Summary: Jesus calls sinners, heals the sick and raises the dead.
THE CALL AND COMPASSION OF JESUS.
1. The Call of Matthew
Wherever we live, under whatever regime, tax collectors are unpopular. It was no different in first century Israel, where Matthew’s trade involved collaboration with the Romans, and the constant suspicion of theft. Matthew was a man alone, and Jesus called him alone.
Yet within this account of the call of one man is included the call of every one of us. Jesus says, “Follow me” (Matthew 9:9), and like Matthew - putting all argument and debate aside - we must quietly obey. As is later explained, Jesus came not to call the “righteous” but “sinners” to repentance (Matthew 9:13).
Not only did Matthew follow Jesus, but he took Him home. Hospitality is not only a common courtesy, but a means of sharing Jesus with others. It is inevitable that the people around our table are going to be people like ourselves, but this is as good a place as any to begin our evangelism.
The other guests at Matthew’s table inevitably met with the disapproval of certain religious teachers. These “Pharisees” addressed their narrow-minded comments to Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 9:11), trying to undermine the believers’ new-found faith. It is Jesus’ answer, however, which embraces us all: He did not come for those who THINK they are righteous, but He came to bring those who KNOW they are sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13).
2. A story within a story
In this particular section Matthew presents us with a ‘story within a story’ – and, as you might expect with such a literary device, there are both similarities and dissimilarities. First, we see the contrast in status of Jesus’ two petitioners. One was a “ruler” (Matthew 9:18); the other was a ritually unclean woman (Matthew 9:20). Second, we observe that both showed faith (Matthew 9:18; Matthew 9:21-22).
When the ruler came to Jesus, our Lord arose and followed him, and so did His disciples (Matthew 9:19). Earlier Matthew had arisen and had begun to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9), so now Matthew continued to follow our Lord all the way to the house of the ruler. Much of the account is firsthand, and it is Matthew alone of the evangelists who mentions the “minstrels” (Matthew 9:23). By the time they got to the house, the wake had already begun!
The poor woman who had interrupted their journey had been suffering for “twelve years” (Matthew 9:20). It turns out that the girl who had died was ‘the age of twelve years’ (cf. Mark 5:42). All that girl’s life, the woman had been suffering; for the one it was too long for her to suffer, for the other it was too young for her to die!
I say the woman was ‘poor’ both out of sympathy to her condition, and because she had actually spent all her substance on ineffectual doctors (cf. Mark 5:26). This serves as a contrast to Jesus’ efficacious and holistic healing.
The touch was very daring because it theoretically rendered Jesus ceremonially unclean. Yet Jesus is willing to reach out and touch us, or to be touched, whatever our infirmities (cf. Hebrews 4:15). His words to the woman are very reassuring to those of us who hardly dare approach Him (Matthew 9:22).
It is interesting to notice that Jesus addressed the woman, who interrupted His journey to the ruler’s daughter, as “Daughter” (Matthew 9:22). Rulers and outcasts are all made one in Christ Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:28), and God is a Father to us all (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:18).
Touching a dead body (Matthew 9:25) would also have rendered an ordinary man or woman ceremonially unclean – but Jesus is no ordinary man! Jesus has power over disease (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus has power over death (Acts 2:23-24). Jesus has power over sin (Matthew 9:2).
That power is ours to receive, if we will put our trust in Him.