A Moment with the Bible
After Matthew records nine miracles he offers two reactions. The first is the reaction of the multitudes. They are amazed and say, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” That is the honest and truthful reaction. But more important is the reaction of those who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. For anyone who is interested in examining the evidence of whether or not Jesus is the Christ, the testimony of His detractors is critical. So, what will they say? Will they deny that He ever did anything miraculous? Will they talk about how His miracles were done by slight of hand? Will they suggest that those He purported to heal were really not ill at all? No, they will not say any of these things. Instead, they will admit that He has done the miracles, but deny that the source is from God. “He casts out demons by the ruler of demons.” That is an admission that the demons were cast out! Jesus will later expose the foolishness of such an argument. Why would the Satan destroy his own kingdom?
The final verses of this chapter give us a most important picture. How did Jesus see the multitudes? When He looked at the common people, what was His reaction? In John 7:49, we read of how the Pharisees viewed the people: “This multitude who knows not the Law is accursed.” But Jesus saw them differently. Jesus saw them from God’s point of view. He saw them the same way we should see the people around us today. Jesus pictured people as sheep, wounded, fainting, and scattered. They were not in that condition completely on their own accord. They had no shepherd, no guidance, no one to take care of them. But what do we see when we look at those around us? Do we simply think of their sinfulness, shrink back from contact with them, and condemn them from afar? When we do, we are in the same category as the Pharisees.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” The Lord is looking for those who have His heart, who see people with a heart of compassion and are willing to go and help them. Unfortunately, those kinds of people are few in number. Most simply condemn and count others unworthy of the Lord’s mercy. Therefore, pray that the Lord will send laborers into His harvest, and as you do, think about yourself.
A Moment with the Bible
Matthew records nine miracles in chapters eight and nine proving the authority with which He spoke in His sermon on the mountain. However, we must not simply be awed by the power of Jesus, we must look beyond and see His character; we must see in Him the true nature of the God we serve. Our God is compassionate, seeking those who are seeking Him.
Look at the scene. Two blind men followed Jesus. They are blind but they see more than many. “Son of David” denotes that they recognized Him as the Messiah. Jesus did not immediately respond, but that did not discourage them from continuing to follow and cry out. Do not miss this point. The faith of these men was not casual; it was persistent and unwavering. That is exactly the kind of faith we must have. Too many are casual seekers, giving up easily at the first sign of difficulty. But Jesus’ demand is that we strive diligently to enter the kingdom; casual seekers will not enter (Luke 13:24).
One touch and their eyes were opened. The next words of Jesus are, “See that no one knows it.” Interesting, isn’t it? He told them to say nothing, but not even the command of Jesus could stop them from spreading His fame. Indeed, who could keep from sharing with others how their eyes were opened? And yet, every Christian has been given more than these two men. Every Christian has been given sight. We know the future. We know the Judgment that is coming. We know the great mercy we have been given. But do we feel the same burning desire to share with others the salvation the Lord has given us? Two blind men are commanded to tell no one, but they spread His fame abroad. We are told to tell everyone, but too often we remain silent.
A Moment with the Bible
We noted earlier that chapters eight and nine record nine miracles of Jesus divided into three groups with the reaction of the people given at the conclusion of each grouping. We now come to the final group of three. The first incident is actually two miracles combined into one story. Jesus is on His way to raise a twelve-year-old girl and in the midst of the press of the multitude a woman who has suffered for those same twelve years comes behind Him and touches the hem of His garment. Matthew abbreviates the account while Mark and Luke fill us with the details (Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56).
First, there is a ruler of a synagogue whose only child lies near death and in fact dies as Jesus agrees to come to his home to heal her. It is important for us to feel what this man felt. Mark tells us that he “earnestly begged” Jesus to help him. Remember a similar incident with the centurion at the beginning of chapter eight? The Gentile believed Jesus could heal without coming to his house. But the Jewish ruler bids Him to come. In both cases we see the compassion of Jesus. It is this compassion we also must learn. In the midst of the busy schedules we keep, there are needs of people around us, lost people, suffering people, dying people. Will we stop what we are doing and show compassion?
The second picture is fascinating. The crowd is thronging Jesus, but somewhere standing on that street is a woman who has suffered for twelve years with a constant flow of blood. She had spent all she had on doctors and was no better. But there is a greater tragedy. Under the law, she has been unclean for all those years. Everything she touched and every person who touched her would have to be cleansed. But now, within reach, is the Great Physician. “If only I can touch His garment,” she thought. Weaving through the crowd she came within reach, and with that one touch twelve years of misery was wiped out. When an unclean leper came to Jesus, He touched him. And when an unclean woman touches Him, the result is the same. Do we really see what has happened here? These have touched God and the result is healing and cleanness. We need that. Every one of us needs that. Today, we can still come to Him and the suffering from spiritual illness will be healed, the separation from heaven’s realm will be mended.
A Moment with the Bible
The Pharisees normally fasted twice a week. According to Jesus in Matthew 6, they used fasting as a badge of honor to prove their righteousness. There were very few fast days specifically commanded in the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month being the most notable. Generally speaking, the purpose of fasting is to be an individual matter, to draw a person closer to God. By making a commitment to forego food, a person is able to give himself to meditation without the constant interruption of fulfilling the needs of the flesh. The ability to focus on spiritual needs and one’s relationship with God is more easily accomplished. As a side benefit, the body is taught that it will not die by going without food for 24 hours. This gives a person more self-control, not only over food, but in all areas of life.
Jesus gives three brief parables to teach the disciples of John that fasting was not appropriate while He was on the earth. First, fasting is certainly not done during a wedding. Weddings were a time of feasting and rejoicing, not a time to “afflict” one’s soul (Lev. 23:29-32). Once Jesus left the earth, fasting would be appropriate because the Bridegroom would no longer be present.
The second and third parables teach a similar principle. Putting an unshrunk patch on an old garment is simply something that is not done. It would not be appropriate because it would only make the tear worse. Putting new wine into old wineskins is the same. Old wineskins have the residue of old wine, which would immediately cause the fresh juice to ferment and explode the already stretched wineskin. No one would do such a thing. Therefore, fasting was to be occasional in nature. There were appropriate and inappropriate occasions to fast and simply choosing certain days of the week to fast may not fit the occasion of that day.
Is Jesus, as so many say, trying to teach something about putting Old Testament principles into New Testament containers? I think such reasoning is stretching the context. It has nothing to do with the point at hand.
A Moment with the Bible
When Jesus attended a feast at Matthew’s house and ate with a group of tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees were appalled. They believed that touching or eating with sinners made them unclean. “Pharisee” meant “the separated one.” They prided themselves on maintaining a distance from all “defilements of the flesh,” and this included people who did not meet up to their standards of righteousness. However, Jesus answers that it is the only way a physician can help those who are sick. The Pharisees had missed the whole point of service to God. If we are not going to help others come to the Lord, then how do we have the love of God within us?
Jesus challenges these Jews to learn the meaning of Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” This is the first of two times that Jesus will quote this passage to the Jews. For Jesus to continue to challenge them with this verse tells us that we also need to learn its meaning. The intent of the text is, I desire mercy, not simply sacrifices. It is too often typical of religious people to think they have satisfied the demands of service to God when they have participated in some act of worship. For the Jews, as long as the sacrifices and outward rituals of worship were offered, they believed their duty was done. But worship is to lead us to learn to have a heart like God. If we have not become more God-like, worship has lost its purpose.
“Mercy” refers to our relationships with others. We must live with a heart of compassion for those who are lost and in need around us. It is sad that religion has become something only done in a church building. James said, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Religion has to do both with our own inner life and how we love our fellowman.