that which, in its very nature, Ties out of the region of proof.” ‘
Matthew 9:6. Application of the argument, stated by all three Evangelists in the same terms.
The Son of man, here equivalent to the Messiah.
Hath authority. ‘Power’ is not so exact
On earth. Christ claimed and exercised this ‘authority’ as the incarnate Son of God, or as ‘the Son of man on earth,’ having brought it with Him from heaven, as the One who is at once like unto us, and above us all as the crown and perfection of humanity.
Matthew 9:7. And he arose, and departed to his house. The test was successfully applied. The intervening moment must have been one of suspense to all, save the Healer and the healed; the one serene in the consciousness of power, the other strong in faith. His walk was truly ‘by faith,’ and he went ‘glorifying God.’ (Luke 5:25.)
Matthew 9:8. They were afraid (according to the best authorities). Either a religious awe, awakened by the higher character in which Jesus had presented Himself, or a spiritual conflict echoing that between Christ and the scribes. The result was they glorified God, who had given such power, or ‘authority.’ Power to forgive sins as well as to heal; the two were indissolubly united in the demonstration.
To men. This probably means ‘to mankind,’ Jesus being regarded as the representative of mankind in this matter. The pardon of the paralytic was a foreshadowing of the rending of the vail of the temple, promising direct intercourse between God and the sinner, yet through the Son of man. Comp, the parallel passages.
Matthew 9:9. From thence. According to all three accounts, immediately after the miracle just mentioned.
Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist ‘A publican named Levi’ (Luke 5:27); ‘Levi the son of Alpheus’ (Mark 2:14). Undoubtedly the same person; the accounts agree closely. The formal call seems peculiar to the Apostles, and Mark and Luke mention Matthew, not Levi, among the Twelve. The former was probably the apostolic name, the latter the ordinary one. Matthew himself mentions the former only. Although ‘the son of Alpheus,’ he was not the brother of James, the son of Alpheus. See Matthew 10:3; Matthew 12:46.
Sitting at the place of toll, or ‘the toll-booth.’ Like the four fishermen, at his regular employment, and probably previously acquainted with Jesus.
Follow me, in the specific sense, as in chap. Matthew 4:19. Matthew obeyed in this sense, ‘he left all, rose up, and followed him’ (Luke 5:28); certainly not simply; walked after Jesus into His place of residence.
Matthew 9:10. And it came to pass. All three accounts are indefinite as to the length of the interval. As already intimated, the arrangement of Matthew’s narrative seems to have been occasioned by the fact that Jairus came to his house, where the Pharisees were objecting to the keeping company with publicans. The mention of the feast required a notice of the call of the publican; and the call occurred during the powerful impression made by the healing of the paralytic
The house, that of Matthew himself (Luke 5:29), who made a great feast for our Lord, although he modestly omits the mention of that fact. The common version has inserted ‘Jesus’ at the beginning of the verse, and omitted it at the close, without any authority.
Many publicans and sinners came and sat at meat with Jesus and his disciples. Luke says they were invited, and Mark: ‘they were many and they followed him.’ The general character of the publicans may be inferred from their associates, ‘sinners,’ i.e., persons excommunicated and generally disreputable. On the word ‘publicans,’ comp. chap. Matthew 5:46.
Matthew 9:11. And when the Pharisees saw it. Our Lord had just returned from Gadara, and they would be on the watch for Him; or hearing that He was at the publican’s feast, they pressed in. They were not at the feast; the conversation took place after dinner.
They said unto his disciples, not to Him. Bold enough to act as spies, but not to censure Him to His face.
Why eateth your Master, etc. The strict Jews would not eat with the Gentiles (comp. Acts 11:3; Galatians 2:12), and these classes were regarded as heathen.
Matthew 9:12. Our Lord, in figurative language, lays down a principle, applicable to the case, on their own estimate of themselves, and the publicans and sinners.’
They that are whole have no need of physician, but they that are sick. He is the Physician; the two classes are, the objectors and those objected to. Those thinking themselves whole (although really they are not) need not (or do not admit their need of) a physician, but those thinking themselves sick (which is really their case).
Matthew 9:13. Go ye and learn. The citation is peculiar to Matthew. ‘You are students of the Scriptures, yet do not know the meaning of the passage I quote; instead of finding fault, go and learn what you ought to know already.’ The Rabbins used such a form.
I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). The Greek translation is here given; the original Hebrew is: ‘mercy rather than sacrifice.’ God prefers mercy to sacrifice, and rejects the latter if it conflicts with the former. This the Pharisees had forgotten in their criticism of His conduct.
For I came not, etc. The best authorities omit, ‘to repentance.’ The sense remains unaltered.
The righteous, are those thinking themselves so, sinners, those convinced of their sin; not those actually righteous and sinful. The latter view is admissible; those actually righteous cannot be called to repentance, but this would not assert the existence of positively sinless men. The former view corresponds better with Matthew 9:12, gives a more direct reply to the Pharisees, and enforces the great lesson of the whole passage; sense of need is the first step toward Christ (comp. the beatitudes).
Matthew 9:14. The disciples of John. Luke puts the question in the mouth of the Pharisees, but by this time all the spiritual disciples of John must have become followers of Christ; the rest would lean toward Pharisaism.
Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft? Some authorities omit ‘oft,’ but it is better to retain it. The Pharisees, it is supposed, fasted twice in the week (Luke 18:12); the remnant of John’s disciples would be led to a similar practice, by his austere life. But thy disciples fast not? The complaint also implies: ‘if you are a teacher from God, why does your teaching result in leading your followers away from old-established forms and customs, confirmed by the example of our own teacher, John.’ A demand for a compromise between the old and the new, as Matthew 9:16 shows. External legalism here assumed to teach Christ; and John’s disciples borrowed aid from the Pharisees whom John denounced.
Matthew 9:15. Can the sons of the bridechamber. The companions of the bridegroom, as the bride was brought to his father’s house. The festive procession was usually in the evening, with torches, music, and dancing, and the marriage feast lasted seven days. The application is of course to the disciples of Christ; He Himself being the bridegroom. A common Old Testament figure. There may also be an allusion to the words of the Baptist (John 3:29) in which he represents himself as the friend of the bridegroom, Christ ‘Mourn’ and ‘fast’ are used interchangeably; genuine fasting springs from real sorrow.
But days will come, etc. ‘How sublime and peaceful is this early announcement by our Lord of the bitter passage before Him’ (Alford).
Then they will fast. A simple prediction, not a command, hence ‘will,’ instead of ‘shall.’ Real fasting takes place where there is real occasion for it. History shows that prescribed fasts become formal; that formal fasting is closely linked with Pharisaical ritualism.
Matthew 9:16. Two illustrations follow, naturally associated with a wedding feast
No one putteth a patch of undressed, or, ‘unfulled’ cloth upon an old garment. The patch of cloth that would shrink, placed on a worn garment, would tear the weaker fibre; and a worse rent takes place, since the new rent is all round the patch that covered the old one. What is antiquated cannot be patched up with what is fresh. The worn out system of fasting for fasting’s sake cannot be patched up with a piece from the new, fresh, complete gospel. It is often attempted. Many special applications may be made, but care must be taken that nothing directly appointed by God be deemed ‘antiquated.’
Matthew 9:17. Neither do men put new wine into old skins, etc. The skin-bottles common in the East Old ones would burst from the fermenting of the new wine, which would distend new ones without injury. This figure, representing an internal operation, is stronger than the previous one. The living principle of the new covenant, if we attempt to enclose it in the old ceremonial man, is lost, the wine runneth out, and the skim perish; even the form is destroyed.
But they put new wine into fresh skins. The second adjective is not the same as the first. New emergencies require new means. In this case, God had appointed the new means. The former figure seems most applicable to the mistake of John’s disciples; the latter to the subsequent dangers besetting the Apostles. Judaistic Christianity died, form and spirit were destroyed; but the freedom of the gospel for which Paul contended remained. The new life assumes an outward form, differing from the antiquated form, and we must seek to preserve both life and form: both are preserved together.
Matthew 9:18. While he spake these things. Either in the house after the feast, or ‘nigh unto the sea’ (Mark 5:21), where the conversation with John’s disciples may have taken place. There came. According to some authorities, ‘came in.’ The character of the man who came in heightens the contrast
A ruler (named Jairus; Mark and Luke), i.e., the president of the synagogue, in virtue of his position as one of the Jewish elders. Therefore of the highest social rank in the city, as Matthew and his company were of the lowest.
Worshipped him. ‘Fell at his feet’ (Mark and Luke).
My daughter even now died. Concise statement Mark and Luke give fuller details: the ruler says that she is at the point of death, and on the way news of her actual death arrives. He had some faith, but not that Jesus could heal with a word, so he asks: Come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.
The four miracles mentioned in this section seem to have occurred in immediate succession. On the way to the house of the ruler, the woman with an issue of blood is cured; the ruler’s daughter is raised; then two blind men receive their sight, and immediately after a demon is cast out of a dumb man, which occasioned the further opposition of the Pharisees (Matthew 9:34). In Matthew 9:35 we have either a general sketch of our Lord’s ministry, as in Matthew 4:23 or the brief record of another circuit through Galilee. The faith of the Jewish ruler was not so strong as that of the Gentile centurion. ‘Not even in Israel,’ etc. (chap. Matthew 8:10) was a later utterance. A man of the highest rank seeks Jesus in the company of publicans, driven by paternal anxiety. The deathbed of a child often the birthplace of faith. The Lord leaves the house of feasting to go to the house of mourning. The healing of the woman suggests: All believers do not show their faith in the same way (comp. the paralytic); retiring faith to be encouraged and brought to public confession; the timid, shrinking ones may be very near Christ; the many diseased women, whose sufferings must be kept concealed, have special need of Christ; faith is only a hand to lay hold of Christ, if it but touch the border of his garment He will strengthen it The delay on the way to the rulers house, to try and to strengthen his faith. The ruler of the synagogue witnesses the cure of one ruled out of the synagogue. Twelve years of sickness overcome, twelve years of health restored. The marked contrasts of the two miracles in Matthew 9:27-34: Two men, though blind, follow Christ, confessing Him, and are healed; a dumb man, who cannot confess, possessed of a demon (who might be encouraged by the blasphemy of the Pharisees), is brought and healed. ‘The first of these miracles was, so to speak, enacted on the threshold of the kingdom of heaven; the second at the gate of hell.’ Lange.
Matthew 9:19. Jesus arose and followed him. Jairus may have hastened, yet our Lord must have proceeded leisurely if His disciples, as well as the great crowd, which the other Evangelists speak of, accompanied Him. Crowds usually attended Him, but the presence of the chief man of the city would excite unusual interest.
Matthew 9:20. Comp, throughout the notes in Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48.
A woman having an issue of blood, etc. During twelve years of sickness she had spent all upon, as well as suffered much from many physicians, and only grew worse (Mark 5:26). The disease involved uncleanness, according to the ceremonial law, and on the part of the sufferer a sense of shame as well as fear. ‘However commonplace the case may seem to many, there are some in whose experience when clearly seen and seriously attended to, it touches a mysterious cord of painful sympathy.’ (J. A. Alexander.) Hence she purposely came behind him, or ‘came to Him from behind,’ and touched the border, or ‘fringe,’ of his garment. The edge of the outer robe which He wore. This was the slightest contact possible.
Matthew 9:21. If I do but touch, etc. ‘May’ should be omitted; she was timid, not doubtful. It is implied that she wished only to touch some part of His clothes, no matter which. She may have looked for some magical influence, but twelve years in the hands of physicians in those days would certainly excuse such a thought in a weak woman.
Matthew 9:22. Comp, the fuller accounts of Mark and Luke. She was healed at once; our Lord asked, ‘Who touched me?’ and thus constrained her to make public confession, sealed and strengthened her faith, presenting her to the world as healed and clean.
Daughter, be of good cheer; thy faith hath made thee whole. Comp. Matthew 9:2. Her faith is extolled, though so different from that of the paralytic.
Matthew 9:23. Matthew passes over the message, that the damsel was dead; the faith of the ruler already strengthened by the miracle was further encouraged by the words, ‘Be not afraid, only believe’ (Mark 5:36). Only Peter, James, and John (Mark and Luke) were allowed to follow Jesus into the ruler’s house.
The minstrels, i.e., the flute players, who attended funerals.
And the crowd in a tumult. There was always a horrible clamor at Eastern funerals; and the preparations had begun, for early burial was usual among the Jews. The lamentation often began as the last breath left the body. From the fact that the crowd outside was dismissed, and the crowd inside driven out, we infer, not so much, not to crowd the Saviour, as not to crowd into family grief, and rudely enter the sacred circle of deepest sorrow.
Matthew 9:24. Give place. A request for the crowd to retire.
For the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. A direct reference to the miracle, which He was about to perform. She did not die, as others die; but she is as one who sleepeth, for I am about to raise her, as one is wakened from a sleep. The same words were used of Lazarus, in whose case the actual raising from actual death is distinctly affirmed (John 11:11; John 11:14; John 11:44). There is also a deeper and more general meaning; for Christ has, by His own resurrection and His promise to raise believers, declared death to be but a sleep.
And they laughed him to scorn. They laughed Him down, not sharing the father’s faith.
Matthew 9:25. The crowd was put forth. They were put out of the house, as the next clause intimates that this putting forth took place before the Lord went into the chamber of death. The believing ruler exercised his authority in his own house, though it may have been a work of difficulty, for people cling to a funeral custom with singular tenacity.
He went in and took her by the hand. Possibly a condescension to the weakness of the father’s faith, but more probably an outward sign in the presence of chosen witnesses, to mark the power as His.
The damsel arose, or ‘was raised.’ Mark and Luke tell us the words used; the former in the language of the country. She was raised and also arose from her bed. Her age was twelve years, according to Mark and Luke. The three accounts supplement each other, showing the variety of independent witnesses.
Matthew 9:26. And the fame hereof, lit, ‘this fame,’ or ‘report,’ went forth into all that land. Many who had seen the girl dead, must afterwards have seen her alive.
Matthew 9:27. And as Jesus passed by from thence. Probably as He left the house of the ruler, certainly while on a journey.
Two blind men followed him. Peculiar to Matthew. Blindness was common in the East, and it was natural that the sufferers consorted. To follow Him, they need only let the crowd take them along.
Crying out and saying, Have mercy on us, thou son of David. Blind men naturally use their voices a great deal. The title, ‘Son of David,’ applied to Christ by all the blind men whose recovery is mentioned by Matthew, certainly implied His Messiahship.
Matthew 9:28. Into the house. Our Lord allowed them to cry on until He reached ‘the house’ (wherever it was), in order to draw out the expression of their faith. Possibly He would avoid a public response to the title ‘Son of David.’ The blessing is granted in such a way as to gain their faith and their confession.
Matthew 9:29. Then touched he their eyes. As an outward sign of His power.
According to your faith, etc. Faith is the hand which takes what God offers, the spiritual organ of appropriation, the conducting link between emptiness and God’s fullness.
Matthew 9:30. And their eyes were opened. A figurative but natural expression for restoration to sight.
And Jesus solemnly charged them, almost equivalent to ‘sternly threatened them.’ These men had already shouted their belief in His Messiahship, in the public street, and their over-ready zeal might provoke over-ready opposition.
Matthew 9:31. Their disobedience was undoubtedly wrong. They brought Him no glory (His fame was already spread abroad, Matthew 9:26), but tarnished their faith. Zeal which is not according to knowledge, fails to keep silent, even when authoritatively told to do so. They doubtless helped to arouse the hostility spoken of in Matthew 9:34. Over-zealous people are slow to discriminate between notoriety and success.
Matthew 9:32. As they went forth, i.e., the blind men. This miracle must, therefore, have immediately followed the last.
Behold. Another remarkable case, mentioned by Matthew alone. Both he (Matthew 12:22 ff.) and Luke (Luke 6:14 ff.) mention a similar case. Still another is mentioned by Mark (Mark 7:32 ff.)
They brought to him. Probably the friends of the man, but not necessarily meaning more than: ‘there was brought.’
A dumb man possessed with a demon, ‘a dumb demoniac,’ the dumbness being the effect of the possession.
Matthew 9:33. And when the demon was cast out, or, ‘the demon having been cast out,’ as a result, the dumb man spake, and the multitudes marvelled. The crowds collected on this eventful day had not yet dispersed.
It was never so seen, lit, ‘Never did it thus appear,’ in Israel. The double cure was remarkable. Some translate, ‘did he appear,’ referring it to the manifestation of Messianic power. There may be a secondary reference of this character expressed indefinitely through fear of the Pharisees.
Matthew 9:34. But the Pharisees said. Many of them were probably attracted by the fact that Jairus had called upon Jesus for help. If they had understood the saying mentioned in the last verse, as referring to the Messiah, it would provoke some such expression as is here recorded.
By, lit ‘in,’ in league with, the prince of demons, he coasteth out demons. As no mention is made of any reply by the Lord, the Pharisees may not have uttered the sentiment in Christ’s presence. On the meaning of this accusation see notes on chap. Matthew 12:22 ff., where it is openly preferred. Their state was even worse than that of the dumb demoniac; they used their power of speaking to blaspheme one who cast out demons, as if the cause of the latter were their own.
Matthew 9:35. And Jesus went about, etc. An appropriate introduction to what follows, as well as a fitting close to this account of the leading miracles performed by our Lord; almost identical with Matthew 4:23, which precedes the Sermon on the Mount, describing (as the tense in the original shows) a customary course of action. Luke indicates three journeys through Galilee, the second of which precedes the journey to Gadara, and is mentioned by him alone. If this verse refers to a journey distinct from that spoken of in Matthew 4:23, it must be the third. This third circuit seems to have begun before the Apostles were sent out (chap. 10 ), and to have continued until their return. The verse may, however, be only a general description of Christ’s ministry, closing the group of miracles.
Matthew 9:36. But when he saw the multitudes. The original indicates that this was on a particular occasion.
He was moved with compassion. Popularity called forth pity. Our Lord’s sympathy, like ours, was called forth by particular, passing events.
Because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd. A figure, showing the spiritual condition of the people. They were suffering (‘distressed’) from the burdens put on them by those who pretended to be their shepherds, the scribes and Pharisees, and uncared for by these, they wandered (‘scattered’) as sheep left to stray from the pasture. Their physical condition as He looked upon them doubtless made the figure especially apt. All who are without the good Shepherd are thus Spiritually vexed and abandoned.
CONNECTION. The concluding verses of chap. 9 , referring to a definite occasion, form a fit introduction to an account of the formal sending out of the Apostles. Matthew has already mentioned the first call of some of the Twelve. Mark and Luke tell how they had been chosen as a body some time before, after a night spent in prayer (Luke 7:12). The ministry of our Lord was now assuming a more prominent Messianic character, and having been under His instruction for some time, they are ordained as His chosen messengers. It suits the formal method of Matthew to give a list of the Twelve at this point. According to all three Evangelists, the date is near the close of the second year of our Lord’s ministry.
THE TWELVE APOSTLES. In the four lists given by Matthew (Matthew 10:2-4), Mark (Mark 3:16-19), and Luke (Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13), we find the name of Peter first, that of Philip fifth, that of James the son of Alpheus ninth; while between, the same names occur in different order, Judas Iscariot being always put last. The Twelve seem to be thus distinguished into three sets of four each. In the first the four fishermen, who were once partners in business, are placed together. Besides these two pairs of brothers, we have two brothers (perhaps three) in the third set, while Philip and Bartholomew were friends. All but Judas were Galileans, a number had been disciples of John, Our Lord therefore had regard to natural relationship and mental affinity in the construction of the Apostolate, and the same principle holds good in all His dealings with the church. Those friendships and fraternal ties are blessed which are strengthened by common attachment to our Friend and Elder Brother.
The rest of the chapter contains the discourse delivered to the Twelve, designed for their immediate mission, but also (especially the latter part) for their greater subsequent work.
Matthew 9:37. His disciples. Probably including more than the twelve.
The harvest, etc. The people were ready to hear; but could not, if more did not enter into the work. As yet, He was the only laborer. Our weak faith denies the harvest as much as it diminishes the number of laborers.
Matthew 9:38. Beseech ye. A strong word.
The Lord of the harvest, i.e., God. The harvest included the Gentile nations, for the laborers sent forth at this time afterwards preached to them also.
That he send forth laborers into his harvest. Real laborers are needed, but only such as God sends forth. This prayer to the Lord of the harvest was first answered in the sending forth of laborers (the Twelve) by Christ. The mention of a ‘shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36) suggests that the prayer should be for efficient laborers who are good pastors. New pastors now came to replace the old, oppressive ones who were appointed by law and not impelled by the Spirit.