But when Jesus heard that, he said to them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They that be whole.—Literally, They that are strong. St. Luke gives, with a more professional precision, “They that are in health.” That, speaking from the thoughts and standpoint of those addressed (which in another than our Lord we might term grave irony), which enters so largely into our Lord’s teaching, appears here in its most transparent form. Those of whom He speaks were, we know, suffering from the worst form of spiritual disease, but in their own estimation they were without spot or taint, and as such. therefore, He speaks to them. On their own showing, they ought not to object to His carrying on that work where there was most need of it. The proverb cited by Him in Luke 4:23 shows that it was not the first time that He had referred to His own work as that of the Great Physician.
They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick—that is, "Ye deem yourselves whole; My mission, therefore, is not to you: The physician's business is with the sick; therefore eat I with publicans and sinners." Oh, what myriads of broken hearts, of sin-sick souls, have been bound up by this matchless saying!See Poole on "Matthew 9:13".
he said unto them; the Pharisees, with an audible voice, not only to confute and convince them, but chiefly to establish his disciples, they were endeavouring to draw away from him:
they that be whole need not a physician; by which he would signify that he was a "physician": and so he is in a spiritual sense, and that a very skilful one: he knows the nature of all the diseases of the soul, without being told them by the patient; what are the true causes of them; what is proper to apply; when is the best time, and what the best manner: he is an universal one, with regard both to diseases and to persons, that apply to him; he heals all sorts of persons, and all sorts of diseases; such as are blind from their birth, are as deaf as the deaf adder, the halt, and the lame, such as have broken hearts, yea the plague in their hearts, and have stony ones, and all the relapses of his people; which he does by his stripes and wounds, by the application of his blood, by his word and Gospel, through sinners looking to him, and touching him: he is an infallible one, none ever went from him without a cure; none ever perished under his hands; the disease he heals never returns more to prevail, so as to bring on death and destruction; and he does all freely, without money, and without price. So Philo the Jew calls the Logos, or word, , "an healer of diseases" (x), and God our legislator, , "the best physician of the diseases of the soul" (y). Now Christ argues from this his character, in vindication of himself; as that he was with these persons, not as a companion of their's, but as a physician to them; and as it is not unlawful, but highly proper and commendable, that a physician should be with the sick; so it was very lawful, fit, and proper, yea praiseworthy in him, to be among these publicans and sinners, for their spiritual good. He suggests indeed, that "they that be whole", in perfect health and strength, as the Pharisees thought themselves to be, even free from all the maladies and diseases of sin, were strong, robust, and able to do anything, and everything of themselves; these truly stood in no "need of" him, as a physician, in their own apprehension; they saw no need of him; in principle they had no need of him, and in practice did not make use of him; and therefore it was to no purpose to attend them, but converse with others, who had need of him:
but they that are sick; who are not only diseased and disordered in all the powers and faculties of their souls, as all Adam's posterity are, whether sensible of it or not; but who know themselves to be so, these see their need of Christ as a physician, apply to him as such, and to them he is exceeding precious, a physician of value; and such were these "publicans" and sinners. These words seem to be a proverbial expression, and there is something like it in the (z) Talmud, , "he that is afflicted with any pain goes", or "let him go to the physician's house"; that is, he that is attended with any sickness, or disease, does, or he ought to, consult a physician.But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 9:12. The whole and the sick of the proverb are figurative expressions for the δίκαιοι and the ἁμαρτωλοί, Matthew 9:13. In the application the Pharisees are included among the former, not on account of their comparatively greater (de Wette), but because of their fancied, righteousness, as is evident from the sentiments of Jesus regarding this class of men expressed elsewhere, and likewise from Matthew 9:13. The thought, then, is this: “the righteous (among whom you reckon yourselves) do not need the deliverer, but the sinners.” This contains an “ironica concessio” to the Pharisees, “in qua ideo offendi eos docet peccatorum intuitu, quia justitiam sibi arrogant,” Calvin. The objection, that in point of fact Jesus is come to call the self-righteous as well, is only apparent, seeing that He could not direct His call to these, as such (John 9:39 ff.), so long as they did not relinquish their pretensions, and were themselves without receptivity for healing.Matthew 9:12. ὁ δὲ α. εἶπεν: to whom? Were the fault-finders present to hear?—οὐ χρείαν, etc.: something similar can be cited from classic authors, vide instances in Grotius, Elsner, and Wetstein. The originality lies in the application = the physician goes where he is needed, therefore, I am here among the people you contemptuously designate publicans and sinners. The first instalment, this, of Christ’s noble apology for associating with the reprobates—a great word.12. They that be whole, &c.] There is a touch of irony in the words. They that are “whole” are they who think themselves whole. So below, the “righteous” are those who are righteous in their own eyes.Matthew 9:12. ΧΡΕΊΑΝ, need) χρεῖαι, needs, are to be seen everywhere.—ΚΑΚῶς, ill) Such is indeed the case with sinners.
 Jesus, as a faithful master, brings help to his disciples.—V. g.
 Dost thou feel infirmity (οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες), as opposed to strength (οἱ ἰσχύοντες)? In that case betake thyself to the Physician, and seek His help.—V. g.
 In the original, “Sic sane habent peccatores.” There is a play here on the word habent, sc. χρείαν ἔχουσιν—κακῶς ἔχοντες.—(I. B.)Verse 12. - But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole. Οἱ ἰσχύοντες (so also Mark) may include an arriere-pensee of moral self-assertion which St. Luke entirely loses by his alteration to οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες: cf. 1 Corinthians 4:10. Need not; have no need of (Revised Version). These are the emphatic words in the sentence. Christ takes the Pharisees at their own estimate of themselves, and, without entering into the question of whether this was right or wrong, shows them that on their own showing he would be useless to them. A physician, but they that are sick. "Sed ubi dolores sunt, air, illic festinat medicns," Ephr. Syr., in his exposition of Tatian's 'Diatess.' (Resch, 'Agrapha,' p. 443).
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