What does Matthew chapter 9 mean?In chapter 9, Matthew continues to tell the stories of Jesus healing and casting out demons and even bringing the dead to life. Each story demonstrates that He is truly the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that faith in Him is key to the healing experienced by many.
The friends of a paralyzed man bring him to Jesus to be healed. This account parallels the description given in the gospel of Mark (Mark 2:1–12). Jesus strangely begins by telling the man his sins are forgiven. To themselves, some scribes in the room accuse Jesus of blasphemy for presuming to do what only God can do: forgive sins. Jesus demonstrates that He has the authority of God to forgive sins by showing that He has the authority to heal the man. This brings a certain amount of fear, but the crowd also recognizes the work of God and offers appropriate praise (Matthew 9:1–8).
Jesus calls another of the twelve disciples when He sees Matthew sitting in a booth working as a tax collector. Men like Matthew worked for the occupying Roman government, taking money from their fellow Israelites. Many were corrupt, and all were hated. Tax collectors were seen as immoral traitors by the common people of Israel. Christ tells Matthew to follow Him. Matthew leaves behind his booth and becomes a disciple of Jesus. Soon, Jesus and the other disciples are having dinner at Matthew's house with Matthew's friends: tax collectors and other "sinners" (Matthew 9:9– 10).
The Pharisees ask Jesus' disciples why He eats with such people. In their minds, righteous people should not associate, in any way, with those who are immoral. Jesus gives a symbolic response, using the idea of doctors and sick people. In part, His point is that "sinners" are the very people to whom God's people ought to be ministering, just as the sick are those to whom a doctor is drawn. Christ is also pointing out that those who don't think they're sick—such as the self-deluded Pharisees—are not His mission, either. Jesus orders His critics to go learn what it means in Scripture when God says that He desires mercy and not sacrifice, quoting from the book of Hosea (Matthew 9:11–13).
The disciples of John the Baptist then ask why Jesus' disciples do not fast as they and the Pharisees do. This is not necessarily a hostile question. Jesus replies with three illustrations. First, why would the wedding guests mourn when the bridegroom is with them? They will fast when the bridegroom is taken away. Next, Jesus says that you don't put a new patch on an old garment or new wine in old wineskins. The old ways of thinking and acting—as Israel had become accustomed—were not meant to be crammed together with Christ's newer, better understanding (Matthew 9:14–17).
While this conversation is going on, a man comes to see Jesus, setting off a string of four amazing healing miracles in a row. This man is a ruler in the synagogue whose daughter has just died. Parallel accounts are found in Mark chapter 5 and Luke chapter 8, including additional details. The man says that if Jesus will come and lay His hand on the girl, she will live. While Jesus and the disciples are on their way to the man's house, a woman who has suffered for 12 years with a discharge of blood touches the edge of Jesus' cloak and is instantly healed. Jesus tells her that her faith as made her well (Matthew 9:18–22).
Jesus and the company finally come to the house of the synagogue ruler whose daughter has died. Professional mourners have already arrived to play instruments and wail. They laugh, though, when Jesus tells them to go away because the girl is not dead, only sleeping. Jesus then takes the girl's hand, and she stands up, alive (Matthew 9:23–26).
As Jesus makes His way back from that incredible moment, two blind men in the crowd begin to cry out, expressing faith in Jesus' healing ability as well as their view that He is the Messiah. When Jesus reaches the house, they come inside, and He heals them—after asking if they believe that He can. Despite Jesus' instructions, the men eagerly tell many people about what has happened (Matthew 9:27–31).
As the blind men are leaving, a demon-oppressed man is brought before Jesus. The demon has made the man unable to speak. Jesus casts the demon out, and the man begins to talk. The crowd around Jesus once again marvels. The Pharisees, though, decide that Jesus only casts out demons by the power of Satan. Their rejection of Christ is so powerful that even the most obvious signs are lost on them (Matthew 9:32–34).
Finally, Jesus looks out over the growing crowds of people who have come to see Him. He is moved with compassion for them. Matthew notes that the people are like lost sheep; this echoes comments Jesus makes elsewhere about being a "Good Shepherd," in comparison to the failed religious leaders who were misguiding Israel (John 10:11–13). Jesus instructs His followers to pray earnestly that the Lord will send laborers out to gather in the plentiful harvest (Matthew 9:35–38).