-This chapter revolves around the concept of faith in the Kingdom to accomplish great and mighty healings and life altering miracles in direction. We see God’s compassion regaining supreme here as Christ’s ministry begins to take full shape. He is the Forgiver of sins and cleanses from every disease. He calls people to follow Him for advancement in the spiritual growth of the entire world.
-Right after Jesus had healed the paralytic there in Capernaum He sees Matthew (Levi) sitting at his tax booth and implores him to come and follow Him. Capernaum was a key military center for Roman troops during this period of history as well as a thriving business community along the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Merchants would pass through this area from as far away as Egypt to the south and Mesopotamia to the north. Collecting taxes was a major part of the Roman system and Matthew was a privileged, but despised, part of that collection process. Tax collectors would charge commission on the dues owed the Roman government and in most cases would accumulate exorbitant compensation for their work. This obviously irritated the local population of Jews since Matthew himself was Jewish but profiting off of foreign domination (Zacchaeus was also a tax collector in Jericho, Luke 19:1-9). It was in this context that the Messiah calls Levi to leave everything else behind and come follow Him. Amazingly Levi does this. He leaves behind a lucrative business of shame and becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ. He ends up giving us the gospel of Matthew as an endearing testimony of a life surrendered completely to the King of kings and His Kingdom. *Application* When we read of actual events like this one where a successful man in the ways of the world gives up literally everything to follow Christ, what kind of inspiration does that spark in your own soul? When the Lord beckons, we have one of two choices. 1) Leave everything behind and follow Him, or 2) Make excuses and refuse the call of God (putting off a call is saying no to it, God expects immediate compliance). When you hear the voice of the Lord calling you, be like Levi and go with Him on the amazing journey.
-Matthew immediately hosted Jesus Christ and His disciples along with other Jews and Pharisees to celebrate his conversion in following after the Lord. The Pharisees made comments about why Jesus would associate Himself with such a sinner and the like, but Christ knew their hearts and addressed them. He proclaimed His mission, that it is the sick who need a physician, not the well. He desires compassion (love, inward change), not sacrifice (outward expression), and Jesus told the religious crowd to “go and learn” what that meant (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13). Again we see the repentance word come up and this was something that the hard hearted Pharisees were unwilling to see, hear, or understand. They were self-righteous and loved to point out the wrong in others while neglecting their own imperfections. Jesus’ point should have been clear to them that they also needed a change of heart towards the Savior, but unfortunately they missed it. *Application* How often do we commune with those that may be considered outcasts and rejects of the standard church scene? Jesus was not ashamed or afraid to interact with even the most despised members of His society to share the good news of the gospel. How much more should we be noticing and seeking out individuals who are also called to be a part of the Kingdom of God?
-Here in this next section we see the Pharisees, rich in their legalistic tradition, questioning Jesus about the lack of fasting they observe in His disciples compared to them and John’s disciples. Jesus’ response is attended to alert them to His Messianic greatness as a time of celebration and joy, which they were never actually able to perceive. Jesus did maintain that there would come a time for them to fast when the bridegroom is taken away. The Scripture uses this bridegroom analogy often as something that is known is compared to a deep spiritual truth concerning the Kingdom of God. This was the plaroma (the fullness of time) in which God came to be with man in special revelation through the incarnation of His Son (Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10). Special rejoicing and celebration around this monumental event should have been expected if anyone really understood what was going on. Jesus even tried to explain this to these, but they continued to be blind and deaf. *Application* There is a season for all things. These are seasons of the soul and God wants us to react appropriately in each and every situation. It is His will for us to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4, Ephesians 5:16), but there are times when we should fast and make special efforts in seeking Him. What time is it in your life?
-Jesus reiterates His point with two more illustrations designed to show how the new in Him had come. This is a precursor to the New Covenant, which He would establish with His blood on the cross of Calvary (Jeremiah 31:31, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25). It was a new day and a new way with the Son of God’s justifying sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Gone would be the old religious system tied up in the traditions that were manmade and cumbersome on the soul of man. Righteousness was now going to be attainable. Those who wanted to cling to the old system would say that it was good enough (Luke 5:39), but they failed to realize that it could never bring salvation and impute the righteousness of God on a person. It only restrained evil by the enforcement of the rigid law that was perfect as far as God gave it, but it proved impossible for man to keep. Therefore, in God’s mercy and compassion, He gave His only begotten Son to be the substitutionary atonement for our sins (Hebrews 10:1-10). These deep theological truths Jesus spoke in parables, which flew right over the head of His hard hearted hearers. *Application* The “old wine skin” has become synonymous with traditional manmade systems that have become too rigid and controlled to be of much Kingdom value. When we seek “new wine skin” we are breaking away from the religious spirit into the work of Christ in a freeing and more pliable situation that is commensurate with the Spirit of God. Often this causes tension with those who want to be unyielding and unchanging, but Jesus predicted these things would happen not only back then, but anytime a controlling spirit is present. At times like these it is best to break away and find a new container for your spiritual work. But always remember to do it God’s way in love and without bitterness or jealousy.
-Jesus is seen ending up in the chapter going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness. He felt compassion for the people because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep with no shepherd. *Application* Jesus was astute enough to perceive the real needs of people He ministered to. He was praying for and raising up workers for the harvest of souls relying on the power of God. We should be doing the same things just as He commanded here in this passage (Matthew 9:35-38).