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Go to Bible: Matthew 9
“his own city.” Capernaum. Jesus moved to Capernaum after the people of his hometown, Nazareth, tried to kill him (Luke 4:29-31; cp. Matt. 4:13). Jesus either bought or rented a house in Capernaum, because John 2:12 indicates he even moved his family there. As we see in this verse, Capernaum became known as Jesus’ “own city.” One of the reasons Jesus likely picked to move to Capernaum was that it was on the Via Maris, the Road of the Sea, which was the great trade route from Egypt in the south to Damascus in Syria and on to Mesopotamia (see commentary on Matt. 4:15). [For more about Capernaum being Jesus’ hometown, see commentary on Mark 2:1].
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).(top)
“brought to him a paralyzed man.” This record of the healing of the paralyzed man occurs in Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:3-12; and Luke 5:18-26.
“lying on a bed.” This was not a modern bed, but mats for sleeping. For more on beds in the biblical culture, see commentary on John 5:8.(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).
“speaks defaming words.” The religious leaders thought that by forgiving sins, Jesus was harming the reputation of God, who was alone thought to be able to forgive sins [For more on forgiving sins, see commentary on Mark 2:7].
Matthew 9:3 is the first use of the thirty-four uses of Greek verb blasphēmeō (#987 βλασφημέω; pronounced blas-fay-meh’-ō). The noun form of the word is blasphēmia (#988 βλασφημία; pronounced blas-fay-me’-ah), which occurs eighteen times. Both blasphēmeō and blasphēmia are transliterated (not translated) from the Greek into English as “blasphemy.” There is a problem with that, however, because “blasphemy” in English has a different meaning than blasphēmeō and blasphēmia do in Greek. In English, “blasphemy” is only used in reference to God. It is insulting God or a god, insulting something considered sacred (like defacing a cross or statue of Jesus), or claiming to be God or a god in some way. The BDAG Greek-English Lexicon correctly says that the English word blasphemy “has to some extent in English gone its own emotive way semantically and has in effect become a religious technical term, which is not the case with βλασφημέω.”
In Greek, blasphēmeō and blasphēmia did not have to refer to God or a god, but were common words that were used of someone speaking against another. The primary meaning of blasphēmeō and blasphēmia as they were used in the Greek culture was showing disrespect to a person or deity, and/or harming his, her, or its reputation. In the honor/shame society of the biblical world, that was even more heinous an act than we would think of it today, because honor and reputation were at the very core of societal status and were the basis of all social interaction. Perhaps a good comparable analogy is how horrible “losing face” is in the Asian society, which is an honor/shame society.
For the definition of blasphēmia, the Greek-English Lexicon by Louw and Nida says: “to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation (occurring in relation to persons as well as to divine beings) — ‘to revile, to defame, to blaspheme, reviling.’” The BDAG Greek-English Lexicon has: “speech that denigrates or defames,” hence “reviling, denigration, disrespect, slander.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines blasphēmia as, “speech injurious to another’s good name” and lists railing, reviling, and slander, as some of the definitions. Thayer also points out that not only is “blasphemy” a loan word into English, but it is in Latin also, and is “blasphēmia” in the Latin Vulgate.
Blasphēmeō and blasphēmia are used in the Bible of blasphemous speech towards God (e.g., Rom. 2:24; Rev. 13:6), but also it is often used of people; for instance, in Titus 3:2, we are commanded not to speak in this way towards anyone. Other examples of blasphemy against humans can be found in Acts 18:6; Romans 3:8; 1 Peter 4:4; and Revelation 2:9. Besides God and humans, the Bible also refers to “blasphemous” speech towards angelic beings (2 Pet. 2:10-12; Jude 8-10; Rev. 13:6). Lastly, it is also possible to blaspheme against impersonal things, such as the Word of God (Titus 2:5), or the Way of Truth (2 Pet. 2:2).
Given that the essence of blasphēmeō and blasphēmia is speaking words that injure or harm the reputation of another, we felt that “defame” was generally the best definition of those words, although sometimes “insult” seemed to be a better fit, or “injurious speech,” which is not outside the general meaning and semantic range of the Greek word. Many English versions use the word “blasphemy” when the context is about God but then change it to “insult” or “slander” when the context is people, but we felt that did nothing to clarify the fact that the Greeks and Romans used blasphēmeō and blasphēmia of God, people, and things.(top)
|Mat 9:4||- (top)|
“Which is easier.” Which is easier to say and accomplish, declaring someone’s sins are forgiven, or divine healing? They are equally easy. See commentary on Luke 5:23.(top)
“you.” The “you” is plural. So that all of you know.
“the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” This is an anacoluthon, an unfinished sentence. Jesus does not complete his sentence by words, instead, for emphasis, he completes it by action.(top)
|Mat 9:7||- (top)|
“given such authority to man.” Some of the teachers of the Law could not believe that a man could forgive sins. In a parallel account recorded in Mark they claim, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” [For more on the authority to forgive sin, see commentary on Mark 2:7].(top)
“a man called Matthew.” The calling of Matthew (also called Levi) is recorded in Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:14-17; and Luke 5:27-32. The three Gospels that record the calling of Matthew differ in some significant details. That is typical of the Gospels because each of the four Gospels has its own purpose and significance. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the king, Mark as the servant of God, Luke as a human being, and John as the Son of God (see commentary on Mark 1:1, “the Good News of Jesus Christ”). Before we get into some of the differing details, we must remember that this exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus Christ was more than just a couple of sentences. The Pharisees were the religious leaders in the Galilee and they were possessive and stubborn men, which is one reason they spoke to Jesus’ disciples and not directly to Jesus, and so the conversation between them and Jesus would have taken some time and many things would have been said—much more than is recorded in a very abbreviated form in Scripture. The back-and-forth between Jesus and the Pharisees gives room for each Gospel to record the event in light of its particular emphasis.
Matthew has the most intense engagement between Jesus and the Pharisees. For one thing, it is the only Gospel that mentions that Jesus quoted the Old Testament, saying, “I want mercy, and not sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6). This would have mainly been a rebuke, but also was an instruction to anyone with ears to hear. However, Matthew, Mark and Luke also have an intended rebuke in Jesus’ statement, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17). Calling the Pharisees “righteous” was a tongue-in-cheek rebuke because the Pharisees were not actually righteous in the sight of God (even though they thought they were), a point Jesus made on more than one occasion (cp. Matt. 5:20; Matt. 23:15-17). It makes sense that the Gospel of Matthew would have the most intense interaction with the ungodly Pharisees because it was the duty of the king to protect his people.
The Gospel of Luke shows the most interest in the “sinners” that Jesus was with, which is typical of Luke, which emphasizes Jesus’ humanity. Luke points out that Matthew made the feast for Jesus, indicating the honor that Matthew had for Jesus, and obviously Matthew’s friends were welcome, they did not “just happen” to be there. Also, it is in Luke that Jesus clearly stated a major part of his purpose for being at the feast: that he came to call sinners “to repentance” (Luke 5:32). That Jesus was there to make an impression that would lead the sinners to repent is not stated in Matthew or Mark, but shows Jesus’ love for the people. Jesus loved the sinners and did not want them to die in their sin, so he was not around them just to “hang out,” he was there to call them to repentance so they could have everlasting life (see commentary on Luke 5:32, “to repentance”).
“sitting at the tax office.” The tax office was close to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. See commentary on Mark 2:14.(top)
“the house.” Luke 5:29 makes it clear that it is Matthew’s house (called Levi in Mark 2:13-17, and Luke 5:27-30). Matthew was a tax collector, and so it makes sense that his friends were tax collectors and “sinners,” which is why so many people like that were at the dinner. This is a very good model of how to spread the gospel. Matthew became a follower of Jesus, and instead of starting to spread the Gospel by speaking with strangers, started by inviting his friends to a huge dinner and making sure Jesus was there to speak with them.
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).(top)
“Why is your teacher.” Matthew 9:11 and Matthew 9:14 are an interesting case study on how evil works to sow division and tear a group apart. Both the Pharisees and the disciples of John had questions about Jesus’ ministry. But the Pharisees were not really seeking an answer, and so they went to Jesus’ disciples and asked them about it. Their real motive in such an action was to discredit Jesus. The watchful Jesus saw the situation developing and stepped in and answered the question, but in a way that challenged the Pharisees to study the Word and rethink their position—which they never did.
In Matthew 9:14 the disciples of John had a question, but they went directly to Jesus and asked it. Jesus answered them too, but also in a way that would have caused John’s disciples to ponder the answer. Evil always works to break apart godly groups, and wise leaders are always on guard against those subtle attacks.(top)
|Mat 9:12||- (top)|
“I want mercy, and not sacrifice.” Quoted from Hosea 6:6. See commentary on Hosea 6:6 for more understanding of the why Jesus quoted that verse. Also, he quoted it a second time under different circumstances in Matthew 12:7.
“I did not come to call the righteous.” See commentary on Mark 2:17.
“but sinners.” [For more on Jesus calling sinners to repentance, see commentary on Luke 5:32].(top)
“fast often.” The Mosaic Law only required fasting one day a year; the day of Atonement. Leviticus 16:29 (KJV) says, “And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you.” The idiomatic phrase, “afflict your soul,” was known to refer to fasting. Nevertheless, fasting became a regular practice for many people.
The first fasting in the Bible is when Moses went up on Mt. Sinai for forty days and nights and did not eat or drink (Exod. 34:28). Often a fast was just from sunrise to sunset, much like Muslims do today during the month of Ramadan, and after sunset the person could eat (Judges 20:26; 1 Sam. 14:24; 2 Sam. 1:12; 3:35).
Fasting was done for many different reasons, but most often as a demonstration of humility towards God, and to get His favor. Of course for some religious people, including the Pharisees, part of the reason for fasting was so that others would see and be impressed (Matt. 6:16; 23:5). We learn from history, and from the example of the Pharisee, that the Pharisees fasted twice a week, Monday and Thursday (Luke 18:12). By the second century there were Christians who were fasting twice a week, but they chose days when the Jews were not fasting (Didache 8:1).
In contrast to fasting, feasting was common also. Feasts were generally held for an important occasion: weddings; the weaning of a child; the arrival or even the approaching departure of guests; sheep shearing time; the weekly Sabbath, which was considered a joyous occasion; the sighting of the new moon, which started the new month; and of course the Feasts in the Law such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the feasts such as Purim that post-dated the Law.
The life of a Jew who loved God was one that showed great dedication to God, and also showed a great love of life and enjoyment of what God had created.
On a textual note, there is some question as to whether the word “often” was in the original text of Matthew. Some Greek manuscripts include it and some do not have it. The Shem Tov Hebrew text has it, and that along with the Greek manuscript evidence is why the REV includes it.(top)
“wedding guests.” The literal Greek is “sons of the bridechamber,” which was an idiom for the wedding guests; and in some contexts more specifically for the friends of the bridegroom who were at the wedding.
“and then they will fast.” People fasted for different reasons, but often for a disaster or difficult situation, and to get God’s help with it, or to procure the favor of God. Jesus’ presence in and of itself brought “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19), and the grace and favor of his Father was upon him (Luke 2:40, 52; 4:19; John 1:14). This combined with the short duration of Jesus’ ministry on earth (likely just over a year; not the three years many people believe) in which he ate and drank with sinners, made physical fasting not the right choice. His disciples would fast after he left them.(top)
“no one puts.” This in Matthew 9:16 is an expansion of what Jesus had just said about fasting in Matt. 9:15. What Jesus was doing was so new and different that the “old system” of doing things would no longer be adequate. Jesus spoke of the “new commandment” he brought (John 13:34), but the truth is that he brought new light in many, many ways. Things like his approach to the Law, “you have heard it said...but I say to you” in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-34, 38-39, 43-44), or his way of dealing with sinners by being close to them, or his way of relating to women, were all new. The old way of doing things that was overseen by the likes of the Pharisees and Sadducees could not be just patched, it needed to be newly made.(top)
“Neither do people put.” This is an expansion of what Jesus taught in Matt. 9:15-16 (see commentary on Matt. 9:16). Old wineskins get stiff and inflexible, and so when the new wine ferments and expands, the old skin cannot expand with it like a new wineskin can, and so it bursts. Occasionally the pressure of fermentation is so great that even sometimes our modern glass bottles burst if wine is incorrectly or prematurely bottled. The understanding and way of doing things that Jesus was bringing to Judaism was “new wine” that could not be put in the “old wineskins” of the religious understanding of the Law and Prophets that was held by the religious leaders of his time. They, and the generations before them, had so thoroughly perverted the true meaning of the Law that they had become “blind guides” (Matt. 15:14). Jesus said that if you put the new wine (the new commandments and the new understanding of the Law that Jesus brought) and put it in the “old wineskins,” they would burst. Indeed, that is exactly what happened. His death and resurrection fulfilled the Law in such a way that the Law, if it was alone and apart from the risen Messiah it pointed to, was considered a veil that blinded the eyes of the heart (2 Cor. 3:15-17).
“wineskin.” A “bottle” or container made from animal skin. [For more on skin-bottles, which were usually made from the skins of goats, see commentary on 1 Sam. 10:3].(top)
“a ruler came and bowed down before him.” Jairus had a great need, and showed respect to Jesus in asking for his help. For more on this event occurring in Capernaum, see commentary on Luke 8:40.
“bowed down before.” The synagogue leader did not think Jesus was God and likely did not even believe he was the Messiah, but rather was paying him homage, as he would to a superior, or to a prophet of God. See commentary on Matthew 2:2.(top)
|Mat 9:19||- (top)|
|Mat 9:21||- (top)|
“Jesus turning and seeing her.” See commentary on Luke 8:47.(top)
|Mat 9:23||- (top)|
“sleeping.” The Greek verb is katheudō (#2518 καθεύδω). Sleep is used as a euphemism and metaphor for death. See commentary on Acts 7:60.(top)
|Mat 9:25||- (top)|
|Mat 9:26||- (top)|
|Mat 9:27||- (top)|
“And after he had come into the house…” The blind men cried out to him as he was walking, but he ignored them until he got inside the house he was going to, leaving them to follow him as best they could, given their blind condition. This would be considered very unchristian behavior today, and be called “unloving,” and other such things. Nevertheless, Jesus did it, and it was to crystallize their trust (“faith”). They did not give up on asking him for healing, an act of trust.(top)
|Mat 9:29||- (top)|
“See here.” The Greek verb is horaō (#3708 ὁράω), and it means to see with the physical eye, or to see with the mental eye. It is a play on words, because Jesus just gave sight to these two blind men, then told them to “see” (“make sure;” “be careful”) that no one knew about them getting their sight. Both the verb horaō, and the verb for “know” are in the imperative mood, and are stern commands, hence the exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Interestingly, in spite of Jesus’ stern command, the men who received their sight spread the news about him. This was likely due to a number of factors. In the honor-shame society of the biblical world, if someone did something great for you, it was socially expected that you would laud the person and thus increase his honor in society. Added to that was their obvious elation about being healed. The two things combined made it impossible for them to hide what had happened, and they freely spoke about it.(top)
|Mat 9:31||- (top)|
|Mat 9:33||- (top)|
“By the prince of the demons he casts out demons.” Pure spiritual arrogance. They had no evidence except their displeasure.(top)
|Mat 9:35||- (top)|
|Mat 9:36||- (top)|
|Mat 9:37||- (top)|
“implore.” Implore = deomai (1189 δέομαι). (See R. Trench, Synonymes). Deomai is a specific request, not a general prayer. It is a petition.(top)