And now we take a break from the context-free sermonizing, and turn to narrative. Specifically, about Jesus curing people right and left; hard not to like that! And, consistent with what we’ve seen earlier, he doesn’t want word getting around about his actions. (Though, as you might expect, it didn’t really work out that way…)
Part of me feels like I should be bothered by the man of great faith who got a long-distance cure for his household member; but I’m really not. “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew 8:22) seems a bit harsh, but only a bit.
Matthew 9 repeats much of the same themes, but there’s some new stuff, too. It starts off by saying that Jesus cures blasphemers, too, confirming my feeling that I shouldn’t be bothered by the man of great faith by the previous chapter. In fact, he turns this into a lesson on forgiveness, which I rather like: “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” (Matthew 9:5)
And then he goes to eat with “publicans and sinners” (Matthew 9:11). Which is a word I had to look up, and Lattimore translates that it as “tax collectors and sinners” instead. At any rate, an interesting pairing, especially in today’s political climate that pairs an absolutist anti-tax line with a refusal to examine the benefits that those taxes are bringing us.
Take, for example, health care. Yes, it would be great if we could have the son of God wandering around healing us whenever we get sick. But even two millennia ago that didn’t come close to scaling to meet the actual need, and these days our shortage of healing deities is even more sorely lacking. Fortunately, our health care has improved enormously over the intervening millennia, though (pace The Rational Optimist) I won’t credit government with much of the improvement there. But I will credit government with some of the improvement, and we need a health care system of last resort, one that will look after those who aren’t financially able to pay for their own care; hence, taxes.
Anyways, continuing on: not sure how I feel about the whole bit about Jesus eating instead of fasting, justified with “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Matthew 9:15): I’m all for moderation in appropriate contexts, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Still, I certainly won’t blame Jesus for wanting to have some food in his stomach, though, especially given what’s going to happen to him.
I also can’t say that I understand the “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment” bit that follows next (Matthew 9:16)—I get the feeling that I should be learning something there, but it doesn’t quite fit into the narrative flow to me. Or maybe I should read those verses as an affront against the virtues of refactoring, or as a caution that it can be taken too far?
This post has not been revised since publication.