What A Wonderful Savior!
“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.”
As I read this passage of Holy Scripture, my heart’s response to this display of our Savior’s wisdom, goodness, and power is, “What a wonderful Savior!” I am certain that Matthew was inspired by God the Holy Spirit to record these events as he did, without any interpretive comment, so that we might see in these things something of the grandeur, greatness, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The man of whom Matthew speaks, the man who said and did the things described in this passage is God; and this great God-man is our Savior. His name is called “Wonderful,” because everything about him is wonderful.
He is a wonderful Savior, indeed, who is longsuffering, patient, gentle, kind and gracious to such sinful disciples as all his disciples are in this world.
It is a painful and shameful fact, but it is a fact that all the Lord’s people in this world are sinners still. And being sinners we often behave as such. Nothing more betrays the evil that remains in us than the strife and division that exists among true believers. All too often, throughout the history of God’s church, those who truly are brethren have behaved as though they were enemies!
Paul and Barnabas were both faithful servants of God; but they had such a strong division over John Mark that they never worked together again. The conflict was needless; but the division was permanent (Acts 15:36-41). How sad! How painful! How shameful! Yet, that is what happened then; and that is what still happens far too often today. Brethren here are sometimes incapable of living and working together peaceably. That is a fact that reveals much about our fallen nature and depraved hearts, horribly dishonoring to our God, but a fact nonetheless. Blessed God, our Savior, hasten the day when every breach in Zion shall be healed. Until he does, let us strive to avoid strife among God’s saints.
Here in verse 14, the disciples of John the Baptist, who were also the disciples of the Lord Jesus, came to the Lord Jesus with a word of reproof because they presumed that he and his disciples did not fast. – “Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?”(v. 14).
While there is much in their behavior that is reprehensible, it must be acknowledged that these disciples of John did behave with integrity. They did not murmur and gossip like the scribes and Pharisees. They had a problem that greatly concerned them; but rather than sitting around in a stew, talking about it, they came directly to the Master with it. One of their number must have said, “Wait a minute brethren. If we’ve got a problem with what appears to be a matter of grave error, there must be some explanation for it. Let’s go talk to the Master.” Much evil could be avoided if men and women would behave like this!
Yet, there is much in the conduct of these men that is reprehensible. Like the Pharisees, they proclaimed their own goodness (Pro. 20:6). They judged their brethren by the yardstick of their own rules. Fasting was one of the customs of the Pharisees, a custom they had accepted as a required display of godliness. Because they did not see the disciples fasting, they presumed that they did not fast. And they appear to have cast a slur upon the Lord Jesus because of the presumed bad conduct of his disciples.
However, neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke indicate that the Lord Jesus was angry or upset with these men. That fact is as instructive as it is comforting. – “For he knoweth our frame: He remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). Our God and Savior is he of whom it is written, “He delighteth in mercy” (Mic. 7:18). Let us imitate him (Eph. 4:32-5:2).
We should never presume anything evil concerning God’s saints. We should never presume that we know what goes on in the heart of another. We should never presume that we know what another person’s private life is like. God’s people are his people, not ours. His servants are his servants, not ours. They stand or fall before him. We must not set ourselves up as judges over them (Rom. 14:4, 14).
How thankful we ought to be that our Savior’s grace is immutable, indestructible, and effectual. He who gives no indication of anger toward John’s disciples for their evil presumption is our great God, who will never charge his own with sin (Rom. 4:8). Having pardoned us of all our transgressions through the blood of Christ, our God beholds no evil in his people (Jer. 50:20). Rather, he beholds us in Christ as perfect, complete, and holy. If he beholds all his people this way, how much more we ought to do so! “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3).
Wonderful in Identification
In verse 15 the Lord Jesus graciously and tenderly identifies himself with his disciples.— “And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”
Rather than getting into a dispute with these men about a matter of insignificance, our Lord seized the opportunity to identify himself with us in one of the most tender, intimate, and suggestive ways imaginable. He calls himself the Bridegroom. John’s disciples could not have missed the significance of this (John 3:29). It was true that his disciples were not known to fast. Here the Lord Jesus comes to their defense and explains why that was the case.
In Bible times marriages were arranged; and the marriage of the Lord Jesus Christ was arranged. The marriage was arranged and the bride was chosen by God the Father in eternal election. The bride chosen is the church of God (Eph. 5:25-27). The children of the bridechamber, the Friends of the Bridegroom, are God’s servants, all true gospel preachers. In those days of old the center of attention in a wedding was not the bride but the bridegroom; and our Lord Jesus is our Bridegroom! Let him have all the attention and adulation!
What the bridegroom is to the bride, the Lord Jesus Christ is to every sinner who trusts him. He loves us with deep, everlasting, unchangeable love. He has taken us into an indissolvable union with himself (Eph. 4:30). By his death as our Substitute, he paid all our debts with his blood. He supplies all our needs. He sympathizes with us in all our troubles. He bears all our affronts, sins, and horrible thoughts and acts of unfaithfulness to him. With this Bridegroom there is no putting away! And all the glory that he has received from his Father he has given to his bride, the church, the Lamb’s wife (John 17:5, 22; Rev. 19:7). Spurgeon’s explanation of verse 15 is excellent…
“He is ‘the Bridegroom’ who came to woo and win his bride, those who followed him were the guests, the Bridegroom’s best men and attendants, it was for them to rejoice while the Bridegroom headed their company, for sorrow is not suitable for wedding-feasts. Our Lord is that Bridegroom of whom Solomon sang in the Song of Songs, and we who enjoy his fellowship are one with him in his joy. Why should we fast while he is near? Can we allow little things to kill our great joy? Can we, in consistency with reason, and in harmony with respect for our Lord, mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with us?
But Jesus was to go. He says himself, ‘The Bridegroom shall be taken from them.’ Here first he speaks about his death. Did his disciples note the warning word? When their Beloved was gone, they would have fasting enough. How true was this! Sorrows crowded in upon them when he was gone. It is the same with us. Our Lord is our joy: his presence makes our banquet, his absence is our fast, black and bitter. All Ritualistic fasting is the husk: the reality of fasting is known only to the child of the bridechamber when his Lord is no more with him. This is fasting indeed, as some of us know full well.
There is no wedding without a Bridegroom, no delight without Jesus. In his presence is fullness of joy, in his absence is depth of misery. Let but the heart rest in his love and it desireth nothing more. Take away a sense of his love from the soul, and it is dark, empty, and nigh unto death.”
Wonderful in Teaching
In verses 16-17 our Lord Jesus shows himself to be a tender Master and teaches us how to deal with young disciples. — “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
In the family of God there are “little children,” “young men,” and “fathers” (1 John 2:12-14). Little children are not to be dealt with as young men, or fathers, but as little children. Sometimes those who should be fathers are still just little children, and must be dealt with as such (Heb. 5:12-14). Just as a seamstress would never put a new piece of cloth into and old pair of trousers to patch them, so we must not expect from babes the maturity of fathers and must not put them in the place of fathers. If we do, we are sure to regret it. Just as a winemaker would never put new wine in an old bottle, lest it burst, so we must not impose upon young converts the rigid discipline we ought to impose upon ourselves, lest we do them great harm. We must not impose upon men what they are not able to bear. We must never neglect the doctrines of the gospel. We must not fail to teach the ordinances of the gospel. We must take care to train young believers in the way of Christ. But we must be patient with the Lord’s little children. They are usually more harsh and hasty in their judgments than they will be in time, more strict and unbending in their thoughts of others than they will be when they have more experience in grace, more highly opinionated than they will be when they know more, more susceptible to error than they will be when they have been made to know their own weakness, and more rash and erratic in their behavior than they will be when they have been through heavy trials (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
These parabolic statements given by our Savior also demonstrate the folly of man in substituting anything and everything for a real work of grace and true godliness. Throughout history, in every part of the world, it is ever the trait of fallen man to attempt to gain favor with God by doing something. In his proud self-righteousness man will readily fast, give alms, attend church, perform disciplined religious duties, reform his life, and make great sacrifices in the hope of attaining salvation by his own works. He sews the new cloth of religion into the old garment of nature, and puts the new wine of religion into the old bottle of nature. But, seeking righteousness by their own works, they will not submit to and trust Christ for the whole of their acceptance with God. That makes their religion both foolish and harmful. The old creature is only dressed up in a new form; but no transformation has taken place, there has been no regeneration, no work of grace in the soul. Robert Hawker wrote…
“Jesus makes use of two beautiful similitudes to shew the folly of it. The new cloth put into the old garment; and the new wine into old bottles neither of which can receive into union what is altogether the reverse of themselves. The strength of the new cloth will only tend to rend the old; and the old dried skins of bottles must burst if new fermenting wine is put into them. In like manner, the new robe of Jesus’ righteousness cannot be joined to patch up our filthy rags, neither can the new wine of the Gospel be received into the old, unrenewed skin of nature. But when the Holy Ghost hath by regeneration made all things new, and Christ’s righteousness is received as the new robe of salvation; and the blood of Christ as the wine that maketh glad the heart of man; both then are preserved and blessed.”
Wonderful in Salvation
In verses 18-26 our blessed Redeemer show himself wonderful in the salvation he performs by two great miracles of grace.
“While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.”
Matthew shows us two examples of the Lord honoring faith. He blends these two great miracles together by the direction of God the Holy Spirit, because the one runs into the other, and both serve mutually to illustrate the glory of Christ and the omnipotence of his saving grace. Try to picture the scene drawn for us by the pen of the inspired writer.
First we see a man whose daughter is dead, asking the Lord Jesus to come, lay his hand on his dead child, and restore her life. To this great request, which exemplified great faith, the Lord Jesus readily complied and started to go with the man. Can you imagine the hope and joyful anticipation that must have flooded that father’s heart as the Son of God was going to raise his darling child to life? But as he was going, a woman with an issue of blood interrupted the procession, touching the Lord Jesus with a hand of faith. When she touched him, the procession came to a halt. The Lord Jesus paused to cure that poor woman, honoring and commending her faith.
Mark adds a little color that Matthew omits. He tells us that, while the Lord Jesus was speaking to this woman, “there came certain from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead, why troublest thou the master?” Luke tells us the same thing (Mark 5:35; Luke 8:49). What a trial that must have been to the man’s faith! He must have thought to himself, “Now it is too late. My daughter is dead.” Had he such fears, they were ill-founded. He who had begun his good work would finish it. He had started to the ruler’s house to heal his daughter who was dying. And he would go on to the place to raise his daughter from the dead. Our increasing need is not a hindrance to Christ’s power and grace, but only a better background upon which he will display his grace and power.
In the healing of this woman we are given a tremendous, instructive picture. Mark and Luke, in their more detailed accounts of this event, inform us that she had been in this sorrowful condition of weakness and uncleanness for twelve long years, and that she had spent all her living on physicians of no value, hoping to obtain a cure. Yet, she was no better, but only grew worse. How anxious sinners are to make any sacrifice, try any religious medicine, and submit to the tortures of religious rehabilitation at the hands of quake religious physicians! All the while their condition just gets worse. Until the sin sick soul comes to Christ, there is no hope. All the attempted cures of religious experience and religious works are vanity. But as soon as the sinner in desperate need comes to the Savior in faith, his malady is gone!
Truly this daughter of Abraham was a woman of remarkable faith. Her faith honored the Lord Jesus; and the Lord Jesus honored her faith. He said, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Obviously, it was Christ who made her whole, not her faith. Yet, it was her faith in Christ that fetched his healing power to her body and to her soul. So, while we admire her faith, let us admire and honor him who gave her faith. As Spurgeon put it, “Thus he put the crown upon the head of her faith, because her faith had already set the crown on his head.” Though she did not know it at the time, the Lord Jesus had given her this lively faith, just as he gave her the blessing of grace she needed. “And the woman was made whole from that hour.”
Immediately, the Lord Jesus went on to the ruler of the synagogue’s house. His darling daughter was now dead. By all human reason, all hope was gone. But that was not the case. He who is the Resurrection and the Life had come to give life to a dead child; and she must live again. With the ease of omnipotence, “he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.” By his omnipotent grace “the dead are raised up” (Matt. 11:5) still. With the ease of omnipotent, irresistible grace, he still raises up those who are dead in trespasses and in sins. With that same ease of omnipotent grace, he is able to raise up and revive our languishing souls; and he will (Hos. 6:1-3).
Faith honors God and God honors faith. The Lord Jesus honored the ruler’s strong faith by doing what he desired. And he honored the woman’s, perhaps, weaker faith, doing for her what she desired. It is not the measure of our faith, but the Object of our faith that saves us.
Without question, the Man who performed these wonders of mercy is the omnipotent God. All power is his (Matt. 28:18-20; John 17:2). He who is God our Savior has power over all flesh (John 17:2), all events (Rom. 8:28), and Satan too (Rev. 20:1-3). — “He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death” (Psalms 68:20). Let his fame go abroad into all the earth!