The Word Made Fresh
1Then Jesus got into a boat and crossed back over the sea to his own town. 2There were some people carrying a paralyzed man lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their devotion he said to the man, “Cheer up, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3Some of the officials, talking among themselves, said, “This man is playing God.” 4But Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so sure that what I am doing is wrong? 5Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6Just so you will know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins” – he then turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Get up and take your mat and go home.” 7The man got up and went home. 8When the crowd saw it they were awestruck. They praised God for giving such power to mere mortals.
9As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man – Matthew was his name – sitting at the tax collector’s table. He said to him, “Follow me,” and Matthew got up and followed him. 10As he was resting in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and joined him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher dine with tax collectors and sinners?” 12Jesus heard them, and said, “People who are well don’t need a doctor; only the ones who are sick. 13Learn the meaning of the saying, ‘I want mercy, not sacrifice.’ I haven’t come to summon those who are righteous, but rather those who know they are sinners.”
14Then some of John’s followers came to Jesus. They said, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees practice fasting, but your disciples don’t?” 15Jesus replied, “Are wedding guests sad while the bridegroom is with them? 16Nobody uses a piece of new cloth that hasn’t yet undergone shrinking to patch an old coat. The patch will pull loose, and cause a worse tear to be made. 17And new wine isn’t poured into old wineskins because the skins will tear and spill the wine. New wine is poured into fresh wineskins; so, both the wine and the skins will be preserved.”
18While Jesus was speaking a man who was a leader in the synagogue burst into the house and knelt before Jesus. He pleaded, “My daughter has died! But if you come and touch her with your hand she will live.” 19Jesus immediately got up and followed the man, accompanied by his disciples. 20Suddenly, a woman who had been suffering from a bleeding disorder for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his robe, 21thinking that if she could only touch his robe she would be made well. 22Jesus turned, looked at her and said, “Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you.” And the woman was instantly healed.
23When Jesus came to the synagogue leader’s house, there were people playing flutes and a crowd making a racket. 24Jesus said, “Go away! The girl is not dead; she’s just asleep!” They laughed at him. 25When they moved aside, though, he went in and took the child by the hand, and she stood up! 26The news spread though the whole area.
27As Jesus was leaving, two blind men came after him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28He entered the house, and the blind men came to him. Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can do this?” They replied, “Yes, Lord!” 29He reached out, touched their eyes, and said, “Let it be done as your faith believes.” 30And their eyes were opened! Then Jesus, in a stern voice, said to them, “Make sure no one else knows of this.” 31But they went about spreading the news all around that area.
32After that, a man who was possessed by a demon and was unable to speak was brought to him. 33He chased the demon out, and the man who had been mute began to speak. The crowds were amazed. People said, “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” 34But the Pharisees said, “He runs the demons off by the power of the prince of demons.”
35Then Jesus traveled to all the villages and towns. He taught in their synagogues and told them the good news of the kingdom, and he healed every disease and illness. 36When crowds gathered he felt for them because they were threatened and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he told his disciples, “There is plenty of harvest, but not enough laborers. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers.”
1-8: Back in Capernaum Jesus forgives a paralyzed man and challenges the scribes’ reaction by healing the man of his paralysis. The same story in Mark (2:3-12) and Luke (5:17-26) has the man’s porters lowering him through the roof. Matthew, however, tells the story as if it occurred outdoors and Jesus instigated the encounter rather than the sick man’s attendants.
9-13: This gospel is the only one that tells the story of Jesus calling Matthew the tax collector as a disciple; Mark and Luke only mention his name in their lists of Jesus’ disciples. The gathering at his home with tax collectors in attendance gives rise to another criticism, this time from the Pharisees. Matthew tells the story as a setting for a saying of Jesus: “People who are well don’t need a doctor; only the ones who are sick,” and another quote from the prophets (Hosea 6:6).
14-17: A situation is presented that contrasts Jesus with John the Baptizer. John’s disciples fast as a spiritual discipline but Jesus’ disciples do not. It is unlikely that Jesus forbade the practice among his followers, but rather that he simply did not emphasize or require it. Also, his teachings on fasting would have required them to practice that discipline in secret (see 6:16-18), so we cannot say for certain that they did not fast. Jesus again uses the occasion to teach. He tells them that fasting is primarily a serious ritual, and thus has no place in a celebratory setting.
The bridegroom is a rich metaphor that has almost innumerous interpretations. What does it mean that the disciples of Jesus have been invited to a “wedding?” If Jesus is the bridegroom, who is the bride? Later interpretations assign the church as the bride of Christ, but how would the Pharisees and the disciples have heard Jesus’ statement?
The cloth patch and the new wine are both images of something new; Jesus is telling them that he is bringing a new thing into being. A cloth patch can’t be made from new cloth because it will shrink. Old wineskins don’t stretch, so new wine that is still fermenting will cause an old skin to crack open. The old forms and structures of their faith cannot “hold” what Jesus is bringing.
18-26: This story is presented more elaborately in Mark (5:21-43), who tells us that the leader of the synagogue was a man named Jairus. Matthew likes to emphasize the role of faith in the healing stories. He says, “Your faith has made you well,” to the hemorrhagic woman, and the leader of the synagogue expresses confidence that Jesus’ touch will raise his daughter from the dead (in Mark’s account the little girl dies while Jesus is on the way to heal her).
27-31: This story is unique to Matthew, although the restoration of sight is a major theme in the other gospels. It seems that Matthew tells the same story twice in slightly different settings (see 20:30-34) and with a different emphasis. Here, the two blind men receive their sight “according to their faith.” In the later scene two blind men are healed because Jesus is “moved with compassion.”
32-34: The next healing story is of a man who is mute. Note the progression of the healing stories: stopping a hemorrhage of blood, raising a little girl from the dead, recovery of sight, the exorcism of a demon accompanied by the recovery of the power to vocalize. Note as well that it isn’t until he gives speech to the maniac that the Pharisees become alarmed.
35-38: This section of Matthew’s gospel is now concluded and summarized: Jesus travels around Galilee teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every kind of affliction. This is the first time Matthew tells us Jesus was moved with compassion, but will not be the last for Jesus is more compassionate in Matthew than in the other gospels (see also 14:14, 15:32, and 20:34).
When we need to be healed, the first step is to ask. If healing isn’t granted right away, then we need to look for ways to use our situation as an example to others of how to accept whatever befalls us. The healing will come, but sometimes we must go to the hospital and sometimes we must wait until we get to heaven.