There can sometimes be a connection between sin and physical problems. In the case of the paralytic the assurance of being forgiven immediately resulted in restoration of his ability to stand and walk.
By putting the healing of the paralytic next to the spiritual healing of Matthew the rapacious tax collector (probably the writer of this Gospel) the forgiving and healing work of the Messiah is highlighted. And the crowds recognize Jesus's divine authority.
9:1 Jesus had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum (4:13), and this incident took place in his home. Because of the crowd some people took the tiles off the verandah roof and lowered their paralyzed friend right in front of Jesus. (Mark 2:1-4).
9:2 The helpless man is immediately told he is forgiven, and a few minutes later he is told to get up and go home (9:6).
9:3-5 The scribes (see 8:19) view this as blasphemy because only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7). Jesus answers this by connecting the power to heal with the authority to forgive.
9:6-8 Matthew has emphasized the fact that the Messiah is the Son of God (3:17; 4:6; 8:29; recognized by Peter in 14:33 and 16:16, and a second time by the Father in 17:5). This is the second reference to the fact that the Messiah is also the Son of Man (8:20; see 10:23; 11:19; 12:32, 40; 13:37, 41, etc.). Jesus will use both terms in his defense before the high priest (26:63-64). It is hard to escape the conclusion that Matthew wants his readers to know the eternal Son of God was incarnate as a very human Messiah. That is why as man he can forgive sins.
9:8 The scribes are silenced but the ordinary people have no difficulty recognizing Jesus' authority.
9:9-10 In recording this incident two other Gospels give the tax collector his Jewish name, Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). But that name Levi is never used again in lists of apostles. It is possible that Jesus gave Levi the new name Matthew (as with Simon Peter, 16:18; Mark 3:16; John 1:24). In Hebrew the name Matthew means "a gift."
Under the Roman administration tax collection in any areas was farmed out to the highest bidder. Because of their ruthless methods, and their working for the hated Roman rulers, tax collectors were viewed as among the worst of sinners (5:46; 9:10-11; 11:19; 18:17; 21:32).
9:11-12 The Pharisees took it for granted that righteous people would have nothing to do with obvious bad characters in their society. Jesus uses a metaphor to explain himself: "Where do you expect to find a doctor doing his work, among the healthy or among the sick?"
9:13 This is the first direct reference to God's kind of love in the Gospel. It comes in a text from Hosea 6:6. In the KJV "mercy" was used as the translation of the Hebrew word khesed. But this gives a wrong impression of what God's love is like. In modern versions it is correctly translated "steadfast love" (NRSV) or "faithful love" (NJB).
God is defined as love in 1 John 4:16, but the term khesed for the love of God is first used in Genesis (see Genesis 19:19; 24:27; 32:10; 39:21; Exodus 15:13; 20:6; 34:7; Numbers 14:18,19; Deuteronomy 5:10; 7:9, 12). It is used of the love of God sixty times in the Psalms, and Psalm 136 has the word in every one of its 26 verses. It is only rarely used of human love (Judges 1:24; Proverbs 3:3; 21:21).
Hosea's continuing love for his wife who had become unfaithful is used as an acted parable of the love of God (Hosea 3:1). This suggests that the verse quoted by Jesus refers to God's love, not to our love for God. It could be paraphrased "My longing is to love sinners, not to have them bribe me with sacrifices, I want them to know my love rather than offer burnt offerings" (Hoses 6:6).
Jesus' point is that in working as the doctor for sin among sinners he is expressing the same kind of steadfast love as is spoken of in the Psalms and the Prophets (see Isaiah 16:5; Jeremiah 33:11; Micah 7:18). It is only after having experienced the steadfast love of God that we in turn begin to learn how to love with God's kind of love (Romans 12:1; 1 John 4:10, 19).
The key to this section is that the new wine of the love of God would burst the Pharisaic system of rules and rituals. The new life of the kingdom among Jesus' disciples will involve fasting and self-denial but not in a legalistic or ritualistic kind of way.
9:14 The Pharisees had rules and set times for fasts. But obviously Jesus' disciples did not live by that kind of religion.
9:15 Jesus explains that eating and refraining from eating is a function of the situation we are in. We do not fast and look miserable (see 6:16) at a wedding. On other occasions in the service of the kingdom we will need self-denial (as did Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:27).
9:16 That means that trying to patch the old Pharisee religion with pieces of the new love of God only makes matters worse.
9:17 Instead of our modern method of using glass bottles, wine was put in new resilient skins. Then as fermentation took place the skins could expand to contain it. This suggests that the new life created by the Spirit in our churches year by year needs fresh forms to contain it.
Luke's Gospel adds the comment that wine connoisseurs enjoy the bouquet of fine wine that has matured over the years (Luke 5:39). This suggests that people in our churches who enjoy dignified mature worship will find it hard to stomach any new work of the Spirit. But they should remember that old wine runs out unless a new vintage is bottled every year.
The two chapters on healing began with three examples of unexpected kinds of healing (8:1-17). Matthew now includes some examples of different kinds of faith involved in healing. In his healing ministry the Messiah has many ways of touching people and letting people being touched for their healing. And the way faith works will differ in each case.
9:18-26 First there is the faith of the leader of a Jewish synagogue asking Jesus to come and lay hands on his daughter who has just died. On the way a woman in a huge crowd has the faith to come and touch Jesus' garment, and she is healed. When Jesus arrives at the dead girl's home he tells the crowd she is not dead but in what we would call a coma. Obviously she cannot exercise faith herself, and Jesus takes her by the hand to heal her.
9:27-30 In the case of healing the two blind men they must have heard what the Messiah was doing, and they join the crowd that was following him. Their faith is expressed first by crying out loudly for Jesus to heal them. Jesus then asks them if they have the faith to believe he can do this. It is when they say "Yes, Lord" that Jesus touches their eyes and their eyes begin to see.
9:30-31 Jesus tells them not to announce their healing to others, but they go and announce it all over the district. The lesson for us seems to be that we are never encourage those who are healed to announce this to the public. At the same time we recognize that there is nothing we can do to stop the news getting around.
9:32-33 This person is possessed by a spirit that prevents him declaring his faith in words, or even asking friends to take him to Jesus. So here it seems to be the faith of his friends that was involved in his healing (as in 9:2). Faith therefore seems to be effective in many different ways. But as we have seen it is the direction of faith towards the power of a loving God that is important, not our specification of what we think a proper faith should be.
9:34 Matthew will later quote Jesus' own words to explain that his healing ministry is by the power of the Holy Spirit (12:28). And when the Pharisees said he was healing by satanic power they were in danger of calling good evil, and falling under the danger of blasphemy (12:31-32).
As the work of teaching and healing proceeds, the needs multiply. The greater the harvest the more workers must be called in to help, and the way this is done is by prayer.
9:35 The work of the Messianic kingdom includes visiting people in their towns and villages, formal teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news to crowds, and prayer for the sick (see 10:8). Presumably in each case hearers will respond in faith in different kinds of way.
9:36-38 As the crowds gathered around Him, the Messiah is touched by their need of care and shepherding. What goes wrong when ordinary people are neglected by careless pastors is pictured vividly in Ezekiel's vision (see Ezekiel 34:1-11).
The Messiah knows that this need cannot be met by himself alone, and he asks the disciples to join him in prayer for more workers. This should remind those who burn themselves out in church work, that calling others to pray for more workers is an essential part of ministry. And once additional workers are identified, there has to be the faith to let them make their mistakes and learn to do the work (as the disciples will be sent out to do in the next chapter).