When groups get together they often “break the ice” with a crowd-breaker. One question that is popular is this one: If you had to lose one “sense” (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) which would you give up and why? A variation on this would be: which sense would be the last one you would want to give up and why?’
Sight is often the most cherished sense. With our sight we are able to distinguish people, see colors, see potential danger, read books, watch movies and so much more.
I didn’t realize until my research this week that the Old Testament does not record a single time when blindness was cured. In Isaiah 29:18,19 we read,
In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book,
and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness.
The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord.
The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
4 Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”
5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
and unplug the ears of the deaf.
6 The lame will leap like a deer,
and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
The miracle of giving sight to the blind and give speech to the silent were signs that come with the Messiah. I do not believe Matthew puts these two accounts next to each other by accident.
Sight to the Blind
27 After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”
28 They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?”
“Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.”
29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” 30 Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” 31 But instead, they went out and spread his fame all over the region.
Here’s the setting, After Jairus’ daughter was brought back to life there was a definite buzz about Jesus. Apparently, the two men heard what had happened and cried out to Jesus calling him “Son of David.” They followed him all the way to his destination and continued crying out to Him. The title, “Son of David” recorded here for the first time, has strong ties to the promised Messiah. These men recognized that Jesus was the promised one and they knew that he was the one who could give sight to the blind.
Jesus asked the men if they believed he could restore their sight. They said they did believe He was the One who could do just that. Jesus said, “Because of your faith it will happen.” In other translations it says, “according to your faith will it be done to you.”
We tend to take these words and think they mean: if you have sufficient faith you will be healed. Or to state it negatively, if you aren’t healed it is because you don’t have enough faith. I believe this is a wrong doctrine and does great harm to hurting people.
You don’t ‘earn’ a healing by scoring high enough on the faith exam! The amount of faith does not determine the depth or fullness of healing. Jesus was telling the men that because they put their trust in Him He would heal them. It was THAT they had faith not the quantity of the faith that made healing possible.
As humans we are always trying to look for formulas that will make it possible for us to “get what we want.” We look for the right words, the right behavior, the right attitude . . .in other words we want to know, “what can we do to make sure we get what we want?”
One commentator writes,
They were healed in response to their faith. Their faith may not have been so great. Rather, they were healed in response to their faith. Faith is the hand that receives what God gives. . . He gives His gifts, not because we say the right words or give the right amount of money, but because of our faith, however small it may be. The only requirement is that our faith be directed toward and fixed on the Lord.[i]
John Newton received from the Lord some almost unbelievable answers to his petitions, and so he often engaged in “large asking.” In support of this practice he would frequently tell the story of a man who asked Alexander the Great to give him a huge sum of money in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The ruler consented and told him to request of his treasurer whatever he wanted. So he went and asked for an enormous amount. The keeper to the funds was startled and said he couldn’t give him that much without a direct order. Going to Alexander, the treasurer argued that even a small fraction of the money requested would more than serve the purpose. “No,” replied Alexander, “let him have it all. I like that fellow. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous.” Newton concluded the story by saying, “In the same way, we should go to the throne of God’s grace and present petitions that express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of our King!”
Philip Yancey defines faith as: “Believing in advance in something that will only seem logical when seen in reverse.”
So faith is holding tenaciously to Jesus. The question Jesus asked these men is the one each of us needs to ask: Do we really believe He can meet our needs?
- Do you believe He can carry you through the darkest of trials?
- Do you believe He can make you well?
- Do you believe He can use this small town church to make a worldwide difference?
- Do you believe that your scars can be healed by His grace?
- Do you believe that His wisdom is superior to your own?
- Do you believe He can help you forgive and even reconcile with those who have hurt you?
- Do you believe He can restore an office no matter who holds the highest offices?
- Do you believe He can change the heart of even the one who said they will never accept the gospel?
The question is really very simple: do you believe that He is who He said He is? Do you believe it not only academically but also emotionally?
One of the great things about the healing of these blind men is the obvious picture it paints metaphorically of our own spiritual blindness. R.C. Sproul writes,
Everyone of us was born blind with respect to the things of God. By nature, we cannot see the spiritual realm of God. There are scales on our eyes. We can see well enough in terms of our biological vision, but we cannot see beyond the plane of this world. If we talk to people about Christ, they say, “I just don’t see that.” They say that because they do not see it, and they do not see it because they cannot see it. It is not because there is something wrong with their optic nerves. It is because there is something wrong with their souls. The sin of our hearts blinds us to the things of God. Until God opens the eyes of our hearts, we cannot see them. If you perceive the things of God today, if you see the sweetness of Jesus, if you see the excellency of God, that is not a natural vision that you have accomplished on your own. That is a gift of God. It is evidence that God has touched you, just as Jesus touched these blind men. But if you do not see it, you need to cry out: “Lord God, pity me! Let me see the sweetness of Christ.”[ii]
So, we are all spiritually blind and are given sight when we put our hope and trust in Christ.
Speech for the Silent
The second account is about another man who cannot speak because he is demon-possessed. (Many believe, based on the wording that the man was also deaf). This man does not appear to be violent like other demon-possessed men we have seen.
32 When they left, a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. 33 So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed.
34 But the Pharisees said, “He can cast out demons because he is empowered by the prince of demons.”
The fact that someone is unable to talk (and perhaps hear) does not automatically mean they are demon possessed. In fact, I don’t know how Jesus diagnosed the problem. Once again we are looking for formulas and techniques so we can maintain control. I have to believe that when we encounter something like this God will give us the insight we need.
What is interesting about the passage is the different responses of people. The crowds were talking ABOUT Jesus. They remarked that He was unlike anyone they had ever seen. They admired Jesus and watched Him.
The leaders spoke AGAINST Jesus. They opposed Him. In this case they look for an explanation of his power that doesn’t involve recognizing Him as the Messiah. Their solution: Jesus himself is demon controlled! (In another account Jesus asks why in the world the devil would cast his own army out of people?)
It is a reminder of just how desperate people are to discredit Jesus rather than trust Him. They hate the idea of submitting to His authority and Lordship so much that they are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to discredit Him.
There is one more group of people. Those who had been touched by Jesus, those who were healed and changed by Him . . . these people spoke FOR Jesus. Jesus told them not to broadcast what had happened (because He didn’t come primarily to be a miracle-worker . . . He came to show us the way back to God) but they couldn’t help but tell the story of what Christ had done for them.
There is a subtle message here: the most compelling witness for Christ is the one who has personally encountered Christ. You can know a great deal about Jesus, you can be an expert at religious experience and yet still not be a follower of Christ. The true follower can’t wait to tell people about Jesus. This is because they love Jesus so much and they also truly care about their friends.
Matthew concludes this section with a summary of the work of Jesus. He tells us Jesus taught with authority, healed all diseases, and had compassion on all the people.
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Jesus was on the move. He went from town to town connecting with people wherever he went. It is out of the compassion of Jesus that he urged the disciples to pray for workers to work in the field. The need is great and He is looking for those who will respond to the challenge and build relationships that lead to a sharing of the gospel.
Let me draw some principles from this text. First, faith is the door that opens to the blessing of God. Faith is trusting Christ. It is taking Him at His word and relying on His character. It is not about working up some feeling inside of you . . . it is about moving closer in trust of the character of God. Faith does not always bring the kind of miracles we have seen today. However, miracle or not, the person of faith continues to trust Christ. Regardless of the response, they trust where the Lord is leading. Faith is shown by doing all things, even the little things, for Hi glory and honor.
As a result, we can pray big prayers because we believe God can answer those prayers. We can boldly (that is not the same as arrogantly) come to His throne and ask Him for anything. That doesn’t mean we are guaranteed what we ask for . . . but this much is sure: we will not see anything spectacular unless we ask.
Second, there are hurting people all around us and we need to approach them with compassion. Week after week we have watched as Jesus took the time to help the hurting people around Him. We are told that He had compassion on them because they were lost and aimless.
Does that describe you today? Are you lost? Are you here today because you are looking for something to bring meaning and purpose to your life? What you are looking for is not a something . . . it is someone. You are looking for Jesus, the One who makes the dead rise, makes the blind see, the deaf hear, and the demons tremble.
I encourage you to listen to the message of the gospel. Don’t merely mouth the words! Listen to the words: You matter to God. He knows how lost you are. He sent Jesus to build a bridge so you can come home to Him. Christ died for your sin so that you might be able to stand before God not as a filthy sinner, but as a man or woman who has been made new in Christ.
In this social media world of ours, we are becoming more and more socially awkward. We find it difficult to talk with people. And as a result of this electronic isolationism we are more lonely than ever.
But we can help these people! We know the one who makes all things new. We know the One who will never leave or forsake us. So look for the hurting people and dare to reach out as Jesus did. Let your heart feel for the lost and lonely. Let compassion well up to the point where you can show people the love of Jesus.
Finally, the work is great. Imagine looking out in the fields and seeing a bumper crop that exceeds anything you have ever seen. You celebrate the blessing of this abundance. But you and I know that before you can benefit from this crop you have to go out and harvest it. A big crop means a slow harvest. The crop is of little value while it is still standing in the field.
Jesus told us that the harvest is great but the workers are few. In other words, the world is ripe for the Gospel but people have to get busy and work the harvest. That means sharing our faith at every opportunity.
Someone has pointed out that 80% of the work in the church is done by either 10 or 20% of the people. The result is that you have exhausted people who finally quit. While others stand around and wonder why we aren’t reaching certain groups of people. The only way we can reap the harvest of spiritual hunger is for all of us to get to work. Our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, and classmates are lost. They are running frantically in life trying to find some meaning. And instead of running with them (because that is what everyone else is doing) we should be the ones saying: you can stop frantically looking for meaning and purpose; it is found in Jesus Christ and I would love to introduce you to Him.
We are living at a time of great spiritual poverty. The solution is not found in wringing our hands. It is not going to be addressed by an election. It can only be addressed by extending our hands in the name of Jesus. To understand how to do this you just need to read the Scriptures and do what Jesus does. It really is that simple.
©Copyright November 6, 2016 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
[i] The Complete Biblical Library
[ii] Sproul, R. C. (2013-02-28). Matthew (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4273-4280). Crossway. Kindle Edition.