CHAPTER 9:1-38 TEXT:
Matthew Chapter 9 is an important section, whose main lesson is largely overlooked. Here we find the "definition" of what the "Gospel message" is. Contrary to what some teach, the "Gospel message" is not the "death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah." It can't be that, as we have Yeshua Himself, "preaching the Gospel" in this chapter - and He is still alive. Add to that the fact that His disciples also preach the Gospel while He is alive, and that in Hebrews 4:2 we are told the Gospel was preached to the children of Israel with Moses in the wilderness. Just what is "the Gospel message" then?
9:1 "Son of Man"
In this context, "son of Man" is a Messianic term found in the Tenakh and numerous Hebrew sources including:
9:11 ... Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
This is an important section. Here, a group of Pharisees is critical of Yeshua for associating with those whom they consider to be sinners. Yeshua responds by gives these Pharisees a direct command to go "learn something." Later, in Matthew 12:7, we see Yeshua will criticize them again, for not doing as He told them to do here.
Yeshua's instruction to them is a quote from the prophet Isaiah. The context in Isaiah's original message and that of Yeshua's is similar. In each case you had people "going through the motions" of the instructions God gave in His Torah. What Yeshua is telling these Pharisees is that their reliance on performing God's commands, although absolutely part of their faith, was secondary to what God wants first -- a trusting relationship with Him. In no way does this mean the Torah is not to be followed. Rather, the message here is that, just as faith without works is dead (James, chapters 1 and 2), the same goes for works without faith.
This is the message God has given his chosen people throughout the Bible:
If these Pharisees had gone back to learn what Isaiah was talking about, they would have seen that they were just as much in "need of a physician" as these other people were. One could say that their "legalistic view" of the Torah made them more in need of Yeshua than the people they were criticizing.
It is evident to most that these Pharisees were outwardly performing the commandments of God but lacked the humility and trust God desired. This caused them to not recognize Yeshua for who He was. They made themselves "blind."
It should be noted however, that there is a "flip side" to this situation that is prevalent today. Anyone claiming to "believe in the Messiah," but who rejects the Torah as God's instruction, (i.e., "we're not under the Law") is no better off than these Pharisees. You cannot separate the "Torah in the flesh" from the Torah of Scripture. Yeshua said so (Matthew 5:17-21, 7:21-29), Paul said so (Romans 2:13, 3:31) and James said so (James, chapters 1 and 2). John goes so far as to have said that if you claim to know God but don't obey His commandments (His Torah), you are a liar and the truth is not in you (1 John 2:3-4).
Of course this message goes against the overwhelming consensus today -- just as it did in Yeshua and Isaiah's times.
9:14 the disciples of John
We know from Scripture that John the Baptist was raised in the Wilderness area and had a following of his own (Matthew chapters 3 and 11, Acts 18:25; 19:3). Discoveries in the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown a very Messianic-oriented community in the Wilderness, dating from about 100 BCE to 135 CE. These people included Essenes, a community that formed their own system of sacrifices, due to corruption of Saducees. The latest research indicates that John and his followers probably were a break-away group from the Essenes.
Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
Yeshua's statement of not placing new wine in old bottles (wineskins) is one of many Scripture verses often taken out of context to support some group's latest (non-Hebrew) doctrine. The proper interpretation of verse 17 would seem to be in relation to verse 14, as it is part of Yeshua's answer to the question posed to Him by John's followers about why His disciples were not fasting.
Fasting was part of following the Torah and Yeshua certainly never broke the commandments. Nor would we expect His immediate followers to do so, yet they seem to be at this time. Yeshua replies to this question using three consecutive and related images:
There is a teaching in the Talmud that compares an experienced Torah teacher to a wineskin and his knowledgeable teaching to "old wine."
Mishna Avoth 4:20 - ... he who learns from the young, unto what is he [to be] compared? Unto one who eats unripe grapes, and drinks wine from his vat; and he who learns from the old, unto what is he [to be] compared? Unto one who eats ripe grapes, and drinks old wine. ... regard not the container but that which is therein: there is a new container full of old [wine], and an old [container] in which there is not even new [wine].
Yeshua's teachings were "old" as they were from God (John 7:16), and therefore He is the old wineskin with old wine.
The connection between these items can now be seen as follows:
new piece of cloth = new wine = fasting
old garment = old wineskin = Messiah still present
With these three examples, Yeshua is simply stating that there is a proper time and place for everything and this does not abrogate the Torah. The time while He (Elohim in the flesh) was walking among man, was a time for enjoyment (old wine) and not fasting. (1)
A similar situation occurs in chapter 12, when his disciples are again accused of breaking Torah (by their picking and eating ears of corn). As we will see, Yeshua will counter their argument in a similar fashion as He did in this chapter. There He cites examples from the Tenakh showing how the Torah allows (in fact commands) for certain actions under specific circumstances.
"If I may but touch his garment"
A difficult question can be asked at this point. Did Yeshua become ritually unclean by either the woman touching His garment or by Him touching the dead girl? (If she was indeed dead!) Or was he not made unclean (by anything) because of his Deity? This is a very deep issue and one that merits further study. (Feel free to send your thoughts in to YashaNet!).
9:30 See that no man know it
Why did Yeshua "play down" who He was? One thought is that He didn't want the masses taking up arms against Rome, as many had the false idea that this would be a role of the Messiah.
In addition to this idea, looking back at the Hebrew Tenakh, we find the following:
Yeshua's actions are in accordance to what God told the prophet Isaiah. The people in Isaiah's time, just as in Yeshua's time, had strayed from God. As such, it was not for those who were haughty and arrogant to understand who He truly was. Those of a humble and contrite heart would receive the message however. As we will see later in this study, Yeshua makes a similar statement regarding His parables, which He says were not for all to understand.
9:35 ... preaching the gospel of the kingdom
As previously mentioned, many today believe the "gospel message" is the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah. This creates a conflict when faced with verses such as this one, or Hebrews 4:2, or other places where the disciples are preaching "the gospel" before Yeshua has died. To counter this, it is taught that the "gospel of the kingdom" is not the same as the "gospel of the Messiah's death, burial and resurrection." Scripture doesn't offer support for such a teaching however.
An alternative explanation is that there is one gospel message and it has never changed. It was indeed given to the Hebrews in Moses' time and preached by Yeshua Himself and his apostles. This "gospel" was "pictured" in the commandments regarding the Yovel Year, also called "Jubilees," where every 50 years, debts were forgiven and properties returned to their original owners. The Yovel Year has heavy Messianic significance in Jewish literature. The prophet Isaiah (chapter 61) makes the connection between the elements of the Yovel year commandment and their ultimate fulfillment by the Messiah.
A detailed look at the connection between the Yovel year and the Gospel may be found in our Revelation study. NOTE: This is more advanced material, and the student of this Matthew study would do well to examine it and return here.
Just as the Yovel year brought freedom to captives, forgiveness of debts and a restoration of things to their original order, the Messianic kingdom will bring freedom, forgiveness and a restoration of the the name of God, Israel and creation - complete and everlasting physical and spiritual healing (Revelation 21 and 22).
The "death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah" is not the Gospel. Rather, it is God's personal "signet" on Yeshua confirming that He was/is the one bringing in what is called the "Jubilee release" -- the "good news" or "gospel" from God. This will all come fully into place when the New Covenant is established in the Millennium.
9:36 ... as sheep having no shepherd
The shepherds of the people were the priesthood. Just as in the days of Malachi, they had become corrupted, leaving the people without Godly leadership. But as the prophet foretold, the true Shepherd, God's Messiah, would one day come:
The book of Malachi closes with a reminder that God does not change. It also makes it clear that the end times and arrival of the Messiah are linked to the keeping of the Torah:
1. See: Hermeneutics: How to Understand the Scriptures, James Trimm, Society for the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism - www.nazarene.net