IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 16, June 14 to June 20, 1999

Matthew 9:18-38

by Dr. Knox Chamblin


  1. The Woman with the Flow of Blood. 9:20-22.

    1. The affliction. By comparison to Mk and Lk, Mt is very brief: "a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years" (v. 20). This, a female disorder, would have made her ritually unclean and defiling to others (Lev 15:19-33), which helps to explain her seeking to make contact with Jesus unobtrusively.

    2. Jesus' authority. As throughout chs. 8-9, Matthew's dominant interest is Jesus' authority. His omission of details found in Mk (for this episode and the following), serves to highlight the person and authority of Jesus (thus Gundry, 173). Note (a) how the woman's expression of faith, v. 21, witnesses to Jesus' extraordinary authority ("If I only touch...."), and (b) that the actual healing takes place "from that moment" when Jesus addresses her, v. 22, rather than from the moment when she touches him, v. 20 - which underscores the fact that the woman's faith is the instrument of healing, not the cause. It is Jesus' authoritative pronouncement about her faith that saves, not the faith itself. Again Jesus cleanses the defiled one, rather than being himself defiled by the touch of the unclean (cf. 8:2-4).

  2. The Ruler's Daughter. 9:18-19, 23-26.

    1. The father's request. He is called simply a "ruler" (archon), v. 18. The Lukan parallel (8:41, cf. Mk 5:22) reveals that he was a "ruler of the synagogue" (presumably in Capernaum) named Jairus. Again Matthew highlights the figure of Jesus by omitting details in the tradition. Carson has suggested (230) that the ruler, in asking Jesus to come with him, showed less faith than the centurion (who believed that Jesus' mere word, spoken at a distance, would heal his servant, 8:8). While this accords with 8:10, its force is lessened by the fact that Jairus believes that Jesus' mere touch will raise the dead, 9:18b - and this (to judge from Mt, where there is no previous record of such a miracle) without prior evidence of Jesus' having done so. In any case Jesus responded positively to the request "and went with him" (v. 19).

    2. Jesus' action.

      1. The background. Entering the house, Jesus finds "the flute players and the noisy crowd" (v. 23): "Even the poorest families hired at least two flute players and one female wailer for funerals" (Gundry, 175); the "noisy crowd" was "made up of friends mourning, not in the hushed whispers characteristic of our Western funerals, but in loud outbursts of grief and wailing augmented by cries of hired mourners" (Carson, 231). That a "crowd" is present, points to the influence of the synagogue ruler.

      2. The healing. V. 24a does not deny the reality of death but expresses Jesus' confidence in his power to awaken her from death. Matthew is again remarkably brief: Jesus' mere touch raises her (9:25) - news of which spreads rapidly (9:26).

This passage completes Matthew's collection of healing miracles.
  1. Matthew's Two Blind Men.

    9:27-31 does not parallel Mk 8:22-26, as Mt 8:28-34 parallels Mk 5:1-20. (On Mk 10:46-52, par. Mt 20:29-34, see on ch. 20.) Otherwise, the remarks on Mt 8:28-34 again apply, mutatis mutandis. As shown by the adjoining account, vv. 32-33, Matthew does not consistently engage in "doubling."

  2. Jesus' Authority to Heal.

    Again Jesus' authority is crucial. As with the woman with the flow of blood, while the blind men evidence faith (9:28), the actual healing awaits Jesus' touch and authoritative word (9:29-30). Faith (9:28-29) is the instrument of healing, not the cause. (There is no explicit reference to faith in the account of the demoniac's healing; but those who brought him to Jesus, v. 32, presumably acted in faith.) On the command to silence, v. 30, see comments on 8:4.

  3. Two Responses.

    Here at the end of Matthew's collection of miracle-stories, two contrasting responses to Jesus' work are juxtaposed. The crowd is amazed, 9:33 (cf. 8:27, 34; 9:8, 26), over his power. The Pharisees, by contrast, ascribe his authority to Satan, 9:34, a foretaste of 12:22-32.

The summary of 9:35 (= 4:23) underscores the threefold character of Jesus' ministry and prepares for his commissioning of ch. 10.
  1. The Eschatological Context of Prayer.

    The prayer that Yahweh would "send out workers" (v. 38) gives particular expression to the petition of 6:10, "Thy Kingdom come."

  2. The Motive of Compassion.

    Jesus' commanding his disciples to pray, rests upon his compassion for the crowd as a "harassed and helpless" company, "like sheep without a shepherd" (v. 36). "The already existing allusion to the OT picture of God's people as not having a shepherd (Num 27:17; 1 Kgs 22:17; 2 Chr 18:16; cf. Jer 23:1-6; Jdt 11:19) gains a further allusion to the OT picture of God's people as attacked and scattered by wild beasts (Ezek 34:5;...)" (Gundry, 181).

  3. The "Lord of the Harvest."

    God is sovereign of the whole mission. A harvest is already seen to exist; from God's standpoint, those who are to be gathered are seen as already there. The parable of the wheat and the tares (13:24-30, 36-43) distinguishes between "the sons of the kingdom" ("the good seed") and "the sons of the evil one" ("the weeds").

  4. The Place of Prayer.

    In Jesus' mind, there is no contradiction between God's electing purpose (climaxed in the gathering of the "elect" at the consummation, 24:31) and the disciples' offering prayer that God will send forth laborers to gather the harvest. We must see 9:37-38 in light of chs. 6-7 (and the ineradicable connection between disciples' asking and God's granting). 9:38 teaches both that God sends forth laborers in response to the prayers of his people, and also that the sovereign God himself commands his people to pray this way. We do not have to limit God's actions to such responses; but it ought to move us to pray earnestly that God will raise up missionaries for his worldwide outreach (cf. 28:18-20).

  5. The Authority of Jesus Christ.

    Immediately after this command, Jesus himself sends forth the 12 on a mission (10:1ff.). (The verb in 9:38 is ekballo, that of 10:5 is apostello.) We may view the mission of ch. 10 as the consequence and the effect of actual prayer offered in obedience to the command of 9:38. But if so, we must also observe that Jesus himself is being depicted as "the Lord of the harvest" who here sends forth his laborers, as an expression of his own compassion to gather his chosen people (the "elect" belong to the Son of Man, 24:31).

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