Red Letter Year: 4/1

Matthew 9:14-26

14 One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?”

15 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 17 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

18 As Jesus was saying this, the leader of a synagogue came and knelt before him. “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.”

19 So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. 20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, 21 for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s home, he saw the noisy crowd and heard the funeral music. 24 “Get out!” he told them. “The girl isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him. 25 After the crowd was put outside, however, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up! 26 The report of this miracle swept through the entire countryside.


Our passage today begins with the third argument in a row between religious people and Jesus. In last Friday reading, the scribes argued that Jesus did not have the authority to forgive sins and the Pharisees argued that he should not have been hanging out with riff raff. Here John’s disciples take a turn, arguing that Jesus and his followers aren’t very serious about faith because they don’t fast. Jesus leaves room here for fasting as a spiritual discipline, but he undercuts its religious significance. As a religious practice, dietary restrictions are placed on a level with restrictions about who to associate with and whose sins to forgive. They give the appearance of piety, but they do not forward the neighbor-centered ethic Jesus brings. His is a New Way and is quite incompatible with the old way. Or, to put the same thing differently, people who would follow Jesus have to set aside their old religious ways and accept his New Way. They cannot bring along their favorite religious practices that restrict, exclude, and delimit.

The next part of chapter 9 reinforces this teaching by sharing three healing stories where people excluded in the old way are touched, healed, and included by Jesus. We’ll read the third one tomorrow. For today, bear in mind that both the bleeding woman and the dead girl were unclean. Jesus was forbidden by the Law from touching either one of them. He touches them both. He heals them both. He makes both of them whole and clean. This is not unique to Jesus, it is essential to the New Way he begins. His New Way touches those who can’t be touched. His New Way heals those who have been broken. His New Way brings back in those who have been cast out.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.