1.  So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His Own city.

His Own city was Capernaum, where the Lord owned a house.

2.  And behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.  And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic,  “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

Here Jesus demonstrates that He is God as clearly as anywhere else in the gospels.  For although anyone can forgive sins against himself, only God can forgive all a man’s sins against God.

Apparently this man was a paralytic because of some sin he had committed.  The Lord takes care of this, the source of his ailment, before He heals the ailment itself.

3.  And at once some of the scribes said within themselves,  “This Man blasphemes!”

The scribes immediately recognized His statement as making Christ to be God.  They assumed this was blasphemy, believing that Christ wasn’t God, which of course wasn’t true.

4.  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

The Lord knows what they are thinking, and rebukes them for it.  What they were thinking was not right because He was God and did have the power to forgive sins.

5.  “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?

The Lord proves to them that He has the power to forgive sins by demonstrating His power to heal the man.  Anyone can say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” but only God can heal a paralytic using only the words, “Arise and walk.”

6.  “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic,  “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

If the Lord Jesus had truly blasphemed against God, then God would never have given Him the power to heal this man.  These scribes should have recognized from this that Jesus must indeed be God.

7.  And he arose and departed to his house.

A word from the Lord was all that was necessary for this man to walk again.  In the same way, a word from Him is all that is necessary to heal our world once and for all.

8.  Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, Who had given such power to men.

The crowd may not have understood exactly Who the Lord Jesus was, but nevertheless His acts caused them to glorify God.

9.  Then as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office.  And He said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he arose and followed Him.

The author of this book is here introduced.  In other gospels, he is sometimes called Levi.  We learn in 10:3 that he became one of the twelve.  As a tax collector, he would have been an outcast from the community of Israel, considered a traitor and a collaborator with the enemy Romans.  The Lord’s calling of him would have meant much to him indeed!  The chance to be accepted and to come back to the fold, so to speak, was one that the leaders of Israel would never offer to anyone.  Once you were out, there was no hope of restoration.  Yet that is not the way our Lord viewed things.  He accepted Matthew back as He would accept any lost sinner.  An important lesson for us today!

10.  And so it was, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.

“Sinners” was a generic term for those excommunicated from the community of Israel.  No self-respecting Israelite of good standing would have anything to do with these outcasts unless he had to.  Certainly he would not stoop to eating with them!  But our Lord went and fellowshipped with them as readily as He did with the religious leaders.  What a statement this made to all who saw it!

11.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

We imagine that they were stunned.  That anyone would do this must have been nearly unthinkable.  Even if one pitied the outcasts, to fellowship with them thus was to risk your own excommunication, and so we imagine that few would even think of it.  For a popular and well-known teacher like our Lord to do so must have been shocking.  Not only that, but it was a challenge to the power of the Pharisees, for they were the ones who had the authority to label one a sinner and cast one out of the community as these people had been.  The Pharisees were in a bind here because the Lord was far too popular for them to cast Him out.  They would have feared mass revolt on the part of the people if they did so.  Thus they come and question His disciples.

12.  But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

The Pharisees never thought of helping these outcasts.  Yet our Lord loved them and sought to help them.

13.  “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

The Lord Jesus came to call sinners.  But it is important that He would call them to repentance.  There is much talk today about accepting people as they are.  However, it is not all right for them to remain as they are.  This is often erroneously assumed.  They must submit to God and turn from their sins!  We cannot just accept them and tell them it is okay for them to go on sinning.  Jesus never allowed any such thing.  His message to these sinners was always to follow Him and give up their sin!

14.  Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying,  “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”

These disciples of John noticed the difference in practice between themselves and the disciples of our Lord.  To them this was a contradiction, and they came to the Lord to seek to clear it up.  We who deal with seeming contradictions in Scripture would do well to take their example.  It is not to the scoffers and critics that we should go for the explanations to difficulties, but rather to the Lord Himself.  The answers to our problems will be found in His words if we take the time to examine them closely and carefully.  His Word is able to stand up to all scrutiny and correct all errors.  We would do well to place our faith in it.

15.  And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Jesus here teaches much the same thing as Solomon teaches in Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for everything under the sun.  This was a time for His disciples to rejoice, but the time would come when they should mourn.

16.  “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.
17.  “Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.  But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The Lord warns against the improper mixing of two things together.  To mix the ministries of Christ and John together as if they were one would have been a mistake.  In the same way, we must recognize that some commands in the Bible were given to apply directly to the time and situation in which they were given, and may not actually apply to our circumstances today.  We must not just universally apply everything we read there to ourselves, as if we were the only ones to whom the Bible was written.  This is something to keep in mind, but it is also something about which we should be extremely careful.  We need to learn what our times are so we can know what is expected of us.  We need to know God’s truth for today, and the work that He is doing in this present dispensation.  If we are not careful with this and confuse God’s present work with His work in past dispensations, we will find ourselves making the kinds of errors that Christ mentions here in putting new wine into old wineskins or unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  Things will not fit, and we will create great problems.

18.  While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshipped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.”

This man indeed had great faith!  We need to remember, though, that these people made a big distinction between those who had just died and those who had been dead for some time.  They believed that for 48 hours after a person died, his spirit hovered around his body seeking entrance back into it.  If the body could be healed during this time, the person’s spirit could enter back into him.  After 48 hours, however, they believed that the spirit left for good, so that such a man could never be revived except by God Himself.  This man was basically asking the Lord to do the first miracle, which was to heal her body so that her spirit could enter back into her.  It was not until Jesus healed Lazarus that He healed someone who had been dead more than 48 hours.  This is why Mary and Martha seemed to have so little hope that He could heal him, in spite of the fact that He had already raised some from the dead.  This is also why the resurrection of Lazarus had such a big impact even after Christ had already raised some from the dead before.

Note that this story is not the same as that told in Mark 5:22-43 and Luke 8:41-56.  There the man was Jairus the ruler of a synagogue, whereas here this man was a civil ruler.  Also, there the girl was only on the point of death when her father came to the Lord asking for healing, whereas here her father knew that she was already dead.  We must not mix these two stories up, for they are the records of two different events.  Many people create their own troubles by assuming that these stories are the same, and then are troubled by the troubles they have created when they find that the stories differ!

19.  So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.

Our Lord responded to this man’s request.  What faith it took to believe that the Lord could raise someone from the dead!  This ruler was an impressive man indeed.

20.  And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment;

This touching the hem (or a tassel at one of the four corners of the garment) was an action of great respect.  This woman went about seeking healing in the most reverential manner possible.

21.  for she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”

This woman did not even think she had to get the Lord’s attention to receive healing, perhaps considering herself unworthy of His time.  Yet she believed that the Lord was the One Who could bring her healing, and in this she was most correct.

22.  But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.”  And the woman was made well from that hour.

This woman is healed of a long-time illness by merely touching Jesus’ garment.  Her faith healed her because she believed what had been prophesied before about the healing power of the coming Messiah.

This story is not the same as that told in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48.  There, the woman feared to be noticed by the Lord Jesus, but this woman had no such compulsion.  There, He had to wait for her to come forward from the crowd, whereas here she remains behind Him and allows Him to see her.  This woman was apparently less timid about what she had done, and was willing to allow the Lord to see her and speak with her.

Some might argue about the likelihood of two such events as these occurring in conjunction in this same manner twice.  In Mark and Luke the Lord was going to heal the synagogue ruler’s daughter who was sick and appeared to die before He got there, and here He is going to heal the civil ruler’s daughter who appeared to be dead.  Could two such similar events coincide more than once?  To answer this we need to remember several things.  First of all, the things that Christ did taught the various truths that He wanted to teach, and as such His hand was behind them guiding them to occur as they did.  He could easily have caused such events to happen in sequence twice in order to teach the lessons He wanted to teach.  Secondly, this malady of the flow of blood would have been a common thing in women of menopausal age at that time.  Although in our day this problem is easily remedied, at that time women with such a problem would simply have had to live with it.  As such, there were probably many women with this same problem, and the Lord no doubt healed many more women like this than these two whom we read about.  Thus, we realize that this sort of thing might have happened many times in the Lord’s healing ministry, although only these two times are mentioned.

23.  And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing,

The strange tradition of the day was to hire professional mourners to weep and wail at a person’s death.  These people had no real grief, of course, as they did not really know and love the person who had died.  It was thought, however, that their loud weeping and wailing somehow honored the person who had died.

24.  He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.”  And they laughed Him to scorn.

These mourners did not believe Jesus.  They made fun of him.  They all thought she was dead.  It amazes me that men today still side with the mourners rather than with the Lord, and do so openly and boldly!  It seems perhaps that they think that the Lord Jesus was speaking of death as a sleep.  This could not possibly be so, however, because of the Greek word used.  There were two Greek words for sleep.  One was used for composing oneself for sleep, and thus meant to fall asleep voluntarily.  The other was used for falling asleep in spite of trying to stay awake, and thus meant to fall asleep involuntarily.  Because of the nature of this latter word, it could be used as a figure for death.  This is the word Christ used when He spoke of Lazarus sleeping in John 11:11.  His disciples should have recognized the figure, but they did not, probably because they did not want to believe that Lazarus was dead.

Here, however, we have the first word for sleep, the one speaking of voluntary sleep, and thus it could not possibly mean death.  Christ was not saying that the girl was in the sleep of death, but that she was actually sleeping!

Men have tried to explain this away.  Some have suggested that the Lord wanted to downplay this miracle (as He did many others,) and thus said that she was sleeping so that men would not necessarily think He had raised a dead person.  If this is the case, however, then the Lord failed in His intent, as no one believed Him anyway.  Not only that, but this would have the Lord Jesus telling a deliberate lie, which could not be so!  Others have suggested that, to the Lord, death means no more than sleep since He is able to wake someone up from either.  This cannot be the case, however, as the Greek word used does not allow it, as I explained above.

The thing that makes people doubt our Lord’s words is, I think, the belief that it is easily recognizable when someone is and is not dead.  Anyone who believes this does not know enough of the human body, I think, or its amazing ability to hang unto life.  Anyone who has read Edgar Allen Poe extensively, or Shakespeare, for that matter, should know that in the past, people have held a fear of premature burial, and even believed that death could be simulated.  Shakespeare wrote about a potion that would simulate all appearances of death without actually killing someone.  This was in the play “Romeo and Juliet.”  Poe, however, wrote about a rather fanciful story about premature burial that echoed the fears of many in his day.  Although most of the stories he gave to prove his point were myths or fictional, he pointed out something that many people of the past believed and feared.  But were their fears justified?

In is book, “Buried Alive,” (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2001), Jan Bondeson, M.D., speaks of the phenomenon of the fear of premature burial that swept much of Europe and other parts of the world in the past, particularly the 18th century.  This fear was mostly based on the fear of death in general, and many of the proofs of it were caused by misunderstandings when bodies were dug up.  Bodies that were tipped over when the closed coffin was lowered into the grave were thought to have moved.  Rats chewing off extremities was thought to have been the corpse recovering and starting to eat himself in his madness and despair at finding himself in the grave.  Twisted limbs and a terrible grimace were merely the result of natural decay in a corpse.

Yet Mr. Bondeson (who holds a Ph.D. in experimental medicine and is a professor at the University of Wales college of medicine) writes that not all stories of premature burials were false.  In the chapter “Were People Really Buried Alive,” he presents the conclusions of a famous French neurologist G. Gilles de la Tourette, that some reported cases of nineteenth-century death trances were “an uncommon hysterical disorder, which he termed lucid hysterical lethargy.”  Mr. Bondeson concludes (page 251) that “like other of the more extreme forms of hysterical conversion, the lucid hysterical lethargy become much more rare, if not altogether extinct, in the twentieth century.”  He points out the fact that “Rather understandably, there are no case reports on record with titles like ‘I falsely diagnosed my patient as dead’ or ‘My patient was buried alive.’”  However, he points out cases where people revived during their funerals, and this seems to make it undeniable that we cannot always know for certain when death has truly come.  In the next chapter, “Are People Still Being Buried Alive?” he reports (page 263) that, “We today know that the requirement for oxygen decreases with lower body temperature, given that the natural defense mechanisms against hypothermia, like shivering, are nonfunctional, something that can be accomplished by an intoxication with barbiturates or other narcotic substances.”  In other words, one can appear to be dead when extremely cold and intoxicated.  He writes (page 264) that “In such an extreme case, there may be just ten (or even fewer) heartbeats per minute, and just two or three respirations.  It is impossible to feel a pulse or to detect any spontaneous respiration.  Electrocariography (ECG)…may be fallible in these extreme cases.”  So even today we have no guarantee that we can always tell whether a person is for sure living or dead.

This is the situation we find here.  These men had no idea of the medical conditions that could simulate death.  They saw a girl who no longer breathed that they could see, who had no detectable pulse, and whose body felt cool (they would probably not have noticed that it didn’t go entirely cold.)  Therefore, in their own intellect, they believed that this girl was dead.  They were fools compared to the knowledge of God, however.  The Great Physician Himself was standing before them, and He knew that this girl was not dead, and He told them so.  They, in their ignorance, laughed at Him.

25.  But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

Jesus wastes no time trying to give a medical description of hysterical disorders or of the proper way to diagnose death to these ignorant men.  He merely puts them out, and then works His healing miracle to animate this girl once again.  But He does not raise her from the dead, as He Himself said she was not dead!  We must stop seeing a resurrection here, and instead see our Lord healing some sort of death-simulating illness, just as He healed every other disease.  Let us not stumble at the words of God and refuse to believe what He said.  Rather, let us acknowledge that this girl, indeed, was “only sleeping.”

26.  And the report of this went out into all that land.

This is in stark contrast with the stories in Mark and Luke, where the Lord charged those who knew of the event not to tell anyone about it.  We have no reason to think that His command there was not followed.  Here, however, He gives no such command, and so the fame of what He had done spread like wildfire.

27.  When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”

This is the first time we read of blind men appealing to the Lord in this manner, but not the last.  All the blind men of Jericho seem to have called upon him using this same phrase, as we read in Matthew 20:30, Mark 10:47, and Luke 18:38.  It may be that those blind men heard of this story in particular, and used this same appeal to the Lord as the Son of David in hopes of receiving the same healing miracle that He worked here.

28.  And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him.  And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

When He arrives at His home He calls to these men and questions them.  The Lord’s question to them had to do with their faith.  Could God really work through His Messiah as He had said He would?  When they reveal that they believe that He can, their request is answered.

29.  Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.”

Their faith in the promises of God brings about their healing.  Yet we have no such promise of God related to our health, and thus we cannot have faith similar to that of these blind men.  The Lord never promised that the blind of our day would receive sight, and so they do not regardless of how great their faith may be in the promises God has given to them.  This promise is not theirs, and so they cannot be healed by it.

30.  And their eyes were opened.  And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.”

The Lord has only one request of them upon doing this great work for them: that they tell no one of it.

31.  But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country.

It is amazing to me how many people think that they are smarter than God.  God says something, and they seem to think that He is just being silly again, and they certainly know better.  These blind men are excellent examples of this.  After healing them, Jesus charges them sternly not to tell anyone about the miracle.  But they think that they know better than the Lord!  Surely He couldn’t be hurt by a little publicity, they reason.  And so, they go out and tell about it in disobedience to His Word!  Let us all be careful that we never despise the Word of God like this in thinking that we know better than He does.

32.  As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed.

Notice that these events happen in close sequence, as this miracle begins as the blind men were leaving.  No doubt rapid-fire healings like this were common in the Lord’s ministry, as many needed healing and all who came to Him in faith received it.  How different from the self-styled healers of our day, who claim one healing here and another there!

33.  And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke.  And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!”

Although miraculous healings had occurred, never had they happened so prolifically and so universally.

34.  But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”

The Pharisees, jealous of the Lord Jesus’ power, ascribe His miracles to Satan.  It is common to make fun of something that you have no power to attack or disprove.  These men had no answer for the amazing power of God being shown, so they tried to justify themselves by ridiculing it.  Let us take great care that we do not act like this when we have a disagreement with someone.  Remember, if you cannot answer an argument, do not stoop to ridicule.  You will only condemn yourself, right or wrong.

35.  And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

The Lord continues to preach the kingdom, and to demonstrate what He was talking about by healing all who heard Him.

36.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

The sad state of the common people of Israel in that day moved our Lord to compassion.  They were like sheep, but the shepherds who were over them cared only for themselves and increasing their wealth and power, not for helping the common people.  Thus, conditions in Israel were deplorable, and the poor were weary and scattered, having no leadership to help them, take compassion on them, and help provide for their needs, both physical and spiritual.

37.  Then He said to His disciples,  “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
38.  “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Jesus saw a plentiful harvest ripe for the harvesting among the men of His day.  Many apply this to our day as if plentiful harvests are always present.  I do not believe that harvests are always ripe for the picking.  He was speaking specifically of the conditions that existed then.  These people needed help and guidance, and the Lord urged His disciples to pray that it would be given.  We know that it was given, and that these people received the help and leadership they needed later on in the Acts period.

Although I do not believe that this is speaking in any way of conditions today, I do pray that such a harvest could be made in our day as well.  The world, after all, needs the Lord Jesus just as much now as it ever did.