Matthew 9:1-17 (The substantiation of the authority of Jesus cont’d.)
Matt. 9:1-8-His authority over sin (and forgiveness). I love the words, "seeing their faith". Is my faith in Christ lived out loud? Do others see Him, in me? Or, is it a silent, quiet, insignificant faith that doesn’t motivate and challenge other people. The very fact that they brought their friend to Jesus revealed their faith in Him. Jesus first pronounced his sins to be forgiven...then healed him physically. The crowd was "filled with awe" that God had given this authority to "men"...plural. They had not yet recognized the uniqueness and identity of Jesus. The word "awe" (v. 8) is the same Greek word as in 8:10,27..."marveled". The Pharisees accused Jesus of “blasphemy”. He had just proclaimed forgiveness of sin…and only God could forgive sin. They must have thought, “Who does He think He is, God?” And of course, they were right. He did think that He was God…and that was the reason why He could forgive sin. Jesus says, “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority…” (see v. 8). Once again, it is patently evident that Matthew is using this incident in which Jesus uses His authority to establish Who He is.
Matt. 9:9-13-His authority over the teaching of the Pharisees. (His teaching was authoritative over theirs). 9:13-This quote is a reference to Hosea 6:6. In that book God is judging Israel and Judah for forsaking Him. They are still going through the motions of religion...bringing sacrifices, celebrating feasts, etc...but their religion is empty, without God at its core, or focus. God speaks to the people and says, "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against Me" (NASV). Adam's sin was not one of deception, but was intentional, knowing what he was doing. Jesus is condemning the Pharisees of intentionally continuing to practice the outward appearances of religious ceremony without embracing the One that it worships. They were maintaining the activities for the sake of appearance. Could it be that they had become so caught up in the system, the process...that they feared that if they changed it, if they truly began to worship God and embrace Him, that the change would be so radical that they would lose what they had...their significance, their control? And, that if they made the change and realized that what they had been doing was wrong…that it would require that they change, as well?
Matt. 9:14-17-His authority over the religious practices of the Pharisees. The Pharisees fasted two times each week…and they were very public in doing so. There were only three annual public fasts that were required: the Day of Atonement, the day before Purim, and the 9th of Ab (commemorating the fall of Jerusalem). Jesus uses an illustration that seems simple enough…putting new wine into old wineskins…but what is the point. Putting new wine into old wineskins just won’t work because as the wine ferments it gives off gases and stretches the wineskin. An old wineskin has already been stretched to its limit and if new wine is placed into it, it will explode. The point: the life that God requires of us (BeAtitudes) will not fit into the religion that the Pharisees practiced. The two are incompatible. The life that God gives cannot be contained by the skin of laws, and regulations. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit their life takes on dimensions and qualities and depth that so far exceed laws and regulations that they would explode. The Pharisees were going through the motions of fasting…but missing the meaning and the spirit of fasting.
It is interesting, but I am convinced that this is the very thing that many lost, and un-churched people sense in their hearts about much of the church, today. They see the church as merely being an institution that promotes religious activity and demands obedience...but does not truly offer any authentic connection to the spiritual realm, to God. Are our churches and leaders in a similar position as the Pharisees? Do we fear what we would lose if we made changes to bring the church full circle, away from the organizational and formal structure that seems to dominate so much of what it is, today...and back to an authentic body of believers?
Prayer: Lord, please keep me close to You. Don't allow me to fall into the trap of meaningless routine. To just go through the motions of religion...and not truly live for You and worship You. It is so easy for my flesh to be satisfied with the regularity and comfort that being a "Christian" can bring. God, if I'm not careful, my job will be the ruin of me. There is so much to do, so many people to care for...that I struggle to have time for You. Protect me from the demands of the church. Help me to keep my eyes and heart on You.