Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Matthew 9 - More About His Authority and Laborers for the Harvest

LINK: Matthew 9


BACKGROUND

39. Jesus heals a paralyzed man: Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

Jesus continues to demonstrate His authority. Apparently, the illness of the paralytic was a result of his sin. Only God could forgive sins (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21). So, He was making a very bold statement about His divinity in this passage by forgiving the man's sin. I had always been confused about saying He has power to forgive sins but then saying "rise, take up your pallet and walk" instead until I read Luke 5:24 in the Message version:
Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both.…” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” (Luke 5:24 
Of course, this enraged the religious leaders and caused them to begin to oppose Jesus. Jesus knew their thoughts (another example of His divinity) and questioned them. The religious leaders may not have been impressed, but the crowd was filled with awe! 

40. Jesus eats with sinners at Matthew's house: Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32

This is the story of the calling of the author of the gospel of Matthew (also called Levi). He was a tax-collector but left this occupation to follow Him. Jesus accepted people from every level of society, even tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus was not going to follow the tradition of the Pharisees, but He was going to go to those who KNEW they had need because they were sinners. The Pharisees followed tradition without any sort of compassion for those who were spiritually sick.

41. Religious leaders ask Jesus about fasting: Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39

John's disciples wanted to know why Jesus' disciples did not observe the tradition of the fast.  Pious Jews fasted on a regular basis as a sign of repentance and in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  Jesus was saying there was no need to fast because the Messiah had already come! It was a time for feasting and celebration rather than fasting. Jesus was inaugurating something new by leading them out of Judaism and into the kingdom based on a relationship with the King (Him) and pursuing His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). 

By the way, there was really only one prescribed fast in the Old Testament, and that was during the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23), but it was often practiced by the people (Remember Anna who served God by fasting and prayer in the temple from Luke 2?).



89. Jesus restores a girl to life and heals a bleeding woman: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56

The story of Jairus' daughter is "sandwiched" around the story of the bleeding woman in all three gospel accounts.

Jairus asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter, but he had to wait for Jesus to heal the bleeding woman. It was a test of faith for him because his daughter died as he waited, but it was an opportunity for Jesus' power over death to be displayed!

Jesus told him to not be afraid (it might be wise to mark how many times Jesus said this in His ministry).  Essentially, He was saying, "Stop fearing in unbelief, and just keep believing." Mark records Jesus as speaking in Aramaic (a Jewish language related to Hebrew). He translated it into Greek, perhaps for his Greek-speaking, Gentile readers: "Little girl . . . get up." 

The bleeding woman had what might have been a menstrual disorder or a uterine hemorrhage. This would make her ritually "unclean" (Leviticus 15:25-27) and would exclude her from social relations. This was a double whammy of physical illness and socio-religious isolation!

Many touched Jesus, but He realized the touch of faith of this woman, and she was instantly healed. He called her "daughter," and this is the only recorded use of this term by Jesus in the gospel accounts. 

90. Jesus heals the blind and mute: Matthew 9:27-34

The two blind men addressed Him as the Son of David which showed they were aware that He was in the messianic line (Matthew 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31). This faith resulted in their healing. Even though Jesus warned them not to tell, they spread news about Him throughout the region. 

This is also symbolic of His power over darkness. He made darkness to light before them. Blindness is also symbolic of spiritual unbelief and ignorance (Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 15:14; Romans 11:25). He would not only heal physical blindness but spiritual blindness as well.

Jesus delivered the dumb (mute), demon-possessed man. While this was caused by a demon, not all physical afflictions are caused by demonic influence (Matthew 10:8). This healing and deliverance caused the multitudes to marvel, but the religious leaders accused Him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. 

Jesus refutes this in Matthew 12:22-37 which is later in the Matthew chapters but already covered chronologically in Event #74. (Matthew's gospel is all broken up when you look at it chronologically!)

92. Jesus urges the disciples to pray for workers: Matthew 9:35-38

Matthew 9:35 again reveals Jesus' three fold ministry already communicated in Matthew 4:23: 
1) teaching in the synagogues (to the Jews who were His primary target because they knew the prophecies about Him and would be His agents to spread the news),  
2) preaching the good news of the kingdom (which involved entrance by faith and not traditions), and  
3) healing disease and sickness (to authenticate His divinity). The crowds formed, and He felt "deep sympathy" (meaning of Greek word splanchnizomaifor them because their current shepherds had not led them on a path to the kingdom. 
Jesus wanted additional workers so that He could delegate the task of reaching others with the good news of the kingdom after He went back to be with the Father. He asked the disciples to pray toward this end. 

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

There are people all over the world who have yet to hear the good news of the kingdom. Let's pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into His harvest fields!

PRAYER

Lord of the harvest, would You please send out people who will labor in the harvest fields of the world. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 
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