Matthew 9:9-15

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

10 Now it happened, 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.

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

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

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.”

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

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.

tax office (v.9) — toll booth, probably on the caravan route from Damascus to the East

Levi was a custom-house official. The Talmud distinguishes between the tax collector and the custom-house official. The Gabbai collected the regular real estate and income taxes and the poll tax; the Mockhes, the duty on imports, exports, toll on roads, bridges, the harbor, the town tax, and a great multiplicity of other variable taxes on an unlimited variety of things, admitting of much abuse and graft. The very word Mockhes was associated with the idea of oppression and injustice. The taxes in Judea were levied by publicans, who were Jews, and therefore hated the more as direct officials of the heathen Roman power. Levi occupied the detestable position of a publican of the worst type — a little Mockhes, who himself stood in the Roman custom-house on the highway connecting Damascus and Ptolemais, and by the sea where all boats plied between the domains of Antipas and Philip. The name “publican,” which applied to these officials, is derived from the Latin word publicanus — a man who did public duty. The Jews detested these publicans not only on account of their frequent abuses and tyrannical spirit, but because the very taxes they were forced to collect by the Roman government were a badge of servitude and a constant reminder that God had forsaken His people and land in spite of the Messianic hope, founded on many promises of the ancient prophets. The publicans were classed by the people with harlots, usurers, gamblers, thieves, and dishonest herdsmen, who lived hard, lawless lives. They were just “licensed robbers” and “beasts in human shape.” — Pentecost, page 155.

house (v.10) — Matthew’s house (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29) — the phrase in Greek, meaning “at home” indicates that Matthew owned the house and wrote the account.

go and learn (v.13) — to Hosea 6:6

The prophecy of Hosea deals with spiritual adultery, spiritual harlotry. The great agonizing emphasis of the prophetic message is that God is wounded in His love, because of the infidelity of His people to the Covenant. And this is the cry of God, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto the?” Then He tells these people that their goodness is as the morning cloud, it vanishes and is gone. You bring Me sacrifices as though I wanted them. Ephraim, Judah, it is not sacrifice that I want from you; it is mercy toward you that I want; and I would fain find a way unto you in love and mercy.

Jesus looked at these men who thought they knew the law and the prophets, and said to them: you do not understand the God Who is revealed in your own writings. He was talking to the teachers, to the men who were interpreting the prophets, and He said “Go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Go and learn what the heart of God is; go and find out, that according to your own writings, God is far more anxious to have mercy than He is to receive any offering that a man brings to Him. — Morgan, pages 92-93

righteous (v.13) — used (here) ironically to mean “self-righteous”

to repentance (v.13) — not in many older manuscripts

That John’s disciples (v.14) continued as an entity is evident from the fact that they approached Jesus with a question about fasting. John had demanded repentance in connection with his baptism, and fasting coupled with prayer was a sign of that repentance. With this practice the Pharisees were in full agreement.

Messiahs’ millennial kingdom is often likened in Scripture to a wedding feast. Messiah is the Host. He is pictured as having invited guests. When the feast is set, His guests do not assemble to fast but to rejoice. In the Gospels, Christ is seen as offering Himself as Messiah. He offered to bestow the millennial blessing covenanted by God upon the nation that had been summoned to the feast. John and Jesus both proclaimed, “The kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). It was inappropriate that those who had responded to this invitation and had been persuaded that Jesus is the Messiah should give themselves to fasting (v.15). — Pentecost, pages 156-157.

friends of the bridegroom (v.15) — wedding guests

This is Christ’s defense of the right of His people to be merry; and that right to be merry is the fact that He is with them. If that be true, then we have the right to be merry always. What He said about sorrow was fulfilled. He was taken away from them, and they fasted and were sad through those days of darkness; but He came back, and, standing on the slope of Olivet, He said, “Lo, I am with you alway,” Then there is no more room for mourning; no more room for the sad face of agony; but there is room for mirth, room for joy, and room for gladness. — Morgan, page 93.

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