We’ve been working our way through Matthew’s gospel on Wednesday evenings since the start of the year. And at the end of the Sermon on the Mount at the end of chapter 7, we read how the crowds were amazed at the Lord’s teaching, because he taught ‘as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law.’ So, there was something about the Lord Jesus and the way he taught that struck the people as being different from what they were used to from the teachers of the law. And the difference lay in the fact that he spoke with authority. Or he spoke with power. And, of course, that makes sense because he was not like the teachers of the law, because they were only human teachers, whereas he is the Son of God. He is God the Son in flesh. So, he’s a man. He’s human. But he’s also God the Son and therefore he was able to proclaim the word of God with special authority.
So, in the Sermon on the Mount he displayed his authority to teach. In chapters 8 and 9 Matthew shows us the Lord’s authority to do something else. In these two chapters Matthew shows us his authority to perform mighty miracles. But it’s even more than that, isn’t it? It’s not just his authority to perform mighty miracles, but it’s his authority to save people from their misery in this world. And so, two weeks ago we saw how he saved a man with leprosy; and he saved a centurion’s servant who was suffering terribly; and he saved Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever.
Do you remember? The leper came to him and said: ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ The leper was sure he was able to heal him. But was he willing to heal him? And the Lord was willing; and he reached out his hand and touched the leper and said, ‘Be clean!’ And the man was cured immediately.
And then there was the centurion who came to the Lord and asked him to heal his servant who was suffering terribly. The centurion was a Gentile and knew that it wasn’t appropriate to ask the Lord to come to his house. ‘But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ And the Lord was amazed by the man’s faith; and told him that it would be done just as he believed it would. And his servant was cured.
And then, when the Lord went into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law with a fever. He touched her hand and immediately the fever left her. And her strength was renewed in an instant so that she was able to get up and serve them.
Three miracle stories, one after another, which demonstrate the Lord’s power and authority to perform mighty miracles. But it’s more than that: it’s his power and authority to save people from their misery in this world.
And then, after those three miracles, there were three more which we studied last week. The Lord calmed the storm. The Lord saved two demon-possessed men. And the Lord healed the man who was lame. So, the Lord and his disciples were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee when suddenly a fierce storm came up on the lake. It was so fierce that the disciples were convinced they would drown. They were convinced they would die. They woke the Lord who had been sleeping and he first rebuked their lack of faith and then he rebuke the wind and the waves and it become completely calm so that his disciples were saved from death. ‘What kind of man is this?’ they wondered. Well, he’s God the Son, isn’t he? He’s God the Son in human flesh.
And then, on the other side of the lake, two demon-possessed men met him. And the demons knew who the Lord is. They recognised him. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come to torture us?’ And they begged the Lord to send them into a herd of pigs. And the pigs rushed down the bank and into the water and drowned. And the demon-possessed men were set free from their demons.
And then there was the story of the lame man whose friends carried him to the Lord. And the Lord pronounced the lame man forgiven. The teachers of the law began to complain, because it seemed to them that Jesus was blaspheming, because only God can forgive sins. And to prove that he has the power and authority to forgive sins, the Lord also healed the man so that he was able to get us and take his mat and go home.
So, three more miracle stories, one after another, which demonstrate the Lord’s power and authority to perform mighty miracles. But it’s more than that: it’s his power and authority to save people from their misery in this world.
And every time the Lord healed the sick or drove out demons or made the lame walk or saved his people from death, it was a foretaste of what he will do for all his people when he comes again in glory and with power. When he comes, he will destroy the Devil and all his demons by casting them into the lake of burning sulphur. When he comes, he will deliver his people from death by raising us from our graves. When he comes, he will glorify our bodies in his presence so that we will be renewed and made whole. When he comes, the former things — the troubles and trials of this life — will be no more and we’ll live with him in that new and better world to come.
And, as I’ve said before, while we have to wait for his return before our bodies will be renewed, we don’t have to wait for his return before we receive forgiveness for our sins, because the moment we believe in him, we’re justified so that we’re pardoned by God and accepted as righteous in God’s sight. And then, whenever we sin, we can confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness and know that — for the sake of Christ — we will be forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness.
And so, we come to today’s passage. And it too contains three miracle stories. In the first, the Lord performs two miracles: he heals the woman who was subject to bleeding for 12 years; and he brought back to life the ruler’s daughter who had died. In the second, the Lord healed two blind men. And in the third, the Lord healed a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk. So, this passage also demonstrates his power and authority to save people from their misery in this world. However, before we get to those miracle stories, you might remember that at the beginning of last week’s passage, Matthew recorded the story of two men who offered to follow the Lord Jesus. However, it seemed that one was not aware of the cost of following the Lord, while the other one wanted to put off following the Lord until later. Today’s passage also begins with a story about following the Lord. But this story is different, because on this occasion, the Lord called Matthew; and Matthew responded immediately.
Verses 9 to 13
And so, we read in verse 9 that the Lord saw Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. As you probably know, tax collectors were despised by the people because not only did they make themselves rich from collecting taxes from the people, but they were working for the Romans, who were occupying the land of Judah in those days. But the Lord was not put off by this; and he summoned Matthew to follow him. He was calling Matthew to leave behind his work and to become one his Twelve Disciples or Apostles. And we read that Matthew got up and followed him. Unlike the man in the previous chapter who wanted more time, Matthew did not hesitate.
We’re then told that the Lord had dinner at Matthew’s home; and many other tax collectors and sinners were there. The word ‘sinners’ denotes religious outcasts: people who, for various reasons, did not follow the strict rules for ritual purity or who lived sinful lives. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were ‘the separated ones’. That is, they were careful to separate themselves from anything that might make them unclean. And, of course, that meant separating themselves from tax collectors and sinners, because their ritual impurity was catching: if you got too near to them, they would make you unclean. And so, the Pharisees kept away from such people.
And they wanted to know what was the Lord Jesus doing with them? Why wasn’t he concerned about catching their uncleanness? And the Lord explained by comparing himself to a doctor. A doctor needs to be among the sick, because a doctor’s calling is to heal the sick. And the Lord Jesus needs to be among sinners, because he has come to save sinners. And then he quoted from Hosea 6:6 where God said that he desires mercy, not sacrifice. In other words, the Pharisees, who were only concerneed with ritual purity and sacrifices, needed to learn that God’s will for his people is for them to show mercy and kindness to others. Instead of condemning tax collectors and sinners, by merciful and kind towards them.
But before we move on to the next verses, notice again the Lord’s authority. This time it’s the Lord’s authority over Matthew. The Lord called him; and Matthew followed him immediately. And in a similar way, the Lord calls sinners into his kingdom through the reading and preaching of his word. And when he calls, we should respond immediately with faith and repentance. But then, after that, he calls us continually in his word to walk in his ways and to obey him as we go about our daily lives. And we ought to recognise his authority and submit to him, because he is God and he is our Saviour who loved us and who gave up his life for us. And so, instead of resisting his will, we ought to do his will and obey him every day.
Verses 14 to 17
Matthew then records for us a time when the disciples of John the Baptist asked the Lord Jesus why his disciples do not fast. We know the Pharisees fasted twice a week and it’s possible that John’s disciples followed a similar pattern. But the Lord’s disciples did not fast at all. Why not? And the Lord uses the image of a wedding to answer them.
The guests at a wedding party do not mourn when the bridegroom is with them. When the bridegroom is with them, it’s time to celebrate. However, when the bride is taken away, then they can mourn. And the Lord’s point is obvious, isn’t it? He’s like the bridegroom. When he’s with his disciples, there’s no need for them to fast and to make themselves mournful. In fact, by the things he has done — by healing the sick and by casting out demons — it’s clear that he has come to save people from their misery in this world. And so, they ought to rejoice. But the day will come when he will be taken from them. And when that day comes, they will fast and mourn. And it’s possible the Lord is referring to the time of his arrest and crucifixion, because at that time he was taken from them by force; and at that time they mourned for him. But while he was with them, his disciples could rejoice.
And then the Lord went on to use the image of someone trying to sew a patch of un-shrunk or new cloth onto an old garment. And then he uses the image of someone pouring new wine into old wineskins. In both cases, the result is disaster. In the case of the garment, the un-shrunk or new cloth will eventually shrink when it’s washed and tear the old garment. In the case of the wineskins, the new wine will release gases which will make the old wineskins burst. So, what’s the lesson here? That the old and the new do not fit together and they cannot be joined. Instead the new must replace the old.
So, the Pharisees were complaining that the Lord did not follow their old rules about ritual purity. And the disciples of John the Baptist were complaining that his disciples were not following their old rules about fasting. They wanted to keep to their old ways, based on the old covenant religion of the Old Testament and all the traditions which had built up around it. But the Lord had come to do a new thing: to introduce the new covenant which God had foretold through the prophets which would bring the Old Testament sacrificial system to an end when he offered himself as the once-for-all perfect sacrifice for sins. And, as well as that, he had come to introduce the new age, which the Lord also foretold through the prophets, when God would come to renew the world. And healing the sick and casting out demons was a foretaste of the renewal of all things, which will happen when Christ comes again. But it’s not all about the future, is it? It’s not all about the future, because the renewal of all things has already begun in part, because whoever trusts in Christ is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. And so, believers belong, not to this age which is perishing, but to the age to come which is everlasting. And while we wait for Christ to come again to renew the heavens and the earth and our bodies, we are already being renewed inwardly by his Spirit.
And so, all of these miracles we’ve been reading about in chapters 8 and 9, when the Lord saved people from illness and from demons and from death signify that the new age has already come with Christ. Right now, in this life, he renews us inwardly by his Spirit so that he changes how we live in the world. And then, in the life to come, he will renew all things completely so that we will live with a renewed body and soul in the new and better world to come.
Verses 18 to 34
And so, in verses 18 to 26, we read of this ruler who asked the Lord to come and put his hands on his daughter who had died so that she will live. The other gospels tell us his name is Jairus. On the way to the ruler’s house, this woman who had been suffering for 12 years with some kind of haemorrhage came and touched the Lord Jesus, because she believed that if she only touched him, she would be healed. And the Lord turned and said to her that her faith has healed her. And she was healed from that moment. And then the Lord continued on his way to the ruler’s house. When he arrived, the mourners were at the house. But there’s no need for mourning, when the Saviour is there. And he went in and took the girl by the hand and she got up. Not only can he heal the sick, but he can restore the dead to life.
And then Matthew tells us in verse 27 of two blind men who followed the Lord. And they called out: ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ ‘Son of David’ was a title for the Messiah. That is, the people believed God would send the Messiah, or the Christ, God’s Anointed King, to save his people. And although these men were blind, they could see that Jesus was God’s Anointed King. So, have mercy on us! And the blind men follow him into someone’s house and he asked them: ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ And they did believe it, didn’t they? So, he touched their eyes and said that, according to their faith, it would be done to them. And their sight was restored.
And then, in verse 32, we read about a man who was demon-possessed and could not speak. Someone brought him to the Lord Jesus; and the demon was driven out of the man so that the man was able to speak. And the crowd who saw it was amazed. The people were amazed at the Lord’s power and authority to heal and to save. He saved the ruler’s daughter from death. He saved the woman from bleeding. He saved the blind men from their blindness. He saved this man from demon-possession.
However, not everyone was amazed or thrilled by what the Lord did. In verse 34 we’re told that the Pharisees said that he was only able to drive out demons by the prince of demons. So, they did not deny his power and authority, but instead of believing that the Lord possessed the power and authority of God, they believed he possessed the power and authority of Satan. And so, by their words they demonstrated that they still belonged to this present evil age, which is marked by unbelief and by rebellion against God. But this present evil age is destined to perish when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead and to destroy Satan and his demons and all who sided with Satan and who remained part of this present evil age.
But the good news of the gospel is that Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age. That is, he gave up his life on the cross to pay for our sins. And by believing in him, we are delivered out of this present evil age to belong to the age to come which has already begun. And since we belong to the age to come, he gives us his Spirit to renew us inwardly and to make us more and more willing and able to do his will here on earth. And when he comes again, he will renew our bodies by raising them from the dead and by glorifying them in his presence.
And, as I’ve already said, these miracle stories in Matthew’s gospel are a foretaste of what he will do when he comes again. A dead girl is restored to life. What a miracle! But it’s what he will do for all his people when he comes again and raises our dead bodies from the grave. A woman healed of a chronic illness. What a miracle! But there will be no more disease when Christ comes again. Blind men see. What a miracle! Again, our bodies in the life to come will be perfect and there will be no more blindness. Demons driven out. What a miracle! But when Christ comes again, the Devil and all his demons will be driven into the lake of fire so that they will never ever bother God’s people again.
And so, that’s what will happen when Christ comes again. And the miracle stories give us a foretaste of that day. And the Lord’s Supper which we’re about to receive on Sunday is another foretaste of that day. Writing about the Lord’s Supper, the Apostle Paul said that, whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. And so, the Lord’s Supper looks back to his death on the cross, when his body, signified by the bread, was broken; and his blood, signified by the cup, was shed; and when he gave up his life to pay for our sins and to make peace for us with God. But the Lord’s Supper also looks forward to the future, when Christ comes again. And when he comes again, all of his people — everyone who believed in him as the only Saviour of the world — will be invited to sit around the table of the Lord in the new heavens and earth and to take part in what the book of Revelation calls ‘the wedding supper of the Lamb’, when Christ the Saviour and his holy bride — the church, all who believed in him — will be joined together forever and we will live with him and dine with him and rejoice with him forever and forever.
That’s the great hope which Christ gives to us and to all his believing people. And so, we’re to continue to trust in Christ and to hold fast to that great hope. And whenever we suffer in this world, whenever we endure illnesses and disease, whenever we suffer bereavement, whenever we face opposition from those who do not believe, we’re to remember and believe that our Saviour will come again. And when he comes, he will renew us and he will renew all things and he will bring us into that new and better world to come. And so, instead of giving up the faith, we must persevere in it so that we don’t miss out on all the marvellous things he has in store for us in the life to come.