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Matthew 8:1-4; Matthew 9:1-17 Listen
Mark 1:40-2:22; Luke 5:12-39
In this passage, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:
|1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
|40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
|12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
14 And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.
The setting for this occasion is somewhere in Galilee. Leprosy was the dreaded disease of Bible times in both the Old and New Testaments. The Law of Moses has much to say about the procedures for dealing with a person who has leprosy. He was considered unclean and placed away from the general populace in isolation. Furthermore, you couldn't just walk back into society one day and say, "I'm all well now." You had to be declared clean and "all well now" by the priest. This procedure is found in detail in Leviticus 13 (see notes) and continues into Leviticus 14 (see notes). After Jesus heals the leper, he tells him not to tell anyone how he was healed, but rather just show himself to the priest for the necessary clean bill of health. Did he obey? Look at Mark 1:45, "But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter." In Luke 5:15-16 we see the impact on Jesus' ministry as a result of the leper's healing, "But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed."
|1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.
2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
7 And he arose, and departed to his house.
8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
|1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
13 And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.
|16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
Jesus is up in northern Israel in Capernaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. While preaching in a house, people continued to gather around until some showed up with a paralytic man. It was too crowded to get him in, so they lowered him through the roof. No problems until Jesus tells the paralytic man, "...Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." The religion police (Pharisees and scribes) were there, and that raises a ruckus among the Jewish scribes (the official scholars); they accuse him of blasphemy. Of course, they're simply looking for something to use against Jesus, since he had already made it clear that he has no respect for the corrupt Jewish leadership of the day. It was problematic for them that Jesus had the ability to heal the sick, but to forgive sins was over the line as far as they were concerned.
Here's some insight on this situation. There is no suggestion here that all sickness is as a result of sin. However, as God in the flesh, Christ was able to perceive that this man's illness was as the result of sin; he also perceived that this paralytic man was repentant. Therefore, it was appropriate for him to forgive this man's sins. Meantime, the scribes are looking for a way to entrap Jesus. They would like to have had direct evidence that he had proclaimed himself to be God; they bait him to make that declaration in Mark 2:7 when they ask, "who can forgive sins but God only?" However, all they can get are implications as he refers to himself as the "Son of man," a reference used by David and Ezekiel in a human context, but used by Daniel to refer to the Messiah.
Daniel 7:13-14 (see notes) I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
So, without directly saying it, Jesus is assuming the title of Messiah...or is he? The title, "Son of man," wasn't a reference to that same Messianic context in Ezekiel where it is used by that prophet 93 times in reference to himself. You can see how Jesus gave these religious professionals fits.
Incidentally, not long before this incident, Jesus had declared that he, himself, was the Messiah while in a synagogue in Nazareth. That occasion is found in Luke 4:16-30 (see notes) and was in Jesus' hometown. Capernaum, where this incident takes place is about 30 miles by roads from Nazareth. That's a considerable distance in a day when people walked where they went. It is likely that word from Nazareth had not trickled over to Capernaum about Jesus' professed identity at this point in time.
|9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
|14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
|27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.
30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
It's only natural that Jews hated tax collectors - representatives of the Roman government assigned to take their money - still true today, I guess. These tax gatherers are called "publicans." Jews really, really despised the Roman-appointed publicans...like Levi. He was a Jew and had a Jewish name, but worked for the government. It really grated on the Jews that Jesus would go have supper with him...and with his friends - fellow tax collectors. Levi becomes one of the apostles of Jesus, and his name is changed to Matthew. "Matthew," by the way, is the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration for the Hebrew name, "Mattithiah" (the name of four men mentioned in the Old Testament). Furthermore, he goes on to write the Gospel according to Matthew.
Matthew's own Gospel simply refers to the occasion as a meal, as does Mark. Both refer to the questionable guests as "many publicans and sinners." Luke, however, identifies this occasion as a "great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them." Luke wants us to understand the magnitude of the problem here as seen by the Jewish leaders. Perhaps this is a going-out-of-business bash that Matthew throws. As a practice, Pharisees had no contact with these "sinners" and question why Jesus chooses to do so. Jesus replies that ministering to sinners is why he came. The Pharisees see this as a great opportunity to point out the shortcomings of Jesus to a lot of people; we'll see this in the verses that follow. In Matthew 9:13, Matthew points out that Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 (see notes) in his reply to the Pharisees when he says to them, "But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." In that chapter of Hosea, Israel is being rebuked for rejecting the counsel of God. You can see the implications of that quotation and comment by Jesus; it's no wonder the Jews were infuriated. Incidentally, Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 (see notes) to a different group of Pharisees on a later occasion in Matthew 12:7 (see notes).
|14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
|18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?
19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.
20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.
22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
|33 And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
34 And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
36 And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
In Luke's account we see this conversation taking place at Matthew's house on the occasion of his I-ain't-collectin'-taxes-anymore party. That's significant, inasmuch as the big ol' banquet tables are stacked with food (remember - a "great feast"). So, with all this eating going on, how about a question regarding the indulgences of the occasion, "Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?" Matthew and Mark both tell us that some of the disciples of John the Baptist participate with the Pharisees in this inquiry. (I just wonder if the Pharisees had been over talking to John's disciples trying to get them riled up.) As far as scripture is concerned, in the Old Testament the Jews only fasted on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31, see notes; Leviticus 23:27-32 (see notes); Numbers 29:7, see notes). Later on, when they returned from Babylonian exile, four other annual fasts were observed by Jews (Zechariah 7:5, see notes; Zechariah 8:19, see notes). We see from Luke 18:12 (see notes) that some of the Pharisees fasted twice a week; we have no idea why. As far as John the Baptist's disciples, maybe they were fasting because he was in prison at the time, or maybe they were fasting because they saw the Messianic age at hand; we don't really know. In both cases, fasting was a sure sign in those times that you were serious about your religion. A complete overview regarding fasting can be seen in the commentary on Isaiah 58 (see notes).
So, here's the question asked of Jesus: "Why don't your disciples fast?" The answer comes in the form of an analogy. When the bridegroom is present at the wedding feast, there's nothing to fast about; everybody eats heartily. However, when the bridegroom is gone, then it will be appropriate to fast. Was he talking about his crucifixion here? Perhaps so, but one thing is for certain: Jesus implies that the Pharisees and John's disciples fast in anticipation of an event ie. the coming of the Messiah. Since Jesus is that Messiah, his disciples have no need to fast. Incidentally, John the Baptist is in prison and has been since Luke 3:18-20 (see notes). He remains in prison until he is beheaded in Matthew 14:3-12 (see notes) - perhaps another reason why his disciples fast.
What is this new-wine-old-bottles analogy about? Let's look at the circumstances and conversation around Jesus' comments and see if we can perceive his meaning. The Pharisees were the leading religionists in Palestine in that day. They fully anticipated that anyone aspiring to Messiahship would be working with them. Here they are at it again, however, criticizing every move Jesus makes - who his friends are, with whom he eats, the very fact that he eats at all. So to explain to them where they fit into the leadership scheme of the coming kingdom, Jesus uses the wine-bottle and the cloth-garment analogies.
Before we actually plug into our analogy, let's take a look at the underlying principle behind these two analogies. The KJV translates the adjective (Greek: ἄγναφος/agnaphos) here as "new." The word specifically means "unshrunken." So, if you sew a new piece of cloth that has never been washed, the piece will shrink while the rest of the garment will not. That would be ugly. Likewise, the new wine cannot successfully be fermented in previously-used wineskins because they have already been stretched during the first fermentation process. Fermentation emits a gas which causes significant expansion. Therefore, the previously-used wineskin has no ability to stretch further, and thus, would break open.
Let's fit the components into these two analogies:
Here's the bottom line subtly stated: Jesus is telling these Pharisees that they won't be part of the leadership team in the Messianic kingdom. Do you think they're starting to get the picture?