Winds of Change – Saturday, 13th week in ordinary time – Mt 9:14-17

Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew, focus on ten miracle narratives. Matthew, unlike Mark will brush over the elaborate details of the miracle but will always settle of the focus point; Jesus is the Son of God. But Matthew has also punctuated these two chapters with three calls to discipleship. The first was the ‘would be followers of Jesus’ then  the ‘call of Matthew himself’ in verse nine onwards and finally in verse thirty five we have the teaching on the’ harvest being rich but the labourers being few’.

Today, we are in the second teaching on discipleship. Jesus has called Matthew and now he and his friends are feasting with Jesus much to the disapproval of the Pharisees. But these attacks must not be seen in isolation. Chapter nine sees three sets of people attacking Jesus. It begins with the scribes in verse three, then the Pharisees in verse eleven and now in our text of today we have the disciples of John the Baptist himself.

The last group comes across as a shocker! Why would the disciples of Jesus’ cousin themselves criticise Jesus? Let us hypothetically but rather safely put it down to sour grapes and a dwindling congregation. While we have sufficient evidence to show that the Baptists (followers of John) were certainly popular during Jesus’ lifetime, the fact that Jesus was drawing crowds could only mean that he was drawing crowds from their following.

So they join the Pharisees in taking on Jesus. Note the line of questioning, ‘why do your disciples not fast but we, the Pharisees and the disciples of John, fast?’ There are two things to observe here. First, they are not directly accusing Jesus but pointing fingers at his disciples. In short they are subtly stating that the disciples are ‘bad’ because the master is bad. Secondly, this is a case of ‘spiritual one up-manship’. In making this statement they are effectively telling Jesus, ‘we are spiritually better than you.’ That sounds like a lot of what continues today.

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