READ : Matthew 9:27-34
When Jesus walked the earth the lame walked, the deaf heard, the blind saw and the mute sang for joy. Miracles were signs and clues to Jesus’ true identity. And for us, they are previews of the future.
One of the most beautiful poems in the Bible is found in the 35th chapter of the book of Isaiah. Isaiah sings of the miraculous beauty that will blossom in dry and empty places when God comes to visit his suffering people. It will be like rivers in the desert, says the prophet. God’s coming will make flower gardens suddenly spring up in the wasteland, and healing will come to his people, and joy will be upon their heads.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing. . . .
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy . . .
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35:1, 5-6, 10
When Will It Happen?
Such a beautiful vision! But did you notice, it’s all set in the future? All these blessings promised by the prophet – rivers of life in the barren wilderness, deserts in bloom, the ransomed of the Lord singing their way back to Zion, with everlasting joy and gladness upon their heads – they’re all predicted for some day, not for today.
So when will it happen? Beauty, bounty, health, happiness, holiness, homecoming. When will we receive the indescribable blessings? The lame leaping, blind eyes opened, deaf ears unstopped, mute tongues singing, sorrow and sighing forever banished; when will we see all of that?
The answer is: when he comes. When the Lord comes to save. The fulfillment began when Jesus came into the world to bring salvation to those who believe in him. When he walked the earth the lame did leap, and the deaf did hear; the blind saw and the mute sang for joy. All these things were signs of his kingdom and clues to his true identity. Jesus was, and is, the Lord, our Savior God.
That’s the message Matthew wants to make sure we hear and understand. With your ears still tuned into Isaiah’s magnificent vision, watch now Jesus in action in Matthew chapter 9.
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
A Story of Faith
This is a story about faith, faith pursuing Jesus the Savior. The approach of those two blind beggars to Jesus was direct and uncomplicated. No lengthy introduction, no attempts to ingratiate themselves with the great man, no preliminaries of any kind, just a loud cry, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” In fact, says Matthew, they followed Jesus along the road, “crying aloud.”
Can you picture the scene? The two men literally stumbling blindly down the road, calling out over and over to Jesus. How embarrassing! They were causing a scene, drawing attention to themselves, making people feel uneasy. But the blind men didn’t care. They weren’t worrying about what others were thinking. Like Jairus, the father of the little dead girl, all these two blind men could think of was their overwhelming need, and the chance that Jesus represented. Jesus was passing close by. The blind men might never be near him again. So they shouted all the louder, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” In fact, when Jesus went into a house the blind men somehow found their way after him. Theirs was the kind of faith that would stop at nothing in order to keep on following Jesus.
Notice that their cries for help were an appeal to Jesus’ pity. They asked for mercy. These men had nothing to offer Jesus, nothing to bargain with. Money, social position, power, influence – none of those matter in times of desperate need. But even if they did matter, the blind men couldn’t produce any of them. They were nobodies. All they had to offer Jesus was their need; and all they could plead for was mercy.
But it’s an appeal which Jesus will never deny. These men’s pleas did not fall on deaf ears. Needy, hurting people never found Jesus too busy to listen to them, or too important to respond, or too hard-hearted to care. No one who came to him for help was ever turned away empty; no one was ignored. No one ever appealed to Jesus in vain. Sufferers of every kind can be sure of one thing. If they turn to Jesus Christ they will find him compassionate and willing to help. Even more important, they will find him able.
So Jesus listened to these men’s appeal, and then he responded. He was touched by their pain, their misery aroused his pity. But that wasn’t all that happened. We often feel sorry for people too. We hear a sad story, feel bad for a moment or two, and then turn away to happier subjects. But in Jesus his heart was linked to his will, and his will triggered action. Besides just feeling sorry, Jesus did something; he healed. He gave the blind men their sight.
When another sufferer is brought to Jesus just as these men are leaving, Jesus delivers him as well. He sets the demon-oppressed man free from his bondage, and loosens his mute tongue, so that the man speaks. Here we see Isaiah 35 brought to life, as health and wholeness flow from Jesus, and those whom he heals rejoice.
Hear him, ye deaf, his praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ,
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
and leap, ye lame, for joy!
But there is a curious ending to the story of these last two healing miracles. Jesus tells the blind men – actually, Matthew says, he “sternly” warns them – not to say anything to anybody about what has happened to them. “See that no one knows about it.”
Now, isn’t that just a bit unrealistic? How are you supposed to keep secret the fact that you’re no longer blind? What are you going to say to people who ask you how you came to see? Does Jesus really expect that these two men will be able to keep such news quiet?
As it turns out, of course, they couldn’t. They immediately went out, says Matthew, and “spread his fame through all that district.” But why would Jesus want to stop them from doing that?
Part of the reason lies in the words they used to address him: “Son of David.” In calling upon Jesus as the Son of David these men were not simply talking about Jesus’ ancestry. They were making a royal confession about his identity. And Jesus is not yet ready to have his Messianic secret openly proclaimed because it would send the wrong message to all the people who were expecting their Messiah to be a typical earthly conqueror.
Another thing that is interesting to me here is the contrasting reactions that Jesus’ final miracles provoked among those who witnessed them. Opening the eyes of the two blind men and loosening the tongue of the deaf-mute are the ninth and tenth healing miracles that Matthew records in chapters 8 and 9 of his gospel. It’s as if he wanted to pick a nice round number of stories to illustrate his point that Jesus is indeed the Great Deliverer.
So Jesus cleanses the lepers, heals the sick, delivers the storm-tossed and the demon-oppressed, restores the paralyzed, makes pure the bleeding, raises the dead, gives sight to the blind, and voice to the mute. You would think all of this would be a cause for universal rejoicing, and it is. The crowds marvel at the combination of compassion and power displayed in Jesus, and say, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
But not everyone is happy to see him, or eager to praise him, or willing to follow him. His enemies, the Pharisees, witnessing the very same things, say this: “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
Jesus, you see, is always controversial, polarizing. When brought face to face with his claims, some believe him and worship. Others sneer at him, and mock, and even blaspheme. The contrast could not be sharper: blind eyes recognize him and mute tongues speak of him, but the elite establishment rejects him as a demon.
Exactly the same sort of thing is happening today. There are those who look at Jesus and stand there with their lip curled, thinking up reasons for believing he’s a fraud. And then there are those who look at him and love him, and are willing to do anything to follow him. The question is, which kind of reaction to Jesus do you have?