AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 9:10-17

10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

When the Pharisee saw how Jesus ate with tax collectors, and people who were social outcasts, they became self-righteous, and morally indignant. But, because they were not very brave, the Pharisees approached the disciples of Jesus, rather than ask Him a question directly. Such is the characteristic of a critic.

11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

The question was asked, not as a legitimate inquiry, but to condemn. The implication is that Jesus was doing something unethical, or at the very least, socially questionable. The self-righteousness of the Pharisees, and the contempt with which they regarded others, is registered in the question. 

12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

Though the question was addressed to the disciples, Jesus heard the inquiry and responded. The disciples did not know how to answer. The question had put them on the defense, as many questions are designed to do. But Jesus was not defensive. In His response He put the onus back on the Pharisees where it belonged.

First, Jesus gently rebuked the Pharisees. Perhaps a wry smile crossed His lips as He noted, “They that are whole need not a physician.” The implication was understood. The Pharisees viewed themselves as the spiritual physicians of society. They were the most righteous in Jewish society. They kept the Law of Moses. They had committed themselves to observing all 613 provisions of the Law. They fasted more than the Law required. They tithed everything they owned. They offered the proper sacrifices on the appropriate feast days. The Pharisees were whole. They could heal others who followed their counsel.

Because they were so “whole”, pure and good, one has to wonder why the Pharisees were even sitting in the same house with Jesus and His disciples.

But Jesus was not through. Affirming the wholeness of the Pharisees, in their own estimation, Jesus continued to say, “But they that are sick do need a physician.”

The Pharisees would have agreed that the tax collectors, and the sinners were sick, spiritually. Jesus presented Himself as the Great Physician. He had come to heal both body and soul. That was the ministry that attracted so many to Him.

Today, those who are sick still need a physician. This is just another way of saying that people need the Lord. Every person who is sick of sin, and sinning, can find in Jesus the cure they need.

It is instructive to note that Jesus regarded sin as a disease. It is a fatal disease that will lead to certain destruction and death. This disease of which the Lord speaks is hereditary. It is hereditary, and it is universal. “Wherefore, as by one-man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12).

Not only is sin hereditary and universal, it is a corrupting disease. In matchless grace, God the Holy Spirit reveals to the soul that will be saved how horrible the sight of sin is in the sight of God. It is a loathsome disease, more hideous than ulcers, cancer, aids, or Ebola. That is the bad news. The good news is this. A disease can be cured.  If the First Adam brought the disease of sin and death to his posterity, the Last Adam is the cure.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.”

–Augustus Toplady

As Jesus presents sin as a sickness, He Himself is the Great Physician, with perfect credentials for He is the Creator that knows His creation. Moreover, the cure Jesus administers is perfect. It meets the need for Jesus offers Himself. Jesus is the Perfect Medicine, because He is able to cleanse from all sin.

Have you taken the Divine remedy? Have you put your trust in the Great Physician?

13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

In the most ancient of manuscripts, the words “to repentance”, are not found in Matthew’s account, but the words are found in the Lucian account.

Having answered the basic, “Why” question, Jesus continued to say something to the Pharisees. It was a stinging rebuke. The Pharisees prided themselves on their knowledge of the Law. “Now go and learn,” said Jesus.

It is infuriating to tell a man, filled with pride about his knowledge, that he needs to go and learn something. It is humiliating. To receive a public rebuke is even more embarrassing. Specially, the Pharisees were to go and learn what God meant when He said, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” Jesus was quoting the prophet Hosea (6:6).

The meaning is relatively simple to comprehend, and yet, somehow the Pharisees did not comprehend God’s Word. The Pharisees emphasized keeping rules and regulations, which are in themselves important, but they forgot to show grace and mercy to those who were not as strong, or disciplined as they were. God is a God of mercy. He wants His people to be full of mercy towards others. Sacrifices are important, but not if they become a substitute for love and grace, and form the basis for self-righteousness and self-promotion. Jesus will have none of that. He has come for a different reason.

The coming of Christ was by Divine design. A Child was born, the Son was sent to gather the sheep that belong to Him based on being a sinner that repents. “I have come,” said Jesus. Therefore, sick sinner, come to Christ. No matter what your sickness, Jesus is the Great Physician.

“There was a pastor of a very important church in the city of Washington many years ago, who had the custom of receiving new members into the church publicly.  It was the Calvary Baptist Church of Washington, DC, and Dr. Green, on the morning that he was to receive some into the church received the Honorable Charles Evans Hughes, whom you may remember at one time was a Supreme Court Justice, in fact the Chief Justice. At the same time, he received a Chinaman and a washerwoman. And when the three were introduced to the congregation, he said to them, “My friends, I will have you notice that at the cross of Jesus Christ, the ground is level.”  We’re all sinners, and Christ came to save sinners.  So, I call upon you as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus. If God the Holy Spirit has brought conviction to your heart, may you turn to him and receive from him the forgiveness of sins” (S. Lewis Johnson).

14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?

These are rather disappointing words to read, for it seems like the disciples of John have forgotten the spirit of their master, John. The disciples of John are no longer identified in opposition to the Pharisees, whom John rebuked, and called to repentance. Rather, these disciples of John are united with the Pharisees in excessive ritual fasts. And, they are proud of it. In their pride, in their self-righteousness, in their religious zeal, the disciples of John have united with the enemies of Jesus. If there is one thing that will unite religious and secular humanity, it is opposition to God, and to His anointed. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed” (Psalm 2:1-3).

15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.

Jesus refers to the Jewish culture of the day in which the honeymoon was not a honeymoon alone, for guests came to be with the bridegroom and his bride. A week or more would pass with the invited guests staying. It was a time of rejoicing. It was a time of celebration. It was not a time of mourning.

Jesus does anticipate the dark days that would come to the Royal Bridegroom. “But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” The Cross was always a shadow over the ministry of Jesus. Calvary was always on His mind, even in the midst of a joyous event.

Two Illustration of Corrupt Judaism
The Twin Sins of Ritualism and Sacramentarianism

First Illustration: An Old Garment

16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

Second Illustration: An Old Bottle or Wineskin

17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

When the message of redeeming grace is fully understood, it is something new and wonderful. Therefore, it must not be united to an old understanding of salvation by legal works. There is no way to unite false Judaism, with its ritualism and sacramentalism, with grace. There is no way that any religious work of man can be united with the free grace of God in order to produce salvation. To try to unite works and grace is to make the matter worse. To pour the doctrine of salvation by religious works into the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, is theologian corruption. 

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