What is Matthew 9 all about? There’s a lot going on in the chapter. We have a number of healings including: a paralysed man, a daughter raised from the dead, a woman with an issue of blood, two blind men and a demon possessed man who is unable to speak. Is the passage primarily about healing?
Well, there is a lot to see here about how Jesus heals and the compassion he shows but we also have a discussion about fasting, the calling of Matthew and teaching about the harvest of believers to come. Those events don’t seem to fit the theme. So, we’ll have to take another look.
At the start of the chapter, the very first event points us to our need for forgiveness and Jesus’ authority to grant it. Forgiveness is of course central and crucial to the Gospel. So, is the theme to do with forgiveness? Are we to get beyond physical healing and look at the heart need. Well in general terms, yes, we are pushed beyond surface issues in this chapter. However at this stage, the focus isn’t so much on forgiveness as a theme. We will need to push further into the New Testament for that.
A woman who is ceremonially unclean, a dead body, a tax collector and other sinners, a breach of the ceremonial law, do those factors push us in another direction. Is this about purity laws and the transforming power of touch that does not shrink back in fear from uncleanness? Again, whilst those elements are there, this does not seem to be something consistently followed up throughout or even particularly emphasised. So, let’s look again.
“And when Jesus saw their faith…” (9:2)
“your faith has made you well” (9:23)
““Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (9:28)
I want to suggest that the theme running through the passage, like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock is “faith.” The thing that holds each incident together is the faith of those that Jesus engages with.
Faith is seen in some people bringing their friend to Jesus, it is also seen in the synagogue ruler coming trusting that Jesus can raise his daughter and in a woman who is overwhelmed with shame and fear but still reaches out just to get a touch of his cloak. It is seen in blind men coming to Jesus too.
Faith is also seen in a tax-collector who leaves behind his takings to follow Jesus. It is seen in those who recognise themselves to be sin sick and needing a spiritual doctor. It marks the move from following rules and rituals to the trust in a saviour which comes when the Bridegroom is present.
This chapter is all about faith. It’s now about how much faith you have or the processes you follow. It simply shows that when people recognise their need and come to Jesus trusting him to provide it then he readily and willingly meets that need.
Do you have faith?