Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 9-12

In chapter 9, Jesus continues his travels, preaching and healing along the way. He heals a paralyzed man and tells him his sins are forgiven. Some nearby scribes say to themselves, “He blasphemes” but Jesus quickly shuts them down and tells them He has the authority to forgive sins. He then has lunch with some tax collectors and sinners, which bewilders the Pharisees. Jesus calmly answers, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Verses 9:15-17 I don’t understand. John’s disciples ask why they and the Pharisees fast, but His disciples don’t. Jesus replies with three metaphors (bridegroom, patched garment, wineskin) that I have read a dozen times. Is the “food” Jesus’ teaching and only new teaching can go into a new wineskin (like a disciple that has been cleansed, baptized and ready to receive it)? Please help here by posting in the comments.

Then there’s more healing. On his way to bring back from the dead a ruler’s daughter, a woman touches his clothes. Immediately her 12-year “issue of blood” stops. Jesus then touches the ruler’s daughter’s hand and she rises. Onlookers are amazed and go spread the word of what they have just seen. Two blind men get their site restored and despite Jesus’ request for secrecy, they blab about it anyway. A man has his demon cast out. News of Jesus’ deeds is spreading far and wide, and you have a sense that things are building to a crescendo.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, he calls together his twelve disciples and gives them the power to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and sickness. He sends them off with quite a speech. Some highlights:

  • 10:8 – “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give.”
  • 10:16 – “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
  • 10:22 – “You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • 10:34 – “Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword.” This quote has always bothered me as a direct contradiction to all of the other quotes concerning peace. What happened to “Blessed are the peacemakers”?
  • 10:37-38 – “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.” This section feels like an abrupt shift in tone to me. Less humble, less forgiving, and less tolerant.

Chapter 11

John the Baptist, in prison, hears of Jesus’ works. He sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really is the one. Jesus lists His accomplishments, praises John the Baptist, and says “If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Then some bitterness creeps in as he talks about the cities where he did his healing, yet little repentance occurred. Finally, he wraps up his speech, wearily, with “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Amazing the shift in tones from commanding to angry to boastful to critical and then back to calm, gentle and loving.

Chapter 12

On the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples go walking through some fields of grain. The disciples are hungry, so they pluck some grain to eat. The Pharisees, who apparently follow them everywhere, complain that plucking the grain “is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” Jesus gives the Pharisees an earful.

Jesus then healed a man with a withered hand, saying “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” The Pharisees begin to plan how to destroy him. Jesus continues his healing, and commands the multitudes to “not make him known.” The multitudes are amazed and say, “Can this be the son of David?” The Pharisees, of course, say He does not cast out demons “except by Beelzebul.” Jesus replies with his “house divided” speech. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters.”

At the end of the chapter, while he is speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers appear and want to speak with him. He answers, a little harshly, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” and then gestures toward his disciples and says, “Behold, my mother and brothers!”

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