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At the seven-day festival following the Passover, the Galileans present for the observance had witnessed Jesus’ activity in Jerusalem, including his miraculous signs and his cleansing the temple of commercial activity. Based on what they had seen, they welcomed him. (John 4:45)
Arriving in Cana, where he had earlier turned water into wine, he met a royal official from Capernaum, where Peter and Andrew and seemingly also James and John resided. This official’s son was seriously ill. Upon learning that Jesus had come from Judea, this man set out to meet him, requesting that he come to Capernaum to heal his boy who was then close to death. (4:46, 47)
Jesus responded, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” (John 4:48) According to the Greek text, the verbs are second person verbs, not the singular (“you see” and “you believe”). This suggests that Jesus’ words were designed to test the genuineness of the royal official’s faith. Was the man like the many others who personally wanted to see signs and wonders before they would put faith in Jesus?
This official’s next words reflected the desperate plea of a father for his son and the belief that Jesus alone could cure him. “Sir [or, Lord], come down before my boy dies.” Instead of accompanying the father back to Capernaum, Jesus told him to return, assuring him, “Your son lives.” He believed what Jesus told him and departed. The measure of faith he had then manifested was strengthened during the trip back to Capernaum. While he was on his way, his slaves met him, telling him that his son was alive and well. In response to his inquiry about when his son’s health improved, the slaves said, “Yesterday, in the seventh hour [about 1:00 p.m., according to Jewish reckoning], the fever left him.” This was the very time Jesus had said to him, “Your son lives.” Therefore, he “believed” (evidently in Jesus and with greater conviction than he had upon first heading back to Capernaum) and so did his household. (4:49-53)
This was the “second sign” Jesus performed in Galilee, and the first one since his return from Judea. How many miracles Jesus did earlier in Judea is not disclosed in the biblical accounts. (John 4:54) Like the other miracles, the “second sign” served to identify Jesus as the Son of God. It demonstrated the greatness of the divine power operating through him, as he did not have to be present personally for the cure to occur.
With God’s spirit operating mightily upon him, Jesus began to teach in the synagogues of Galilee. Many began to talk about him in a favorable way and the news about him spread. As a result, he came to be honored or highly respected by all. (Luke 4:14, 15)
Wherever he traveled in Galilee, Jesus proclaimed “the evangel of God.” Being of God, this message was one his Father willed for him to preach. The evangel, good news, or glad tidings Jesus proclaimed revealed that the time had been fulfilled, indicating that the time had come for the arrival of the Messiah in fulfillment of the promise made through the prophets. “The kingdom of God” had then drawn near, for Jesus, the Messiah or Christ of God and the King of Israel (as Nathanael had earlier acknowledged him to be), was then in the midst of the Jews. Jesus called upon his people to repent and to believe in the evangel, the glad tidings that focused on him as the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:14, 15; John 1:49)
He returned to Nazareth where he had spent most of his life and had labored as a carpenter. On the Sabbath day, as was his custom, he went into the synagogue, where the Scriptures were read aloud to those assembled. He apparently was invited to read and stood up to do so. After being handed the scroll of Isaiah, he located the section from where he would begin and then started to read, “[The] spirit of the Lord [YHWH (in the Hebrew text of Isaiah)] [is] upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to announce release to the captives and to give sight to the blind, to send off the oppressed for release, to announce the favorable year of the Lord [YHWH (in the Hebrew text of Isaiah)].” (Luke 4:16-19)
After completing the reading, Jesus rolled up the scroll and handed it to the attendant (to be properly stored) and then sat down. Whereas the individual would read while standing, he would make any explanatory comments from a seated position. Therefore, when Jesus sat down, all eyes in the synagogue focused on him, waiting for him to comment. It appears that his opening words were, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing [literally, “in your ears”]).” The fact that those in the synagogue reportedly “testified” or made favorable comments and marveled at the gracious words he spoke indicates that Jesus provided a more extensive exposition. Nevertheless, they considered him as just one of the common people of Nazareth, saying, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:20-22)
Discerning their attitude, Jesus responded, “All of you will say to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ The things we heard you did in Capernaum do also here in your own home [area].” Continuing, Jesus told them “that no prophet is accepted in his home [area].” Calling attention to ancient history, he said, “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was shut for three years and six months (as great famine came to be over all the land), and to none of them was Elijah sent but to a widowed woman of Zarephath of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel [during the time] of Elisha the prophet, and none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:23-27)
Jesus’ words forced those assembled in the synagogue to look at their unbelief in him against the backdrop of their ancient history. Their ancestors had not honored the prophets, with resultant loss to themselves. Yet, non-Israelites (the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian) had been richly blessed through them. Instead of accepting the lesson of ancient history and coming to see their error in the way they looked upon Jesus and their wanting to see signs, those in the synagogue became filled with rage. Angered that they had been likened to faithless Israelites in the days of Elijah and Elisha, they seized Jesus and led him away to the edge of the hill on which the Nazareth was built. Their intent was to throw him down from the elevated location. He, however, got free, passed through the midst of the group, and went on his way. (Luke 4:28-30)
See http://bibleplaces.com/nazareth.htm for pictures of and comments about Nazareth.
The expressions “kingdom of God, “kingdom of the heavens,” and “kingdom” all relate to God’s rule by means of his Son. The kingdom is the royal realm where God’s reign is recognized and believers enjoy the protective care and blessings promised to them. With the arrival of the Messiah or God’s appointed King, the kingdom had drawn near, and the time had come for individuals to become part of the royal realm as persons who had repented of their sins and wanted to be under divine sovereignty to be exercised through him. The praiseworthy change in the lives of Christ’s disciples, which transformation is effected through God’s spirit, constitutes the evidence of the kingdom’s operation. Yet future is the coming of the kingdom in power, when Christ will manifest his royal authority and remove all who violently oppose him and reward his genuine disciples by having them share in his rule as God’s anointed one.
In Luke 4:18, later manuscripts include the words “heal the brokenhearted,” and this addition may be attributed to copyists who thought to harmonize the quotation with the reading of the Septuagint (Isaiah 61:1), which reading also agrees with the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. Whereas Isaiah 61:1 in the Septuagint, as in the quotation in Luke 4:18, refers to restoring sight to the blind, the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah do not mention the blind. The Hebrew text has been commonly understood to refer to the release of persons who are bound or confined in prison.
At his baptism, Jesus had been anointed with God’s spirit, and was thus empowered to fulfill the commission contained in Isaiah’s prophecy. The “poor” designated the afflicted and disadvantaged who recognized their need for God’s help. Burdened by the weight of human traditions that went far beyond the requirements of the law, the Jews found themselves in the condition of captives. For responsive ones, the liberating message Jesus proclaimed led to their gaining refreshing freedom. Jesus made it possible for those who had been spiritually blinded by the religious leaders to see clearly, accepting him as the promised Messiah. He also opened the eyes of those who were physically blind. The proclamation of “release” to the oppressed may allude to the kind of release associated with the Jubilee year when Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery were again free and had their land inheritance restored to them. For all who then found themselves in an afflicted or oppressed state, the glad tidings Jesus announced brought hope and comfort comparable to a release from distress in the Jubilee year. It was then the “year” for gaining God’s favor or a favorable time the Most High was extending to become recipients of his approval and blessing.
In Luke 4:19, the quotation could either be understood to mean “to announce the favorable year of the Lord” or “to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.” The extant text of Isaiah 61:2 in the Septuagint has a form of the Greek word kaléo (“to call,” “to summon”) instead of kerysso (“to proclaim,” “to announce,” “to preach”)
According to Luke 4:23, Jesus had already done things in Capernaum. Based on John’s account, this could have included the healing of the royal official’s son. While Jesus had earlier spent time in Capernaum, none of the biblical accounts mention his having performed any miracles at that time. Whether Jesus spent time in Capernaum on another occasion prior to his return to Nazareth or whether Luke’s account here does not follow a strict sequential order cannot be determined with certainty.
After leaving Nazareth, Jesus made his home in Capernaum and, initially, appears to have labored alone, proclaiming the need for repentance and the news that the “kingdom of heaven” or the “kingdom of God” had come near. Galilee included the ancient tribal territories of Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus’ ministry there fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, [by] way of the sea, across from the Jordan, Galilee of the nations — the people sitting in darkness have seen a great light, and for those sitting in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:13-17; see the Notes section for additional comments about Isaiah’s prophecy.)
In time, Jesus began to choose men from among his disciples to be more closely associated with him in his activity. On one occasion, as he stood beside the Sea of Galilee (the lake of Gennesaret), many people gathered around him and were pressing in upon him, desiring to hear the “word of God.” On the shore were two boats, and the fishermen were washing their nets. Jesus stepped into the boat belonging to Simon Peter and asked him to pull out a short distance from the shore. Seating himself in the boat, Jesus began to teach the crowds. (Luke 5:1-3)
After having finished speaking, he told Peter and his brother Andrew to take the boat to deep water and let down their nets for a catch. Although having toiled all night without catching anything, Simon Peter agreed to act on Jesus’ directive. Upon doing so, Peter and Andrew caught so many fish that the nets began to rip. They motioned to their partners, James and John (the sons of Zebedee), to come to assist them. (Luke 5:4-7)
Together, they filled both boats to the point that they were about to sink. Seemingly because of feeling unworthy on account of being a sinner, Simon Peter fell to his knees before Jesus, and was emotionally moved to say, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.” The tremendous catch of fish astonished all four fishermen, and Jesus reassured Peter, “Fear not; from now on you will be catching men.” After bringing the boats back to the shore, Peter, Andrew, James, and John responded to the call to follow Jesus. (Luke 5:7-11; see the Notes section for more details.)
Departing from the seashore, Jesus and his disciples walked to Capernaum. (Mark 1:21) They probably headed for the home of Peter and Andrew.
The quotation from Isaiah 8:23(9:1) and 9:1(2) in Matthew 4:15, 16 varies somewhat from the extant text of Septuagint manuscripts. The Septuagint reads, “Country of Zebulun, the land of Naphtali, [by] way of the sea, and the rest who dwell by the seashore and across from the Jordan, Galilee of the nations, the parts of Judea: O people who walk in darkness, see a great light! O dwellers in the country and shadow of death, light will shine upon you.”
Not all Septuagint manuscripts include the words “way of the sea.” The expression “across from the Jordan,” as relates to the location of Galilee, would mean the region across from the Jordan when coming from the east.
After “land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,” the Masoretic Text reads, “and in the latter time he will cause the way of the sea to be honored.” This differs considerably from the extant Septuagint text, which mentions no such development regarding the “way of the sea.”
Situated in the northern part of the ten-tribe kingdom, Naphtali and Zebulun often suffered from enemy attacks. During the reign of Pekah, Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser III invaded, conquering Galilee and taking inhabitants of Naphtali into exile. (2 Kings 15:29) As Isaiah 8:22 indicates, this proved to be a period of distress and darkness, with no bright prospect. The time would come, however, when such humiliating treatment as the Assyrians had meted out would not be experienced, when Naphtali and Zebulun would be honored. After the exile, the region of Galilee again became populous. Contrasting with the gloom and distress of the past, the time of restoration was a period of joy comparable to a celebration at the time of harvest. (Isaiah 9:3) As if a new day had dawned, the darkness had been dispelled. Where people had once walked in darkness or resided in gloom on account of difficult circumstances, living in the land of “deep shadow,” there then came to be a light.
Centuries later, when God’s Son engaged in extensive activity around the Sea of Galilee, light did indeed shine upon the people. As the “light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus Christ brought comfort and hope to the oppressed and disadvantaged ones. He also liberated many from their physical afflictions. Most importantly, he refreshed them spiritually and opened up to all who accepted him the inestimable honor of being God’s children and benefiting from his guidance and loving care.
The events surrounding the response of Peter, Andrew, James, and John to Jesus’ invitation to follow him are presented in a very brief way in Matthew and Mark. According to Matthew’s account, Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee when he saw Peter and Andrew casting a net into the sea. He invited them to follow him and told them he would make them “fishers of men.” “They immediately left their nets and followed him.” He then saw the brothers James and John in the boat with their father Zebedee. They were mending their nets. When Jesus called them, they immediately left the boat and their father to follow him. (Matthew 4:18-22) Mark’s account is almost identical, with the exception of the addition that there were also hired men with Zebedee. (Mark 1:16-20) This detail reveals that James and John did not leave their father without assistance.
Luke’s account provides more detail, and first introduces the four fisherman as being outside their boats and washing their nets. Initially, though, as Matthew reports, Jesus may have seen Peter and Andrew casting a net into the sea. After the surprisingly large catch of fish, Peter and Andrew brought their boat to the shore, as did James and John. A comparatively short distance would have separated the two boats, and the men would have busied themselves in attending to the catch.
During fishing operations, nets would at times tear, and so it would not have been unusual for Jesus later to have seen James and John mending their nets. When Peter and Andrew tried to pull up the large catch, their nets did tear. The account does not say that James and John, on coming to assist, also used their nets and that these ripped in the process. This is, however, a possibility. On the other hand, James and John may have been mending tears in their nets from other fishing operations.
In Luke 5:10, the reassurance about not being afraid is specifically directed to Peter. The aspect concerning “catching men,” however, applied to all four fishermen, as the Greek verb for “will be catching” is second person plural.
The condensed accounts should clearly not be taken to mean that Peter and Andrew left the fish to rot in the boat and the nets in disarray. The major change in their life was that they were from then onward far more closely associated with Jesus in his activity and witnessed most of what he said and did. The biblical accounts serve to identify Jesus as the Son of God, and how the disciples cared for family affairs during this period does not contribute to the all-important message. So the absence of this kind of information should not be taken to mean that the disciples neglected basic responsibilities and left wives and children to fend for themselves as best they could. When Jesus extended the invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him, they did not put off accepting it but responded without delay. They let nothing interfere with what acceptance of Jesus’ invitation required of them. As “fishers of men,” they would search for responsive ones and share with them the message that Jesus directed them to proclaim.
It may be noted that the disciples continued to use a boat, likely the one belonging to Peter. After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and six other disciples went fishing, and the net in which 153 large fish were caught was in good condition. (Matthew 8:23; 9:1; 13:1, 2; 14:13, 22; 15:39; Mark 3:9; Luke 8:22, 23; John 21:2, 3, 11)
See http://bibleplaces.com/seagalilee.htm for pictures of and comments about the Sea of Galilee.
On the Sabbath day, Jesus, accompanied by the four disciples, went to the synagogue and began to teach those assembled. His teaching “astonished” (ekplésso) the people, for he taught as one having authority and not as did the scribes. Whereas the scribes quoted prominent rabbis from the past, Jesus did not base his teaching on tradition but made direct application of the Scriptures (as evident from later accounts about his teaching). (Mark 1:21, 22; Luke 4:31, 32)
Suddenly, a man, under the influence of an “unclean spirit” or the “spirit of an unclean demon” began to scream, “What [is there between] us and you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the holy one of God.” Jesus did not allow any further expressions, saying: “Be silent and come out from him.” At that, the man was seized by a convulsion and a loud scream followed. Unharmed by the convulsion, the man was freed from his affliction. Amazed, those who witnessed this exclaimed, “What is this? A new teaching? With authority [“and power,” Luke 4:36], he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Thereafter word about this incident spread to other parts of Galilee. (Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-37)
The way those in the synagogue expressed themselves shows that they did not recognize that the powerful work they had witnessed revealed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. Their amazement appears to have been limited to attributing the development to a new teaching.
The Greek word ekplésso (“to be astonished,” “astounded,” or “amazed”) may also signify “to be shocked.” At least a number of those in the synagogue may have been disturbed or shocked about the manner of Jesus’ teaching. It is not uncommon for people to become uncomfortable when experiencing something unfamiliar or new to them.
Possibly persons whose affliction was attributed to an “unclean demon” would repeatedly scream filthy and abusive terms. The many instances of demon possession may not, in every case, have been such. In the first century, serious mental illness and other ailments were often regarded as being caused by malign spirits. While there are definite instances (based on the details provided) that point to actual demon possession, often those who brought the afflicted ones to Jesus believed this to be the reason for the suffering. The Son of God would have dealt with the situation according to then-existing beliefs, as the people would not have understood any explanation about the real cause of serious mental illness and other ailments. Just as Jesus “rebuked” the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39), he would have “rebuked” the agent people believed to be responsible for the suffering of the afflicted individuals.
See http://bibleplaces.com/capernaum.htm for pictures of and comments about Capernaum.
Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue and entered the home of Peter and Andrew. At the time, Peter’s mother-in-law had a high fever. Informed about this, Jesus took hold of her hand, raised her up, and “rebuked the fever.” Liberated from the fever and with her full strength restored, the mother-in-law got up and began to serve Jesus and the others, probably providing food for them. (Matthew 8:14, 15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38, 39)
In the evening, after the Sabbath had ended at sundown, people came to the home, bringing the sick and those they believed were suffering from demon possession. Jesus healed the sick and those who were possessed, many of whom screamed, “You are the Son of God.” He, however, did not permit them to speak, as they knew him to be the Christ. The cures Jesus effected fulfilled the words of Isaiah’s prophecy (53:4), “He took our infirmities [away] and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16, 17; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40, 41)
It appears that Jesus stayed overnight at Peter’s home and then, while it was still dark, got up early in the morning. He then headed for an isolated area, where he could pray. (Mark 1:35)
In the meantime, people probably came to the house, looking for Jesus. Peter and the other disciples then searched for him. Upon finding him, Peter said, “All are seeking you.” (Mark 1:36, 37) According to Luke’s account, quite a number of people seem to have followed the disciples and tried to prevent Jesus from leaving Capernaum. He, however, replied, “I must proclaim the glad tidings of the kingdom of God also in other cities, because for this [reason] I have been sent.” (Luke 4:42, 43) In Mark’s account, Jesus directed his words to Peter and the other disciples, “Let us go elsewhere, into the neighboring towns, that there also I may preach; for this [reason] I have come.” (Mark 1:38) Accompanied by his disciples, he went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom, curing every disease and ailment among the people, and liberating many from the power of the demons. (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:39)
The inhabitants of Capernaum observed the Sabbath and so waited until after it ended to bring the sick and those suffering in other ways.
The quotation of Isaiah 53:4 in Matthew 8:17 does not follow the wording of the extant Septuagint text, which reads, “This one carries our sins and undergoes pain for us.” The quotation in Matthew does, however, agree with the reading of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. “Surely he has borne our sicknesses and carried our pains.” The extant Septuagint text is somewhat closer to the thought expressed in the Targum of Isaiah, “He shall pray for our transgressions and our iniquities.”
According to the reading of Luke 4:44 in the oldest manuscripts, Jesus preached in the “synagogues of Judea.” If this is the original reading, “synagogues of Judea” may designate the synagogues in the land where the Jews lived and not specifically those in the region known as Judea, situated on the southern border of Samaria. Later manuscripts read “Galilee.”
See http://bibleplaces.com/capernaum.htm for pictures of and comments about Capernaum.
During the course of Jesus’ activity in Galilee, a man afflicted with leprosy approached him. Kneeling before him and bowing down with his face touching the ground, he pleaded, “Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with his hand and touched him, saying, “I want to; be made clean.” Although the man had been “full of leprosy,” suggesting a serious advanced state, every trace of the disease vanished immediately. (Matthew 8:2, 3; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 5:12, 13)
Jesus sternly charged the healed leper not to let anyone know about his miraculous cure but to present himself before the priest and comply with the requirements of the Mosaic law “for a testimony to them.” By following the prescribed purification procedure, the cured leper would be pronounced clean, providing testimony to all that he had been healed. (Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14; see the Notes section for requirements of the Mosaic law.)
Instead of appreciatively heeding Jesus’ directive, the healed leper spread the news far and wide. As a result, crowds would gather and Jesus could no longer enter cities openly. So he remained in the sparsely populated areas, but the crowds still kept coming to hear him and to be healed. (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:15) In order to have the needed privacy for prayer, Jesus had to find deserted places. (Luke 5:16)
The Greek term for leprosy (lépra) can refer to a variety of skin diseases, including the disfiguring Hansen’s disease.
In Mark 1:41, a form of splanchnízomai (have compassion) is supported by the reading of most manuscripts. A fifth-century manuscript contains a form of orgízo (to be angry). This reading may have arisen from an effort to harmonize the stern charge Jesus gave the man not to spread the news and then dismissing him with the directive to show himself to the priest. The compassion the Son of God showed, however, would not preclude his being firm about not wanting talk about his healing activity to be spread.
According to the law, the priest would examine the healed leper and determine whether the diseased condition no longer existed. This would be followed by a cleansing ceremony involving the use of two birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. One of the birds would be killed over an earthen vessel containing “living” water (fresh or spring water, not stagnant water from a cistern), allowing the blood to flow into the vessel. With the yarn, the living bird and the hyssop would be attached to the wood and dipped into the vessel. The water mingled with blood would be sprinkled seven times upon the cured leper. Thereafter the living bird would be released to fly away. (Leviticus 14:2-7)
The cured leper would wash his garments, shave off all his bodily hair, and bathe. Seven days later, he would again shave off all his bodily hair, wash his garments, and bathe. On the eighth day, he, depending on whether he could afford to do so, would offer two unblemished male lambs, one unblemished female lamb, three-tenths of an ephah (about six dry quarts) of choice flour mixed with olive oil, and one “log” (possibly about two-thirds of a pint) of olive oil. With the prescribed amount of olive oil, the priest would present one of the lambs as a guilt offering. He would then take some of the blood of the slaughtered lamb and put it on the cured leper’s right earlobe, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot. After sprinkling seven times before God with his right finger the olive oil he had poured into his left palm, the priest would apply some of the oil where he had put the blood—the right earlobe, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot. He would then put all the remaining olive oil on the head of the cured leper. Thereafter the priest would offer one of the lambs (probably the female lamb; compare Leviticus 4:32) as a sin offering and the other lamb as a burnt offering, accompanied by the grain offering. (Leviticus 14:8-20)
For one who could not afford all these offerings, two pigeons or two turtledoves could be substituted for one of the male lambs and the female lamb. The amount of choice flour would be reduced to one-tenth ephah (over two dry quarts). The procedure followed would remain the same. (Leviticus 14:21-31)
When Jesus returned to Capernaum (his “own city”) with his disciples, he likely stayed in the home of Peter and Andrew. Once it became known that Jesus was again in the city, many people came to the house. According to Luke’s account (5:17), among them were Pharisees and teachers of the law from towns in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. It would appear that the crowd filled the house and the courtyard. So many had gathered that even outside the home the entrance was blocked. (Matthew 9:1; Mark 2:1, 2)
While Jesus addressed the people, four men came, carrying a paralytic on a mat. Unable to get to Jesus, the men climbed up the outside stairs to the flat roof. They then dug an opening through the earthen roof and lowered the paralytic in front of Jesus. Seeing this evidence of their faith in him as one who could cure the paralyzed man, Jesus said, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:3-5; Luke 5:18-20)
Hearing this, the scribes and Pharisees who were there began to reason within themselves that Jesus was blaspheming, as only God could forgive sins. Discerning their thoughts, he said, “Why are you thinking these things [evil (Matthew 9:4)] in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up and pick up your mat and walk?” (Matthew 9:3-5; Mark 2:6-9; Luke 5:21-23)
To let them know that he, the Son of Man, had “authority to forgive sins,” Jesus said to the paralytic, “I say to you, Get up, take your mat, and go to your home.” The paralytic then got up, immediately picked up his mat, and departed in front of the amazed onlookers. Those who witnessed this miracle were filled with a reverential fear and glorified or praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!” (Matthew 9:6-8; Mark 2:10-12; Luke 5:24-26)
Much of Jesus’ activity centered in Capernaum and, therefore, came to be known as his “own city.” (Matthew 9:1)
See http://bibleplaces.com/capernaum.htm for pictures of and comments about Capernaum.
In Matthew 9:2 and Mark 2:5, Jesus is quoted as addressing the paralytic as “child,” whereas Luke 5:20 says “man.” This could be understood to mean that the paralytic was a young man. Another possibility is that the designation “child” functions as an expression of compassionate or loving concern for the paralytic and could be rendered “my dear man.”
As the unique Son of God who would lay down his life in sacrifice to make forgiveness possible for all who responded in faith, Jesus, while on earth, possessed the authority to forgive sins. He discerned the genuineness of the paralytic’s faith and responded to him accordingly.
Physical ailments were commonly attributed to a person’s having sinned. On one occasion the disciples expressed that belief regarding a blind man, asking whether his blindness was to be attributed to his own sin or that of his parents. (John 9:2) When assuring the paralytic that his sins had been forgiven, Jesus made it clear to him that he was not under God’s disfavor. Therefore, upon being cured physically, the man also ceased to be burdened by any feelings of guilt. The assurance of forgiveness, confirmed by the miracle, resulted in making him well in all respects. While this assurance caused the scribes and Pharisees to find fault, it served to benefit that formerly afflicted man. In his love and compassion, Jesus did not hold back from saying what was needed despite knowing the kind of unfavorable reaction that was forthcoming from some who were then present.
Jesus’ telling the paralytic that his sins had been forgiven would not have proved that this had actually occurred nor could it be disproved with tangible evidence. When, however, the paralytic got up and walked away with his mat, Jesus’ words were undeniably confirmed. Therefore, the more difficult saying, the one requiring a miracle for it to be revealed as authoritative, was to say to the paralytic, “Get up and pick up your mat and walk.” (Mark 2:9)
It is most unlikely that those who witnessed the miracle would all have used the same words. This is reflected in the difference between Mark 2:12 (“Never have we seen anything like this!”) and Luke 5:26 (“We saw remarkable things today!”).
Matthew (also known as Levi) doubtless was one of the tax collectors who responded to John the Baptist’s call to repentance. From the place where he collected taxes near the Sea of Galilee (probably on the outskirts of Capernaum), Matthew may often have heard Jesus speak and must have known about his many miracles. Therefore, when Jesus called him to follow him while he was seated at the tax collector’s booth, Matthew did not hesitate to do so. (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:13, 14; Luke 5:27, 28)
Probably to celebrate the honor that had been extended to him and to inform his friends and acquaintances about his new role, he invited them to his home for a banquet along with Jesus and his disciples. Observing this, the Pharisees and scribes made an issue of it, saying to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat [and drink (Luke 5:30)] with the tax collectors and sinners?” They implied that Jesus desired the company of those who failed to live up to the law. Tax collectors were in the service of a foreign power (Rome) and had a reputation for dishonesty, charging more than the required tax rate to make gain for themselves. As a tax collector, Matthew would not have been regarded as a desirable associate. Understandably, therefore, his guests were fellow tax collectors and others with a bad reputation. (Matthew 9:10, 11; Mark 2:15, 16; Luke 5:29, 30)
Overhearing their complaining, Jesus corrected the wrong view of the Pharisees and scribes, telling them that those who were well, unlike the ailing, did not need a physician. The Pharisees and scribes imagined themselves to be in an acceptable condition before God and so were unaware of their need of the kind of spiritual healing available through Jesus. The sinners and tax collectors, on the other hand, recognized their need for repentance and forgiveness. They welcomed Jesus as one who could help them. (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31)
Backing his statement from the Scriptures, Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6 and directed the Pharisees and scribes to learn from the words, “I want mercy and not sacrifice.” In keeping with his Father’s desire for mercy to be shown to those in need, Jesus pointed out that he came to call sinners, not the righteous, that is, those who regarded themselves as righteous before God by reason of their legalistic observance of the law. In reality, though, they were not truly upright, failing to manifest the love, justice, and compassion that the law required. (Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; compare Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.)
It appears that Jesus banqueted with his disciples on what may have been a fast day (either Monday or Thursday) observed by the Pharisees. This prompted some disciples of John the Baptist to ask him, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast [often (not in all manuscripts of Matthew)], but your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; see the Notes section for additional comments.)
In reply, Jesus indicated that it was inappropriate for the guests [literally, “sons”] of the bridegroom to fast while the bridegroom was with them. When, however, he would be taken away from them, they would fast. (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19, 20; Luke 5:34, 35) Illustrating the point further, Jesus used two likenesses or parables.
No one would patch an old garment with a new, unshrunk piece of cloth. Upon being washed, the new fabric would shrink, pull away from the material of the old garment, and worsen the tear. (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21) Luke 5:36 identifies the source of the patch as a new garment. The new fabric would not match the old cloth, and both garments would be ruined.
No one would put new wine into old wineskins. Lacking elasticity, the old wineskins would burst from the fermenting of the new wine, and the new wine would spill out. To prevent this, new wine would be poured into new wineskins. (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37, 38)
People, however, have a tendency to resist change, preferring the old and familiar. As Jesus said, “No one who has drunk the old [wine] wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5:39)
By means of the parables, the Son of God emphasized that his teaching could not be fitted into the old traditional mold. Any attempt to do so would work out ruinously for his dynamic teaching and would wreck the old traditional way. This should have helped the disciples of John the Baptist to see that their loyalty to him was not to interfere with their becoming Jesus’ disciples, as John’s preparatory work had served its purpose.
Matthew, Mark and Luke word the point about fasting somewhat differently. “Why do we and the Pharisees fast [often], but your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14) “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Mark 2:18) “The disciples of John fast frequently and pray, as also [do the disciples] of the Pharisees, but your [disciples] eat and drink.” (Luke 5:33) The differences in Matthew, Mark, and Luke are understandable. The words were not originally spoken in Greek, and the writers of the accounts conveyed the sense of what the disciples of John said and not their precise words.
During the time Jesus was dead, the disciples, overcome with grief, would doubtless have fasted. After his ascension to heaven, the disciples also fasted for specific reasons. In time, believers came to include Pharisees, and they may have continued with their fasting routine, as it was not wrong in itself. Generally, though, early believers do not appear to have set aside specific fast days.