Matthew 9:10
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
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(10) As Jesus sat at meat in the house.—The Greek runs, as he sat at meat. The insertion of the name Jesus in this part of the sentence injures the sense. What seems to have been meant is, that while Matthew sat (i.e., reclined after Roman fashion), many publicans and sinners came and reclined with Jesus and His disciples. On the assumption of St. Matthew’s authorship of the Gospel, there is a noticeable humility in his omission of the fact that he had made “a great feast” (Luke 5:29). It was apparently a farewell feast to old friends and neighbours before he entered on his new calling. They were naturally mostly of his own class, or on a yet lower level. The publican was the pariah of Palestine, and no decent person would associate with him. The term “sinners” may have included Gentiles, but does not necessarily designate them. So far as the context goes, as in Matthew 9:13, the term is used in its simple and natural sense.

Matthew 9:10-13. As Jesus sat at meat in the house — Namely, of Matthew, (see Mark 2:15,) who, being desirous at once to show his respects to Christ, and to give his former companions and acquaintance an opportunity of enjoying his instructive conversation, made a great entertainment for him, Luke 5:29. And many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him — Being invited by Matthew. The publicans, or collectors of taxes which the Jews paid the Romans, were infamous for their illegal exactions. With these were now present several other open, notorious sinners. When the Pharisees saw it — When they observed that Jesus ate and openly conversed with these men, being offended, they said, Why eateth your Master, &c. — Thus they commonly ask our Lord, Why do thy disciples do this? and his disciples, Why doth your Master? The Pharisees pretended to greater strictness than Christ in keeping at a distance from sinners, but they were far from being strict in reforming themselves, or in zeal for love and doing good to their fellow-creatures. When Jesus heard that — The Pharisees, it seems, though they had not directed their discourse to Jesus, yet had spoken so loud as to let all the guests hear their censure. Hence it was necessary that Christ should show them the unreasonableness of it, and therefore he said, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick — Implying that, since the Pharisees thought themselves righteous persons, they had no need of his company and instructions, whereas the publicans, whom they called sinners, being sick, had the best right to it: and that as nobody ever blamed a physician for going into the company of the patients whose case he had undertaken; so, they could not blame him for conversing with sinners, since he did it not as their companion but as their physician, and therefore with a view to reclaim them. But go ye and learn what that meaneth — Ye that take upon you to teach others; I will have mercy, and not sacrifice — That is, I will have mercy rather than sacrifice: I love acts of mercy better than sacrifice itself. See this explained at large in the note on Hosea 6:6; as if he had said, In bringing sinners to repentance, which is the highest exercise of benevolence, I do what is more acceptable to God than offering sacrifices, however many or costly, or observing the most important ceremonial institutions, so unreasonably magnified by the men of your sect, who observe them on many occasions at the expense of charity.

9:10-13 Some time after his call, Matthew sought to bring his old associates to hear Christ. He knew by experience what the grace of Christ could do, and would not despair concerning them. Those who are effectually brought to Christ, cannot but desire that others also may be brought to him. Those who suppose their souls to be without disease will not welcome the spiritual Physician. This was the case with the Pharisees; they despised Christ, because they thought themselves whole; but the poor publicans and sinners felt that they wanted instruction and amendment. It is easy, and too common, to put the worst constructions upon the best words and actions. It may justly be suspected that those have not the grace of God themselves, who are not pleased with others' obtaining it. Christ's conversing with sinners is here called mercy; for to promote the conversion of souls is the greatest act of mercy. The gospel call is a call to repentance; a call to us to change our minds, and to change our ways. If the children of men had not been sinners, there had been no need for Christ to come among them. Let us examine whether we have found out our sickness, and have learned to follow the directions of our great Physician.And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house - This was at a feast given to him by "Levi" or "Matthew," Luke 5:29. This is another circumstance favorable to Matthew, but omitted by him, and recorded by Luke; showing also that the apostles were averse to praising themselves. To receive Christ hospitably and kindly was a commendable act, and it strongly evinces Matthew's freedom from ostentation that he has not himself mentioned the fact. It thus illustrates the command of the Saviour, as recorded by himself, Matthew 6:1-4.

At meat - At the table; at supper.

Many publicans and sinners came - Probably the old friends of Matthew who had been invited by him. The character of a "publican," or tax-gatherer, among the Jews was commonly not very respectable (see notes at Matthew 5:47; Matthew 18:17), and there is no improbability in supposing that Matthew, before his conversion, had sustained the general character of such people, and that his associations and friendships had been among those who were not remarkable for their morality.

10. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house—The modesty of our Evangelist signally appears here. Luke says (Lu 5:29) that "Levi made Him a great feast," or "reception," while Matthew merely says, "He sat at meat"; and Mark and Luke say that it was in Levi's "own house," while Matthew merely says, "He sat at meat in the house." Whether this feast was made now, or not till afterwards, is a point of some importance in the order of events, and not agreed among harmonists. The probability is that it did not take place till a considerable time afterwards. For Matthew, who ought surely to know what took place while his Lord was speaking at his own table, tells us that the visit of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, occurred at that moment (Mt 9:18). But we know from Mark and Luke that this visit of Jairus did not take place till after our Lord's return, at a later period from the country of the Gadarenes. (See Mr 5:21, &c., and Lu 8:40, &c.). We conclude, therefore, that the feast was not made in the novelty of his discipleship, but after Matthew had had time to be somewhat established in the faith; when returning to Capernaum, his compassion for old friends, of his own calling and character, led him to gather them together that they might have an opportunity of hearing the gracious words which proceeded out of His Master's mouth, if haply they might experience a like change.

behold, many publicans and sinners—Luke says, "a great company" (Lu 5:29)

came and sat down with him and his disciples—In all such cases the word rendered "sat" is "reclined," in allusion to the ancient mode of lying on couches at meals.

Luke saith that Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them, Luke 5:29. Mark saith, there were many, and they followed him, Mark 2:15. Matthew, touched with the sense of the free and infinite love of Christ to him, maketh Christ a feast: this speaketh him a man of some estate: he invites many to dine with him, some of them publicans, some noted sinners. He designs good undoubtedly to such as had been his former companions, that they might also see the Lord, and be brought to follow him. Grace teacheth a man to study the conversion of others, and never dwelleth in a narrow soul, nor studieth its concealment from others.

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house,.... That is, as the Arabic version reads it, in the house of Matthew, not in the toll house, but in his own house; for he immediately quitted the toll booth, and his office there, and followed Christ, and had him to his own house, where he made a great feast for him, as Luke says, to testify the sense he had of the wondrous grace which was bestowed on him; and also, that other publicans and sinners might have an opportunity of hearing Christ, and conversing with him, whom he invited to this feast; his bowels yearning towards them, and sincerely desiring their conversion, which is the nature of true grace: for, when a soul is made a partaker of the grace of God, it is earnestly desirous that this might be the case of others, especially its sinful relations, friends, or companions; and it takes every opportunity of using, or bringing them under the means; so did Matthew: hence it is said,

behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples; not of their own accord, but by the invitation of Matthew, and with the good will, and full consent of Christ, who was far from being displeased with their company and freedom; but gladly embraced every opportunity of doing good to the souls of the worst of men; for such as these he came to call and save.

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and {e} sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

(e) The publicans who were placed by the Romans, after that time Judea was brought into the form of a province, to gather the taxes, and therefore by the rest of the Jews they were called sinners, that is to say, very vile men.

Matthew 9:10. Ἐγένετοκαί] see note on Luke 5:12.

ἀνακειμένου] In classical Greek, to recline at table is represented by κατακεῖσθαι, as frequently also in the N. T. (Mark 2:15; Mark 14:3), though in Polybius, Athenaeus, and later writers ἀνακεῖσθαι, too, is by no means rare. Phrynichus, ed. Lobeck, p. 217. On the custom itself (with the left arm resting on a cushion), comp. note on John 13:23.

ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ] With the exception of Fritzsche, Bleek, Holtzmann, Keim, Hilgenfeld (yet comp. already the still merely doubtful remark of Bengel), critics have gratuitously assumed the house to have been that of Matthew, which accords, no doubt, with Luke 5:29 (not Mark 2:15), but neither with the simple ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ (see Matthew 9:23; Matthew 13:1; Matthew 13:36; Matthew 17:25) nor with the connection. Seeing, then, that the publican who rose from his seat at the custom-house and followed Jesus cannot, of course, have gone to his own residence, nothing else can have been meant but the house of Jesus (in which He lived). There lies the variation as compared with Luke, and like many another, it cannot be disposed of. But de Wette’s objection, reproduced by Lichtenstein, Lange, and Hilgenfeld, that it is scarcely probable that Jesus would give feasts, has no force whatever, since Matthew does not say a single word about a feast; but surely one may suppose that, when the disciples were present in his residence at Capernaum, Jesus may have eaten, i.e. have reclined at table with them. The publicans and sinners who came thither were at the same time hospitably received.

καὶ ἁμαρτωλοί] and in general men of an immoral stamp, with whom were also classed the publicans as being servants of the Roman government, and often guilty of fraudulent conduct (Luke 3:13); comp. Luke 19:7. Observe that Jesus Himself by no means denies the πονηρὸν εἶναι in regard to those associated with Him at table, Matthew 9:12 f. They were truly diseased ones, who were now, however, yielding themselves up to the hands of the physician.

Matthew 9:10. καὶ ἐγένετο, etc. The narrative of this incident in all three Synoptists is condensed, and the situation not clear. What house is meant (ἐν τῇ οἰκ.), and why so many (πολλοὶ)? “There were many,” Mark remarks, emphatically (Matthew 2:15), and the ἰδοὺ here implies that something important took place. Luke infers (for we need not suppose independent information) that it is a feast (δοχὴν), and, doubtless, he is right. But given by whom? Levi, according to Luke. It may have been so, but not necessarily as the prime mover; possibly, nay, probably, as the agent of his new Master. Our thoughts have been too much biassed by the assumption that the call of Matthew in this section is the main thing, and the feast an accompanying incident, a farewell feast of Matthew’s in which Jesus passively partook. The truth, probably, is that the call was a preliminary to the feast, the first step in the working out of a plan. Jesus aims at a mission among the reprobated classes, and His first step is the call of Matthew to discipleship, and His second the gathering together, through him, of a large number of these classes to a social entertainment; the place of meeting being, possibly, not a private house, whether Christ’s or Matthew’s, but a public hall. If Matthew’s house or Simon’s (in which Jesus probably had His home, vide Mark) was large enough to have a quadrangular court, the gathering might be there, where, according to Faber, Archäologie der Hebräer, p. 408, meetings of various sorts were held. In any case it was a great affair—scores, possibly hundreds, present, too large for a room in a house, a conventicle meeting, so to speak; a meeting with such people in the Synagogue not being possible. For further remarks vide on Mark.—τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ: publicans naturally, if Matthew was the host, but why ἁμαρ.? He was a respectable man; are the ἁμαρ. simply the τελῶναι as viewed from the outside, so named in anticipation of the Pharisaic description of the party? If Jesus was the inviter, they might be a distinct class, and worse, very real sinners, for His aim was a mission among the social Pariahs.

10–13. A Meal in the Evangelist’s House. Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-3210. in the house] St Luke says “and Levi made him a great feast,” which makes it clear that the meal was in Levi’s house.

Matthew 9:10. Ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, in the house) Cf. Matthew 9:28; or, if you take it of Matthew’s house, Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29. Matthew appears in this feast to have bid adieu to his former companions,[404] nor does he call the house any longer his own.—τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ, publicans and sinners) who had sinned grievously against the sixth and seventh [seventh and eighth] commandments.—συνανέκειτο, sat down together with) Kind and condescending was the intercourse of Jesus.[405]

[404] He seems also hereby to have afforded them an opportunity of going to the Lord, such as would hardly have been given to so great a number of such characters at any other time. Shortly after, Matthew came to know the glory of Jesus by His acts, and especially by the raising of Jairus’ daughter, ch. Matthew 9:19; and he was sent forth, at no long interval afterwards, with the rest of His apostles: on which occasion he has called himself Matthew the publican, ch. Matthew 10:3; and, from the deepest sense of gratitude (as is natural), has recalled to remembrance with what marvellous speed grace transferred him from his state as a publican (ch. Matthew 18:17) to an Apostolic embassy which was distinguished by miracles.—Harm. p. 282.

[405] For whose sake the banquet was given, to which, without any command on His part, publicans and sinners came. Therefore the objection of the Pharisees, even looking at it in a mere external point of view, was void of all justice.—V. g.

Verses 10-13. - The feast with publicans and sinners, and Christ's apology. Parallel passages: Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32. All three evangelists give the essential features of the section, but Mark and Luke show more clearly that the feast was in the house of the new disciple, and Matthew alone gives the reference to Hosea. Verse 10. - And it came to pass, as Jesus (he, Revised Version) sat at meat; "Gr. reclined: and so always" (Revised Version margin); cf. ch. 26:20. In the house; Luke, "And Levi made him a great feast in his house." Whether or not this was the same as the τελώνιον, we have no means of knowing, but presumably it was not. Behold, many publicans (Matthew 5:46, note) and sinners. The second term seems to include all who openly impugned or neglected the Law. It is, therefore, sometimes used with special reference to Gentiles (Matthew 26:45; cf Galatians 2:15). Came and sat down with him (Revised Version, Jesus, emphatic) and his disciples. Matthew 9:10
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