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Our Lord’s words on persecution in Matthew 10 were at the forefront of my mind at the weekend.

On October 2, 2015, an article appeared in the Daily Mail about the Hussain family from Bradford who converted to Christianity from Islam 15 years ago.

Since 2003, the persecution — broken windscreens and harassment — from Muslim neighbours has not stopped. The police largely refuse to intervene. To date, only one investigated incident has resulted in a successful prosecution. The Mail states:

Mr Hussain said he feels so let down by police he has lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

He also criticised the Anglican Church for failing to provide any meaningful support.

In fact (emphases mine):

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

A meeting, arranged by a friend, with a local imam – who ‘listened and promised to help’ – also led to nothing, said Mr Hussain.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation. All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.’

Poor reaction

The younger Hussain children attended a local Church of England primary school. Most of the students are Muslim. The Hussains arranged a car sharing arrangement with Muslim neighbours whose children attended the school. When the neighbours found out the Hussains were Christian, the ride-sharing stopped. This escalated as word circulated among the other students at school. The Hussains’ youngest daughter was bullied:

Leena, now 14, was told by her friends ‘our parents say we mustn’t mix with you because you are a convert.’ Mr Hussain said: ‘She was heartbroken and made to feel like a second class citizen.’

England’s foremost Anglican blogger, who writes under the pseudonym of Archbishop Cranmer, finds the school episode:

frankly, quite literally incredible. Teachers and headteachers bend over backwards to ensure that Every Child Matters: when it comes to children’s well-being, Church of England schools have rigorous anti-bullying policies, in accordance with statutory requirements on child protection and safeguarding. And they implement them.

I’m not so sure about it being ‘frankly, quite literally incredible’ under the circumstances. It is quite possible that teachers would not want to intervene in an interfaith conflict, especially if any disciplinary action brought out angry older brothers, fathers and uncles en masse. Has Cranmer thought this through?

He added:

Bradford’s churches and schools are now under new management: the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The new Bishop of Bradford is the Rt Rev’d Dr Toby Howarth, and his boss is the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev’d Nick Baines, who had been Bishop of Bradford for the preceding three years.

He concluded:

If it be the case (and it may well be) that no ministry team in Bradford has provided “any meaningful support” to the Hussain family, might we have a few more details? If it be true (and it may well be) that the Church of England has “done nothing for us”, could we please know a few specifics and particulars, so that Bishop Toby and Bishop Nick might learn from the Church’s past errors, shortcomings and pastoral deficiencies? Instead of just trashing the entire institution (though it may well deserve it) in the Daily Mail, might someone who knows something please get in touch and explain why a brave family of Bradford ex-Muslims has been so terrorised and persecuted by gangs of devout Bradford Muslims that they had no choice but to depart the Church of England?

Why didn’t Cranmer look for more information himself? A simple search would have uncovered InfidelsAreUs, the website of Anniesa Hussain, age 21. Anniesa has documented everything.

Anniesa’s story

Before exploring Anniesa’s story, it is worth mentioning that Mr Hussain was one of the converts featured in a 2008 Dispatches documentary on Channel 4. I saw the programme and was deeply concerned for the safety of all the ex-Muslim families involved. They were incredibly bold to appear on television. Although most of the filming was done discreetly, someone who wanted to harm these people could probably identify them. And so it was in the case of the Hussain family.

However, their persecution did not start then.

Anniesa tells us that it started in 2000. (Incidentally, the family converted to Christianity through a mostly Jamaican Pentecostal church.)

From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashing. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden.

After the Dispatches programme aired, the Hussains’ neighbours accused Mr Hussain of making hateful statements about Islam, which he never did. Family A spread the rumours. As for school:

Life at school for my youngest sister became increasingly unbearable. She’d come home in tears, weeping that her Pakistani classmates had turned on her and weren’t allowed to associate themselves with a Christian – something I knew all too well. Dad could never comprehend the hostility in he found himself in the school playground as he collected my sister, nor why he would receive glares and jostles as he walked by certain parents. Until one day when he was approached by one parent to say ‘you haven’t said anything offensive about Islam! I’ve researched you on Youtube’. Seeing Dad’s baffled expression he explained that one of the brothers of family A had many of the school parents convinced that Dad was anti-Islamic and was preaching hatred on Youtube. However, upon his own research and refusal to rely on this ‘information’ of Dad, this parent – Muslim himself- proved to be a loyal supporter, berating any school parent who treated Dad with contempt. The school situation deteriorated to the point where the brother of Family A stormed up to Dad provocatively, threatening to kill him in order to goad him into a fight. That incident marked official police involvement in our lives yet again. Numerous meetings have been set up with school leaders, police officers and religious leading figures in the community, to achieve the most politically correct of outcomes: nothing.

Anniesa’s posts are well worth reading in full for the rest of the family’s story. She writes beautifully. I hope she becomes a journalist.

More on the family’s trials

Cranmer might also want to look at the articles about the Hussain family on the Barnabas Fund site.

After Britain’s May 2015 elections, Mr Hussain wrote to his MP. The Barnabas Fund includes the full text of the letter. Part of their preface to it reads as follows:

Nissar Hussain, a British man who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, has written a letter to his local MP recounting some of the long catalogue of violence, abuse and other attacks that he has suffered at the hands of some Muslims in the area of Bradford where he lives. Recently Nissar and his wife, Kubra, who have six children, have each had false allegations against them brought to the police for separate “offences” resulting in each of them being held at the police station for hours. Their car has been maliciously damaged four times, making it almost impossible for the family to meet the repair and insurance costs. Yet despite appealing to local authorities and organisations for support, Mr Hussain has struggled to find support and help.

In August 2015, the Barnabas Fund reported:

a mob of around 40 Muslim young men of Pakistani descent gathered outside his home in Bradford on 18 August in a patent display of intimidation.

In response to the Daily Mail article from October, the Fund issued this statement:

Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “Barnabas Fund has supported Nissar Hussain throughout the violence and persecution he faced after his conversion to faith in Christ. We work with converts and with Muslim and Christian leaders to bring about a day when no one will be penalised and persecuted for accepting the claims of Jesus.”

Premier Christian Radio interviewed Mr Hussain after the Mail article appeared. They contacted the police and local clergy for a response:

West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation.

“All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth (in the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales), said: “I am aware of considerable attention and support which has been offered and indeed provided to Mr Hussain by his local Anglican vicar, supported by myself and my predecessor.

“Mr Hussain’s vicar has met with him on many occasions and has worked with the local police, the local council and other bodies including representatives of the local Muslim communities  in trying to resolve this difficult matter.

“I fully support the ongoing work of  the Multi Agency Hate Crime Conference, of which the local vicar is a member, which continues to try to bring a resolution to this situation.”

It would appear that Mr Hussain is not wrong. Indeed, what he has said about lack of real help appears to be accurate.

In 2014, Christian Concern reported that he was planning on starting a series of safe houses in the UK for ex-Muslim converts:

It is hoped that the network, provisionally named “Converts to Jesus”, will launch in the Autumn and be chaired by Nissar Hussain, a convert from Islam, who lives in Bradford. 

Nissar, his wife and children, have all suffered as a result of following Jesus. He has been shunned by his family and labelled a “Christian Jew dog” while his wife has been sworn at and spat upon and his children have been ostracised by school friends.

In a related story from 2014, Rob James for Christian Today said that Jesus is weeping for His Church:

Hussain talked about how he was also upset by the reception he got from Christians. “We are broken people” he said, “I have given up on the Anglican church and independent churches. We are in a no man’s land; we are completely and utterly isolated”.

Is this the kind of Church Jesus envisaged when he said “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”?

We need to remember that Jesus views this sort of love as a key to mission too for just before he died he prayed “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.

Jesus will build His church, of course. And He will take care of Nissar Hussain and his family. But I do wonder how He feels when he sees a Muslim convert admit that his experience of church has left him feeling “broken” and “utterly isolated”.

Too right! However, how to accomplish this is not easy in a school context when most of the pupils are Muslim. Rightly or wrongly, teachers may well fear reprisals.


The more I read about the Hussains’ plight, the more I pray for them.

However, it is difficult to understand why they have not moved to a safe majority-Christian area after all these years. That is the story which interests me.

Matthew 10:23 says:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Let us pray that the Hussains find a new home in a new community soon. If I see an update, I’ll be sure to report on it.’s post introduced Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10.

Henry’s exposition is well worth reading in full. It will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. As I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10, Henry offers excellent — and concise — explanations of the alternating stark and comforting way Christ taught the Twelve about the consequences of proclaiming the Gospel message.

Yesterday’s post covered the first 15 verses. This entry looks at the rest of the chapter. Excerpts from Henry follow, emphases in bold mine. I have also included a few personal observations.

Matthew 10:16-25 document Christ’s warning about the persecution to come. It is helpful to keep in mind that as the Apostles understood the Messiah was to be a temporal king — in keeping with Jewish teaching of the era — the last thought on their minds was persecution. It is unlikely they grasped the full import of our Lord’s prophetic message. His words hold true for millions around the world — including in the West. I shall write more about this shocking phenomenon tomorrow.

Our Lord was speaking here of the Apostles’ ministries post-Resurrection, when they would be on their own with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. At this point, the Twelve were unaware of His imminent death, resurrection and the first Pentecost.

Persecution — sheep and serpents

Our Lord said (Matthew 10:16, parallel in Luke 10:3):

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

The Apostles were to be gentle and civilised in ministering to those who hated Christ and His followers. However, they were also to act with discernment. In any case, our Lord would ensure that no matter what they suffered they would be with Him for eternity. As to this verse:

… it is rather to be taken as a precept, recommending to us that wisdom of the prudent, which is to understand his way, as useful at all times, but especially in suffering times. “Therefore, because you are exposed, as sheep among wolves be ye wise as serpents not wise as foxes, whose cunning is to deceive others but as serpents, whose policy is only to defend themselves, and to shift for their own safety.” The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and, therefore, they need the serpent’s wisdom. Note, It is the will of Christ that his people and ministers, being so much exposed to troubles in this world, as they usually are, should not needlessly expose themselves, but use all fair and lawful means for their own preservation

It is the wisdom of the serpent to secure his head, that it may not be broken, to stop his ear to the voice of the charmer (Psalm 58:4,5), and to take shelter in the clefts of the rocks and herein we may be wise as serpents. We must be wise, not to pull trouble upon our own heads wise to keep silence in an evil time, and not to give offence, if we can help it.

Jesus warned that the Apostles would incur the wrath of the Jews and the Romans. The Jews would scourge them then hand them over to the Romans to be put to death. That was the limit the Jews could do in prosecution and persecution:

The Jews did not only scourge them, which was the utmost their remaining power extended to, but when they could go no further themselves, they delivered them up to the Roman powers, as they did Christ, John 18:30.

The shocking irony is that the Bible tells us that the Lord has ordained authority in those governing us to provide social order, yet:

Ye shall be brought before governors and kings (Matthew 10:18), who, having more power, are in a capacity of doing the more mischief. Governors and kings receive their power from Christ (Proverbs 8:15), and should be his servants, and his church’s protectors and nursing-fathers, but they often use their power against him, and are rebels to Christ, and oppressors of his church. The kings of the earth set themselves against his kingdom, Psalm 2:1,2; Acts 4:25,26. Note, It has often been the lot of good men to have great men for their enemies.

When this happens, the Holy Spirit will provide the right words through the persecuted (Matthew 10:20):

For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Even worse than the authorities, however, were family members who would soon be turning new Christians over to the authorities as apostates to be killed. This still happens today:

the enmity of such is commonly most implacable[:] a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, Proverbs 18:19. The martyrologies, both ancient and modern, are full of instances of this. Upon the whole matter, it appears, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution and through many tribulations we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God.

Whatever we endure, our Lord tells us to keep our faith (Matthew 10:22):

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Henry explains:

Note, A believing prospect of the period of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. The weary will be at rest, when the wicked cease from troubling, Job 3:17. God will give an expected end, Jeremiah 29:11. The troubles may seem tedious, like the days of a hireling, but, blessed be God, they are not everlasting. Secondly, That while they continue, they may be endured as they are not eternal, so they are not intolerable they may be borne, and borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them, in everlasting arms: The strength shall be according to the day, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Thirdly, Salvation will be the eternal recompence of all those that endure to the end. The weather stormy, and the way foul, but the pleasure of home will make amends for all. A believing regard to the crown of glory has been in all ages the cordial and support of suffering saints, 2 Corinthians 4:16,17,18; Hebrews 10:34. This is not only an encouragement to us to endure, but an engagement to endure to the end. They who endure but awhile, and in time of temptation fall away, have run in vain, and lose all that they have attained but they who persevere, are sure of the prize, and they only. Be faithful unto death, and then thou shalt have the crown of life.

When necessary, we should seek shelter elsewhere — as does the serpent — for survival:

In case of imminent peril, the disciples of Christ may and must secure themselves by flight, when God, in his providence, opens to them a door of escape. He that flies may fight again. It is no inglorious thing for Christ’s soldiers to quit their ground, provided they do not quit their colours: they may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. Observe Christ’s care of his disciples, in providing places of retreat and shelter for them ordering it so, that persecution rages not in all places at the same time but when one city is made too hot for them, another is reserved for a cooler shade, and a little sanctuary a favour to be used and not to be slighted yet always with this proviso, that no sinful, unlawful means be used to make the escape for then it is not a door of God’s opening.

Our Lord told the Apostles not to try to be His equal but to imitate His example (Matthew 10:24-25). He also made allusion to the Jewish hierarchy putting him in league with Beelzebub — the devil. My readers will remember this from the verses I looked at a few weeks ago — Matthew 9:32-34 — when He healed the man made deaf by demons.

Our Lord said that whatever His enemies accused Him of would also mark His followers — ‘household’ — even more.

‘Fear not’

Despite the perils incurred in following Him, our Lord tells us that He will acknowledge us before His Father in heaven. Therefore, we are not to fear evil men, despite their ability to inflict pain and death.

On this point, Jesus said (Matthew 10:26-27):

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[g]

Verse 26 has its parallel in Luke 12:2, about which I wrote in May 2014. (That post also contains the significance of rooftops in Jesus’s time.) On one level, these verses concern the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. However, they also refer to our sins which will be revealed, if not in this world, then on the Last Day.

As to what Jesus was teaching the Apostles when they were alone, He told them to proclaim from the rooftops:

Those ambassadors received their instructions in private, in darkness, in the ear, in corners, in parables. Many things Christ spake openly, and nothing in secret varying from what he preached in public, John 18:20. But the particular instructions which he gave his disciples after his resurrection, concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, were whispered in the ear (Acts 1:3), for then he never showed himself openly. But they must deliver their embassy publicly, in the light, and upon the house-tops for the doctrine of the gospel is what all are concerned in (Proverbs 1:20,21,8:2,3), therefore he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The first indication of the reception of the Gentiles into the church, was upon a house-top, Acts 10:9. Note, There is no part of Christ’s gospel that needs, upon any account, to be concealed the whole counsel of God must be revealed, Acts 20:27. In never so mixed a multitude let it be plainly and fully delivered.

Further words of comfort came when He told them that God the Father knows our trials, just as He knows when a sparrow dies or the number of hairs on our heads. He created us in His image. Furthermore, we are more valuable than sparrows.

Henry tells us:

Now this God, who has such an eye to the sparrows, because they are his creatures, much more will have an eye to you, who are his children. If a sparrow die not without your Father, surely a man does not,–a Christian,–a minister,–my friend, my child.


If God numbers their hairs, much more does he number their heads, and take care of their lives, their comforts, their souls. It intimates, that God takes more care of them, than they do of themselves.

Love our Lord first

Jesus warned the Apostles — and us — about Christianity dividing a household and about Christian teachings dividing us from the world. Note that He said nothing about earthly peace here (Matthew 10:34):

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

He said that our enemies would come from our own household (Matthew 10:26). Furthermore, we are not to love our own families more than we love Him (Matthew 10:37-38). Ultimately, if we die professing His name, we might lose our temporal life but we will find eternal life (Matthew 10:39).

Henry explains:

First, Before our nearest and dearest relations father or mother, son or daughter. Between these relations, because there is little room left for envy, there is commonly more room for love, and, therefore, these are instanced, as relations which are most likely to affect us. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. As we must not be deterred from Christ by the hatred of our relations which he spoke of (Matthew 10:21,35,36), so we must not be drawn from him, by their love. Christians must be as Levi, who said to his father, I have not seen him, Deuteronomy 33:9.

Secondly, Before our ease and safety. We must take up our cross and follow him, else we are not worthy of him. Here observe, 1. They who would follow Christ, must expect their cross and take it up. 2. In taking up the cross, we must follow Christ’s example, and bear it as he did. 3. It is a great encouragement to us, when we meet with crosses, that in bearing them we follow Christ, who has showed us the way and that if we follow him faithfully, he will lead us through sufferings like him, to glory with him.

Thirdly, Before life itself, Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life shall lose it he that thinks he had found it when he has saved it, and kept it, by denying Christ, shall lose it in an eternal death but he that loseth his life for Christ’s sake, that will part with it rather than deny Christ, shall find it, to his unspeakable advantage, an eternal life. They are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life.

Rewards for honouring His people

Finally, Jesus said that whoever honours His followers honours Him. Henry observes:

That though the kindness done to Christ’s disciples be never so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted, though it be but a cup of cold water given to one of these little ones, Matthew 10:42. They are little ones, poor and weak, and often stand in need of refreshment, and glad of the least. The extremity may be such, that a cup of cold water may be a great favour. Note, Kindnesses shown to Christ’s disciples are valued in Christ’s books, not according to the cost of the gift, but according to the love and affection of the giver. On that score the widow’s mite not only passed current, but was stamped high, Luke 21:3,4. Thus they who are truly rich in graces may be rich in good works, though poor in the world.


There are many lessons to absorb in Matthew 10, one of the most powerful chapters in the Gospels.

We — and our children — are likely to run into resistance to Christ, even those of us who live in the West.

In addition to considering this as historical prophecy from our Lord to the Apostles, we would do well to also apply it to our own lives. Matthew Henry’s commentary goes a long way in unpacking these verses for our benefit. the three-year Lectionary for public worship includes readings from Matthew 10, I will not be covering this chapter in my series Forbidden Bible Verses.

That said, Matthew 10 has some of the most memorable Gospel verses. Matthew Henry’s commentary on our Lord’s preparation of the Twelve Apostles helps to illuminate His teaching and purpose for them. Excerpts follow, emphases in bold mine.

Henry’s commentary will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. Personally, I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10.

St Matthew used the end of the preceding chapter to set the readers’ expectations for the selection and training of the Apostles — Matthew 9:35-38:

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Authority and the Apostles

Then we read Matthew 10:1:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Henry explains:

Note, All rightful authority is derived from Jesus Christ. All power is given to him without limitation, and the subordinate powers that be are ordained of him … He gave them power over unclean spirits, and over all manner of sickness. Note, The design of the gospel was to conquer the devil and to cure the world. These preachers were sent out destitute of all external advantages to recommend them they had no wealth, nor learning, nor titles of honour, and they made a very mean figure it was therefore requisite that they should have some extraordinary power to advance them above the scribes.

Matthew gives us the names of the Twelve:

2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a] Simon the Zealot,[b] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Henry explains the word ‘apostle’:

apostles, that is, messengers. An angel, and an apostle, both signify the same thing–one sent on an errand, an ambassador. All faithful ministers are sent of Christ, but they that were first, and immediately, sent by him, are eminently called apostles, the prime ministers of state in his kingdom.

They are named in twos because that is how they were sent out:

at first they were sent forth two and two, because two are better than one they would be serviceable to each other, and the more serviceable jointly to Christ and souls[;] what one forgot the other would remember, and out of the mouth of two witnesses every word would be established. Three couple of them were brethren Peter and Andrew, James and John, and the other James and Lebbeus. Note, Friendship and fellowship ought to be kept up among relations, and to be made serviceable to religion. It is an excellent thing, when brethren by nature are brethren by grace, and those two bonds strengthen each other.

Henry discusses the order of their names:

(3.) Peter is named first, because he was first called or because he was the most forward among them, and upon all occasions made himself the mouth of the rest, and because he was to be the apostle of the circumcision but that gave him no power over the rest of the apostles, nor is there the least mark of any supremacy that was given to him, or ever claimed by him, in this sacred college.

(4.) Matthew, the penman of this gospel, is here joined with Thomas (Matthew 10:3), but in two things there is a variation from the accounts of Mark and Luke, Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15. There, Matthew is put first in that order it appears he was ordained before Thomas but here, in his own catalogue, Thomas is put first. Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ in honour to prefer one another. There, he is only called Matthew, here Matthew the publican, the toll-gatherer or collector of the customs, who was called from that infamous employment to be an apostle. Note, It is good for those who are advanced to honour with Christ, to look unto the rock whence they were hewn often to remember what they were before Christ called them, that thereby they may be kept humble, and divine grace may be the more glorified. Matthew the apostle was Matthew the publican.

(5.) Simon is called the Canaanite, or rather the Canite, from Cana of Galilee, where probably he was born or Simon the Zealot, which some make to be the signification of Kananites.

As for Judas, his presence as one of the Twelve shows us that we should not be surprised if vile, evil leaders turn up in the Church:

(6.) Judas Iscariot is always named last, and with that black brand upon his name, who also betrayed him which intimates that from the first, Christ knew what a wretch he was, that he had a devil, and would prove a traitor yet Christ took him among the apostles, that it might not be a surprise and discouragement to his church, if, at any time, the vilest scandals should break out in the best societies.

Some we know more about than others:

Note, all the good ministers of Christ are not alike famous, nor their actions alike celebrated.

Why twelve?

Henry explains that the number twelve occurs several times in the Bible:

Their number was twelve, referring to the number of the tribes of Israel, and the sons of Jacob that were the patriarchs of those tribes. The gospel church must be the Israel of God the Jews must be first invited into it the apostles must be spiritual fathers, to beget a seed to Christ. Israel after the flesh is to be rejected for their infidelity these twelve, therefore, are appointed to be the fathers of another Israel. These twelve, by their doctrine, were to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:30. These were the twelve stars that made up the church’s crown (Revelation 12:1): the twelve foundations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12,14), typified by the twelve precious stones in Aaron’s breast-plate, the twelve loaves on the table of show-bread, the twelve wells of water at Elim. This was that famous jury (and to make it a grand jury, Paul was added to it) that was impanelled to enquire between the King of kings, and the body of mankind and, in this chapter, they have their charge given them, by him to whom all judgment was committed.

Our Lord’s instructions

Matthew 10:5-15 has the detail of what Jesus told the Apostles to do. Parallel accounts are in Luke 9:1-6, which I wrote about in 2013, and Mark 6:7-13. I find it useful to list parallel verses found in the other Synoptic Gospels as this helps to establish the veracity of the New Testament. Too many mockers and detractors say that accounts in one Gospel are not corroborated by the others. In most cases, this is simply not true.

Henry breaks down these verses in Matthew 10 and calls our attention to the following:

They must not go into the way of the Gentiles, nor into any road out of the land of Israel, whatever temptations they might have. The Gentiles must not have the gospel brought them, till the Jews have first refused it … If the gospel be hid from any place, Christ thereby hides himself from that place. This restraint was upon them only in their first mission, afterwards they were appointed to go into all the world, and teach all nations.


The first offer of salvation must be made to the Jews, Acts 3:26. Note, Christ had a particular and very tender concern for the house of Israel they were beloved for the fathers’ sakes, Romans 11:28. He looked with compassion upon them as lost sheep, whom he, as a shepherd, was to gather out of the by-paths of sin and error, into which they were gone astray, and in which, if not brought back, they would wander endlessly see Jeremiah 2:6.

From this we get the term ‘Wandering Jew‘, which I haven’t heard in years. The last time was in the 1980s with regard to the plant, a lovely variegated vine which grows quickly and easily.

The nature of the Apostles’ preaching was to proclaim a spiritual kingdom, not a temporal one:

the kingdom of heaven at hand: not so much the personal presence of the king that must not be doated upon but a spiritual kingdom which is to be set up, when his bodily presence is removed, in the hearts of men.

Today, the message is still the same, despite the divine institution of the Church:

when the Spirit was poured out, and the Christian church was formed, this kingdom of heaven came, which was now spoken of as at hand but the kingdom of heaven must still be the subject of our preaching: now it is come, we must tell people it is come to them, and must lay before them the precepts and privileges of it and there is a kingdom of glory yet to come, which we must speak of as at hand, and quicken people to diligence from the consideration of that.

I’m trying to think of the last time I heard an Anglican priest preach about the kingdom of Heaven. Hmm. I could be some time…

Henry explains that the extraordinary gifts the Apostles were given served as the foundation of the Church. They were to be temporary:

to call for miracles now is to lay again the foundation when the building is reared. The point being settled, and the doctrine of Christ sufficiently attested, by the miracles which Christ and his apostles wrought, it is tempting God to ask for more signs.

On this subject, an atheist told me ten years ago that Jesus was nothing more than a gifted magician! Henry makes it clear that Jesus did not work frivolous miracles and nor did He authorise His Apostles to perform them:

not “Go and remove mountains,” or “fetch fire from heaven,” but, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers. They are sent abroad as public blessings, to intimate to the world, that love and goodness were the spirit and genius of that gospel which they came to preach, and of that kingdom which they were employed to set up the intention of the doctrine they preached, was to heal sick souls, and to raise those that were dead in sin and therefore, perhaps, that of raising the dead is mentioned for though we read not of their raising any to life before the resurrection of Christ, yet they were instrumental to raise many to spiritual life.

The Apostles were not to accept money because Christ freely embued them with powers that were not of their own making or learning. Therefore, it would be wrong to accept payment for something they were not personally responsible for in terms of knowledge or their own ability:

Their power to heal the sick cost them nothing, and, therefore, they must not make any secular advantage to themselves of it.

There is another aspect to this. Henry draws on the dire example of Simon Magus, the magician in Acts who wanted to pay the Apostles to teach him how to work miracles:

Simon Magus would not have offered money for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, if he had not hoped to get money by them Acts 8:18. Note, The consideration of Christ’s freeness in doing good to us, should make us free in doing good to others.

Henry explains the instruction to enquire in every town who the worthy people were:

In the worst of times and places, we may charitably hope that there are some who distinguish themselves, and are better than their neighbours some who swim against the stream, and are as wheat among the chaff. There were saints in Nero’s household. Enquire who is worthy, who there are that have some fear of God before their eyes, and have made a good improvement of the light and knowledge they have. The best are far from meriting the favour of a gospel offer but some would be more likely than others to give the apostles and their message a favourable entertainment, and would not trample these pearls under their feet.

The Apostles had to stay in one house during their stay because:

They are justly suspected, as having no good design, that are often changing their quarters. Note, It becomes the disciples of Christ to make the best of that which is, to abide by it, and not be for shifting upon every dislike or inconvenience.

Where they were not well received, the Apostles were to leave, shaking the dust from that house or city from their feet, an ancient Jewish custom which has its origins in the Old Testament:

The apostles must have no fellowship nor communion with them must not so much as carry away the dust of their city with them. The work of them that turn aside shall not cleave to me, Psalm 101:3. The prophet was not to eat or drink in Bethel, 1 Kings 13:9. [2.] As a denunciation of wrath against them. It was to signify, that they were base and vile as dust, and that God would shake them off. The dust of the apostles’ feet, which they left behind them, would witness against them, and be brought in as evidence, that the gospel had been preached to them, Compare Jam. v. 3. See this practised, Acts 13:51,18:6.

Jesus told the Twelve that judgement would surely come to the places that rejected them:

The condemnation of those that reject the gospel, will in that day be severer and heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom is said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 1:7. But that vengeance will come with an aggravation upon those that despise the great salvation. Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Genesis 13:13), and that which filled up the measure of their iniquity was, that they received not the angels that were sent to them, but abused them (Genesis 19:4,5), and hearkened not to their words, Matthew 10:14. And yet it will be more tolerable for them than for those who receive not Christ’s ministers and hearken not to their words. God’s wrath against them will be more flaming, and their own reflections upon themselves more cutting.

Any universalist reading this thinking all are saved would do well to brush up on the New Testament. One reading does not suffice. People who reject Christ will not be saved in the world to come. It may sound unsophisticated to the armchair intellectual, nonetheless it is the unvarnished truth as Jesus told it.

More to come on Matthew 10 from Matthew Henry.

Tomorrow: Jesus on persecution

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:1

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.


The intervening verses between our Lord’s healing of the deaf men, covered in last week’s post, and the beginning of Matthew 11 recount His appointment and training of the Twelve Apostles.

All of those verses are included in the three-year Lectionary. I’ll look at Matthew 10 tomorrow apart from this series.

Matthew prepares us for Chapter 10 at the end of Chapter 9 (Matthew 9:35-38):

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

At the beginning of Matthew 11, we find that as the Twelve go to preach, teach and heal, Jesus goes ‘to teach and preach in their cities’.

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

that means the cities of the disciples, which were the cities of Galilee. Eleven of the twelve of them, with the exception of Judas, were from Galilee. So He continued His Galilean ministry.

He adds that Christ’s ministry was two-fold:

teaching and preaching, and they are different. The synagogue was a place where the Scripture was read and exposited. Philo, the historian, says the synagogue’s main feature was to read and give a detailed exposition of Scripture. So the Lord would go into the synagogue, and since any resident expert who happened to be there could speak, He would take the occasion to speak, and He would take the Old Testament and give them the meaning of the Old Testament and apply it to Himself. He was an expository teacher.

He was also a preacher. The word means ‘to proclaim,’ and He would go from the synagogue to the streets and the hillsides, and the highways and byways, and the corners, and anywhere. He would preach and proclaim His Kingdom. So He continued doing this. We may also assume, based on verse 5, that He continued the miracles of healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and forgiving sin. So the Lord goes on about His work.

So, Jesus did not take a break whilst the Twelve were invested with the same divinely-bestowed gifts. He continued His ministry.

Matthew Henry says the Apostles were performing miracles while Jesus was preaching and teaching. Which was more important?

Observe, When Christ empowered them to work miracles, he employed himself in teaching and preaching, as if that were the more honourable of the two … Healing the sick was the saving of bodies, but preaching the gospel was to the saving of souls.

Church leaders and clergy can draw upon His example by keeping just as busy as His Apostles. Serving Christ does not allow for directing from the top and remaining idle. All should be equally occupied in spreading the Gospel message:

Note, the increase and multitude of labourers in the Lord’s work should be made not an excuse for our negligence, but an encouragement to our diligence. The more busy others are, the more busy we should be, and all little enough, so much work is there to be done.

Matthew’s message through Chapter 9 establishes Jesus as the Messiah and the Anointed One. Then he changes tack. In Chapters 11 and 12 he tells us about people’s reactions to Jesus. MacArthur explains:

In fact, he lists for us the various kinds of reactions to the claims of Christ. Through giving us brief narrative events in these chapters, he gives us categories of response to Jesus Christ. These chapters are filled with very common reactions to the claims of Christ, which were true then and are true today as much as they were then.

For example, in Matthew 11:1-15 is the response of doubt. From verses 16-19, we see the response of criticism. From verses 20-24, there is the response of indifference. Going to chapter 12, the first 21 verses deal with the response of rejection. Verses 22-23 are the response of amazement, and verses 24-37, the response of blasphemy. Verses 38-45 show the response of fascination.

Those are all the negative responses: doubt, criticism, indifference, amazement, rejection, blasphemy, and fascination. Each of them, in a sense, is kind of a unique response all its own, although there is some overlapping as well. But you’ll notice that I said nothing about the last section of chapter 11 and the last section of chapter 12, because both of those deal with positive responses; the response of faith, the right response.

So by the time you have covered these two chapters, you have run the gamut of possible reactions to the claims of Christ and crystallized the categories. That is very helpful, because you’ll find out as we move through these two chapters, we’ll be able to see the varying responses that are just as true today as they were then, and understand, perhaps a little better, where people are coming from when they react to Jesus Christ.

More to follow next week.

Next time: Matthew 11:12-14


John F MacArthurThe past few weekends I have been writing about Jesus’s healing — creative — miracles in Matthew 8 and 9:

Matthew 8:1-4 – Jesus, creative miracle, leper

Matthew 8:5-13 – Jesus, creative miracle, centurion, faith, humility

Matthew 8:14-17 – creative miracles, Jesus, Peter’s mother-in-law

Matthew 8:23-27 – Jesus, storm, miracle, Sea of Galilee, faith

Matthew 8:28-34 – Gadarene swine, miracle, demons, Jesus

Matthew 9:1-8 – healing miracle, creative miracle, paralytic, sin, Jesus

Matthew 9:18-26 – Jesus, miracles, Jairus’s daughter, death, sleep, woman with blood issue, resurrection, healing

Matthew 9:27-31 – Jesus, miracles, healing, two blind men, physical blindness, spiritual blindness, faith, Capernaum

Matthew 9:32-34 – Jesus, miracles, healing, deaf mute possessed by demon, Capernaum

John MacArthur’s sermon, ‘Miracles of Sight and Sound’, explains how St Matthew wanted us to think of Jesus with regard to His miracles, events in the Old Testament and ancient biblical prophecy. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Matthew’s purpose in writing is to tell us: that Jesus is that Messiah; that that someday has arrived; that Christ is the promised King; that He is the One who can right the wrongs, who can reverse the curse, who can establish the kingdom, who can destroy the enemy.  He is the One.  And in order to convince us that Christ has the power to do that, in chapters 8 and 9, Matthew marks His miracle power, and he doesn’t do it in a random manner.  He marks His miracle power, I believe, insofar as it is associated with Old Testament prophecy There were many miracles that Jesus did—Matthew selects nine of them in chapters 8 and 9, three sets of three—and, in these miracles, I see the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  And Matthew was saying, “This is the Messiah.  He fulfills the prophecy.  The prophecy says He will do all of this in the kingdom, and He has given you a preview of it all.”  The kingdom will evidence His power over disease, His power over death, His power over the elements, His power over the earth; and in His first coming, He gave previews of all of those.  Now remember that of the nine miracles, the first three deal with disease,  the second three deal with disorder, and the third primarily with death.  And there’s some overlap, but that’s just kind of a general focus.


After Adam and Eve committed what is known in the Church as Original Sin — the disobedience which caused every human afterward to sin by instinct — God promised redemption for mankind:

in Genesis, chapter 3, no sooner had man fallen than God gave the promise that there would come One who would be called the Seed of the woman; and that very One would bruise the serpent’s head.  And so from that time on, the Old Testament was filled with promises that God would bring a Deliverer, that God would bring a King, and that that King would restore the kingdom, would establish again the rule of God, would wipe out disease and death and pain and illness and sorrow and war and fighting.  And the prophets would again and again and again repeat that He’s coming: the Anointed Son, the King of kings, the Satan-Conqueror, the Death-Defeater, the Sin-Destroyer, the Healer.  The Jews know Him as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Prophet, Priest, and King surpassing all others.


MacArthur cites passages from the prophet Isaiah which proclaim that the Messiah would save and restore God’s people. He says these are pertinent to the first three healing miracles.

Isaiah 33:22-24:

22 For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver;
    the Lord is our king; he will save us.

23 Your cords hang loose;
    they cannot hold the mast firm in its place
    or keep the sail spread out.
    Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided;
    even the lame will take the prey.
24 And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”;
    the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.

Isaiah 57:19 (second half of the verse):

“… Peace, peace, (AI)to the far and to the near,” says the Lord,
    (AJ)and I will heal him.


As there was no disease before the Fall, there will be no disease after the restoration.  Now, if Jesus Christ is the One who has the power to do that, He must be able to demonstrate such power, and that is why Matthew shows us that He has power over disease.

Isaiah 35 prophesies a restored topography of the Earth. MacArthur says that Matthew wanted us to connect this with Jesus’s calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee when the disciples feared for their lives. This is what Isaiah 35:4 says:

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Isaiah 29:18 speaks of the restoration of sight and hearing:

In that day the deaf shall hear
    the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind shall see.

We can also draw a spiritual meaning from those verses, that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes and ears to saving faith.


MacArthur associates Matthew’s accounts of deliverance — casting out demons — with verses from the Book of Daniel. These also pertain to his raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. Therefore, Jesus has power over sin and death.

Daniel 12:2:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

From these verses — merely a few examples of the scriptural foretelling of the arrival of Christ as Lord — we learn that He did not come to earth randomly.


There are Christians who mistakenly say that we should not study the Old Testament. Ironically, they do, for the verses which condemn certain sins. That is not wrong, but there are many New Testament verses which cover abomination and depravity which lead to eternal death.

A true Christian will read the Old Testament in light of how God and His prophets attempted to guide the Israelites to be ready for the Messiah and what we can expect from Him.

The Old Testament points to Christ throughout.

Scripture is alive, historical and full of meaning. May we study it closer in our walk with the Lord.

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

Matthew 9:32-34

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”


Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s healing of the two blind men who followed Him into the house where He was staying in Capernaum.

His healing the deaf mute took place immediately afterward at the end of a very long day which involved raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead and healing the woman who had the 12-year blood flow. Before that, He condemned the pharisaical method of fasting and cured a paralytic. He was surrounded by crowds the whole time that day, except for brief periods: inside Jairus’s house and at Peter’s house when He healed the blind men.

The blind men with fully restored sight no sooner went away (verse 32) than a demon-possessed deaf mute stood before Him. He might have been someone in the crowd and was presented to Him. However, John MacArthur thinks he was a companion of the two blind men:

Now, this would have been one of their friends.  They were blind, he was deaf and dumb; and together they made a whole person …  And they immediately went out, and they got hold of their friend, “possessed with a demon, and they brought him in.”  This is the commitment of the men.  One of their fellow beggars.

He tells us that the word in Greek for the man’s affliction is

koufos.  It is translated in Matthew 11:5 as deaf.  It probably means deaf and dumb.

If one cannot hear, one cannot speak.

Matthew Henry says that the fact that a demon rendered this man deaf and mute illustrates that Satan is no friend of mankind (emphases mine):

His case, which was very sad. He was under the power of the devil in this particular instance, that he was disabled from speaking, Matthew 9:32. See the calamitous state of this world, and how various the afflictions of the afflicted are! We have no sooner dismissed two blind men, but we meet with a dumb man. How thankful should we be to God for our sight and speech! See the malice of Satan against mankind, and in how many ways he shows it.

That said:

Of the two, better a dumb devil than a blaspheming one.


When the devil gets possession of a soul, it is made silent as to any thing that is good [,] dumb in prayers and praises, which the devil is a sworn enemy to.

Therefore, this state of being can be compared in our time to becoming a slave to the devil and sin, where we forsake a close relationship with the Lord for pleasure, greed, depravity and self-sufficiency.

As soon as Jesus cast out the demon, the man — now fully healed — spoke, causing the crowd to marvel (verse 33). They exclaimed that nothing like this had ever occurred in Israel.

Should we then deduce that the crowd converted that day and followed our Lord ever afterward? Only in the sense that they were curious and amazed.

Henry says that the crowd might have recalled Psalm 98:1:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.

However, he makes this observation:

The multitudes marvelled and well they might[,] though few believed, many wondered.

They followed Jesus to see miracles.

MacArthur likens the crowd to today’s cinema goers who go for a thrill and then leave it behind. At the time he preached his sermons on Matthew in the 1970s, The Exorcist was showing on the big screen:

I’m amazed at people today, you know.  They, they may, they go see these movies that scare them to death; scare them out of their wits and just sit there and let themselves be scared into a frenzy, sweat.  Some of them have to run out into the lobby at the scary times.  Why would people line up for blocks to see The Exorcist?  Well, you know, there’s a certain funny fascination about that.  As long as you’re sitting in a soft seat shoving popcorn in your mouth and you can leave when it’s over.  See, you, you don’t want to get in the situation.  You just don’t mind watching somebody else in it.  There’s a certain thing about that.  And I believe there was something of this fascination in these people who were terrorized by Christ, but also astounded and amazed at the supernatural.  But they wanted to make sure it was just at arm’s length; and when it began to crowd their status quo, that was the end of it: They wanted Him dead.

Jesus’s miracles were entertainment for the vast majority in the crowd, nothing more.

Another aspect of their fascination was that they expected a temporal Messiah, not a spiritual one.

They were not ready to leave Judaism under the manmade laws of the Pharisees. They were not ready to devote their lives to Jesus. They had what they needed in their lives. He was, sadly, for them, an exciting phenomenon, not the Son of God.

When Jesus became too threatening to the status quo, He had to go:

in Matthew chapter 21, they could make only one conclusion: “And the multitude,” it says, the same multitude that marveled.  That’s a broad word.  The multitude said, “Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.'”  They threw palm branches at His feet.  That’s the marveling multitude: “Isn’t He wonderful?  Oh, He’s the Messiah.”  The next thing you know, they got the word that He was going against the establishment; that He was preaching a message that they didn’t want to hear; that He was a threat to their security, a threat to their life.  But it says in Matthew 27 that the same multitude screamed at Him to be crucified, that Barabbas should be released, and Jesus should be executed.  But that’s how it is with fickle mobs, you see.  Marveling multitudes eventually screamed for His death.  The fickleness of that superficial fascination; it’s like John 6.  They followed Him for the free food, you know?  They really weren’t interested in what He said.  They liked Him at a distance.  They liked Him doing His miracles.  They were fascinated.  There was a certain awe.  Even though there was a certain terror involved, if you could keep it at arm’s length, it was okay.

The Pharisees were spiritually blind and deaf. Therefore, they accused our Lord of being in league with Satan in driving out demons (verse 34). Their reaction was as psychologically and spiritually complex as the crowd’s but for different reasons. They did not like His preaching, even though they should have recognised it, but they were spiritually bereft. They liked their privileged status and feared the crowd might reject their hold on them. They also did not think that Jesus had anything to say to them. They were the foremost among the self-sufficient. Furthermore, Jesus was not among their number. He did not mix in their circles nor did He have their training. He had to be derided, ridiculed and blasphemed then killed.

Ultimately, the Pharisees had to diminish His power among the people. For now, they shamefully lied about the source of His miracles. Henry says:

The Pharisees blasphemed, Matthew 9:34. When they could not gainsay the convincing evidence of these miracles, they fathered them upon the devil, as if they had been wrought by compact and collusion: he casteth out devils (say they) by the prince of the devilsa suggestion horrid beyond expression we shall hear more of it afterwards, and Christ’s answer to it (Matthew 12:25) only observe here, how evil men and seducers wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13), and it is both their sin and their punishment.

In closing, the parallel account of this healing — creative — miracle and Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is in Luke 11:14-23, about which I wrote last year.

Next time: Matthew 11:1

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 9:27-31

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered 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.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.


This healing — creative — miracle took place after Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. ‘There’ in verse 27 refers to his house.

Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, so Jesus would have been on His way to retire for the evening. We do not know where the house in verse 28 was, but it is possible that it was Peter’s home, as Bible scholars say that Jesus stayed there often.

The two blind men had been following Him. No doubt there were crowds around Him, too, as John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

He has two crowds, really:  the crowd that’s been following Him all along, the crowd that pushed their way through the little narrow streets of Capernaum all the way to the house of Jairus, the crowd that was there when he healed the woman with the issue of blood, the crowd that is looking for His miracles, that is fascinated by Him.  And now another crowd has been added; and that’s the crowd of mourners and paid musicians, flute players, and weeping women who were holding the funeral service for the daughter.  The funeral was broken up when He raised her from the dead.  And now He has this whole collection of humanity; and He moves from that place back toward the house in which He was staying; and as He does, the story unfolds. 

The two blind men were persistent, to the point of boldly following Him into the house. He was not about to heal them in public and even told them to keep quiet about the restoration of their sight (verse 30).

However, our two commentaries tell us that Jesus wanted to test their faith before He performed the miracle.

No doubt He could hear their crying, which was actually shrieking. MacArthur explains:

It is a word that has a broad range of possible interpretation, but the word basically means to yell or to scream or to shriek; and in the Gospels it is used of an insane person who is just screaming and shrieking unintelligible babbling.  It is used of an epileptic.  It is used in Mark 5 of the maniac of Gadara who was demon-possessed and was screaming and shrieking and yelling.  It is used in Mark 15 of our Lord on the cross; and it says, “He cried out and gave up His Spirit.”  It is used in Revelation 12:2 of a woman who is screaming the pains of childbirth.  It is a word that doesn’t necessarily have to refer to intelligent speech, intelligent verbalization.  It may be the unintelligible crying in, in agony that we see in those illustrations. 

They were desperate. Their blindness had broken them in the biblical sense. They wanted healing. They needed relief. MacArthur continues:

And it interests me that it says they were not only shrieking and screaming and crying, but they were, interspersed with that, actually saying some intelligible things, such as, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”  But it wasn’t a, a calculated, cold, pedantic, academic kind of thing.  They were crying out in agony and desperation and deep need and shrieking, pleading, begging. That is the desperation of which regeneration is made.

They called Him ‘Son of David’, which was the universal Jewish way of referring to the Messiah.

He asked them whether they believed He could restore their sight (verse 28). They answered in the affirmative, calling Him ‘Lord’.

He healed them simply by touching their eyes and saying (verse 30):

According to your faith be it done to you.

He would have known they believed in Him and wanted to increase their faith, new and imperfect as it was. Matthew Henry says:

They followed Christ, and followed him crying, but the great question is, Do ye believe? Nature may work fervency, but it is only grace that can work faith spiritual blessings are obtained only by faith. They had intimated their faith in the office of Christ as Son of David, and in his mercy but Christ demands likewise a profession of faith in his power. Believe ye that I am able to do this to bestow this favour to give sight to the blind, as well as to cure the palsy and raise the dead? Note, It is good to be particular in the exercise of faith, to apply the general assurances of God’s power and good will, and the general promises, to our particular exigencies. All shall work for good, and if all, then this. “Believe ye that I am able, not only to prevail with God for it, as a prophet, but that I am able to do it by my own power?” This will amount to their belief of his being not only the Son of David, but the Son of God for it is God’s prerogative to open the eyes of the blind (Psalm 146:8) he makes the seeing eye, Exodus 4:11

Note, The treasures of mercy that are laid up in the power of Christ, are laid out and wrought for those that trust in him, Psalm 31:19.

As soon as Jesus touched their eyes, they were able to see fully (verse 30).

At that point, Jesus told them not to say anything about the miracle, even though they did (verse 31).

There were several reasons for this but part of it was because our Lord knew they would be zealous about their healing. Henry tells us:

This was more an act of zeal, than of prudence and though it may be excused as honestly meant for the honour of Christ, yet it cannot be justified, being done against a particular charge. Whenever we profess to direct our intention to the glory of God, we must see to it that the action be according to the will of God.

There were other reasons for Jesus’s request for silence, despite His many miracles recorded thus far in Matthew’s Gospel. It could be that silence was intended against the people of Capernaum, where our Lord based Himself. They knew and saw these miracles, yet did not believe. Another possibility was that the more miracles the people knew about, the further the ire among the Jewish leaders who feared He was becoming more popular than they. He also wanted to guard against an idea among the people that He would be a temporal Messiah.

Ultimately, what we learn from this miracle, that of Jairus’s daughter and the woman with the 12-year blood flow, is that they approached Jesus in their brokenness and desperation. In the case of the blind men, they had not only a physical disability but a spiritual one. They were given faith that they might believe. In their faith, Jesus healed them.

Today, with all its atheism and unbelief, this miracle has relevance with regard to personal desperation and need for redemption. As in Jesus’s time, the self-sufficient and self-righteous do not think they need His saving grace and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. MacArthur explains:

You never find the self-sufficient people.  You never find the people who think they have the resources.  You never find the people who don’t really have any questions. I talked to a man this week, and I said to him, “You, I can introduce you to Christ.  I can talk to you about Christ.  I can tell you about Christ if you really want to know.”  He said, “I don’t want to know.  I don’t have any need for that.” The thing to do in that situation is pray that God’ll bring him to the place where he has a desperate need, because it’s only desperate people who come.

It’s useful knowing where blindness featured as a disability in our Lord’s era. MacArthur says that congenital blindness was common not only in Israel but other nations in the region. Much of it — though not all — was caused by gonorrhoea, difficult to detect in women:

In fact, the gospel records include more healings of blind people than any other type of healing.  That may indicate its commonness.  Poverty and the unsanitary conditions that went with it, brilliant sunlight, excessive heat, blowing sand, accidents, war, infectious organisms.  All of those things contributed to blindness.  Many of the people were blind from birth; and, very commonly, their blindness from birth was caused by a form of gonorrhea.  Sometimes it was not even known to be existing in the mother; and, yet, when the little baby passed from the uterus down, those particular germs that lodged in that mother’s womb would find their lodging in the conjunctiva of the eye; and, as they did, they would begin to multiply; and within only three days, the child would be permanently blind.  That is why, today, antiseptic drops are put in the eyes of a newborn baby; and for all intents and purposes, we have eliminated that problem.

Because of the link between venereal disease and blindness, the Jews connected it with parental sin that had been passed on to the child:

That may also have been what was in the mind of the question on the heart of the disciples in John 9:2, when they saw the man born blind and they said, “Who sinned?  Did this man or his parents?”  There may have been a theology in that question, but there also may have been a little bit of medicine in that question, or a little bit of the physical.  They may have been saying, “Is he blind because of his parents’ sin?”  Because very often venereal disease contracted in a sinful situation was the cause of a child’s blindness.  So that was a common thing for people born blind.  There were also infective organisms and viruses that were the common cause of trachoma.  Sulfa drugs have pretty well eliminated that nowadays.  But all of these things created the problem of blindness, and it seemed to be a, a major problem, and blind people hung around together.  It was not uncommon to see a couple of blind people hanging onto each other; and, thus, did our Lord say to the Pharisees on one occasion, “You’re like the blind leading the blind.  You both fall in the ditch.”

In closing, a thought on faith. MacArthur cites Richard Chevenix Trench, a devout Anglican of the Victorian Era. Trench served as Dean of Westminster Abbey and as the Archbishop of Dublin. He said:

The faith which, in itself, is nothing is yet the organ for receiving everything. It is the conducting link between man’s emptiness and God’s fullness; and herein lies all the value faith has. Faith is the bucket let down into the fountain of God’s grace without which the man could never draw water of life from the wells of salvation.  For the wells are deep and, of himself, man has nothing to draw with.  Faith is the purse which cannot of itself make its owner rich, and yet effectually enriches by the wealth which it contains.

May we remember this as we go about our daily responsibilities this week.

Next time: Matthew 9:32-34

To conclude on the migrant crisis in Europe — and before delving into today’s topic — below are the latest statistics (as of September 2015) from the UNHCR:

  • 411,567 migrants arrived by sea;
  • 2,900 people died on the sea;
  • 82% come from the UN’s top-ten list of refugee countries, with 51% from Syria. The next four countries sending the most refugees/migrants are Afghanistan (14%), Eritrea (8%), Nigeria (4%) and Pakistan (3%). The next five countries — Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia and Bangladesh — comprise between 1%-3% of refugees and migrants.
  • 72% of those coming to Europe are men; 15% are children and 13% are women.

The New York Times has a country-by-country graph of EU nations and the number of asylum applications received between 2011 and 2015.

Those figures are on top of the normal immigration influx to the EU from around the world.

Let it never be said that Europeans do not do their part in welcoming and paying for ‘the stranger’.

Last weekend, someone on the Reddit Reformed board suggested that a list of Bible verses be published so that stingy Christians know their obligations in this regard (irony alert from me, but they were serious). They posted a set from Patheos, compiled by the controversial yet thought-provoking Roger Olson. There are also verses on strangers at Open Bible.

Yet, that is not the whole story on welcoming strangers in the Old Testament — far from it.

What is a gentile?

The 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia defines gentile in a lengthy and informative article. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

A word of Latin origin (from “gens”; “gentilis”), designating a people not Jewish, commonly applied to non-Jews. The term is said (but falsely so) to imply inferiority and to express contempt. If used at all by Jews of modern times—many of them avoiding it altogether, preferring to speak of “non-Jews”—this construction of its implications must certainly be abandoned as contrary to truth. The word “Gentile” corresponds to the late Hebrew “goi,” a synonym for “nokri,” signifying “stranger,” “non-Jew.” In the Hebrew of the Bible “goi” and its plural “goyyim” originally meant “nation,” and were applied both to Israelites and to non-Israelites (Gen. xii. 2, xvii. 20; Ex. xiii. 3, xxxii. 10; Deut. iv. 7; viii. 9, 14; Num. xiv. 12; Isa. i. 4, lx. 22; Jer. vii. 28). “Goi” and “goyyim,” however, are employed in many passages to designate nations that are politically distinct from Israel (Deut. xv. 6; xxviii. 12, 36; Josh. xxiii. 4). From this use is derived the meaning “stranger” (Deut. xxix. 24; comp. II Chron. vi. 32 =”‘amme ha-‘areẓ”). As the non-Israelite and the nokri were “heathens,” “goi” came to denote a “heathen,” like the later “‘akkum,” which, in strict construction, is not applicable to Christians or Mohammedans (see below). In its most comprehensive sense “goi” corresponds to the other late term, “ummot ha-‘olam” (the peoples of the world).

The article explains that there were seven nations engaging in Canaanite idolatrous practices forbidden to God’s chosen people. These are mentioned in Deuteronomy.

However, there were other nations with gentiles who did not engage in idolatry:

mention is made of marriages with non-Hebrews of other stock than the seven nations enumerated (Ruth i. 4; II Sam. iii. 3; I Kings vii. 14, xiv. 21; I Chron. ii. 34), and even of marriages in direct contravention of the prohibitive law (Judges iii. 6; II Sam. xi. 3; I Kings xi. 1 et seq., xvi. 31). This proves that the animosity against non-Hebrews, or “goyyim,” assumed to have been dominant in Biblical times among the Hebrews, was by no means intense.

Classifications of the stranger

The Jewish Virtual Library has an illuminating article called ‘Strangers and Gentiles’ which explains the type of foreigners the Israelites encountered and the status they had.

Generally speaking:

Ancient Israel was acquainted with two classes of strangers, resident aliens and foreigners who considered their sojourn in the land more or less temporary. The latter were referred to as zarim (זָרִים) or nokhrim (נָכְרִים), terms generally applied to anyone outside the circle the writer had in view (e.g., Ex. 21:8; 29:33). They retained their ties to their original home and sought to maintain their former political or social status. On occasion they came as invaders (II Sam. 22:45–46; Obad. 11). More often they entered the land in the pursuit of trade and other commercial ventures. The usual laws were not applicable to them, and they were protected by folk traditions concerning the proper treatment of strangers (cf. Job 31:32) and by special conventions resulting from contractual arrangements between the Israelites and their neighbors (cf. I Kings 20:34).

Usury could be applied to such foreigners and remission of debt, extended to the Israelite, was not part of the relationship with the zarim or nokhrim. They were not bound by ritual law.

However, some must have been important temporary visitors, because Deut. 17:15 forbade their ascending to rule over the Israelites. That said, Solomon asked that God hear their prayers (I Kings 8:41).

There were resident aliens, the gerim. A ger (singular form) was more than a guest. The Israelites expected him to abide by the Noahide Laws. He was a ‘protected stranger’ who was dependent on the Israelites for his living. In turn, he could share in some, though not all, of their privileges. He also had to obey their rule of law and show loyalty.

The gerim only came into being after the Exodus:

Aliens were apparently attracted to their ranks when they left Egypt (Ex. 12:38, 48), and their numbers were further augmented during the time of the conquest of Canaan (Josh. 9:3ff.). By far the greatest number of gerim consisted of the earlier inhabitants of Canaan, many of whom were neither slain as Deuteronomy commands (cf. e.g., 7:2) nor reduced to total slavery (cf. I Kings 5:29; II Chron. 2:16–17). Immigrants also were numbered among them – foreigners who sought refuge in times of drought and famine (cf. Ruth 1:1) and refugees who fled before invading armies.

Socially, the ger was at the bottom of the totem pole, although a handful did manage to become rather wealthy.

He could not own property, although there were a few exceptions. He was most likely to be an artisan or day labourer. Their Israelite masters treated them like the poorest of Israelites. And like the poor Israelites, they were only allowed fruit that had already fallen on the ground, crops from the edges of the fields and a gleaning from that year’s harvest.

This is why the Old Testament emphasised treating the ger well, because he was at the mercy of the Israelites, totally dependent upon them for survival.

The ger was the ‘stranger’ referred to in the Old Testament verses about exhortations to kindness and so forth. By no means did ‘stranger’ refer to all non-Israelites.

Later, some gerim converted and were fully assimilated into Israelite society:

Doeg the Edomite, for instance, was a worshiper of YHWH by the time of Saul (I Sam. 21:8), as was Uriah the Hittite in the reign of David (II Sam. 11:11). Hence, the ger, in contrast to the nokhri, was required in many cases to conform to the ritual practices of the native Israelite.

Other gerim were expected to practise certain ritual laws and observe the religious feasts in loyalty to God.

Not all gerim were considered as equals or near-equals to Israelites:

While third generation offspring of Edomites and Egyptians might “be admitted into the congregation of the Lord” (Deut. 23:8–9), Ammonites and Moabites were not to be admitted “even in the tenth generation” (23:4).

There were also rules regarding slavery and servanthood:

while the Holiness Code admonished Israelites not to subject their fellows to slavery (Lev. 25:39), they were specifically permitted to do so to the children of resident aliens (25:45–46). A Hebrew slave belonging to a ger could be redeemed immediately, and if not redeemed served until the Jubilee Year (25:47ff.), but one belonging to an Israelite served until the *Jubilee (25:39ff.). Correspondingly, a Hebrew could serve as a hired or bound laborer (25:40) of an Israelite, but only as a hired laborer of an alien (25:50). Indeed, the humble position of the ger generally was emphasized by the usage of the term in the Holiness Code: e.g., “The land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with Me” (25:23; cf. 25:35 …)

As far as marriage was concerned:

On close examination it appears that even in the theory (and it was hardly more) of the author of Ezra-Nehemiah only marital alliances with the non-Israelites of Palestine were illegitimate, because the laws of Deuteronomy 7:3–4 and 23:3–9 applied to them. The absorption of converts from other nations is reported with equanimity – Ezra 2:59–60 (= Neh. 7:61–62); Ezra 6:21; Nehemiah 10:29 (“and everyone who withdrew from the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands [note the plural] to the teaching of God”). The phenomenon of such conversions is alluded to in Isaiah 56:3 and Zechariah 2:15; 8:20ff., and the predictions of the conversion of the gentiles in Isaiah and Jeremiah are well known. In late Second Temple times, the term ger had become virtually synonymous with “proselyte,” and strangers were admitted to the religious fellowship of Israel (Jos., Apion, 2:28).

How ‘stranger’ became universal

An article by Michael J Prival which was adapted for the journal Humanistic Judaism‘Who Is This Stranger We Are Supposed To Love’ — cites Leviticus 19:18; New King James Version:

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Prival says:

Although the idea of loving all Israelites may have been a step forward from restricting one’s concern to family or tribe, it is still far from the universalism that is usually ascribed to this Torah quote.  There is no hint in the Torah that any non-Israelite is to be looked upon with favor except for one who has attained the status of a ger.33

So, in the period from the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt through their settlement in Canaan and nearby lands, the strangers who merited the love of the Israelites were a very restricted group of people defined by the Torah text, namely, foreigners who lived among the Israelites and adhered to many of their laws.

He goes on to explain that after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the rise of Christianity, then Islam, the rabbis questioned who was an idol-worshipper. Discussions incorporated the term ger toshav rather than ger in reference to the resident alien. Some rabbis accepted Christians as ger toshav although others had difficulty because of the Holy Trinity. They considered Christians idol worshippers. However, all rabbis agreed that Muslims were ger toshav. On this point Prival concludes:

Overall, the attitude of traditional rabbinic law toward non-Jews was far from one of love.  It was, at best, one of indifference and, in many cases, of contempt.47

But I digress.

The point where ger and ger toshav became a universal proposition making all of non-Jewish humanity ‘strangers’ was during the Enlightenment in the 18th century and the development of Reform Judaism in the 19th. Part of the reason for this, Prival explains, was Jewish self-preservation in Europe and North America:

As acceptance of Enlightenment ideas increased among Jews, so did their efforts to achieve emancipation – freedom from the discriminatory laws found throughout Europe.  They realized that Emancipation would not be forthcoming until they demonstrated their respect for non-Jews.  Both the desire to prove that they could be good citizens and increasing social interaction with non-Jews were major factors in broadening the outlook of Enlightenment-oriented, emancipation-seeking Jews.  The universalist tendencies of the Haskalah were brought to North America by Reform Jews from Germany and by secular Jews from Eastern Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  These Jews embraced modernity and rejected the idea that they were bound by traditional rabbinic law, as did many of the children of traditionally religious Jewish immigrants to the United States and Canada.

Therefore, whilst we can say that consideration of ‘the stranger’ may represent a humanistic kindness, we cannot claim it has its roots in the Old Testament.

This makes it unlikely that the New Testament encourages an equivocal, unquestioning stance towards ‘the stranger’.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘Jesus’ Power over Death’, Parts 1 and 2).

Matthew 9:18-26

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly[a] the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.


Matthew structured his Gospel to show the Jews and us that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour.

His accounts of our Lord’s miracles in chapters 8 and 9 demonstrate His divine power over disease, demons, nature and death.

Over the past few weeks, we have read of Jesus’s cleansing of the leper (Matthew 8:1-4), the healing of the centurion’s service from a distance (Matthew 8:5-13), restoring Peter’s mother-in-law to health (Matthew 8:14-17), stopping the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), driving demons into swine (Matthew 8:28-34) and the healing of the paralysed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Today we have the healing of the woman issuing blood and raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead.

I wrote at length about Mark’s and Luke’s fuller accounts of these miracles in 2012 and 2013. This means that neither of these miracles appears in the three-year Lectionary, which is a crying shame. They are two creative miracles which occur at approximately the same time and bring much relief to all concerned.

For a fuller explanation of these miracles, please read my discussions of Mark 5:21-34, Mark 5:35-43, Luke 8:40-48 and Luke 8:49-56.

Incidentally, in reading these accounts, we see that one of the biblically perfect numbers — 12 — features prominently. Mark tells us that the girl is 12-years-old. The woman with the blood flow has suffered for 12 years.

Matthew does not name this man as Jairus, although both Mark and Luke do. Matthew merely refers to him as a ruler (verse 18). Jairus, as the other two Gospel writers tell us, was the ruler of the synagogue. This would have been the synagogue in Capernaum.

From this information we can deduce that he was powerful locally and that, in approaching Jesus, going against the norms of his hierarchy in Jerusalem. That said, Jairus had no problem in publicly kneeling before Him. He explained that his daughter has just died but if He were to come and lay His hand on her, she will live.

Matthew Henry tells us that Jairus’s appeal in this situation should be ours as well:

Note, In trouble we should visit God: the death of our relations should drive us to Christ, who is our life it is well if any thing will do it. When affliction is in our families, we must not sit down astonished, but, as Job, fall down and worship.

Jesus immediately followed Jairus to his home (verse 19). On the way, the woman with the blood flow touched the fringe of His garment in desperation (verse 20).

From the time of Moses, women were ritually unclean when they had their menses. They had to live away from the rest of the household and have a ritual bath once their monthly period had ended. (This is something orthodox Jewish women still do.) Anyone who touched a ritually unclean woman or anything of hers was also unclean and needed to be purified according to Jewish law.

Therefore, let us imagine her sense of isolation and loneliness over so many years. We do not know if she lived on her own or adjacent to the family home. In any event, she would have had no visitors or relatives to give her a hug, converse at length with her and share meals with her. If she had been married, it could be that her husband divorced her. She would no doubt have been pondering why she had such a blood flow and what she might have done spiritually to cause it.

To compound matters, Luke tells us that she had spent all her money in vain on physicians for a cure. Remember that, until the 19th century, medicine was largely a primitive affair. In this lady’s era, she was given potions, herbs and, possibly, animal parts wrapped in linen — all of which would have been in vain.

Even worse, this blood flow would have been odorous and painful. It is possible that the lady suffered from obstetric fistula, which is still common today in Africa. As I wrote when examining Luke’s account, Wikipedia describes it as follows (emphases mine):

The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum.[11] This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping.[12] Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.

These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor. [13] Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).[14]

We can better understand why this woman was desperate to touch the fringe of Jesus’s garment (verses 20, 21). Matthew and Luke specify ‘fringe’. John MacArthur explains:

Now, in the Old Testament, in Numbers 15:37-41, and Deuteronomy 22:12, the Jews were told that they were to mark their garments with a zizith.  It’s the Hebrew word.  Basically, it’s translated in the Old Testament fringeKraspedon is the Greek word, and it really means a tassel. And they did this: they wove blue thread through their garment; and they had four tassels of kind of a blue color, a bright blue color on their garment; and those tassels were woven in a certain configuration with certain kinds of thread, seven times around and eight times, and there were, there was the significance of various numbers. But the sum total, without going into detail, was that the threads were put together to represent the word of God, faithfulness, loyalty to the word of God, and holiness unto the Lord.  So that every time a Jew went anywhere, the world knew that he belonged to God.  And every time he took his clothes off or put his clothes on, he saw those things and it was a reminder to him.  We have some of that today.  Some people have a little cross, maybe, that they wear, or sign of a fish; and every time you put that on or you look at it, maybe you’re reminded who you belong to.  That’s what that was for them.

Of course, it was the sign then of being holy unto the Lord; and in Matthew 23:5, it says, “The Pharisees made theirs very big.”  See, the bigger your tassel, the more holy you were, they thought.  And you might be interested to know that in times in Europe when the Jews have been persecuted, they have still worn them, but they’ve worn them on their undergarments; and in contemporary times today, you’ll find them still on the prayer shawl of an orthodox Jew;  little blue tassels.

Mark and Luke record that Jesus felt power going out of Him at the moment the woman touched — actually, grabbed — His fringe. Jesus turned around and asked who had touched His garment. In Matthew’s account, He turns around and sees her.

They also record that she approached Him trembling and falling down at His feet, telling Him about her illness.

Jesus says that her faith has made her well (verse 22). MacArthur says that the word for ‘well’ was not just one denoting physical health but also salvation. All three Gospel accounts in Greek use the word sodzo:

it doesn’t use the word for healing, iaomai, the normal word for healing.  You know what it used?  Sodzo: The word means to be saved

She was fully healed — and saved — at that moment.

Jesus refers to her as ‘daughter’, an affectionate and familial term. She became one of His own at that moment. Earlier in Matthew 9, He called the healed paralytic ‘son’ (Matthew 9:2), and, in that case, the man’s sins were forgiven as well as his body made fully functional once again.

MacArthur analyses her faith:

She had faith, didn’t she?  She said, “If I can just touch that thing.”  You say, “Well, it’s not exactly a perfected mature thing.”  No, it’s almost like superstition, isn’t it?  It’s almost kind of magical.  Say, “Well, the Lord certainly isn’t going to respond to that.”  Listen, faith as the grain of a mustard seed would move a mountain.  The Lord will take, the Lord will take an inadequate faith like the man’s that is somewhat selfish, and He’ll take an inadequate faith like the lady’s that is somewhat superstitious, and He’ll move it from there to the saving faith.  He couldn’t let that lady go or the, or all she would’ve remembered maybe was the superstition.  He had to pull her into the fullness of a relationship. I don’t really believe she was healed by her faith.  I think she was healed by the sovereignty of God.  God chose to heal her.  Jesus just said He’d felt power go out of Him

I think there’s a redemptive element in her faith.  Oh, she wanted to just grab on; and it was kind of a, kind of a superstitious thing, in a way.  Jesus wouldn’t leave it at that.  He drew her out, and He saved her.

Matthew Henry has a similar, but slightly fuller take:

She believed she should be healed if she did but touch the very hem of his garment, the very extremity of it. Note, There is virtue in every thing that belongs to Christ. The holy oil with which the high priest was anointed, ran down to the skirts of his garments, Psalm 133:2. Such a fulness of grace is there in Christ, that from it we may all receive, John 1:16.

… he will not only have his power magnified in her cure, but his grace magnified in her comfort and commendation: the triumphs of her faith must be to her praise and honour. He turned about to see for her (Matthew 9:22), and soon discovered her. Note, It is great encouragement to humble Christians, that they who hide themselves from men are known to Christ, who sees in secret their applications to heaven when most private. Now here,

(1.) He puts gladness into her heart, by that word, Daughter, be of good comfort. She feared being chidden for coming clandestinely, but she is encouraged …

(2.) He puts honour upon her faith. That grace of all others gives most honour to Christ, and therefore he puts most honour upon it Thy faith has made thee whole. Thus by faith she obtained a good report. And as of all graces Christ puts the greatest honour upon faith, so of all believers he puts the greatest honour upon those that are most humble as here on this woman, who had more faith than she thought she had. She had reason to be of good comfort, not only because she was made whole, but because her faith had made her whole

Now we turn to Jairus. When we read of Jesus’s creative miracles, we find people approaching Him in different ways and with various sentiments. Whereas the centurion told Jesus that a word from Him at a distance could heal his servant, Jairus says that if only He lay His hand on his daughter she would come back to life.

Regardless, Jesus knew what was in the heart of everyone He healed. In addition to being restored, their sins were forgiven or He told them they had saving faith. He accepted them whether their faith was lesser or greater, imperfect as it was.

When Jesus reached Jairus’s house, the group of mourners and flute players were already there (verse 23), as Jewish law directed. MacArthur explains:

The Talmud says this, “The husband is bound to bury his dead wife and to make lamentations in mourning for her according to the custom of all countries; and also the very poorest among the Israelites will not allow her less than two flutes and one wailing woman.”  I mean even if you were in abject poverty, you had to hire one wailing woman and two flutes.  Now, if you’re wealthy, the Talmud said, it should be in accord with your wealth.

So here is a man who probably had a lot of means, and the place was filled with flutes, and you could imagine what a mess:  Ripping and tearing, screaming and shrieking and wailing, and guys all over the place playing flutes.  In fact, they did this in the Roman world, too, and they said, and Seneca wrote that there were so many flute players playing, and there was so much screaming at the death of Emperor Claudius that they felt that Claudius himself probably heard it, even though he was dead. So you can see what a funeral was like in those times.

Jesus told the group that the girl was sleeping, not dead (verse 24). Those gathered laughed at Him in their disbelief, even though He was based in Capernaum, so, surely they would have heard of His  restorative miracles.

Henry explains why Jesus used the word ‘sleep’. Briefly, when we die, our souls go to be with the Lord whilst our bodies are at rest in a short death, awaiting the Last Day when we shall be brought together whole in perfection — body and soul — to spend eternity with Him:

They sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14) they not only rest from the toils and labours of the day, but rest in hope of a joyful waking again in the morning of the resurrection, when they shall wake refreshed, wake to a new life, wake to be richly dressed and crowned, and wake to sleep no more. (2.) The consideration of this should moderate our grief at the death of our dear relations: “say not, They are lost no, they are but gone before: say not, They are slain no, they are but fallen asleep and the apostle speaks of it as an absurd thing to imagine that they that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished (1 Corinthians 15:18) give place, therefore, to those comforts which the covenant of grace ministers, fetched from the future state, and the glory to be revealed.

The crowd were told to leave the house and wait outside. Jesus entered Jairus’s home, took the girl by the hand and, through His power, she rose from the dead (verse 25).

Matthew’s account tells us that news of this resurrection spread throughout the district (verse 26). By contrast, Mark’s and Luke’s tell us that He told the parents not to speak of it.

Mark’s version has Jesus calling the girl talitha cumi (Mark 5:41), a term of affection which is a warmer way of saying ‘little girl’.

In closing, MacArthur has interesting quotes on life and death with regard to Jesus. They help us to reflect more on Him as Saviour and Redeemer.

The first comes from Mahatma Gandhi:

Fifteen years before Gandhi’s death, he wrote this.  “I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul.  It fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad and Upanishads that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount.”  Utterly at peace, utterly comfortable with his Hinduism.  Just before his death, he wrote this.  “My days are numbered.  I am not likely to live very long, perhaps a year or a little more.  For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond.”  Footnote:  It was interesting; he must have been reading Pilgrim’s Progress.  Then he said this.  “All about me is darkness, and I am desperately praying for light.”  Even Mahatma Gandhi, who seemed to have it all together as he began to face the inevitability of death, saw it all falling apart.

The second — much more encouraging — is from G B Hardy, a Canadian scientist:

When I looked at religion, I said I have two questions.  Question No. 1:  Has anybody ever conquered death?  Question No. 2: If they did, did they make a way for me to conquer, too?”  He said, “I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Confucius, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Mohammed, and it was occupied; and I came to the tomb of Jesus, and it was emptyAnd I said, ‘There is One who conquered death.’  And I asked the second question, ‘Did He make a way for me to do it?’  And I opened the Bible, and He said, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.'”

May those who continue to doubt be filled with divine grace that they may believe and live for evermore.

Next time: Matthew 9:27-31

Hat tip to my reader Robert Stroud of Mere Inkling for the following story about David Skeel.

Dr Skeel is a professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author. He is also an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

A World article relates how David Skeel converted between his second and third year at university. He was an English major at the University of North Carolina. He found he was missing the meaning of some of the assigned texts because he did not understand the biblical references therein:

We read lots of books with biblical themes. I never knew what the themes were because I had never been to Sunday school class. We read a short story by Wright Morris, “The Ram in the Thicket”—I had no idea what the subtext of the story was.

So he decided to take action:

After enduring a class where I felt really ignorant, I decided to read the Bible. The summer after my sophomore year in college a couple of friends and I drove a van across the country. I started reading the Bible in the back of the van …

Soon after:

by the time I’d gotten a few chapters into Genesis I was persuaded it was true. I had never read anything so beautiful, so psychologically real. 

The humanity of the people in Genesis profoundly affected him. That continued as he read the rest of Holy Scripture. Furthermore, by reading about the sins of men and women in the Bible, he began to think more about his own sinfulness:

Any book that doesn’t look like the world we inhabit I don’t find compelling. The flaws made it real to me, and that’s still a big part of what makes it real—that Peter renounced Jesus, when before he was willing to give up his life for Jesus. Those are people I understand. I guess, intuitively, at a very early age I had a sense of my own sin and the sin of people around me. Seeing that portrayed in a complex way I found very powerful and very real.

He was struck by Bible’s complexity and the various genres employed:

The psychological complexity of Christianity was really powerful for me, as was the complexity of the language in the Bible. Truth can’t be conveyed in a single genre, so the Bible’s mix of genres, language, and images is part of the evidence for its veracity. 

When Skeel returned to his fraternity that autumn, he began attending a series of talks on the Gospels designed for fraternities and sororities. Pity, I think, that they were not open to all students, but so be it.

Not everyone supported Skeel’s eventual conversion. One of his room-mates thought it was bunk. However, for Skeel, it was a life-long, life-changing commitment.

Skeel’s books are related to business and economics: Icarus in the Boardroom, Debt’s Dominion, and The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and Its (Unintended) Consequences.

He has just published a fourth book, True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. He did so because:

I found it really frustrating to hear biblical Christianity and Christians described in a way that had nothing to do with my faith and what Christianity is. In our culture Christianity is often characterized as simplistic. This book is for people who think there’s no reason to take Christianity seriously. It’s to show people of that sort—they surround me in my professional life—that Christianity is much more plausible than they think.

One can only hope that the new book is successful and that it results in more conversions or at least an acceptance that Christianity is far from simplistic.

From the beginning of the Church, theologians have analysed and explained biblical Christian tenets among each other as well as to laymen. Yes, the Good News is intended for everyone. However, anyone who thinks Christianity is for morons should take several courses in theology. As I’ve said many times before, understanding the Bible properly requires the help of a sound commentary, with nothing extreme.

David Skeel’s is a wonderful conversion story, especially for a professor who teaches corporate law. It is good to read that he is part of a denomination that believes the Bible and adheres to centuries-old confessions of faith.

N.B.: Be careful when reading the World article. You get only so many views of it before you are given a summary and are asked to pay for a subscription.

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