The Gospel of Matthew is showing us who Jesus is and particularly showing his authority and power over sins through the healings he is performing. We are going to look at four miracles that Matthew places together by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to reveal more about this Jesus. Matthew sets up these miracles by first introducing a question that is brought up in Matthew 9:14-17.
Fasting or Feasting (Matthew 9:14-17)
I think it is important to see who brings the question. In verse 14 we are told it is the disciples of John who come to Jesus with a question. The disciples of John the Baptizer want to know why we are fasting and why the Pharisees fast but the disciples of Jesus do not fast. Now we need to think about the purpose of fasting. People do not fast when joyful and hopeful. People fast when they are sorrowful, mourning, and in deep need. You will notice that this is the answer Jesus gives. He says in verse 15 that fasting is for times of mourning. But now Jesus is going to illustrate who he is and what he has come to do.
Jesus says in verse 15 that wedding guests do not mourn during the wedding celebration. When the groom is with the guests, everyone is rejoicing. It is a time of feasting and celebration, not a time of fasting and mourning. Jesus is making two implicit points. First, Jesus is the one you were fasting for and waiting for. You were fasting as you intensely called to God to send the anointed one (the groom). But the groom is here. The one you were waiting for and intensely calling to God for has arrived. Second, Jesus is pointing out that it would be completely inappropriate for his disciples to be fasting when he is here. This is the time for joy and celebration. This is the time for feasting, not fasting.
Now will notice that Jesus makes a subtle point in verse 15. There is a time coming when the groom will no longer be with them and then they will fast. There is a time when his disciples will have to wait in hope again. But that time is not right now. Jesus is with his disciples now. He will be taken away from them and they will be fasting for his return.
Jesus then uses two illustrations to point out why his disciples are feasting and not fasting. In verse 16 Jesus says that no one puts an unshrunk cloth on an old garment because it will make the old garment’s tear worse. It would be inappropriate to put that patch on the old garment. In verse 17 Jesus says that no one puts new wine in old wineskins because the old wineskins will burst and be destroyed. It would be inappropriate to put new wine in old wineskins. Jesus has come and is bringing something new with him. It would be inappropriate for his disciples to be fasting when the new has come. They do not fast because the new has arrived. But what is this “new” thing that Jesus brings with him that gives his disciples the reason for joy and feasting? This is what the four miracles go on to show in the rest of Matthew 9.
Rather than looking at these four miracles individually, I want us to look at the four miracles and notice the commonalities between them. There are many comparisons we can see in these miracles that show who Jesus is and what he has come to do for his people. Let’s read Matthew 9:18-34 and consider these comparisons.
The first comparison across these miracle accounts is that we have people who are desperate. In verse 18 we have a synagogue leader whose daughter has died. In verse 20 we have a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. In verse 27 we have two blind men. In verse 32 we have a demon-oppressed man. Everyone has a serious problem. They all have problems that no one else can solve. They are in situations that are so desperate that there is nothing anyone can do for them.
But then I want you to see that all of these miracle accounts reveal people with deep faith in Jesus. The synagogue leader whose daughter has died asks Jesus to come and lay his hand on her so she will live (9:18). Friends, we need to be impressed by this faith. Why would he think that Jesus had the power to raise someone from the dead? The last time we read about someone sent by God having the power to raise the dead is in the days of Elijah and Elisha. It is not like resurrection is happening regularly in Israel. It has been about 800 years since God had given the authority to someone to raise the dead. The prophets that came after Elisha did not possess this power. But this synagogue ruler must know that Jesus is more than a prophet. The synagogue ruler has the kind of faith in Jesus to believe that Jesus can raise his daughter for the dead.
The woman also reveals her deep faith in Jesus. She believes that if she simply touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment then she would be healed (9:21). She does not think that Jesus needs to touch her. She does not think that she needs a conversation with Jesus. She thinks that she can simply touch his clothes and that will be enough to heal her. She possesses great faith in who Jesus is and what he can do.
The blind men also reveal deep faith. Notice what they are saying as they follow behind Jesus. “Have mercy on us, Son of David” (9:27). This is the first time in Matthew’s gospel that someone has confessed Jesus to be the Son of David. Being the Son of David means that they understood Jesus to be the long awaited descendant of King David, the one who would establish his kingdom and rule on his throne forever. They understand that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and Savior. So they follow behind Jesus, crying out for the Son of David to show them mercy. They know that Jesus can heal them of their blindness.
Finally, we see great faith in a demon-oppressed man who has been mute being brought to Jesus. Here is the belief that Jesus has the power to overcome the power that the demon has over this man’s life. Jesus has come to fight the power of darkness and he will succeed. Deep faith in who Jesus is and what he has come to accomplish is on display in each account.
Three of these accounts present direct confirmations about what is taking place in these miracles. These direct confirmations show what is required to receive what Jesus has come to do. To the woman with the discharge of blood, Jesus tells her, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (9:22). Jesus confirms her faith and the healing she needs is coming to her because of her deep faith. When Jesus gets to the ruler’s house, there is a great commotion going on, which was typical in that time for when someone died. But listen to what Jesus says in verse 24. “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” Imagine this scene. Imagine being at a funeral where a man walks up to the casket and tells everyone to go home because the person in the casket is not dead, but sleeping. What would you think? What do you think the reaction of the funeral home would be? But this is direct confirmation about who Jesus is and what he has come to do. Your hope is not gone. Your life is not gone. It is not over. I have come to restore hope and bring new life.
Look at what Jesus tells the blind men as they are crying out to Jesus to have mercy on them. “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (9:28). Then look at what Jesus says in verse 29. “According to your faith be it done to you.” I love this miracle because the blind are clearly seeing Jesus before they can clearly see. They have not physically seen Jesus but that did not matter. They clearly see who Jesus is and express it in their faith which leads to them being able to clearly see.
Finally, we see divided reactions in these miracle accounts. The people at the synagogue ruler’s house laughed at Jesus when he said that the daughter was sleeping and not dead (9:24). When the demon-oppressed man is healed, the Pharisees proclaim that Jesus is casting out demons by the prince of demons (9:34). But others are amazed and spreading the fame of Jesus. The report of Jesus is going everywhere. The message of Jesus is clear, as recorded in verse 33. “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” Jesus has brought the new. Nothing like this has ever happened before.
So what is the new that Jesus was bringing to the world so that his disciples were appropriately feasting and joyful? Jesus was bringing new life. All of these people are desperate and helpless. But Jesus is able to give them a new life. The daughter is raised from the dead, giving her new life. The woman with the flow of blood is healed, giving her new life, allowing her to no longer be afflicted and no longer be unclean. The blind men are shown mercy so that they have a new life, seeing like they had never been able to see before. The demon-oppressed man was mute but was given new life, freedom from the oppression he experienced.
Jesus’ new wine and new patch that he brings is new life that everyone can enjoy if they respond to Jesus by faith. This faith can only come by seeing our own desperate need and realizing that Jesus is the only answer to the broken lives we possess. Jesus expressly teaches this important truth.
Your faith has made you well.
Do you believe that I am able to do this? According to your faith be it done to you.
Now think about what Jesus said and apply it to yourself. According to your faith let it be done to you. The reason we can fail to experience the new life that Jesus is offering is that we do not have the faith. We do not believe that Jesus can change our lives. We may not even believe that Jesus has anything we need. We do not believe he can change our condition. We might even be like those who in these accounts mocked what Jesus was doing.
But let me flip this idea the other direction. Jesus is telling us that we cannot be made well until we have deep faith in him. We cannot truly live until we have faith in him. We cannot see until we have faith in him. We cannot be free from oppression until we have faith in him. These people understand this. The synagogue ruler says, “She will live” if you come and lay your hand on her. The woman with the flow of blood said to herself, “I will be made well” if she touched Jesus’ clothing. The blind men knew they would receive mercy and see if they called out to Jesus. Now do you believe that you will truly see if you give your life to Jesus? Do you believe you will be restored and healed if you give your life to Jesus? Do you believe you will have a new life in this world and in the world to come if you give your life to Jesus? Your help and your hope is only by looking to Jesus to make your life new.