Matthew’s initial description of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Matt 4:18-25) set the stage for what readers would come to expect from Jesus through the rest of his Gospel. In Matthew 8-10, the Evangelist recounted Jesus’ mission of healing the sick and training future leaders. In the midst of all of this, Jesus dealt with those who opposed or did not understand His message. Along the way, John the Baptist’s disciples questioned Jesus about why His disciples did not fast like the Pharisees. Jesus replied that new structures were required to understand His new teaching (Matt 9:14-17//Mark 2:18-22//Luke 5:33-39). If someone put new wine into old wineskins, the wine skins would burst when the wine cured. New wine is only preserved in new wineskins, Jesus said. Jesus’ message was the new wine that could not be carried by the structures of the old covenant. Everything that had come before was now to be evaluated in light of Him. Matthew and Jesus cited Scripture as a storyline that pointed to Jesus’ ministry.
(1) In Matt 8:17, Matthew stated that Jesus’ compassion and power to heal fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant. In Isaiah 53, the prophet said that God’s servant was a rejected and despised figure. But the servant took up the sicknesses of God’s people and identified with their pain. Matthew understood Isaiah to be prophesying not only about Jesus’ suffering and death but even the days of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ acts of compassion upon those affected by sin and disease—taking their pain upon Himself—was a precursor to the time when He would defeat sin and death on the cross. Matthew commented, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘He himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases’” (Matt 8:16b-17).
(2) In Matt 9:13, Jesus quoted Hos 6:6 to validate His willingness to dine with those thought unclean. In Hosea 6, the prophet confronted Israel because they were spiritually shallow. Israel participated in sacrifice and burnt offerings—but that was it. Israel’s religious practices were not based on a true knowledge of God. Hosea indicted Israel for unfaithfulness to God (vertical unfaithfulness); Jesus condemned the Pharisees for horizontal unfaithfulness to people. Jesus chose His disciples from among the classes that were far out of the reach of the Jewish elite, people like Matthew and his tax-collecting comrades (Matt 9:9-13). When the Pharisees chastised Jesus for associating with sinners, Jesus quoted Hos 6:6, saying, “Those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:12-13). Jesus thus expanded Hosea’s indictment of Israel and condemned the Pharisees for not helping sinners to know of God’s mercy—and expand God’s kingdom.
(3) In Matt 10:35-36, Jesus employed Mic 7:6 to describe the weighty relational demands of discipleship in His kingdom. Micah noted that during the Assyrian invasion of Israel (2 Kings 17), a person could not find a faithful companion even in his own family. Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matt 9:37-38). He then commissioned them to scatter and spread throughout Israel the news of the kingdom. Jesus required His disciples to evaluate all human relations in light of the kingdom. Echoing Mic 7:6, Jesus said, “I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matt 10:35-36). According to Jesus, faithfulness in the kingdom required willingness to lay down one’s life. Jesus said, “Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it” (Matt 10:39).