Matthew 9:18-34, Salvation and the Land of Israel

[July 27, 2008] Everything in Matthew chapters 8–9 is in view of the teaching in chapter 10. Chapter 10 is about our mission to bring the Gospel to others. Matthew is concerned about justifying the church’s mission to the Gentiles. The acts of Jesus in chapters 8–9 are testimonies to His actual deeds but they are arranged to serve also as signs.

In this last of the four sections in chapters 8-9 (the narrative section that precedes and prepares for the teaching in 9:35—11:1), Matthew has placed stories that symbolize God’s restoration of Israel at the end of the church age. Jesus and the apostles believed, as did the prophets, that at the end of the age the Messiah would come (or return), at which time Israel would repent and believe, and the Messiah would restore them to the land of Israel in fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham. However, this only happens after “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” as a sign to Israel that Jesus is the Messiah that they have been waiting for. An outline of these events is given analogically in 8:2-17. The Gospel going out to the Gentiles is pictured in the journey of 8:18—9:1. The character of this proclamation is shown in 9:2-17. Now in this section (9:18-34), the conclusion with respect to Israel is depicted, again through analogies. 9:18-34, even understood literally, segues into chapter 10.

A Dead Child (Matthew 9:18)

The situation is obviously hopeless. The ruler’s daughter has just died. Yet he still believed that Jesus is able to heal His daughter. When situations seem hopeless, we usually give up. This father did not. We should not stop praying for our children, even when it seems hopeless.

The girl represents Israel in the land. In Luke 8:41 and Mark 5:22, we learn that the “ruler” is the president of the synagogue and in Luke 8:42 we learn that his daughter is a symbolic twelve years old. She is the “daughter of Zion,” the city of Jerusalem. Though God still had not lifted His judgment since the Babylonian exile (hence the continuing need for patience while Israel awaits her Messiah), Jesus later predicts the future destruction of the city and another dispersion of the people. “My daughter has just died.”

The Healing of the Unclean Woman (9:19-22)

The unclean woman (see Leviticus 15:25) suffered for a long time, from the time the child in verse 18 was born (twelve years ago). Her losing blood signifies a life that cannot be retained (Leviticus 17:11). According to Luke 8:43, she had spent all her livelihood going from one doctor to another and yet she was no better. Like this woman, we too may be exhausted looking for help (salvation). We may have tried everything.

When she saw Jesus, though, she recognized that He was holy, set apart by God and for God. She wanted to touch His holiness (the tassels or fringe at the bottom corners of His garment) requiring her to bend low, signifying humility (nor did she want to be noticed, because by touching anyone, including Jesus, she made them unclean). She touches Him by touching His garment (which signifies His righteousness), and not only His garment, but the fringe of His garment, which signifies His holiness (Numbers 15:38-39). So, even though the crowd pressed against Him, only she really touched Him (this is brought out in Luke 8:45-46).

Do we now see the Lord for who He is—righteous and holy unto God? We are unclean like this woman, yet can we approach Jesus with bold trust and yet with humility? And when we “touch” Jesus, are we like the crowd that pushes into Him, or do we really touch Jesus (in our spirit, with genuine faith). Notice that it is possible to “touch” Jesus without really touching Him. We may complain about Him that He does not satisfy us (we may begin to think that He is ordinary), but have we really touched Him? We really touch Him when we have a revelation of Him in our spirit, and exercise an active faith in Him on the basis of this revelation.

As a result, her faith in Jesus healed her. She represents the Jews who believe in Him during the age of the church. Their faith in Him and His saving Word heals them. Notice that she touches Jesus. He does not touch her. Remember the significance of this in 8:2-17: figuratively He is away. She is healed by His Word, not by His direct presence.

The Raising of the Dead Girl (9:23-26)

When Jesus reaches the house, the people are mourning for the dead girl. They laugh scornfully at Him. In other words, they have no faith. Yet because of the faith of the father, Jesus “follows through” and raises the girl from the dead, even though the others have no faith. We too should continue to believe, in spite of the unbelief of all others. Jesus enters the synagogue ruler’s house, and to raise the girl from the dead, He touches her. This incident represents the “resurrection” of Israel within the land when Jesus returns (Romans 11:25-26; Zechariah 12:10).

The Healing of the Two Blind Men (9:27-31)

The two blind men represent Ephraim and Judah (Ezekiel 37:15-28). They call on Jesus as the Son of David, that is, as Israel’s Messiah and King, and come to Him, signifying their faith in Him, within  the house (which represents the restored city and land). There Jesus touches them (signifying His returned presence within the land) and they are healed of their spiritual blindness—according to their faith in Him. (A similar story occurs outside of Jericho in 20:30-34 with the same meaning.)

We are spiritually blind until the Lord opens our eyes (Acts 9:18; 26:18; Ephesians 1:18; Revelation 3:18). No matter how hard we try, we cannot remove our own blindness. He opens our eyes as a result of our (a) calling on Him and (b) believing that He is able. We need to do both of these.

Notice that before Jesus gives us new life (regeneration; 9:25), He first cleanses us of our uncleanness (with forgiveness; 9:22). Forgiveness creates a clean place for the new life to come. When we receive the new life (Christ within us by the Holy Spirit), then our eyes are opened to see spiritual things.

The Healing of the Mute (9:32-34)

Dumbness signifies the inability to speak for God (Isaiah 56:10) and to praise God (Isaiah 35:6). The healing of the demon-possessed mute represents Jesus overcoming Satan and freeing Israel to become a teacher of the nations (as in Isaiah 2).

It also signifies Jesus equipping His disciples to proclaim the Word in the face of opposition. This sign thus segues to chapter 10. Like mutes, we are not able to open our mouths to confess Jesus and share Him with others. It takes a miracle of divine grace to free our tongues for Jesus’ sake.

But why cannot the mute speak? Why cannot we speak for Christ? The mute was possessed by a demon. In a similar way, the world—of which Satan is the prince—makes us afraid and keeps our mouths closed. The demonic influence of the world upon us prevents us from speaking. Jesus frees us from the demonic influence of worldly fear, and this opens our mouths. He frees us so that we can share Him with others.

Actually what frees us from the world (with its demonic influence) is having our spiritual sight restored. This then is the fourth stage. Forgiveness enables regeneration which enables spiritual sight which enables our freedom to proclaim Him. The presentation of these stages prepares us to hear, next, how Jesus thrusts out His workers into the harvest (9:38).

Ironically, when Jesus frees us from demons, this is perceived by the world as being demonic. Both the opening of our mouths and the persecution that comes as a result of it foreshadow Jesus’ instructions in chapter 10: the opening of our mouths corresponds to 10:5-15 and the persecution corresponding to 10:16-42.

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