WHILE JESUS DEMONSTRATES COMPASSION IN HEALING AND VALUES EVEN WEAK FAITH, THE RESPONSE TO HIM BEGINS TO REFLECT POLARIZATION
Grant Osborne: This final set of three miracles continues the emphases in the others on Jesus’ authority and compassion for the marginalized in society (8:16–17; 9:2, 22) as well as on the faith of those healed (8:10, 13; 9:2, 22, 28–29). The contrast between Jesus’ popularity with the crowds (8:1; 9:8, 26, 31, 33) and the opposition of the leaders is again noted (9:3, 11, 34), who for the first time attribute his exorcisms to Satan (9:34; cf. 12:22–32). The contrast between the simple faith of the ruler of the synagogue in 9:18 and the radical rejection of the Pharisees in 9:34 is stark.
David Thomas: We take these four cases together, because they contain so much that is common to one another, and the general meaning of each will gain power and prominence by the combination.
Craig Blomberg: Verse 33 contains the strongest statement to date of the crowds’ positive response to Jesus’ healing, but v. 34 immediately follows with the strongest statement to date of the Jewish leaders’ opposition. A polarization is beginning which Matthew will develop more explicitly as his Gospel unfolds. And a progression may be discerned within these three passages—from a completely positive response in 9:26, to hints of possible trouble in 9:30-31, to overt hostility in 9:34.
Richard Gardner: In 9:18-34 Matthew concludes the collection of stories that began at 8:1. Like the first trilogy of stories (in 8:1-17), the three narratives included here focus on Jesus’ power to heal: A chronic disease is finally cured. A dead child is raised up. The blind receive the gift of sight. A deaf mute begins to speak.
For the author, the deeds reported in these stories are significant at two levels.
- First, they anticipate the catalogue of miracles ascribed to Jesus in 11:1-5, illustrating some of the deeds for which we have not yet had examples.
- Second, they provide further evidence that the coming age of salvation is drawing near in Jesus’ work. Together with the healing of the paralytic reported earlier, these deeds fulfill the promise of Isaiah 35:5-6: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”
R. T. France: With this final triad of miracle stories Matthew brings to a close his comprehensive collage of the authoritative activity of the Messiah in chapters 8–9, both in his unquestioned power over a wide variety of threatening forces, natural and supernatural, and in the uncompromising demand which he makes on those who are called to follow him. But the overriding note is not one of hard power but of deliverance and joy, as people are set free from danger, disease, demonic powers and death, and called to share with Jesus in enjoying the new wine of the kingdom of heaven.
William Barclay: People can come to Jesus from different motivations:
- Desperation drove the synagogue ruler (everything else had failed);
- Superstition (at least inadequate faith) drove the woman with the issue of blood;
- Blind men came to Jesus with a very inadequate conception of who he was;
Here is an astonishing thing. The ruler came to Jesus with an inadequate motive; the woman came to Jesus with an inadequate faith; the blind men came to Jesus with an inadequate conception of who he was, or, if we like to put it so, with an inadequate theology; and yet they found his love and power waiting for their needs. Here we see a tremendous thing. It does not matter how we come to Christ, if only we come. No matter how inadequately and how imperfectly we come, his love and his arms are open to receive us.
There is a double lesson here. It means that we do not wait to ask Christ’s help until our motives, our faith and our theology are perfect; we may come to him exactly as we are. And it means that we have no right to criticize others whose motives we suspect, whose faith we question and whose theology we believe to be mistaken. It is not how we come to Christ that matters; it is that we should come at all, for he is willing to accept us as we are, and able to make us what we ought to be.
John Nolland: The present unit is the first of the three miracle episodes which Matthew gathers under the rubric: ‘new wine into fresh wineskins’ (see at 9:14-17). Jesus does not mourn the dead but raises them; he breaks the shackles of a perpetual menstrual uncleanness. . . The headline theme of the final set of three miracle stories: the newness of that which comes with the presence of Jesus.
Daniel Doriani: Their stories begin the third set of miracles described in Matthew 8–9. Each one breaks new ground.
- In the first three, Jesus healed diseases such as leprosy and a fever (8:1–17).
- In the next group, he exercised his power over nature by calming a storm, and he exercised his power over spirits by casting out demons (8:18–9:8).
- In the last set of miracles, Jesus addresses new problems: He raises the dead and heals the blind and the mute (9:18–34).
Matthew’s lesson has two elements.
- First, Jesus’ miracles are designed to lead people to genuine faith and discipleship.
- Second, Jesus is worthy of such faith; in the final miracles, he completes the signs of the Messiah described in Isaiah 35:1–10.
- Restoring nature (35:1–2)
- Giving strength to the weak and restoration to the lame (35:3, 6)
- Giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute (35:5–6).
I. (:18-26) HEALING A WOMAN WITH CHRONIC BLOOD FLOW AND RAISING A YOUNG DAUGHTER OF A SYNAGOGUE OFFICIAL
Stanley Saunders: Matthew here tells a story within a story. Both episodes feature interactions with females, one a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years and the other a young girl who has died. In both stories the healing involves touch: first the woman touching the hem of Jesus’ clothes (9:20), and then Jesus taking the little girl by the hand (9:25). Both situations suggest a risk of defilement, the woman because of her flow of blood and the girl because she is “dead.” Jesus’ willingness to touch and be touched by women demonstrates how God’s power pushes back the barriers that divide male from female. The wineskin of God’s empire includes women and men alike.
A. (:18-19) Urgent Crisis – Appeal to the One Who Has Power over Death
- (:18) Desperate Appeal by the Synagogue Ruler
“While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.’”
Craig Blomberg: this influential religious leader believes that Jesus can miraculously reclaim his daughter’s life. The faith to which Jesus will explicitly point in v. 22 is implicitly present here already. As before (8:7), Jesus and his troupe go at once to help.
- (:19) Compassionate Response of Jesus
“And Jesus rose and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.”
B. (:20-22) Intruding Crisis – Appeal to the One Who Can Heal and Cleanse
- (:20-21) Desperate Approach by the Woman with Chronic Blood Flow
“And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.’”
Robert Gundry: (“Hemorrhage” is too strong a term, for she couldn’t have survived twelve years of suffering the amount of blood loss usually connoted by that term.)
D. A. Carson: Having heard of others who had been healed at Jesus’ touch, this woman decided to touch even a tassel of Jesus’ cloak (v.21). Moved in part by a superstitious view of Jesus, she struggled through the crowd, which, because of her “unclean” condition, she should have avoided.
Leon Morris: He speaks of a woman who had severe bleeding over a period of twelve years (the same span of time as the life of the ruler’s little girl; Mark tells us that she was twelve years old, Mark 5:42). The woman’s disability was not only a physical malady but one that had significant social implications; she would have been ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:25-27), and therefore cut off from the ceremonial observances of the community. She could not join in worship, and her contact with other people would have been restricted because even a touch from her would make people unclean (Lev. 15:27). It was probably this that made her take the approach she did. She was convinced that one touch of Jesus would bring her healing, and she managed to effect this without drawing anyone’s attention. With a crowd of people thronging around Jesus she was able to come up behind him and touch just the tassel of his cloak. . .
There seems to be an element of superstition mingled with the faith of the woman, but Jesus did not reject her; he responded to the faith that he discerned. She certainly had the deep conviction that Jesus could cure her. If only she could get close enough to touch him, she would be free forever from her terrible disability.
Richard Gardner: In a bold and presumptuous act, she comes up behind Jesus and touches the fringe of his cloak.
William Barclay: These fringes were four tassels of hyacinth blue worn by a Jew on the corners of his outer garment. They were worn in obedience to the injunction of the law in Numbers 15:37–41 and Deuteronomy 22:12. Matthew again refers to them in 14:36 and 23:5. They consisted of four threads passing through the four corners of the garment and meeting in eight. one of the threads was longer than the others. It was twisted seven times round the others, and a double knot formed; then eight times, then eleven times, then thirteen times. The thread and the knots stood for the five books of the law.
The idea of the fringe was twofold.
- It was meant to identify a Jew as a Jew, and as a member of the chosen people, no matter where he was;
- and it was meant to remind a Jew every time he put on and took off his clothes that he belonged to God.
- (:22) Compassionate Response of Jesus
“But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ And at once the woman was made well.”
Craig Blomberg: The reader wonders if Jesus deliberately delays his journey to Jairus’s home so as to be able to perform not just a healing but a restoration of life (as with Lazarus in John 11:6), but Matthew leaves no clues. Instead he shifts his focus immediately to this second woman, who also believes in Jesus’ power to heal.
C. (:23-26) Dramatic Resurrection
- (:23-24) Repudiation of the Dominion of Death
“And when Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24 He began to say, ‘Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him.”
Donald Hagner: When Jesus comes to the ruler’s house, he encounters a gathering of people readying themselves for the funeral that would take place the same day, as was the custom in that culture. τοὺς αὐλητάς, “the flute players,” were professional musicians (cf. for festive occasions, 11:17; Rev 18:22) who were apparently hired to play at funerals. Matthew’s ὄχλον θορυβούμενον, lit. “crowd in an uproar,” represents the loud wailing, typical in that culture, of those mourning the death of the girl (cf. Jer 48:36; Mark 5:38; Jos. J. W. 3.9.5 §437 and Str-B 1:521–23 [m. Ketub. 4.4; m. Šabb. 23.4]). All of this indicated that the girl had died. For Jesus, who is about to bring the girl back to life, the lamenting is inappropriate, and so the mourners are told to “go away.” They are not needed because the girl ἀλλὰ καθεύδει, “is but sleeping.” Death for Jesus is not the final word; the dead can be brought back to life. This expectation causes the Church ultimately to use the same verb, καθεύδω, for those who have died: they are but “asleep” (1 Thess 5:10; Eph 5:14; cf. κοιμᾶσθαι: 27:52; John 11:11–14; 1 Cor 15:6, 20; 1 Thess 4:13–18; for OT background, see Dan 12:2). Jesus does not deny the girl’s death but rather the finality of that death.
William Barclay: The music of the flute was especially associated with death. The Talmud lays it down: ‘The husband is bound to bury his dead wife, and to make lamentations and mourning for her, according to the custom of all countries. And also the very poorest among the Israelites will not allow her less than two flutes and one wailing woman; but, if he be rich, let all things be done according to his qualities.’ Even in Rome, the flute-players were a feature of days of grief. There were flute-players at the funeral of the Roman emperor Claudius, and Seneca tells us that they made such a shrilling that even Claudius himself, dead though he was, might have heard them. So insistent and so emotionally exciting was the wailing of the flute that Roman law limited the number of flute-players at any funeral to ten.
D. A. Carson: Jesus was about to reverse funeral symbolism of the finality of death. The “noisy crowd” was made up of friends mourning, not in the hushed whispers characteristic of our Western funerals, but in loud outbursts of grief and wailing augmented by cries of hired mourners. Jesus’ miracle not only brought a corpse to life (v.24) but hope to despair.
- (:25) Raising of the Dead Girl
“But when the crowd had been put out,
He entered and took her by the hand; and the girl arose.”
Grant Osborne: The Authority of Jesus at a Climax —
Jesus progresses from healing a serious illness to raising the dead. Every kind of supernatural miracle has occurred in this section—nature miracle, exorcism, healing miracle, and now the ultimate occurs as a harbinger of the climax that becomes the center point of history, the resurrection of Christ himself. The one who has the power to raise a little girl has the power also to conquer death himself.
John MacArthur: The miracles of Jesus were the verification of His power to reverse the curse, the verification of His power to establish the kingdom. For He had said in John chapter 5, you remember, that He would someday raise from the dead all that were in the graves. And if He’s going to do that, He’s going to have to demonstrate that He has the power to do that. And so, miracle upon miracle did He do to verify His power.
- (:26) Reputation of Jesus Spread Widely
“And this news went out into all that land.”
Robert Gundry: The anonymity of the land into which went the report of Jesus’ raising the girl foreshadows the proclamation of the gospel in “the whole inhabited [earth]” (24:14).
Richard Gardner: Together, the stories of the woman and the girl establish that
(1) Jesus’ power to restore life is total, and
(2) faith that reaches out to Jesus lets us receive that power.
II. (:27-31) HEALING TWO BLIND MEN
A. (:27) Pathetic Plight
“And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, and saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’”
Leon Morris: There are no miracles of the giving of sight in the Old Testament, nor in the New after the Gospels (the restoration of sight to Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9:17-18, is not of the same order). But in Jesus’ ministry there are more miracles of the giving of sight than of any other single category. The giving of sight is a divine activity (Exod. 4:11; Ps. 146:8), and it has messianic significance (Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). Matthew has a story very similar to this one in 20:29-34 (with parallels in Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43). In both of Matthew’s stories the blind men cried out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David,” in both Jesus touched their eyes, and in both their eyes were opened. But this story is located in Galilee, while the later one takes place near Jericho; here the men follow Jesus whereas there they sit by the way. In the later story people told the blind men that Jesus was passing and then rebuked them for crying out, Jesus called the blind men to him (here they follow him into the house), he asked what they wanted (here he questions them about their faith), and the story ends with the blind men following him (here with them spreading the story throughout the region). It seems plain enough that Matthew regarded the two stories as distinct, and that it is the later one that is paralleled in the other Synoptists.
Craig Blomberg: Matthew’s twin themes of Jesus’ rejection by official Judaism and acceptance by outcasts reappear here and set the stage for an increasing polarization of response to Christ.
Charles Swindoll: As we recall the packed itinerary thus far in Matthew 9, I can imagine Jesus and His disciples were exhausted:
- the paralytic lying on the bed —healed (9:2-8)
- Matthew the tax collector —redeemed (9:9-13)
- the woman with incurable bleeding —cured (9:20-22)
- the daughter who had died —resurrected (9:23-26)
If anybody had earned a breather, it was Jesus. But as He made His way back to where He was staying —likely Peter’s home —two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” (9:27).
B. (:28) Focused Faith
“And after He had come into the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’”
R. T. France: Faith has been mentioned as a key factor in previous healings, but this is the first time (and the only time in Matthew; he does not have a parallel to Mark 9:23–24) when it is explicitly set before the suppliant as a condition of healing. The centurion voluntarily declared his faith in Jesus’ authority to heal (8:8–10; so also the leper in 8:2, the official in 9:18 and, secretly, the woman in 9:21), but these men are required to do so. There is no obvious reason why this additional element should be present in this case, since it does not occur in the similar story of the healing of blind men in 20:29–34. But the faith, once declared, is made the basis of their healing, as Jesus uses another third person imperative as a “performative utterance” (see on 8:13, and cf. 15:28).
John MacArthur: And I’m struck by the utter lack of privacy that our Lord had, the relentless pressure, the barrage of unrelenting people who dogged His footsteps. He went in the house, and they went right in the house after Him. I don’t think any of us can even begin to fathom what it must have been like to have these tragic people just clinging to Him all through His ministry, knowing no moments of privacy, unless late in the night He were to go away to some private place of prayer.
C. (:29-30a) Marvelous Miracle
“Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘Be it done to you according to your faith.’
30 And their eyes were opened.”
Grant Osborne: Faith is an appropriating force, not a meritorious deed. The blind men were healed not on the basis of the quality of their faith but because they threw themselves on the mercy of Jesus. By faith we enter into God’s sovereign deeds and experience them spiritually; faith turns an event into a relationship, as we experience God as well as his work.
John MacArthur: Archbishop Trench in 1902 wrote this. I think it’s a marvelous thing. He was writing on this very same account in Matthew, and he said this, “The faith which in itself is nothing is yet the organ for receiving everything.” Now listen to this. “It is the conducting link between man’s emptiness and God’s fullness, and herein lies all the value faith has.” Now listen – “Faith is the bucket let down into the fountain of God’s grace without which the man could never draw water of life from the wells of salvation. For the wells are deep and of himself man has nothing to draw with. Faith is the purse which cannot of itself make its owner rich, and yet effectually enriches by the wealth which it contains.” That’s a great statement about faith. Faith is the bucket that dips into the wells of salvation. Faith is the purse which in itself is not the riches, but contains the riches. It is that by which we receive what God graciously gives. And He says your purse is big enough to receive all that I have to give. Your bucket is big enough to gather the waters of the wells of salvation. “‘According to your faith, be it unto you.’ And their eyes were opened.” What an incredible thing.
D. (:30b-21) Wasted Warning
“And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See here, let no one know about this!’
31 But they went out, and spread the news about Him in all that land.”
Grant Osborne: The “messianic secret” is better known in Mark than in Matthew but appears here often as well (see on 8:4, cf. also 12:16; 16:20; 17:9). Jesus did not want his messianic nature bandied about because the Jewish people expected only a messianic king but not a suffering Servant (Jesus’ disciples made the same mistake). The language here is particularly strong, with ἐνεβριμήθη (meaning “filled with anger” in John 11:33, 38) a stern admonition here, almost a rebuke. Jesus could not be more direct; he wanted no one to know. . .
The emphasis is on Jesus’ desire to avoid publicity and the impossibility of remaining silent when touched by Jesus. So as in 9:26, the news spreads throughout Galilee.
III. (:32-34) EXORCIZING A DEMON FROM A DUMB MAN
Donald Hagner: Again Jesus performs a messianic sign that points to his identity and his power and authority. The crowd marvels, for nothing like this had been seen in Israel. This reaction points to the newness of what Jesus represents. The direct, unmediated healing of the man’s inability to speak symbolizes the fulfillment and joy of the kingdom announced by Jesus. The image of the mute being given the gift of speech is itself again suggestive of the gospel. The readers of Matthew know that they participate in the good experienced by the mute demoniac. And those who have been healed in the most fundamental sense of the word—who have experienced salvation—are now themselves liberated to speak the good news of the kingdom. The response to that proclamation will be mixed, as it was to the ministry and message of Jesus. While some will respond positively, others like the Pharisees will be all too ready to find only evil in Jesus and his disciples (cf. 10:25).
A. (:32) Subjugation
“And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed,
was brought to Him.”
B. (:33a) Transformation
“And after the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke;”
C. (:33b-34) Polarization
- (:33b) Reaction of the Multitudes
“and the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.’”
- (:34) Reaction of the Pharisees
“But the Pharisees were saying,
‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’”
Stanley Saunders: The Pharisees also recognize Jesus’ power, but offer an alternative appraisal of the source of Jesus’ power: “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (9:34; cf. 12:24). They are more willing to admit the reality of demonic power in the world than God’s power, even when the results are liberative. We are left wondering who is really deaf and dumb.