Last week, we followed Jesus as He continued to perform miracles demonstrating who He is, the Messiah, the Son of Man prophesied to come. We left off with Jesus making a major point that He was given authority to forgive sin, and the demonstration of that authority was given in the form of healing a paralytic. The crowds are following the spectacle and seeking healing and deliverance from demons, but Jesus purpose is an eternal one, not merely temporal. So that we do not get mired in analyzing miracles in isolation, today we’ll work through the rest of Matthew Chapter 9 so that we can keep the over-arching context of what we are seeing here. Jesus is the Gospel, not the miracles. The Miracles testify of Him.
The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few
Matthew 9:9-38 (ESV)
Jesus Calls Matthew
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This is a good opportunity to point out the principle of interpreting the unclear with the clear in Scripture. Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is a bit of pointed sarcasm here. The last statement is the key to the sarcasm, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, He came to call sinners. Is He saying the Pharisees are righteous? Only in their own sight, by their own measure. The Apostle Paul addressed this very well in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 3:9-20 (ESV) | No One Is Righteous
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Clearly, Jesus was not acknowledging the righteousness of the Pharisee, but dismissing them according to their unbelief. A sick person needs a physician, but a sick person who believes himself to be well will not seek a physician. In fact, even when a physician tells the person, “you are not well” the sick person who esteems himself more highly than the physician will think the physician a fool and reject his call. When it comes to sin and salvation, there are no valid “second opinions”. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, for there were none to be called. All have sinned. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.
Matthew 9 | A Question About Fasting
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
I’ve seen this passage used to justify mandating some proposed change in church practice, structure, or doctrine. Such approaches usually compel the listener to git rid of the old and become new so that you can get a new and fresh (word/anointing/impartation/etc.). That is not what Jesus is teaching here. Notice that the disciples of John include themselves with the Pharisees in the fasts being questioned. The old wineskin is NOT about orthodoxy, stubborn resistance to change, or Pharisaism. What fasts are these disciples (and Pharisees) observing that Jesus’ disciples were not? The fasts of the Mosaic Covenant. The old covenant points forward to Christ. Now that Christ had arrived, He would usher in a New Covenant (wineskin) by His body and by His blood into which He will pour His Spirit (Pentecost) to all who are brought into the covenant by faith.
Hebrews 8:1-7 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
Hebrews 8:13 (ESV)13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Jesus made it clear that fasting in and of itself was not going away, just that the mandated fasts of the old covenant were not binding on the disciples who lived in the presence of God the Son, Jesus. A time would soon come when the disciples will fast, when the bridegroom is taken away from them. New wine in a new wineskin, we fast in worship to God in light of the Gospel, not the mere observances of the Law.
Matthew 9 | A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
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.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.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, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 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.
Faith. The father had faith that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead. The woman had faith that touching His garment would make her well (as opposed to making Him unclean). I’ve seen many a teaching follow rabbit trails out of this passage, stay focused on the message of faith in the person of Jesus. There were doubters (the flute players and crowd making commotion) who laughed at Jesus. These were unable to interfere with God’s work. Jesus put them outside, and healed the girl. The focus is on faith in Who Jesus Is.
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 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.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
Faith. Not in the miracle, but in the person of Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak
32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 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.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
Unbelief. Dangerous, stubborn, prideful, arrogant, narcissistic, unbelief. The sin of unbelief is our birthright in Adam. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for by His blood we might be made sons and daughters of the Most High, adopted into the kingdom of Heaven and into the Promise of Eternal life as our inheritance, in Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Amen. I want to take this moment also to point out a major distraction within the Pentecostal community. An unhealthy fixation on the apostolic signs and wonders is unhelpful for the preaching of the Gospel of Salvation. Jesus was walking in the flesh, preaching of His Father’s Kingdom and performing miraculous signs and wonders and unbelief yet remained. As the Apostles were sent out from Pentecost, the signs and wonders that followed them did not end their persecution either, but served as a testimony to their preaching, that they were indeed sent by Jesus Christ out into the world to preach. We have that word and the same Holy Spirit, but we dare not trade the preaching of the Word of God for the preaching of signs and wonders. That is backward and a huge distraction from our Commission as Stewards of the Gospel of Grace. Preach the Word, and God the Holy Spirit who remains Sovereign over His Gifts will convict the hearts and call sinners to repentance. I think it is fair to say to the Evangelical Church in general, “Stop trying to major in the minors, preach the Gospel, make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded.”
Matthew 9 | The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few
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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 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.”
We serve a truly Great and Compassionate God. Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom. He healed every disease and every affliction. There was nothing He couldn’t heal. There is nothing He can’t heal. Did everyone believe in Him? No, for if they had there wouldn’t have been anyone to plot His death.
We need more laborers today. Jesus told His disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. One final warning for this post to the modern-day evangelical church industry… the Lord of the Harvest sends out laborers into His harvest. It does not fall to men to scheme, manipulate, woo, and entice the lost into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no call to “church the unchurched” or to make the Gospel “more Relevant” to our culture. That’s not our call, that’s not our commission.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
In Christ Jesus,