Expositor's Greek Testament
THE HEALING MINISTRY CONTINUED.
And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.Matthew 9:1-8. The palsied man (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26).
Matthew 9:1. ἐμβὰς: Jesus complied with the request of the men of Gerasa, who had intimated so plainly that they did not want any more of His company. Whatever His purpose in crossing over to the eastern shore may have been, it was frustrated by an event which in some respects was an unexpected disaster. Was it rest only or a new sphere of work He was seeking there? vide notes on Mark.—εἰς τ. ἰδίαν π.: entering the boat which had been moored to the shore, Jesus returned with His disciples to His own city, to distinguish it from Gerasa, the city that shut its gates against Him; so named here only. When precisely the following incident happened cannot be ascertained. Luke’s indication of time is the vaguest possible; “on one of the days”. Matthew and Mark give it in different sequence, but their narratives have this in common, that they make the incident occur on arrival in Capernaum after an excursion; in either case the first mentioned, though not the same in both. Vide notes on Mark.
And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.Matthew 9:2. καὶ ἰδοὺ: usual formula for introducing an important incident.—προσέφερον, the imperfect, implying a process, the details of which, extremely interesting, the evangelist does not give. By comparison with Mark and Luke the narrative is meagre, and defective even for the purpose of bringing out the features to which the evangelist attaches importance, e.g., the value set by Jesus on the faith evinced. His eye is fixed on the one outstanding novel feature, the word of Jesus in Matthew 9:6. In view of it he is careful, while omitting much, to mention that the invalid in this instance was brought to Jesus, ἐπὶ κλίνης βεβλημένον, lying on a couch. To the same cause also it is due that a second case of paralysis cured finds a place in this collection, though the two cases have different features: in the one physical torments, in the other mental depression.—πίστιν αὐτῶν, the faith of the men who had brought the sick man to Him. The common assumption that the sick man is included in the αὐτῶν is based on dogmatic grounds.—θάρσει τέκνον: with swift sure diagnosis Jesus sees in the man not faith but deep depression, associated probably with sad memories of misconduct, and uttering first a kindly hope-inspiring word, such as a physician might address to a patient: cheer up, child! He deals first with the disease of the soul.—ἀφίενται: Jesus declares the forgiveness of his sins, not with the authority of an exceptional person, but with sympathy and insight, as the interpreter of God’s will and the law of the universe. That law is that past error need not be a doom; that we may take pardon for granted; forgive ourselves, and start anew. The law holds, Jesus believed, both in the physical and in the moral sphere. In combining pardon with healing of bodily disease in this case, He was virtually announcing a general law. “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases,” Psalm 103:3.
And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.Matthew 9:3. τινὲς τ. γραμματέων: some scribes present on this occasion. Ominous fact duly introduced by ἰδοὺ; its significance still more distinctly recognised by Luke, who gives it prominent mention at the beginning of his narrative (Matthew 9:17). Sure sign of the extent, depth, and quality of Christ’s influence.—βλασφημεῖ: of course; the prophet always is a scandalous, irreverent blasphemer from the conventional point of view. The scribes regarded forgiveness purely under the aspect of prerogative, and in self-defence Jesus must meet them on their own ground. His answer covers the whole case. There is more than prerogative in the matter; there is the right, duty, privilege, and power of every man to promote faith in pardon by hearty proclamation of the law of the moral world. This is dealt with first.
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?Matthew 9:4. ἐνθυμήσεις: Jesus intuitively read their thoughts as He read the mental state of the sick man.—ἵνα τί: elliptical for ἵνα τί γένηται understood = in order that what may happen, do you, etc. (vide Bäumlein, Schul. Gram., § 696, and Goodwin’s Syn., § 331).
For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?Matthew 9:5. εὐκοπώτερον (from εὖ and κόπος, whence εὔκοπος; in N.T. (Gospels) only the comparative neuter is found, as here). The question as to ability, δύναμις, is first disposed of; which is easier—εἰπεῖν: they are both alike easy to say; the vital matter is saying with effect. Saying here stands for doing. And to do the one thing was to do the other. To heal was to forgive. It is implied that it is easier to forgive than to make a palsied man strong. Christ means that the one is ordinary, the other extraordinary; the one is within the power of any man, the other belongs only to the exceptional man; there is no assumption in declaring pardon, there is pretension in saying “arise and walk”.
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.Matthew 9:6. ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε: transition to the other aspect, that of ἐξουσία, the point raised by the scribes when they looked a charge of blasphemy.—ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀν., ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: these two phrases point at supposed disabilities for forgiving. “Forgiveness takes place in heaven, and is the exclusive prerogative of God,” was the thesis of the scribes. “It may be exercised even on earth, and by the Son of Man,” is the counter thesis of Christ. Therefore “Son of Man” must be a title not of dignity but of humiliation. Here = one whom ye think lightly of; even He can forgive.—τότε λέγει. Jesus stops short in His speech to the scribes and turns to the sick man, saying: ἔγειρε, etc., also in Matthew 9:6, intransitive. The reading ἔγειραι in T.R., Matthew 9:6, is a correction of style, the use of the active intransitively being condemned by grammarians. Hence this various reading always occurs. (vide Suidas, s.v., and Buttmann, Gramm., p. 56.)—τὴν κλίνην, a light piece of furniture, easily portable.—ὕπαγε: all three actions, arising, lifting, walking, conclusive evidence of restored power.
And he arose, and departed to his house.Matthew 9:7. aid, done; a convincing argumentum ad hominem. Who would dispute the right to forgive to one who could do that, or persist in the charge of blasphemy against Him? At least those who do will get little sympathy from the mass of spectators.
But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.Matthew 9:8. ἰδόντες οἱ ὄχλοι. The people are free from the petty jealousies and pedantic theories of the professional class; broad facts settle the matter for them. They probably had no scruples about the forgiving, but if they, had the miracle would put an end to them: the manifest authority and power a witness of the non-apparent (ποιεῖται τὴν φανερὰν [ἐξουσίαν] τεκμήριον τῆς ἀφανοῦς. Euthy.).—ἐφοβήθησαν, they feared; may point to a change of mind on the part of some who at first were influenced by the disapproving mood of the scribes. The solemn frown of those who pass for saints and wise men is a formidable thing, making many cowards. But now a new fear takes the place of the old, perhaps not without a touch of superstition.
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.Matthew 9:9-13. The publican feast (Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32). The point of interest for the evangelist in this narrative is not the call of the publican disciple, but the feast which followed, a feast of publicans and “sinners” at which Jesus was present proclaiming by action what He formerly proclaimed by word: a sinful past no doom. The story, though not a miracle-history, finds a place here because it follows the last in Mark, in whose Gospel the incident of the palsied man forms the first of a group serving one aim—to show the beginnings of the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. The same remark applies to the next section.
Matthew 9:9. παράγων ἐκεῖθεν: passing along from the scene of the last incident, Jesus arrives at the custom-house of Capernaum (τελώνιον).—εἶδεν … Ματθαῖον λεγ.: there He saw a man named Matthew. (On the identity of Matthew with Levi in Mark and Luke, vide Mark.) Capernaum being near the boundary and on the caravan road between Egypt and Damascus, Matthew would be a busy man, but, doubtless, Christ and he have met before.—Ἀκολούθει μοι: Jesus acted on His own plans, but the recent encounter with the scribes would not be without influence on this new departure—the call of a publican. It was a kind of defiance to the party who cherished hard thoughts not only about pardon but about those who needed pardon. An impolitic step the worldly-wise would say; sure to create prejudice. But those who are too anxious to conciliate the prejudices of the present do nothing for the future.—ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν: prompt compliance, probably with some astonishment at the invitation.
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.Matthew 9:10. καὶ ἐγένετο, etc. The narrative of this incident in all three Synoptists is condensed, and the situation not clear. What house is meant (ἐν τῇ οἰκ.), and why so many (πολλοὶ)? “There were many,” Mark remarks, emphatically (Matthew 2:15), and the ἰδοὺ here implies that something important took place. Luke infers (for we need not suppose independent information) that it is a feast (δοχὴν), and, doubtless, he is right. But given by whom? Levi, according to Luke. It may have been so, but not necessarily as the prime mover; possibly, nay, probably, as the agent of his new Master. Our thoughts have been too much biassed by the assumption that the call of Matthew in this section is the main thing, and the feast an accompanying incident, a farewell feast of Matthew’s in which Jesus passively partook. The truth, probably, is that the call was a preliminary to the feast, the first step in the working out of a plan. Jesus aims at a mission among the reprobated classes, and His first step is the call of Matthew to discipleship, and His second the gathering together, through him, of a large number of these classes to a social entertainment; the place of meeting being, possibly, not a private house, whether Christ’s or Matthew’s, but a public hall. If Matthew’s house or Simon’s (in which Jesus probably had His home, vide Mark) was large enough to have a quadrangular court, the gathering might be there, where, according to Faber, Archäologie der Hebräer, p. 408, meetings of various sorts were held. In any case it was a great affair—scores, possibly hundreds, present, too large for a room in a house, a conventicle meeting, so to speak; a meeting with such people in the Synagogue not being possible. For further remarks vide on Mark.—τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ: publicans naturally, if Matthew was the host, but why ἁμαρ.? He was a respectable man; are the ἁμαρ. simply the τελῶναι as viewed from the outside, so named in anticipation of the Pharisaic description of the party? If Jesus was the inviter, they might be a distinct class, and worse, very real sinners, for His aim was a mission among the social Pariahs.
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?Matthew 9:11. ἰδόντες οἱ φαρ. Here was a good chance for the critics, really a scandalous affair!—τοῖς μαθηταῖς. They spoke to the disciples, possibly, as Euthy. Zig. suggests, to alienate them from the Master, possibly lacking courage to attack Him face to face.
But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.Matthew 9:12. ὁ δὲ α. εἶπεν: to whom? Were the fault-finders present to hear?—οὐ χρείαν, etc.: something similar can be cited from classic authors, vide instances in Grotius, Elsner, and Wetstein. The originality lies in the application = the physician goes where he is needed, therefore, I am here among the people you contemptuously designate publicans and sinners. The first instalment, this, of Christ’s noble apology for associating with the reprobates—a great word.
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.Matthew 9:13. πορευθέντες μάθετε: a common expression among the Rabbis, but they never sent men to learn the particular lesson that God prefers mercy to sacrifice.—καὶ οὐ, does not imply that sacrifice is of no account.—ἔλεος (ἔλεον in T. R., a correction by the scribes), accusative neuter. Masculine nouns of 2nd declension are often neuter 3rd in N. T. and Sept—ἦλθον: Jesus speaks as one having a mission.—ἁμαρτωλούς: and it is to the sinful, in pursuance of the principle embodied in the prophetic oracle—a mission of mercy. The words ἰσχύοντες, Matthew 9:12, and δικαίους, Matthew 9:13, naturally suggest the Pharisees as the class meant. Weiss, always nervously afraid of allegorising in connection with parabolic utterances, protests, contending that it is indifferent to the sense of the parable whether there be any “whole” or righteous. But the point is blunted if there be no allusion. καλέσαι here has the sense of calling to a feast.
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?Matthew 9:14-17. The fast-question (Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39). Τότε. Our evangelist makes a temporal connection out of what in Mark is merely topical, another of the group of incidents showing Jesus in conflict with current opinion and practice. Where it happened cannot be determined, but it is brought in appositely after the feast of the publicans, serving with it to illustrate the free unconventional life of the Jesus-circle.—προσέρχονται … οἱ μαθ. Ιωάννου. The interrogants here are John’s disciples; in Mark, unknown persons about John’s disciples with the Pharisees; in Luke, who treats this incident as a continuation of the last, the fault-finders are the same as before (οἱ δὲ). Mark probably gives the true state of the case. Some persons unknown, at some time or other, when other religious people were fasting, and the Jesus-circle were observed not to be fasting, came and remarked on the dissidence.—διατί: the interrogants wanted to know the reason. But the important thing for us is the fact, that Jesus and His disciples did not conform to the common custom of religious people, including the disciples of the Baptist. It is the first instance of an extensive breach with existing religious usage.—οὐ νηστεύουσι: the broad patent fact; if they did any fasting it was not apparent.
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.Matthew 9:15. καὶ εἶπεν: The question drew from Jesus three pregnant parabolic sayings: bright, genial, felicitous impromptus; the first a happy apology for His disciples, the other two the statement of a general principle.—οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος. The mere suggestion of this name for the disciples explains all. Paranymphs, friends of the bridechamber, companions of the bridegroom, who act for him and in his interest, and bring the bride to him. How can they be sad (μὴ δύνανται πενθεῖν)? The point to note is that the figure was apposite. The life of Jesus and His disciples was like a wedding feast—they the principal actors. The disciples took their tone from the Master, so that the ultimate fact was the quality of the personal piety of Jesus. Therein lay the reason of the difference commented on. It was not irreligion, as in the case of the careless; it was a different type of religion, with a Father-God, a kingdom of grace open to all, hope for the worst, and spiritual spontaneity.—ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι. While the Bridegroom is with them life will be a wedding feast; when He is taken from them it will make a great difference; then (τότε) they will grieve, and therefore fast: a hidden allusion to the tragic end foreseen by Jesus of this happy free life, the penalty of breaking with custom.
No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.Matthew 9:16-17. The substitution of νησ. τεύουσιν for πενθεῖν, in the close of Matthew 9:15, implicitly suggested a principle which is now explicitly stated in parabolic form: the great law of congruity; practice must conform to mood; the spirit must determine the form. These sayings, apparently simple, are somewhat abstruse. They must have been over the head of the average Christian of the apostolic age, and Luke’s version shows that they were diversely interpreted. Common to both is the idea that it is bootless to mix heterogeneous things, old and new in religion. This cuts two ways. It defends the old as well as the new; the fasting of John’s disciples as well as the non-fasting of Christ’s. Jesus did not concern Himself about Pharisaic practice, but He was concerned to defend His own disciples without disparagement of John, and also to prevent John’s way and the respect in which he was justly held from creating a prejudice against Himself. The double application of the principle was therefore present to His mind.
Matthew 9:16, οὐδεὶς … παλαιῷ. No one putteth a patch of an unfulled, raw piece of cloth (ῥάκος from ῥήγνυμι) on an old garment.—τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτοῦ, the filling, the patch which fills; of it, i.e., the old garment, not of the unfulled cloth (Euthy., Grotius, De W., etc.).—αἴρει ἀπὸ, taketh from = tears itself away by contraction when wetted, taking a part of the old garment along with it.—καὶ … γίνεται, and so a worse rent takes place. This looks in the direction of an apology for John and his disciples (so Weiss) = they and we are in sympathy in the main, but let them not assimilate their practice to ours; better remain as they are; imitation would only spoil a good type of piety. What is to be done with the unfulled cloth is not indicated, but it goes without saying. Let it remain by itself, be fulled, and then turned into a good new garment.
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.Matthew 9:17. The new parable of the wine and wine-skins is introduced, not merely because the Speaker is full of matter, but because it enables Him aptly to show both sides of the question, the twofold application of the principle.—οὐδὲ βάλλουσιν: nobody puts new wine into old skins; νέος applied to wine, καινός to skins (ἀσκοὺς καινούς). νέος is new in time, καινός in quality. That which is new in time does not necessarily deteriorate with age; it may even improve. That which is new in quality always deteriorates with age, like skins or cloth, vide Trench’s Synonyms, lx.—εἰ δὲ μήγε (vide ad Matthew 6:1): two disastrous consequences ensue: skins burst, wine spilt. The reason not stated, assumed to be known. New wine ferments, old skins have lost their toughness and stretchableness. “They have become hard leather and give no more” (Koetsveld, De Gelijkenissen, p. 99). That is the one side—keep the old to the old.—ἀλλὰ βάλλουσι … συντηροῦνται: this is the other—the new to the new; new wine in fresh skins, and both are preserved as suiting one another. With reference to the two parables, Schanz remarks that, in the first, the point of comparison is the distinction between part and whole, in the second form and contents are opposed to each other. So after him, Holtzmann in H.C. Weiss takes both parables as explaining the practice of John’s disciples, Holtzmann as giving reasons why Christ’s disciples differed from all others. The truth as above indicated lies between.
While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.Matthew 9:18-26. The daughter of Jairus, with interlude (Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56). Given by Matthew in immediate connection with the discourse on fasting, but by Mark, and Luke following him, in connection with the return from the eastern shore, after the story of the demoniac.
Matthew 9:18. ἰδοὺ … λέγων: exactly the same formula as in Matthew 8:2.—ἄρχων, an important person, a ruler of synagogue, according to Mark.—εἷς: peculiar here, but taken from Mark where it is intelligible, the suppliant being there described as one of the rulers of the synagogue. The word puzzled the scribes, and gave rise to many variants (vide crit. note).—ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν: this statement of Matthew, compared with those of Mark and Luke, which make the father say his daughter was dying, has created work for the harmonists. The patristic view (Chrys., Theophy., Euthy.), that the statement was an inference from the condition in which he left her, or a natural exaggeration, has been adopted by many. Probably it is an inaccuracy of the evangelist’s due to abbreviation. The girl was dead when Jesus arrived; that was all he cared about. The ruler thought Jesus could do anything short of raising from the dead, save even in articulo mortis. But our evangelist gives him credit for more faith; that Jesus can bring back from the dead, at least when death has just taken place.—ζήσεται, not remain living, but revive, come to life again (Fritzsche).
And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.Matthew 9:19. ἐγερθεὶς apparently refers back to Matthew 9:10, implying close sequence—feasting, fasting, dying; such is life indeed.
And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:Matthew 9:20-22. The story is suspended at this point by an interlude.
Matthew 9:20, καὶ ἰδού: a new applicant for help appears on the scene, on the way to Jairus’ house.—γυνὴ … ἔτη, a woman who had suffered for twelve years from some kind of bloody flux.—ὄπισθεν: realistic feature; from womanly shame or the morbid shrinking of chronic ill-health, or out of regard to the law concerning uncleanness (Leviticus 15).—κρασπέδου, Hebrew צִיצִת (Numbers 15:38), fringes at the four corners of the outer garment, to remind of the commandments. In dress Jesus was not nonconformist. His mantle, ἱμάτιον, had its κράσπεδα like other people’s.—ἥψατο, touched one of the tassels; the least possible degree of contact enough to ensure a cure, without notice; faith, superstition and cunning combined. Matthew 9:21. ἔλεγε γὰρ ἐν ἐαυτῇ: such was her little private scheme. Matthew 9:22, ὁ δὲ Ι. στραφεὶς καὶ ἰδὼν. Matthew’s narrative here is simple as compared with that of Mark and Luke, probably a transcript from Apostolic Document, concerned mainly about the words of Jesus. So far as our evangelist is concerned the turning round of Jesus might be an accident, or due to consciousness of a nervous jerk instinctively understood to mean something.—θάρσει, θύγατερ, again as in Matthew 9:2, a terse, cordial sympathetic address; there child to a man, here daughter to a mature woman.—πίστις, no notice taken of the superstition or the cunning, only of the good side; mark the rhythm: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε, again in Luke 7:50, where, with πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην, it forms a couplet.—σέσωκεν, perfect, not future, to convey a feeling of confidence = you are a saved woman.—καὶ ἐσώθη, and so she was from that hour. A true story in the main, say Strauss and Keim, strictly a case of faith-cure.
For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,Matthew 9:23-26. The narrative returns to the case of Jairus’ daughter.
Matthew 9:23, ἐλθὼν … καὶ ἰδὼν, circumstantial participles leading up to what Jesus said, the main fact.—τοὺς αὐλητὰς, etc.: the girl was only just dead, yet already a crowd had gathered about the house, brought together by various motives, sympathy, money, desire to share in the meat and drink going at such a time (so Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., ut ederent et biberent), and of course making a confused din.—θορυβούμενον, the part. = a relative with finite verb = the crowd which was making a din. The crowd, besides the αὐληταί, tibicines, flute-players, would include some hired mourning women (Jeremiah 9:17), præficæ, whose duty it was to sing nænia in praise of the dead. Mourning, like everything else, had been reduced to system, two flutes and one mourning woman at the burial of a wife incumbent on the poorest man (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.). The practice in Greece and Rome was similar; proofs in Grotius, Elsner, Wetstein. Vide also Marquardt, Handbuch der Röm. Alterthümer, vol. vii., p. 341, where it is stated that by the twelve Tables the number of tibicines was limited to ten, and that before the Punic war, at least, præficæ were employed.
He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.Matthew 9:24. ἀναχωρεῖτε, retire! Hired mourners distasteful to Jesus, who gladly avails Himself of this opportunity of dismissing them.—οὐ γὰρ ἀπέθανε: no need of you yet, for the maid (κοράσιον, dim. for κόρη, but = puella in late Greek) is not dead. A welcome word to naturalistic commentators, giving a plausible basis for the hypothesis of an apparent death or swoon (Schleier., Keim, etc.), not to be taken prosaically as meant to deny death. Yet Carr (C. G. T.) thinks it open to question whether it ought not to be taken literally, and doubtful whether κοιμᾶσθαι is ever used in a metaphorical sense in the N. T. or elsewhere. The derisive laughter of the crowd (κατεγέλων) is good evidence to the contrary.—ἐξεβλήθη: not to be pressed as implying physical force, non vi et manibus, sed voce jussuque (Fritzsche), a tone and manner not to be resisted, the house therefore soon cleared of the noisy crowd.
But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.Matthew 9:26, ἐξῆλθεν ἡ φ., against the wish of Jesus, who did not desire raising the dead to be regarded as a part of His ordinary work. Perhaps that was why He said: “she sleepeth” (Weiss, L. J., Marcus-Evang.).—τὴν γῆν ἐκείνην: Weiss thinks the expression implies that the evangelist is a stranger to Palestine (Weiss-Meyer).
And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.Matthew 9:27-31. Two blind men.—This miracle-narrative and the next paratively colourless and uninteresting. They bring under notice two new types of disease, blindness and possession accompanied with dumbness. The interest in both cases, however, lies not so much in the cures as in the words spoken.
Matthew 9:27. τυφλοὶ: blindness common from limestone dust in the air and changing temperature.—υἱὸς Δ., Messianic appellation, first time addressed to Jesus, a point of interest for the evangelist; not welcome to Jesus, who feared the awakening of false expectations. Therefore He took no notice of them on the way to His house, whither He retired after the last incident.
And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.Matthew 9:28. ἐλθόντι εἰς τ. ο. προσῆλθον: they follow, and Jesus at last takes notice of them, asking if they have faith in His power. His previous conduct might throw doubt on His willingness, but that is dispelled by speaking to them.—ναί: a prompt glad “yes” is their answer.
Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.Matthew 9:30. ἠνεῴχθησαν, a Hebraism. The Jews thought of blind eyes as shut, and of seeing eyes as open.—ἐνεβριμήθη, sternly enjoined (vide Mark 1:43). The paraphrase of Euthy. Zig. gives a vivid idea of the meaning, “looked severely, contracting His eyebrows, and shaking His head at them, as they are wont to do who wish to make sure that secrets will be kept”.
But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.Matthew 9:31. ἐν ὅλῃ τ. γ. ἐκ. (vide remarks on Matthew 9:26).
As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.Matthew 9:32-34. The dumb demoniac (Luke 11:14). A slight narrative, very meagre in comparison with the story of the Gerasene demoniac, the interest centring in the conflicting comments of spectators which probably secured for it a place in the Logia of Matthew.
Matthew 9:32. Αὐτῶν ἐξερχομένων: while the two blind men are going out they bring another sufferer to the great Healer; an incessant stream of applicants for aid flowing towards His door.—κωφὸν: dumbness the apparent symptom. The word literally means blunt, and in Homer (Il., ii. 390) is applied to a weapon. In N. T. it is used with reference to the senses and faculties, here the faculty of speech (Matthew 9:33, ἐλάλησεν), in Matthew 11:5, that of hearing.—δαιμονιζόμενον: the inferred cause. It was known that the dumbness was not due to any physical defect. Speech seemed to be prevented by some foreign spiritual power; the mental disease, possibly, melancholy.
And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.Matthew 9:33. ἐλάλησεν: that cured, speech followed.—ἐθαύμασαν: the crowd present wondered, hearing one speak whom they had so long known to be dumb.—οὐδέποτε ἐφάνη, etc.: thus they expressed their surprise; the like was never seen in Israel. ἐφάνη is impersonal, the reference being to the change in the man; the manner of expression is colloquial, and it is idle to discuss the precise meaning of οὕτως, and what nominative is to be supplied to ἐφάνη. It is more to the purpose to inquire why this seemingly minor miracle should make so great an impression. Perhaps we should not isolate it, but take it along with the other marvels that followed in quick succession as joint causes of admiration. The people were worked up into a high measure of astonishment which, at last, found vent in these words. So in effect Euthy., also Rosenmüller (“tot signa, tam admirabilia, tam celeriter, neque contactu tantum, sed of verbo, et in omni morborum genere”).
But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.Matthew 9:34. οἱ δὲ φαρ. ἔλεγον. The multitude admired, but the Pharisees said. They are watching closely the words and acts of Jesus and forming their theories. They have got one for the cures of demoniacs.—ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τ. δ: He casts out demons in the power of the prince of demons. Probably they did not believe it, but it was plausible. How differently men view the same phenomenon (vide on Matthew 12:22 f.).
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.Matthew 9:35-38. These verses look both backwards and forwards, winding up the preceding narrative of words and deeds from chap. 5 onwards, and introducing a new aspect of Christ’s work and experience. The connection with what follows is strongest, and the verses might, with advantage, have formed the commencement of chap. 10. Yet this general statement about Christ’s teaching and healing ministry (Matthew 9:35) obviously looks back to Matthew 4:23-24, and, therefore, fitly ends the story to which the earlier summary description of the ministry in Galilee forms the introduction. It is, at the same time, the prelude to a second act in the grand drama (chap. Matthew 9:35 to Matthew 14:12). In the first act Jesus has appeared as an object of general admiration; in the second He is to appear as an object of doubt, criticism, hostility.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.Matthew 9:36. ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους: in the course of His wanderings Jesus had opportunities of observing the condition of the people, and at length arrived at a clear, definite view as to the moral and religious situation. It was very sombre, such as to move His compassion (ἐσπλαγ· χνίσθη, post classical, in Gospels only). The state of things suggested two pictures to His mind: a neglected flock of sheep, and a harvest going to waste for lack of reapers. Both imply, not only a pitiful plight of the people, but a blameworthy neglect of duty on the part of their religious guides—the shepherds by profession without the shepherd heart, the spiritual husbandmen without an eye for the whitening fields and skill to handle the sickle. The Pharisaic comments on the Capernaum mission festival (Matthew 9:11) were sufficient to justify the adverse judgment. Their question on that occasion meant much, and would not be forgotten by Jesus.—ἐσκυλμένοι, ἐριμμένοι, graphic words, clear as to general import, though variously understood as to their precise meaning. The former may mean “flayed” (from σκῦλον, Holtz., H. C.), or “hunted” and tired out (Weiss-Meyer), the practical sense is “exhausted by long, aimless wandering, foot-sore and fleece-torn”. The other points to the natural sequel—lying down, scattered about (ῥίπτω), here one, there another, on the hill side, just where they found themselves unable to go a step further. A flock can get into such a condition only when it has no shepherd to care for it and guide it to the pastures.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;Matthew 9:37-38. θερισμὸς: a new figure coming in abruptly in the narrative, but not necessarily so close together in Christ’s mind. The one figure suits the mood of passive sympathy; the other, that of the harvest, suits the mood of active purpose to help. It would not be long in the case of Jesus before the one mood passed into the other. He could not be a mere pitying spectator. He must set on foot a mission of help. The Capernaum feast was the first stage; the mission of the twelve the second. The word “harvest” implies spiritual susceptibility. Weiss protests against this inference as allegorising interpretation of a parabolic saying which simply points to the want of suitable labourers (vide L. J,. ii. 119). So also Schanz maintains, against Euthy., that not susceptibility but need is pointed to. But, as against Weiss, it is pertinent to ask: what suggested the figure of a harvest if not possibilities of gain to the kingdom of God, given sympathetic workers? This hopeful judgment as to the people of the land, contrasted with Pharisaic despair and contempt, was characteristic of Jesus (vide my Kingdom of God, chap. 5).—ἐργάται ὀλίγοι: professional labourers, men busying themselves with inculcation of moral and religious observances, abundant; but powerless to win the people because without sympathy, hope, and credible acceptable Gospel. Their attempts, if any, only make bad worse—(sub legis onere ægrotam plebem, Hilary). “Few”—as yet only one expert, but He is training others, and He has faith in prayer for better men and times.
Matthew 9:38. δεήθητε: the first step in all reform—deep, devout desire out of a profound sense of need. The time sick and out of joint—God mend it!—ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ, etc. The prayer, expressed in terms of the parabolic figure, really points to the ushering in of a new era of grace and humanity—Christian as opposed to Pharisaic, legal, Rabbinical. In the old time men thought it enough to care for themselves even in religion; in the new time, the impulse and fashion would be to care for others. ἐκβάλῃ, a strong word (cf. Mark 4:29, ἀποστέλλει), even allowing for the weakened force in later Greek, implying Divine sympathy with the urgent need. Men must be raised up who can help the time. Christ had thorough faith in a benignant Providence. Luke gives this logion in connection with the mission of the seventy (Matthew 10:2).
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.