September 13, 2013

Scripture and Commentary,Saturday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 92, 1 Kings 3:16, 2 Cor. 13
Evening – Psalm 46, 96, Mt. 9:7-17

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they present much of the same material in the same way.  All three record the call of Matthew, though Mark 2 and Luke 5 call him Levi.  And all three record the words of Christ to the Pharisees, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”  I wonder if this inclusion is a self-confession on the part of all the disciples that they were sick to the soul until the Great Physician touched their lives and made them whole.  The inner healing that Jesus worked on the leper, the centurion’s servant,  Peter’s mother-in-law, the Gergesene demoniac, the palsied man and the multitude brought to Him in Capernaum, was equally needed by each disciple.  They were as sick as any of the others Jesus helped.  But, healed by His grace, they, like the others, were as whole and saved as Abraham of the Old Testament and Paul of the New Testament.

By contrast, the unbelieving Pharisees, though diligent about things like fasting, were unwilling to admit their illness.  In their minds God had to accept them because they kept the outward performance of the law, including several of their own additions to it.  Make no mistake, keeping that law was a burden grievous to bear, but they did it with amazing success.  What they lacked was the inner meaning of the law, the character and attributes the law expressed.  They lacked love for God, and love for their neighbors.  Since they believed they were spiritually whole, they did not think they needed a spiritual Physician.  They did not think they needed Jesus to heal their souls.  So, instead of coming to Him in faith, they argued with Him about the law.

In verses 10-13 they argued about eating with people who were not very good at keeping the letter of the law.  In verses14-17 they argued about fasting.  Jesus answered the first with the telling words, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  In other words, those who believe themselves righteous will not seek Him.  But He came to those who know they are unrighteous.  He came to call them to repentance, which means He has to have some contact with them.

He answers the question about fasting not with theological arguments about when and how to fast, but with the statement that the Messiah is here and His disciples will not fast until He is taken from them by the cross.  That is His meaning in verse 15.  But verses 16 and 17 take a surprising turn.  They talk about a new garment and new a new wine bottle.  Because a patch of new material on an old garment will shrink, it will cause a worse tear in the garment.  Therefore, a wise seamstress patches an old garment with old cloth.  Like wise, the fermenting process of new wine will cause pressure an old wine bottle (skin) cannot bear.  Only old wine can be put in old skins.

But Jesus is like new cloth and new wine to the Pharisees, and to the entire Old Testament system.  The Pharisees and the ceremonial law, the Temple, the animal sacrifices, and the Levitical priesthood foretold and pre-figured the ministry of Christ.  But they would never be able to hold Him in the old forms.  He fulfills them in such a way that they must pass away, even as John the Baptist.  They must decrease, and Christ must increase, for why would anyone sacrifice a lamb as the symbol of the coming Lamb of God, when the Lamb of God has come and offered Himself as the offering to take away the sins of the world?  Christ did not come to patch the old forms.  He came to fulfill them.

As the Pharisees were speaking to Jesus, a ruler came to ask Him to heal his daughter.  The man was Jairus according to Mark and Luke, rabbi of the local synagogue.  This man was supposed to be on the Pharisees’ side, but he is defecting.  “[L]ay thine hand upon her, and she shall live,” he says to our Lord.  Jesus leaves Matthew’s houses immediately, followed by his disciples, including Matthew.  On the way to Jairus’ house a woman with an issue of blood touches His garment and is healed.

Note the spiritual words used throughout Matthew’s Gospel.  The man with the palsy was “forgiven.”   The sick need to be made “whole.”  Jairus’ daughter is “dead” but will “live” when Jesus touches her.  The woman with an issue of blood wants to be made “whole.”  She is “unclean” according to Old Testament law, and was forbidden from participating in public and religious life until her issue was over.  But this woman’s issue went on for twelve years and no one was able to help her, until Jesus came. One touch of even the hem of His garment made not just healed, but “whole.”  And Jairus’ daughter arose.  Her body arose to die again in later years.  But her soul arose to die no more.  She lives.