his own city: That is, Capernaum, Jesus’ home base in the region. (Mt 4:13; Mr 2:1) This city was not far from Nazareth, where he grew up; from Cana, where he turned water into wine; from Nain, where he resurrected the son of a widow; and from the vicinity of Bethsaida, where he miraculously fed about 5,000 men and restored sight to a blind man.
look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.
seeing their faith: The use of the plural pronoun “their” shows that Jesus noted how much faith the entire group had, not just the paralyzed man.
which is easier: It would be easier for someone to say that he could forgive sins, since there would be no visible evidence to substantiate such a claim. But to say, Get up and walk required a miracle that would make plain for all to see that Jesus also has the authority to forgive sins. This account and Isa 33:24 link sickness to our sinful condition.
Son of man: Or “Son of a human.” This expression occurs about 80 times in the Gospels. Jesus used it to refer to himself, evidently emphasizing that he was truly human, born from a woman, and that he was a fitting human counterpart to Adam, having the power to redeem humankind from sin and death. (Ro 5:12, 14-15) The same expression also identified Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ.
to forgive sins
tax office: Or “tax collection booth.” This could be a small building or a booth where the tax collector sat and gathered taxes on exports, imports, and goods taken through a country by merchants. Matthew’s tax office was located in or near Capernaum.
Be my follower: The Greek verb used in this exhortation has the basic sense of “to go along behind, come after,” but here it means “to follow someone as a disciple.”
dining: Or “reclining at the table.” To recline with someone at a table indicated close fellowship with that person. Thus, Jews in Jesus’ day would normally never have reclined at the table, or taken a meal, with non-Jews.
tax collectors: Many Jews collected taxes for the Roman authorities. People hated such Jews because they not only collaborated with a resented foreign power but also extorted more than the official tax rate. Tax collectors were generally shunned by fellow Jews, who put them on the same level as sinners and prostitutes.
sinners: The Bible shows that all humans are sinners. (Ro 3:
mercy, and not sacrifice: Jesus twice refers to these words from Ho 6:6 (here and at Mt 12:7). Matthew, a despised tax collector who became an intimate associate of Jesus, is the only Gospel writer to record this quote as well as the illustration of the unmerciful slave. (Mt 18:21-25) His Gospel highlights Jesus’ repeated insistence that mercy is required in addition to sacrifice.
practice fasting: See study note on Mt 6:16.
friends of the bridegroom: Lit., “sons of the bridechamber,” an idiom describing wedding guests but especially the friends of the bridegroom.
wine into . . . wineskins: It was common in Bible times to store wine in animal skins. (1Sa 16:20) Skin bottles were made of the complete hides of domestic animals, such as sheep or goats. Old leather wineskins would become stiff and lose their elasticity. New wineskins, on the other hand, could stretch and swell and thus could withstand the pressure caused by the ongoing process of fermentation of new wine.
did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; honored him.”
flow of blood: Likely a chronic menstrual flow. According to the Mosaic Law, this condition would render the woman ceremonially unclean. As such, she was not supposed to touch others.
daughter: The only recorded instance in which Jesus directly addressed a woman as “daughter,” perhaps because of the delicate situation and her “trembling.” (Lu 8:47) By using this term of endearment, a form of address that signifies nothing about the woman’s age, Jesus emphasizes his tender concern for her.
teaching . . . preaching: Teaching differs from preaching in that the teacher does more than proclaim; he instructs, explains, uses persuasive arguments, and offers proof.
the good news: See study note on Mt 4:23.
felt pity: The Greek verb splag·khniʹzo·mai used for this expression is related to the word for “intestines” (splagʹkhna), denoting a feeling experienced deep inside the body, an intense emotion. It is one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion.
skinned: The Greek word originally meant “flayed,” or “stripped of the skin,” conveying an image of sheep with their skin ripped apart by wild animals or torn as they wandered among brambles and sharp rocks. The term came to be used figuratively, meaning “maltreated, harassed, wounded.”
thrown about: The image here is of sheep being thrown down, helpless and exhausted, figuratively conveying the idea of the crowd being dejected, neglected, and helpless.
1. Plain of Gennesaret. This was a fertile triangle of land, measuring about 5 by 2.5 km (3 by 1.5 mi). It was along the shoreline in this area that Jesus invited the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James, and John to join him in his ministry.
2. Tradition locates Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount here.
Skin bottles were often made of the complete hides of sheep, goats, or cattle. A dead animal’s head and feet were cut off, and the carcass was carefully removed from the skin to avoid opening its belly. After the hide was tanned, the openings were sewed up. The neck or a leg of the animal was left unsewed to serve as the bottle’s opening, which was closed with a stopper or tied with a string. Skin bottles were used to hold not only wine but also milk, butter, cheese, oil, or water.
This reconstruction, which incorporates some features of the first-century synagogue found at Gamla, located about 10 km (6 mi) northeast of the Sea of Galilee, gives an idea of what an ancient synagogue may have looked like.