“Nothing Like This Was Ever Seen in Israel”

Except That, It Could Have, Should Have, and Sometimes Did!

“And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”

Matthew 9:18-38

“While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus rose and began to follow him, and so did His disciples. And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.’ But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ And at once the woman was made well. And when Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in noisy disorder, He began to say, ‘Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been put out, He entered and took her by the hand; and the girl arose. And this news went out into all that land. And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, and saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And after He had come into the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘Be it done to you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See here, let no one know about this!’ But they went out, and spread the news about Him in all that land. And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him. And after the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees were saying, ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’ And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'”

Many Miracles and a Metaphor:

For those who are new and as a reminder to the returning, we use the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics to unlock the scriptures. For our cultures and traditions have the scriptures caged. You only know what you have been taught unless you are learning for yourself. Especially in the West, too often pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers teach traditions rather than the Bible. And with their podcasts and radio programs they proselytize people into their rigid and legalistic form of christianity or worse yet, a watered down and weak version of the Gospel. They rip single verses out of context and follow after their own beliefs, keeping the context of the Bible caged. Therefore we use the acronym CAGED, to rightly interpret the Scriptures. Context, Aspiration of Author to his audience, Genre, Expository Exegesis of Examples​ and Divide rightly the word of truth. Also known as Vitamins C. A. G. E. D. Let’s take our vitamins.

“While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus rose and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.” A few finite facts first, of which one should not lose sleep over. Matthew never wrote that the synagogue official was a synagogue official, but simply a ruler. Luke states, in chapter 8, that the synagogue official was a synagogue official and the translators added it to Matthew for clarification, I assume. Luke even gives us his name, Jarius. Taking our Vitamin E, Expository Exegesis of Examples, we clearly see the same story and characters in Luke 8, however, with greater detail. Why then don’t we find these details in the context of Matthew? This goes to the Author’s Aspirations to his Audience. Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah, the holy one promised from Genesis to Malachi, the true Israel. We continue to see this unfold in the context of Matthew. Jesus is the root of David, son of Abraham, sent into Egypt, called out of Egypt, baptized, tested in the wilderness, fasted for 40 days like Moses, called his helpers, spoke the law from the mountain, and is now walking in the land of Israel, making followers and performing miracles or signs, following every one of the commandments.

Taking our Vitamin A and E, we see the same scene in Matthew 9 and Luke 8 and understand the different details delivered are due to each author’s divinely inspired aspirations to his audience. Matthew had done this before–consider the original context translated very literally: “While He was saying these things to them, look, a ruler came and kissed the ground before him, saying, my daughter has died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.'” Matthew has before, shown us those with authority coming to Jesus and his authority. We remember the Roman centurion ​who wasn’t worthy for Jesus to come under his roof, even though Jesus was willing. Matthew is painting a similar picture with this ruler, prostrating himself before Jesus.

Jesus, being willing once again, gets up to follow the man but is interrupted on the way; another common thing between Jesus and Israel. We must see the similarities and divide rightly the differences, concerning the context and the author’s aspirations to his audience. Many stumbling blocks were placed before Israel, just as Jesus–the difference being the end result. “And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.’ But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ And at once the woman was made well.'” Once again, Luke’s elaborations are more exhaustive on this scene because he had a different aspiration to his audience. Matthew’s aspiration is for the first century audience of Jewish readers, steeped in their culture and traditions, to see the promised Messiah. This woman, who would have been ceremonial unclean by Levitical Law should have defiled Jesus, making him unclean as well. Yet the opposite actually happens, she is made clean. The literary devices of irony and juxtaposition are employed by Matthew to demonstrate the difference between  Israel and the Messiah, while also seeing the similarities. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ And at once the woman was made well.” Even within the overlap of the old covenant and the new covenant, the reader sees the true covenant, the faith of Abraham. And yet, we see another interruption with which Jesus had to deal.

“And at once the woman was made well. And when Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in noisy disorder, He began to say, ‘Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him.” This is more irony–he has been interrupted before and the woman was healed. Their laughter speaks volumes. A precious daughter has passed, and amongst their mourning and wailing, are their tears are turned to laughter? This is not a good thing, their tears are not turned to joy but a mocking laughter, much like Sarah’s when presented with the possibility that she could become pregnant at nearly a hundred years old. I realize that in mourning emotions run high, but is this an appropriate response to the situation?

Jesus has the scoffers removed so that he can do his work. “He began to say, ‘Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been put out, He entered and took her by the hand; and the girl arose. And this news went out into all that land.” Notice that they were removed from the presence of his healing and that the girl was raised from the dead. Once again, it was by the faith of one bowing, kissing the ground before Jesus and not by the mourning and wailing of the people present. 

“And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, and saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And after He had come into the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘Be it done to you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened.” The faith of the follower procures more miracles. Jesus was benevolent because they believed.

And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See here, let no one know about this!’ But they went out, and spread the news about Him in all that land.” Perhaps we see a bit of unintended irony here, or was it foreshadowing? Jesus warns them sternly not to tell anyone but they couldn’t keep quite. We’re told to tell but… Moving on, noticing that the news about him keeps spreading in all the land. Surely there is no juxtaposition between Israel and Jesus here, is there?

“Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.” When the nations heard by word of mouth how the Lord was with Israel, they feared greatly. When the nation heard that the Lord was with Jesus, many feared greatly, others sought him out still others sought to catch him in a lie and kill him. The parallels between Israel and Jesus, as presented by Matthew are too obvious to ignore. Yet the differences also reach out of the pages and grasp the heart of the reader. We think back to many miracles in the Old Testament, such as the crossing of the Jordan, the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (I can’t figure out why tradition trumps wisdom, we know it was the Sea of Reeds, yet most translations ignore this, refusing to remove the Red Sea), the plagues in Egypt, Passover, the bitter water, the manna, the quail, the rock, the victories and the like. The list of signs and miracles in the Old Testament is quite a long list. Keeping this in mind, we’ll keep considering the context and come back to this.

“And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him. And after the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.'” Except that it did, but never on this scale or scope. What Israel couldn’t fulfill in a thousand years, Jesus fulfils in under 50. John 8:57+58: “The Jews therefore said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'” Based on the context of the Bible and other historical accounts, we know that Jesus was probably not even close to fifty years old. But based on the Pharisees’ testimony, we can be certain that he wasn’t yet fifty. The point being, in less than half a century, Jesus fulfilled all that of which Israel, or any other person, creed, religion or any other being could not accomplish given an eternity. But this doesn’t mean God has not been working throughout all of history. I am admittedly a bit bemused by the statement, “Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.” Did these people, like modern America, suffer greatly from SMS, short memory syndrome? Let’s approach from a different angle–are they referring to the miracles? We know, due to John 21, that Jesus performed many more things than those which were recorded. Nevertheless, considering the miracles recorded in the Bible; which contain more miracles, the Gospels or the Old Testament? Would you be shocked if the miracles in the context of the Old Testament outnumber the miracles of the Gospels by over two to one? And that isn’t accounting for miracles within miracles. For instance; Moses placing his hand in his shirt and it becoming leprous, then placing it in again and it becoming clean, is counted as one miracle, according to my count. I also didn’t count things such as dream interpretation or circumstantial events, such as Joseph being made second in command of Egypt because God in his sovereignty wields his authority for all eternity in perpetuity, which is difficult to measure (understatement). While I am pretty sure that the contemporaries of Christ did suffer from SMS, short memory syndrome, like we do, Matthew’s aspiration to his audience is something slightly different, I believe. Using the CAGED method–where context is king–we need to zoom in on the miracles. In the context, what type of miracle, or what end result, is Jesus providing? From casting out demons, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead, what is the common denominator? Yes, healing or restoration–one being made whole.

When the student of Scripture searches and recalls what one has read, he is reminded of the summary Jesus made concerning healing in the Old Testament, in Luke 4, spoken to the people in his home town. “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

It’s not only the amount of miracles but the end result of said miracles. These types of miracles were rare in the Old Testament, save for the bronze serpent, an early imagery of Christ. The reader also notices the very personal aspects of the healings. The Old Testament reads, I am The Lord, while the Gospels read, your faith has made you well. Not that God has changed, but he is demonstrating that which Israel missed.

Jesus is also healing in rapid succession. He’s healing on the way to heal. Matthew purposefully presents the woman touching the garment of Jesus differently than Luke–it is a much simpler statement, why is that? It is not because the scene is different, it is the same scene. Nor is it because Matthew didn’t have all the facts. But rather it is because of Matthew’s aspiration to his audience, presenting and juxtaposing Jesus and Israel. Matthew is showing the rapid succession of miracles of healing. He intentionally leaves out details that are not essential to his audience. He is painting a literary picture of the many miracles of healing Jesus performed, so that the people say, “nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.” The Pharisees agreed, yet their thoughts were way off base. “But the Pharisees were saying, ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.'” More on this in future missives. Matthew merely mentions their musings, but for us to deeply dig, using expository exegesis of examples, this missive may manifest itself more like a novel or novella at minimum. Nevertheless, the reader remembers Christ saying to them, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Matthew doesn’t delve deeper into the words of the Pharisees at this point and we won’t either. But we remember this as we continue to use the CAGED method.

“And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” This is a summation of sorts, to the healing and preaching process that Jesus employs. It also marks the widening divergence between the nation of Israel and the person of Christ. While the theme remains, that Jesus is the true Israel, we begin to see a greater gap between what Israel did and failed to do and what Jesus is doing. We consider the Old Testament as a whole–our tutor and a shadow of Jesus, while seeing Jesus as the substance and true fulfilment. Again, we have no idea how many miracles Jesus performed but we can understand that it was many a miracle based on this context. Matthew describes one part of one day and then goes on to say, “And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” A quick guesstimate would be multitudes of miracles.

“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'” another meaningful metaphor–the harvest. We will see this more in the future as we walk through the context of Matthew, Lord willing. But for now we need to understand the author’s aspiration to his audience–we need to understand the context.

When we understand the metaphor of harvest and workers, we will understand its place in the context. Harvest is heart-changing. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing the infirmed. Like Moses who needed help, Jesus is instructing the disciples to pray for fellow followers to become workers. But even more attention should be given to the context that immediately precedes and the context that follows in chapter 10. Notice the workers Jesus has called as I give Matthew the last word, in context, but out-of-order; “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” “And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” “He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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