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Matthew 9

February 27th, 2011 by Vic

February 27, 2011

Matthew 9

“Authority to Forgive”

There are 2 words that are becoming important in Matthew’s gospel: authority and forgiveness.


7:29 – the multitudes were amazed at Jesus’ teaching because he was teaching them as one having authority.  But did he have authority?

8:8-9 – Even the Centurion, a foreigner, could see that Jesus had received authority from God.


5:24 – Jesus said you must forgive your brother before God will accept your gift

6:12-14 – The Lords Prayer makes God’s forgiveness dependent on our forgiveness of others.

Authority and forgiveness.  Jesus spoke with authority, but did he really have authority to forgive sin?

In chapter 8 He has authority greater than leprosy, greater than the Romans, greater than your mother-in-law, greater than the winds and waves, greater than the demons.  Does he have authority to forgive?

The answer is yes.  God gave Jesus authority to forgive sin and save people from the guilt and consequences of their sins.

What does that mean?  The scribes were right in 9:2.  Only God can forgive sin (Is 43:25; 44:22).  Jesus forgives the man’s sin, but he was not healed until Jesus spoke that word.  Sin is the more basic or root problem.  Jesus is God.

The Jews were expecting a Messiah to come and kill the sinners and reward the righteous.  Jesus came to forgive the sinners and make them righteous.

In the next paragraph we see that Jesus chose to eat with sinners.  He has enough authority to make the unclean clean.  In both word and deed, Jesus has authority.

Forgiveness is really an authority issue.  How can I forgive you for hitting someone in the nose unless I have authority over his nose?  Jesus has authority to forgive the sin you have committed against God.


This paralyzed man was carried to Jesus by his friends.  Jesus saw their faith and immediately announced that the man’s sins are forgiven right here and now.  In Israel it was a common belief that all sickness was the result of sin.  John the Baptist had announced that Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  But up to this point Matthew has not connected sin and forgiveness with the miracles.

This man’s sin can be forgiven because satan is going to be defeated on the cross and sin will become powerless by faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus certainly got the attention of the religious teachers.  They accuse Him of blasphemy.  ‘Blaspheme’ means to injure by speech or word, to revile.  It refers to any pretense to be or do what only God can be or do.  This is the beginning of public opposition that leads to the cross.

Jesus saw the faith in the heart of the friends and now he sees the evil in the heart of the teachers.  Jesus will now demonstrate the unseen reality by means of the seen.


It is easier to say “your sins are forgiven,” something that cannot be seen, than it is to say “rise and walk,” which would be plain for all to see or not see.  Jesus agrees to do the easier deed.

The purpose of this miracle is stated by Jesus.  He, as the Son of Man, has authority to forgive sins.  The authority of Jesus is confirmed by His words and deeds.  The miracles are signs pointing to the centrality of the cross and the defeat of the power of sin.  If Jesus had blasphemed in declaring forgiveness as they accused Him, how could He now perform a miracle?

When the crowd saw what had happened they were afraid.  The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  The fear of God precipitates praise.  Did they understand that the kingdom of David’s Son has dawned?  Jesus has authority to heal and forgive.


This may have been like a toll booth between the jurisdictions of Herod and Phillip.  Matthew was a customs officer who collected duty on all goods coming in the territory.

Having demonstrated his authority to forgive sins, Jesus now calls a man whose occupation suggests he is a sinner and a friend of sinners.  This is scandalous.  Matthew would be fluent in several languages.  He would be a practiced profiler.  He would be a proficient bookkeeper.  He left a secure position and took only his pen.

Jesus was the guest of honor for a large dinner in Matthew’s home.  Table fellowship was a public demonstration of acceptance and oneness.  For Jesus to be at the same table with tax collectors and sinners implied a full acceptance of them.  Did Jesus get leprosy when He touched the leper?  Neither is He changed by eating with sinners.  To the pure all things are pure.

Some Pharisees asked the disciples why their ‘teacher’ was eating with sinners.  Jesus heard the question.  They called Him teacher so as a teacher, Jesus gives them something to ‘learn’.  The word ‘learn’ (mathete) grammatically has the same root as the word for disciple (mathetais).  A disciple is a learner.

Jesus went where the need was the greatest.  A doctor does not go to the home of the healthy.  Jesus did not come to help people who are self-satisfied and convinced of their own goodness.  He came to call those who are desperately aware of their need of a savior.

Mercy is more important than strict obedience to the letter of the law (Hosea 6:6).  Love covers a multitude of sins.


It’s becoming clear that Jesus’ righteousness is different than what was culturally expected.  In vs.11 the Pharisees asked the disciples about Jesus.  Here John’s disciples ask Jesus about  fasting.  They ask, “Why do we fast?”  It’s a humorous question, but Jesus sees the seriousness of their heart.  There is something incompatible between fasting and the joy of the kingdom.  Jesus is inferring that because their teacher, John the Baptist, was in prison it was appropriate for them to fast.

Jesus compares Himself to a bridegroom.  John had said he was the best man of the bridegroom.  Jesus was the bridegroom and He was still with His disciples so it was a time to celebrate and rejoice, not fast.  But a time was coming when He would not be with them.  Then it would be appropriate to fast.  When we are grieving it is time to fast.  When we are celebrating it is not time to fast.  This is Matthew’s first clear allusion to the coming death of Jesus.

Jesus uses wineskins to illustrate the newness of His teaching.  Jesus’ dynamic teaching cannot be patched into the old, but requires a new pliable and elastic form that will accommodate the pressure.  The newness that Jesus brings cannot be contained by traditional forms of Jewish piety.  The gospel cannot be added to Judaism.

The newness of Jesus goes beyond the containers of the old.  The prophets had said God was doing a new thing among us, but for the Jews a new idea was still a sin.


A ruler of the synagogue comes and respectfully kneels before Jesus.  He was an elected leader of Jewish orthodoxy.  He was like a building administrator.  He may have been one who despised Jesus.  He came to Jesus in sheer desperation as a last resort.  He did not come because he loved Jesus, but because he loved his daughter.

He asks Jesus to lay His hand on his daughter.  The father is asking Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead.  The response of Jesus is immediate.

While they were heading out the door a woman touched the tassel on Jesus’ cloak.  She had apparently been hiding.  She was unclean from bleeding.  It was not appropriate for her to touch Jesus directly.  She should not have been in that crowd.  In her time of need, Jesus was all that mattered.  And for Jesus, she was not just part of a big crowd.

Jesus addressed the woman tenderly and announced that because her faith brought her to Jesus, He was able to heal her.  Our faith does not heal, but our faith draws us to Jesus and He heals.

Maybe this miracle was to encourage the synagogue ruler, but if it was me I would have been getting very impatient with Jesus.  My child was about to be buried.  Jesus can come back later and talk with this woman.

Jesus enters the ruler’s home which was full of pandemonium.   People were gathering to prepare themselves for the burial that would occur that same day.  They thought Jesus had come too late.  Wailing for the dead was done by professionals.  Flute players were professional musicians common at funerals.

Jesus tells the crowd to leave.  They did not need to help with the burial.  The girl was only sleeping.  They laughed but the ruler had enough clout to ‘put’ them outside.  Death for Jesus is not the final word.  Jesus brings hope where there is despair.

Our word cemetery comes from the Greek word (koimeterion) that means place where people sleep.  Jesus reverses the symbolism that suggests death is final.  Get the mourners out.  There will be a resurrection.  This is a time to rejoice.  In the Bible sleep often denotes death, but never nonexistence.

Jesus touched the body.  The dead body did not defile Him.  In Him is life.  Jesus’ authority extended even over death!  The gospel message is that Jesus gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead.  This healing points to the greater healing of salvation.  We are not saved from sickness and disease, but the deadliest enemy of all, the curse of sin.


These blind men are excited and call Jesus the Son of David.  They may have been physically blind, but they saw better than many others.  The Scriptures said when the Messiah came the blind would see, the lame would leap and the dumb would shout for joy.  These blind men must have found this promise.  If Jesus was the Messiah, He would have mercy on them and they would have their sight.  Their need drove them to faith.

Jesus wanted to avoid premature popularity that would hinder his true mission on the cross.  He took the men indoors.  ‘According to’ does not mean ‘in proportion to’ but ‘since’ you believe, your request is granted.  It refers to the fact of faith not the quantity.

Jesus touched their eyes and those who walked in darkness now see a great Light.

READ 9:32-34

Here is another fulfillment of the OT Scriptures.  There is a simple statement of need and healing, but there are 2 opposing responses.  Belief is a choice.  The same evidence can produce opposite evaluations.  Some early philosopher said it is impossible to prove that there is a God.  You have to make an absurd decision to believe there is a God, then everything else makes more sense.  We call that living by faith.  When we choose to believe there is a God who sent Jesus, the rest of life makes more sense.

The crowds were astonished.  They had seen exorcisms before, but not the miracle of speech.  This is a sign of the Messianic kingdom.  The Pharisees evaluate Jesus with hostility.  Orthodoxy had blinded their eyes.  If Jesus was right they were wrong.  They saw no need to change.

READ 9:35-38

This is a summary of Jesus’ ministry and a motivation for mission.  He taught.  He preached.  He healed.  He was motivated by compassion.  Without compassion there can be no mission.  There is a universal need to hear good news because people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  They think their troubles are physical but the greater problem is sin.  Their lives have no center because sin has distorted their thinking.  Their existence seems aimless.  They need to repent, experience forgiveness, and know the joy of being part of the kingdom of God.

Jesus says the harvest is great.  The need of the people is great.  Pray for workers.  The prayer for workers must be answered by every church of every generation.

People need to hear the good news that Jesus has authority.  He has authority to heal.  He has authority to forgive and save you from the guilt and penalty of your sin.  He has authority to give you life abundant.  He has authority from God.  He is the absolute standard for life and living.  Faith in Jesus is good news.  Your response to God’s gift determines your future.  Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

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