Matt 9:18-38 The Shepherd of the Sheep CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
We always have to remember in studying the book of Matthew that we are literally reading about Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, revealing himself to Israel. Though we can often glean some spiritual truths, we have to be certain to learn the doctrinal application of the verses we study.
In this particular passage, Israel is as a flock of sheep with no shepherd (9:36). The trouble with Israel is that their shepherds had scattered the flock according to Eze 34. Thus, they needed a shepherd who would care for them. So, Jesus revealed to them that he is their shepherd by demonstrating his compassion for them through the miracles he performed.
As their shepherd he miraculously prevailed over the enemies that were destroying his flock. He defeated:
1. Death (9:18-19, 23-26) – He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25-26). In order for Israel to enjoy the promise of the Old Testament to live forever in a perpetual covenant with the Lord and to inhabit their own land, they would have to be able to rise from the dead and live forever. So, Jesus revealed his power over death. Ultimately, when Jesus returns to the earth, he will raise Israel out of their graves and place them in their own land as his flock (Eze 37:1-14).
2. Disease (9:20-22) – He healed a woman’s disease that even the doctors could not cure.
According to the Old Testament, the salvation of Israel includes healing from all diseases (Jer 33:6-8, Jer 17:14, Ps 67:2). So, Jesus demonstrated his power over an incurable disease (Mk 5:26) to show that he is their Messiah.
3. Darkness (9:27-31) – He gave sight to two blind men.
When Jesus came the first time, Israel was in spiritual blindness (Matt 13:15) and they have remained in that spiritual blindness even to this day (Rom 11:25). So, he came as the light of the world to give them sight in their darkness (Jn 8:12). To show that he is their Messiah who had the power to cause them to see, he healed these two blind men. Notice that these men called him the Son of David, acknowledging him as their Messiah (Matt 22:42).
4. The Devil (9:32-34) – He cast the devil out of a man who was dumb.
The devil is the strong man that has had Israel in bondage since they forsook the Lord (Jn 8:32-36, 44). In order for Israel to be free from the oppression of the devil, they need a shepherd who can bind the strong man and keep him from harming the sheep (Jn 10:10-11; Mk 3:27; Rev 20:1-2). Thus, Jesus demonstrated his power over the devil by casting him out of this dumb man.
Following these miracles, Jesus preached to them the gospel of the kingdom (9:35), which is the gospel concerning his literal, physical, visible rule on this earth (his millennial reign) when he will keep Israel from all of these enemies. Many people, like the Pharisees, were not willing to accept him as their Messiah and their shepherd. Therefore, he asked for laborers to enter into his harvest (a reference to the time right before his return, Rev 14:14-16; Matt 13:39) to help gather his sheep and prepare them for his reign.
Spiritually, we can apply the text of entering into the harvest as Jesus’ laborers to ourselves (Jn 4:35). Many missionaries and pastors have prayed that Jesus would send forth laborers into his harvest and the Lord has answered by supplying the men and women needed to help win souls to the Lord.