The heart of Jesus (Matthew 9:36)

Sometimes we say of a person that he or she has a big heart. By it, we mean that they can embrace and care about a lot of people at the same time. It is obvious from this description of Jesus that he had a very big heart because his heart embraced the crowds that came to listen to him. 

The word that is used to describe the response of Jesus is compassion. There are different ways to see a crowd. Some people are attracted by a crowd, perhaps because it provides security. Others have apprehension of a crowd, perhaps because it might get out of control. Jesus’ response was to feel for them – the word translated as compassion is connected to the inner entrails of a person. He felt an overwhelming sense of love for them. After all, he perfectly loved his neighbour at all times and what else should we expect from him on any occasion but love? 

What was it about them that drew his compassion? Matthew tells us that Jesus saw they were living without care. He recognised in them the traits one would see in a flock without a shepherd. They were without direction, without provision, without protection and without restoration if hurt. We know that a sheep without such care will soon die, for one reason or another. Jesus wanted those people to experience the shepherd care of his kingdom. 

Who or what was harassing them? We can mention several reasons: one was that they were not depending on God to be their shepherd; a second was that each of them had a predator who was determined to destroy them – the devil; a third was that they were looking for spiritual provision and refreshment in the wrong places; a fourth was that the cause of God seemed weak and religion did not give them much satisfaction. 

The description of the people as being harassed and helpless is one that could apply at any period of time. After all, the various features I have just mentioned could apply as much today as it did back then. The fact that this is the case should create sympathy within our hearts for the needy people all around us.

One is meant to ask where the shepherds were at that time. Here we have a description of sheep who have been abandoned by their shepherds. It is not difficult to work out that the Saviour, the true Shepherd, is condemning false shepherds. This is not the only occasion when Jesus did this. The false shepherds were the religious leaders, people like the Pharisees and the priests, who claimed to be serving God, but in fact were not because they way in which they would serve him would be by providing protection and provision for those who needed it. 

The ministry of Jesus (Matthew 9:35)

Obviously, Jesus was engaged in a busy preaching ministry. We are told here where he preached, how he preached, and why he preached. The locations where he preached are said to be the synagogues. One reason for this would be the fact that people gathered there and he had access to speak in them because he was recognised as a rabbi. We should observe that he did not only go to prominent places, but went to the next one that came his way, whether it was in a large town or a small village.

Regarding how he preached, we are told that his sermons included two features – he taught and he proclaimed. Obviously, the teaching describes the content of his sermons – he provided information. Proclamation describes how he taught. He spoke with real authority. It is not possible to ignore a proclamation. We may not like it what is proclaimed, we may reject what is proclaimed, but we will be aware of what has been proclaimed.

Why did Jesus have such a ministry, which in addition to teaching and proclamation also included comprehensive healing of diseases and other troubles? The basic reason was that he was showing to people that he was the promised Messiah. Those features were predicted in the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Saviour. So we can see that Jesus provided the public with plenty evidences as to who he was and why he was here.

The theme of the preaching of Jesus was the gospel of the kingdom. He declared that another kingdom would soon appear of which he would be the king. Usually, an announcement of such a possibility would have caused trepidation because it could imply war and trouble for those the new ruler would attack. In contrast, the kingdom that Jesus was concerned with was good news for those in need of pardon, for those whose lives were without peace, and for those who did have real prospects. His kingdom would give the blessings of pardon, peace and prospect to all joined it by repenting of their sins and trusting in him. 

What did they say? (Matthew 9:27-34)

Jesus asked the blind men what they thought of him. He wanted them to reveal to him their faith in him. What is faith? Faith is not an attitude merely based on desperation. Nor is it a response based only on emotion. Instead faith is based on knowledge of who the Lord is. Faith is not the discovery of how bad we are; instead it is the discovery of how great and how suitable Jesus is.

They knew that Jesus was the Messiah (the Son of David) who could perform miracles predicted of him. They had received this information from the Bible and acted upon what they had discovered. We too are to search the Bible to discover what we should expect from the exalted Saviour and base our confidence on what is revealed about him.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the two men who had received their sight were then sternly warned by Jesus not to say what had happened to them. Often, our discipleship is tested by our willingness to obey. Obviously the two men failed.

From one point of view, we can understand why they told everyone about what had happened. Their actions may have come from a desire for Jesus to be acknowledged as great. What was wrong with their action? They listened to their own ideas rather than to the wisdom of Jesus. Of course, we know that every person whom Jesus has helped has made this response in one way or another. The outcome of their action would be to make Jesus popular in a way that he did not wish to be popular. He was the Messiah, not a miracle worker, and he was the Messiah who was on his way to the cross, a direction and intention that most people did not understand.  

Matthew then briefly refers to a man who could not speak because he was possessed by a demon. There is much about demon possession that we don’t understand. All that Matthew wants to tell us about here is the response to the deliverance. Surprisingly we are not given the information we may like to have been given – the first words that the mute man spoke. No doubt he said something to Jesus and this is a reminder that some things don’t need to be made public.

Matthew informs us what the crowds affirmed and what the religious leaders concluded. Neither of the responses linked the activity of Jesus with God. The crowd merely said that the activities of Jesus were unique and the Pharisees concluded that Jesus was working for the devil. The crowd stated a half-truth and the Pharisees stated a lie.

The answers from the crowd reveal that they were still spiritually blind. Saying something commendable about Jesus that does not reach the truth about him is not evidence of spiritual sight. They were still in the dark, although the ones who had been physically blind and the one who had been deaf and dumb had discovered who Jesus was.



What the blind men did (Matthew 9:27-30)

The blind men revealed their priority when they cried aloud for mercy. As far as they were concerned, they did not have a list of benefits, such as if they could not get the one at the top they would accept a smaller benefit. Imagine if we had asked them, ‘Would you prefer mercy or a million shekels?’ They would have replied that they wanted mercy. The awareness of their need and the awareness of what Jesus could provide made them totally earnest.

Moreover, they revealed the benefit of seeking Jesus with others. Sometimes, people get converted by themselves with no one else involved in the process. Obviously, that is a very good method. Yet, when you get converted, who do you tell? At that moment of great discovery, when you find riches incalculable, who can you share the experience with? In contrast, these two men sought mercy together, and found it together. Right away, they could share it with one another, even pointing out the details they could see.

It used to be quite common for people to be converted together. They would start seeking the Lord and find themselves attending the same means of grace. Then, perhaps in the same sermon, they heard the voice of the Son of God speaking life into their souls. And when the sermon was over, each of them knew what had happened. We are converted as individuals, but it is precious for seekers together to find him together.

Again, we can observe that the blind men discerned the proper response to Jesus when he seemed not to be listening to them. Those with natural sight might have concluded that he did not want to speak to them. That thought does not seem to have entered the minds of the blind men. Instead they thought it was appropriate to follow him right into his house. They sensed that there would be the opportunity to have Jesus to themselves. And he did give them the opportunity.

When they started to speak with Jesus, they discovered that he already knew what they wanted. Yet although he knew what they desired, he wanted to hear them request it of him. Why did he follow this process? Because it was a form of spiritual communion in which two sinners and a great Saviour interacted. In a sense, they had no idea what they were asking for. But they would have heard from others about the great things the others could see. And that is what discovering salvation is like for the first time.

What blind men saw (Matthew 9:27-30)

Matthew continues his record of what took place on the day when he was called by Jesus to leave the tax desk and follow him. Maybe one reason for all the activity was a desire of Jesus to show his new servant the amazing things he could expect to see as he was being prepared by Jesus to serve him.

It looks like Jesus was making his way home when the two blind men followed him. There is something ironic here because how could the blind men see the road to follow Jesus. Or maybe Matthew is pointing out that there is more than one kind of following Jesus. There is a kind of following that gets you nowhere and there is a kind of following that gets you somewhere.

We have already seen examples of the kind of following that got people nowhere – the following performed by the Pharisees and the disciples of John when they set themselves up as the judges of Jesus. In reality, they were spiritually blind although they had physical sight. In contrast, the two blind men could see spiritually even although they were blind physically.

To put it simply, even although they had not seen Jesus they had discerned who he was. We can see that this was the case from the titles they used of him and the request they made to him. One of the titles they used was to address Jesus as the son of David. This was a royal title because David was the first in the official line of kings in Israel. But the title was more than an indication he was connected to David. In addition, it is very likely that they knew the prophecies about the Son of David, the One who would be the Messiah, who would come as the Saviour.

This is why they asked him for mercy. Although they were blind and deserving of sympathy they knew that they needed much more than a few alms that kind people would give to them. They knew that they needed something from God, and we should note that what they needed was not merely their sight, but also mercy. In asking for mercy, they said that Jesus was divine and confessed that they were sinners. After all, only a divine being can give this kind of special mercy, and the only type of person who needs it is someone who has sinned against God.

The faith of an unknown woman (Matthew 9:18-26)

The nameless woman had a long-term illness that had isolated her. Those who knew her would shun her because contact with her would affect them in a ceremonial way and make them unfit for the worship of God. I suspect she felt all alone in the world. Who could she turn to for help? Moreover, the disease she had was regarded as incurable. Another gospel mentions that she had tried many doctors, but none had been able to help. Who could she turn to for hope in her sad situation?

It is interesting that Matthew shows little interest, as far as recording material is concerned, in the fact that the daughter of Jairus was born in the same year as the woman’s illness commenced. Other accounts tell us that Jairus’ daughter was twelve years old. This lack of focus by Matthew surely is designed to tell us that what matters for him was not coincidences, but cures. His decision not to include it does not mean we should ignore it when reading the other accounts of this incident, but it points to us paying attention to what Matthew is highlighting.

Is there a significance in the woman’s decision to touch the hem of the garment of Jesus? This item is mentioned in Numbers 15:38-41: ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.’ Since the point of this item of clothing was to remind everyone to obey the commandments of the Lord, what would the woman have thought of Jesus when she looked at his tassels? She must have believed that he kept the commandments, otherwise how could he have healed her if he was disobedient to them?

From one point of view, her action was unusual for someone who did not want to be seen because the option she chose involved her having to bow down in front of people in order to reach his garment. Of course, it may have been getting dark and perhaps she also thought that would help hide her. If all she wanted to do was touch him, then she could have jostled her way towards him and touched him similar to how others did in the throng. In a sense, she did what Jairus did, which was to bow to Jesus, even if she hoped that she would not be observed. In this, she is a picture of those who recognise the greatness of Jesus but who do not like to be in the public gaze.

Her faith included confidence in Jesus. She had no doubt that she would be cured if she touched his clothes. Matthew uses the imperfect tense when recording her words. She kept on saying to herself, ‘If I only touch the hem of his garment, I will be made well.’ Probably she told the disciples afterwards that she had been saying this to herself. This reminding herself of what Jesus would do was not a sign of unbelief. It is like us repeating his promises to ourselves. We can imagine ourselves repeating to ourselves the promise, ‘Him that comes to me, I will never cast out.’

Matthew also records what we can call the reward of faith because she received words of assurance from Jesus. His statement to her indicated that she had a place in his divine family and that she had it immediately. She moved from being alone to a place where she belonged to the disciples of Jesus. Maybe she became one of the women from Galilee who ministered to Jesus. The fact that Matthew knew she had been repeating to herself the certainty of a cure indicates that she later was involved to some degree with Jesus and his disciples. The one thing that is clear is that her faith in Jesus led to her becoming a member of the family of God.

The faith of Jairus (Matthew 9:18-26)

Jairus was an unusual person because he was a Jewish ruler who believed in Jesus. We are not told how he came to faith in Jesus. Instead we are told how he showed his faith in Jesus in a particular way. He may have followed the crowds who were listening to Jesus.

No doubt, Jairus had seen Jesus perform miracles. He may have heard that Jesus had raised the son of the widow in Nain from the dead (Luke places the incident in Nain as prior to this one). Jairus, as the synagogue ruler, would have known that a long time previously Elijah and Elisha had raised people from the dead. And since he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, he would have believed that Jesus could do greater actions than mere prophets. So I think it is safe to say that the faith of Jairus was deduced from what the Scriptures said about the Messiah.

In addition, we can see from the posture that Jairus adopted that he was willing to acknowledge in a public way that Jesus was great. The synagogue ruler bowed before Jesus and requested his help. Perhaps some would have concluded that the trouble he was in had caused him to lose all awareness of reality and caused him to do what he would not normally do. That would be a risk that Jairus would have to face, but the misinterpretation of others is not a reason to refrain from asking Jesus for help.

Matthew does not say if the death of the daughter of Jairus was the result of a long-term illness or if it was sudden. If it was long-term, it is surprising that he waited until she was nearly dead before he contacted Jesus. The one detail that is certain is that it would be a devastating experience for Jairus and his family. Still, Matthew wants us to note that Jairus’ faith in Jesus was not hindered by devastating experiences. No doubt, there would have been much that he did not understand about this turn of events, yet he still came to Jesus with the situation. And in this, he is an example to us not to let the darkness of a situation diminish our views of Jesus.

Moreover, the faith of Jairus was not hindered by delays in him getting an answer to his urgent request. He realised that he was not in control of the situation. Fretting about the delay would not have changed the circumstances. It would have been easy for the devil or onlookers to suggest to Jairus that the delay connected to the unknown woman indicated that Jesus did not regard Jairus’ case as a priority. Jairus still wanted Jesus to come and help.