A Bible Lesson on Matthew 9:18-38

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The account of the raising of Jairus’s daughter that is a main part of this lesson is treated more in more detail in Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56.

Matthew 9:18  While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

“knelt before him” is a term suggesting deep courtesy, a pleading homage before someone in a position to grant a favor.  This is an important Jewish synagogue official, a member of a group that is beginning to count Jesus as a dangerous heretic, someone who has to be at the end of his rope/desperate in order to come to this place.  But there’s a kernel of real faith here.  He is willing to humble himself and throw his situation on the mercy of Christ.  And Christ is merciful.

19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.

Jesus doesn’t turn away the desperate, waiting until their motives or understanding are more pure. He got up and went with this man.

Then in the middle of this story of Jairus, it’s as if the camera zeros in and the action around Jesus is frozen except for this little scene that we hear through the thoughts of the woman.

20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment,

We know from the other Gospels that this woman is also desperate.  She’s spent her entire livelihood hoping to get cured from what seems to be a menstrual problem.  The consequences of her condition in this culture are that everything and anyone she touches are considered ceremonially unclean.  She can’t go to the temple, she can’t have normal interaction with other people, she’s in a terrible state.  If her condition were known to the people around, her presence would be considered to be as rude and forward as if someone with the plague had forced his or her way into a public gathering.

21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

Now her theology isn’t great.  It seems that there’s some superstition mixed in with her thinking here, but again, there’s a kernel of real faith.  She knows that it’s Jesus that can heal and she’s willing to appeal to Him.

22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

“Take heart” indeed.  She’s literally been “an untouchable” and now she’s done something completely socially unacceptable by making her way to and touching Jesus.  Anyone here (except Jesus) who knows her situation is going to be horrified-to-irate.  Jesus begins by setting her heart at ease.  Then He tells her that it’s not magic by which she’s been healed, it is the fact that she has cast herself upon the mercy of God, that she has appealed to the Son of God.

Modern “faith” heretics imply that it’s her state of mind that’s done the job, that she’s been able to name and claim her healing.  But real Biblical faith is trusting in, relying upon, cleaving to, casting oneself on the mercy of God, and that’s what’s in evidence here.

23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,

Professional mourners and flute players were hired by even the poorest of families.  The commotion here at a ruler’s house has to substantial.

24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.

This isn’t a mistake on the part of Jesus, neither is it a literal truth that she is merely unconscious.  She is dead dead.  She is gone.  Jesus is speaking in light of what He’s going to do.

From the point of view of the man in the street here, this is almost pathetic.  Jesus has messed up and not even gotten here in time.  The kid is gone, and now this deluded fellow is making matters worse by acting as if the game isn’t over!  If this weren’t the Son of God, this would be a sensible point of view.  But the fact is that this is the Son of God.

25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Now a third incident …

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

These men may be physically blind, but they see better than many others that have physical sight.  They recognize Him for who He is, God’s Son, Messiah.  And if He is Messiah, they can expect Him to deal with their physical problem.  Isaiah said so..

Isaiah 35:5  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

The understanding of these men regarding what kind of Messiah He is is almost surely imperfect.  They call Him “son of David,” a name loaded with popular expectations of political liberation and Jewish national power.  But they do have some light and they are determined.  Blind though they are, they follow Jesus home.

28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

“according to your faith” means “since you believe”  It is not “as you believe, so is your prayer granted.”  Again, these guys have cast themselves on the mercy of Christ.  Is their understanding perfect?  No, it is not.  But God doesn’t require that of us up front.  What He requires is a humble heart and our crying out to Him for grace.

30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”

Jesus is not anxious for wrong popular expectations of a political Messiahship to multiply.  But as one commentator says, the men didn’t stay with Him long enough to learn obedience.

31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

It’s an interesting feature of this story, that since there are two of them they together meet the Jewish requirement for 2 witnesses to confirm legal testimony.

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him.

Deafness and muteness in the New Testament are not by any means always attributed to a demonic source, but in this case there is demon possession.

33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”

Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel (and by implication, if not here, then nowhere!)  Ladd said, “The scribes taught and nothing happened.  Jesus spoke and demons fled, storms were settled, dead were raised, sins forgiven … His authority in deeds and words was nothing less than the presence of the Kingdom of God.”

34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

Boice contrasts 3 ways of speaking about Christ seen in these few verses.  The crowds spoke about Him, the Pharisees spoke against Him, and the demon-possessed man spoke for Him.  Jesus has ministered to ordinary people, people that the authorities would have called “people of the land,” people of little account.  He’s had compassion on their misery and responded to their simple trust.  In the same period there have been many in the same proximity to Him who have been fundamentally unaffected, or even taken offense at Him.

35 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.

Jesus went.  Jesus was going about.  The Greek indicates continued action.  Jesus is continuing to do exactly what Matthew has already said in Matt 4:23 He was doing.  He’s teaching the Scriptures and filling out their implications as He did in the Sermon on the Mount.  He’s preaching the good news of the Kingdom, He’s acting as a herald, saying that God’s kingdom is here.  And He’s doing acts of mercy that only He can do.

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

 The English fails to capture the depth of Jesus’ emotion here.  The “had compassion” is the strongest word for pity in the Greek language.  It describes the compassion that moves a man from the deepest depths of his being.  Green says it is something like “He was moved in His guts.”  In the Gospels, apart from its use in some parables, it only refers to Jesus.  J.C. Ryle does a wonderful job of emphasizing the compassionate nature of Jesus and making the point that if we claim to have the mind of Christ, and don’t have that heart, we are just fooling ourselves.  This is the nature of our great Savior.

“harassed and helpless” is literally “torn and thrown down.”  Jesus sees Israel and humanity in general in a terrible state.

The whole of Ezekiel 34 is relevant to humans as sheep needing a gracious shepherd.  For example, hear verses 22-24.

Ezekiel 34:22  I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep.

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.

Jesus is moved with deep compassion concerning lost humanity and He tells the disciples to pray for ones capable of shepherding these miserable sheep.

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

It is not an accident that the next thing we hear from Matthew is Jesus sending these very disciples out to minister in His name.  We are to pray for God’s mercy on our world and for His sending of workers … and we are to go when He sends.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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