The two blind men
1. The incident
2. Son of David
The dumb demoniac
1. Messianic Signs
This passage represents the concluding two miracles of the ‘Greatest Hits’ of Jesus’ Galilean ministry and they appear to have been deliberately linked by Matthew in time. In Mtw 9:32, we read that
‘As [the ex-blind men] were going away, behold a dumb demoniac was brought to Him’
so that these necessarily are presented to the reader as being closely occurring events. This need not be the conclusion drawn from a consideration of the relationship of the story of the raising from the dead of the ruler’s daughter (Mtw 9:18-26) with these two incidents.
While Mathen is all for seeing in them a strict chronological order when he notes that
‘As Jesus is walking away from the ruler’s house, He is being followed by two blind men...’
Matmor takes the obverse view because of the phraseology employed and states unequivocally that
‘Matthew is not tying this story very closely to what has gone before’
This certainly appears to be the truth of the matter and it’s more natural to take these two incidents of the blind men and the demoniac as unrelated in time from the preceding miracle. Whatever, they represent the final two parts of a list of great miracles which started in Mtw 8:1 in which the writer is presenting to the reader the authority of Christ as it was demonstrated in specific situations in Galilee.
Chapter 9 ends with a summary of the miraculous as performed by Jesus (9:35) but this more rightly belongs as an introductory sentence to 9:36-10:4 where Jesus, because of the great need which He sees all about Him, commissions twelve others to go out into the villages and cities of Galilee (though all Israel is not excluded) to bring the Kingdom of God to bear in situations that they’ll find (Mtw 10:5ff).
But, for now, Matthew concludes His summary of Jesus’ solo Galilean ministry with two miracles which fill up the scope of the miraculous as performed through Him.
The two blind men
Just in case the reader is wondering whether or not I’ve missed noting the parallel passages under the heading as I normally do, let me just point out that this passage is unique to Matthew (as is the following one concerning the healing of the dumb demoniac), an incident recorded for us of the healing of the blind in Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Although there are similarities with the incident of Luke 18:35-43 and Mark 10:46-52, those incidents take place many miles south from this region as Jesus is in the area near the city of Jericho.
Just why Matthew should have included it here when the indication of the other passages is that he’s being much more concise than either Mark or Luke is open to speculation, but it would appear is that the miracle represented a type of the healing that Jesus was performing in the Galilean region. Before this incident is recorded, we have no record that Jesus was able to heal blindness - not even from the list of healings effected in Mtw 4:24 - though that this was a common part of His ministry is evident from Jesus’ words a little later to the messengers of John in Mtw 11:5.
But, for now, the writer is being careful to make sure that the reader understands that there was nothing which was brought before Jesus that He couldn’t heal - and that includes blindness.
1. The Incident
The blind men’s cure recorded for us here is far from immediate and the passage makes it plain that they needed to demonstrate perseverance before Jesus stretches out His hand to heal. Certainly, the men believe that Jesus is able to heal them for their cries
‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’
are of a similar intent to the leper’s words in Mtw 8:2 where he said
‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean’
The problem for the blind men doesn’t appear to be that they lacked faith in the authority of Christ over healing (Cp Mtw 9:28) but in His willingness to do so.
Matfran notes that
‘Mercy is not an emotion [as pity would be] but a practical response to need’
and it’s Jesus willingness to respond that they’re seeking, not His ability. They are deliberate in their shouts, then, and, until they receive either a positive affirmation or negative rebuttal, they continue their cries as the crowd moves on.
Therefore, the demonstration of their persistence is what eventually causes them to be able to receive their healing - had they shouted a little as Jesus was passing by but left the thought of being able to see again to one side as He went into the distance, they would have been as blind as they were then to the day of their death. But the Scripture actually records (Mtw 9:27) that they
and continued to cry aloud as they did so - no mean feet for the blind to be able to go after the One who they couldn’t see and to follow a path which they would have been unable to determine was safe. Perhaps, though, having ‘felt’ the crowds passing, they were able to grab on to some of those in the crowd and so be led (or dragged?) the same general way that Jesus was going. They certainly don’t appear to have had any friends or family who were trying to bring them to Jesus and their position along the road where Jesus was journeying (I assume) was due to the fact that they were asking for alms as they were wont to do most days.
Jesus seems to have waited until He’d entered ‘the house’ - which may indicate either Simon’s house as in 8:14, His own as in 4:13 and Mark 2:1 or some other such place that was known to most of the disciples so that the simple demarcation of ‘the house’ was easily understood by them - before allowing the blind men to ‘catch Him up’ so to speak and to come into the place He was staying (Mtw 8:28).
Again, the problem lies not with Jesus’ authority to heal but with their belief as to whether He’s able to do such a miracle (Mathag notes that this is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus asks someone directly whether they believe He has the power to heal them). Their confession that they believed He had the ability to do such a thing was all that was necessary for the miracle to occur at that moment but it must be remembered that, had they lacked perseverance, it would never have taken place.
Matmor notes significantly that
‘We should not overlook the fact that, being blind, they could not have seen anything that Jesus had done. They had had to depend on what people told them. Yet they came through with a definite and positive faith’
indicating that they believed simply because they heard with no evidence which they could have relied upon from their own eye-witness of miracles which were taking place in that region. Perhaps, then, their faith is even the more remarkable than any of the incidents which have gone before this one. Just as significant are the words of Jesus in John 20:29 where He tells Thomas that
‘...Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe’
and, though here the thought is of those who put their faith in the Person of Christ when they haven’t been party to being confronted with the risen Lord, the principle is the same in the case of the blind men - they had only heard the reports, they had seen nothing, making their faith all the more remarkable.
But just why did Jesus fail to give heed to their original petition - and probably their consistent shouting - that they wanted to be shown mercy?
There are at least two reasons here which merit consideration. Firstly, they may have served the crowds as a demonstration of persevering faith where all obstacles which stand in the way of a union with Christ are overcome. This was also particularly the case when Jesus encountered the Syrophenician woman in Mtw 15:21-28 whose daughter was severely possessed by a demon but who, initially, seemed to have come against an unbending religious healer in Jesus who was unwilling to budge in His understanding of His call to minister solely to (Mtw 15:24)
‘...the lost sheep of the house of Israel’
Perseverance which demonstrated the woman’s faith in Christ was what caused her to answer His objection with a statement which displayed her faith and which gave her what she wanted (Mtw 15:26-28). Similarly, we have previously considered the healing of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof when the crowds were so large as to hinder the carriers’ approach to Jesus for His healing (Mtw 9:1-8). Here, also, the impossibility of receiving what was needed didn’t stand as the final word on the matter, but a way was made that would bring the paralytic to the attention of Christ (all be it rather unconventionally!).
The principle of Luke 18:1-8 is of particular importance here also, where Jesus told the parable to those around Him that
‘...they ought always to pray and not lose heart’
where a widow, by her insistence to remind the unrighteous judge to give her justice, receives what she requests - not because the judge is all that concerned about her welfare but because he comes to the point where he just can’t bear to have the woman approach him again. Though God is righteous and more concerned with the welfare of His followers than the example of the judge would parallel, nevertheless, if he will give someone their rights because of their insistence, how much more will God answer those who are under His care and protection?
Therefore, sometimes perseverance in a course of action is what’s required when one comes to God to do something that a simple ‘ask and it will be given you’ (Mtw 7:7) cannot achieve.
One possibility, then, is that the blind men need to demonstrate perseverance to receive from Jesus what they require that other incapacitated people seem to have received with no such demonstration.
However, another possibility is that Jesus was unwilling to heal the blind men in front of the crowds for, to do such a thing, would be to openly proclaim the healing that Jesus did not want to be made widely known.
This is evidenced in His strict command to the men after the healing has taken place that no one was to know it (Mtw 9:30), something that the men failed to obey. On a future occasion, however, Jesus was not so secretive about the healing of the blind (Mtw 12:22) and His declaration to the disciples of John in Mtw 11:5 also implies that the restoring of sight was being done openly (see also my notes here under the heading ‘No Publicity Please’ for a discussion of the reasons for Jesus’ secrecy).
Perhaps the occasion warranted such a need for silence as was the case in John 6:15 where Jesus withdrew from the multitudes because He perceived that the crowds had the intention of taking Him by force and of installing Him as King over them. Some situations would, no doubt, have been more volatile than others and it’s noteworthy that Galilee was a region where the political influence of the Jewish Zealots was strong. On some occasions, the crowds could have been composed mainly of those who were willing to use force to bring about what they felt was the will of God for the nation.
Finally, I have noted on more than one occasion the fact that many who came to Jesus were quite willing to allow Him to become Lord of their sicknesses and diseases but they were unwilling to allow Him to become Lord of their lives, evidenced by their failure to obey the simple commands that were given to them.
In the case of the leper, for instance, Jesus’ insistence that he show himself to the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem (Mtw 8:4) was denied by the leper who took it upon himself to spread the news of Jesus’ authority wherever he could and which resulted in Jesus finding it difficult to enter cities without being harassed (Mark 1:45).
The receipt of divine healing, therefore, does not prove that a person wants to allow Jesus to live through them - a healing bestowed on someone is no evidence whatsoever that that person is willing to give their life over to God for Him to have His way in and through them.
Even though the blind men have called Jesus ‘Son of David’ (9:27 - see below on that phrase) and ‘Lord’ (9:28), when it comes time for them to put their confession into action in their own lives, they fall short of what’s required of them and Luke 6:46 speaks directly into their situation where Jesus asked the crowds
‘Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord” and not do what I tell you?’
This is so sadly the trait not just of first century Israelites who experienced the power and authority of Christ but of modern day man who seeks to use Jesus only for His own ends (not just with regard to the miraculous but notice the words on the lips of numerous politicians who pledge allegiance to a Christ that bears little resemblance to the One portrayed in the Gospels).
True discipleship is not demonstrated in how much God has done for a man or woman but, more importantly, how much that same man or woman has been willing to do for God.
2. Son of David
Apart from Mtw 1:1 where we find the title ‘Son of David’ on the lips of the author of the Gospel and 1:20 where the angel addresses Joseph with such language, this is the first place where we find the title on the lips of the ordinary man who has encountered Jesus in the course of His earth ministry.
In 1:20, we didn’t look at the OT and try to determine just how much significance the term had to the first century Jew but simply noted that, because Joseph was called ‘Son of David’, it naturally meant that he was the sole heir of the Davidic throne and that, through him, God was to pass on the sovereignty of David to his son, Jesus Christ, by adoption.
Here, though, we’ll try and think briefly about the relevancy of the title.
Simply, the ‘son of David’ means no more than one of the descendants of king David as can be seen, for instance, in II Chron 11:18 where we read that
‘...Rehoboam took as wife Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David...’
and we could miss the significance of the title, expecting that it means much the same thing when used, for instance, in I Chron 29:22 where we read that
‘...they made Solomon the son of David king the second time, and they anointed him as prince for the Lord, and Zadok as priest’
Here, the ‘son of David’ is more rightly the title given to the successor of David who takes upon Himself the line of succession through whom the sovereignty and authority of the throne is perpetuated. Indeed, this title, apart from that one occurrence in II Chron 11:18 previously quoted, is only ever applied to Solomon (II Chron 1:1, 13:6, 30:26, 35:3, Prov 1:1) with the notable exception of Eccles 1:1 which is traditionally taken to be referring to Solomon even though a king who came after him is quite possible as an identification.
These remain the sum total of all the OT references to the ‘son of David’ but the idea of a son who was to spring from the line of David and who would be re-established as king over all that David had held authority over was not lacking as the Jews thought about the implications of certain verses.
For instance, the promise of God to David in II Sam 7:12-13 (my italics) which states that
‘When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever’
may have been seen to have been fulfilled in Solomon and his descendants after him but, when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were brought under the subjugation of both Assyria and Babylon, those who believed in the sure and certain promises of God would have naturally looked to one ‘Son of David’ who would eventually come and who would receive the throne of his father, king David, and so begin to re-establish the sovereignty of Israel back in the land.
Ethan the psalmist also was drawn this way when he noted on frequent occasions throughout Psalm 89 that the promise to David still remained to be fulfilled that One would come who would be the end of all rule and authority in Israel who would stand forever as the Supreme King over all (Ps 89:4,21,29,36-37). But, even before the end of the Davidic line of kings took place, Isaiah was to prophesy (Is 9:6-7 - my italics) that a child would come who would sit
‘...upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore’
Jeremiah also spoke to the people that David would return (Jer 30:9) and who would be a descendant and offshoot of the line of David (Jer 23:5, 33:15) while Ezekiel was used by God to speak of the Branch who was to be raised up from the line of David and who would be everything that God would require of Him (Ezek 34:23).
Therefore, it was not without significance that the title ‘Son of David’ should be specifically used by the Jews to denote the One who was expected to come and so restore the Kingdom of David (Amos 9:11) in fulfilment of God’s sure and faithful promise to king David.
We shouldn’t lessen the force of the words, then, and see in them a simple statement that those who were using such a title meant little more than that they recognised that Jesus could trace His lineage back to David via Nathan (see my genealogy notes) - far from it. They were demonstrating their belief that Jesus was the One who had been promised to restore all things.
The incident of Mtw 22:41-46 summarises the meaning of the title well for Jesus, upon asking the Pharisees the question as to whose son the Christ was to be descended from, receives the reply ‘the son of David’. Although Jesus goes on to show the religious leaders that the title, in the context of something that David himself said, must be a little more deep and revealing about the origins of the Messiah, the title is, nevertheless, equated with the Christ, the One who the Jews were expecting to assume the throne of David and begin to rule.
Putting this into the context of the two blind men who are the first people to use the phrase with regard to Jesus in the NT (excepting Mtw 1:1 which is the author’s own use of the title), we can note that, as the One who was to come, they would have naturally thought of the promises such as Is 29:18, 35:5 and especially 42:6-7 where the blind receive their sight in the context of God’s chosen servant coming to establish the Kingdom rule. Their declaration of Jesus as ‘Son of David’ is naturally an expectation that Jesus is the One who was promised and, therefore, endued with the authority to be able to cure blindness.
Mathag comments perceptively and not without foundation that
‘The blind in Israel, we can be certain, would have known well that the Scriptures spoke of the time to come when the blind would receive their sight. It would be the age of fulfilment, the age of the kingdom promised to David’s Son’
Therefore, putting the Scriptures together, their announcement of Jesus as ‘Son of David’ was a proclamation of their faith for, if Jesus wasn’t the One who was promised, they could not, naturally speaking, be expected to receive their sight.
Only if Jesus, as far as they were concerned, was the Son of David, could they soon see and, as such, we are perhaps hinting at another reason why Jesus waited until they came to Him privately in the house before He healed them - to have been publicly proclaimed as the coming Messiah and to demonstrate His credentials by performing a Messianic sign on these blind men was tantamount to proclaiming Himself to be the long-awaited Messiah.
The dumb demoniac
Matthew’s comments (Mtw 9:32) that
‘As [the two ex-blind men] were going away, behold, a dumb demoniac was brought to Him’
naturally places this incident in ‘the house’ which Jesus has entered in Mtw 9:28, but the significance of ‘the crowds’ being present (Mtw 8:33) should point us to the realisation that something similar to the set up of Mark 2:1-2 is possibly taking place where the multitudes are even pressing into the house where He’s come to either hear Him speak or to receive healing for themselves.
If this was the case with the previous incident, then the crowds would necessarily have witnessed the Messianic miracle of the healing of the blind men, but it’s quite possible that they were gathering and had been settling themselves down while the miracle took place and that, once they’d departed, the demoniac was brought into their midst.
There is an added complication here for the phrase previously quoted in Mtw 9:32 may actually be referring to Jesus and His disciples who were ‘going away’ and that, as they were, the demoniac was brought to Jesus for Him to heal (Matmor accepts this interpretation without offering the more common alternative). As we saw in Mtw 8:14, personal pronouns don’t always refer to what is the most obvious subject in the text and this explanation would explain the crowds’ presence much better than that offered above if the incident took place in the house.
It’s difficult to be precise in this as Matthew - just as Mark and Luke - doesn’t always feel it important to paint a vivid picture of the scene which was set out for each incident, preferring to deal with the bare facts of the matter which testify to the Person of Jesus Christ as being the One promised.
Besides, being no parallel passage to compare, we are at a loss to be certain in our interpretation of the scene in which the incident took place.
1. Messianic Signs
Of the Messianic signs of the Kingdom in Is 35:5-7, Jesus had made the blind to see (Mtw 9:27-31), the lame walk (9:1-8) and the dumb sing (9:32-33) - and the deaf had received their hearing if Mark 7:32-37 is taken to have occurred within the time scale of Matthew chapters 8 and 9. Of the Messianic anointing in Is 61:1 (and 42:7), good news had already begun to be preached to the poor (Mtw 5:1ff) and release had been proclaimed to the captives (Mtw 8:28-34).
As Jesus truthfully announced to the messengers of John the Baptist in Mtw 11:5
‘...the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them’
There could be no doubt that Jesus had shown Himself to have all the qualities and attributes of the Messiah, God’s anointed King. To the Pharisees, being knowledgeable in the Scriptures, that wasn’t the issue. Their problem was that they felt compelled to reject such eye-witness knowledge they had because they were more concerned to keep the authority and the power for themselves than to share it with someone who operated outside of their own interpretation of the Law (Mtw 21:33-41).
Had Jesus come and slapped them on the back for their contribution to knowledge and service of God, no doubt they would have welcomed Him - but Jesus was just too different to themselves to ever be fully accepted (see below).
The word translated ‘dumb’ here (Strongs Greek number 2974) could equally well be translated ‘deaf’ for the word carries with it both senses. However, Matthew’s note that, when the demon was expelled, the ex-demoniac spoke would indicate that being mute is what is being indicated in the description of the demon.
Some commentators see the healing of a dumb demoniac as being a specifically Messianic miracle for, the reasoning goes, to be able to cast out a demon one had to first know its name so that it could be addressed directly. Whether this is the case or not is difficult to be precise about as there appear to be no Jewish sources which would even remotely indicate such a belief.
But, if this was the case, a dumb demoniac was stuck with his incapacity because the demon couldn’t be named. Therefore, only the Messiah could successfully exorcise such a demonic influence and the miracle would stand as a fitting climax to this entire two chapters of healings, Jesus demonstrating that, although He was unwilling to publicly announce Himself as the promised One, the evidence was there to show the multitudes who He was if they were willing to believe it.
This would also account for the crowds’ declaration (Mtw 9:33) that
‘Never was anything like this seen in Israel’
if such a miracle had never before been seen in that generation - an indictment, by implication, that the religious leadership had failed the people by not being imbued with power and authority from on high, even though they had assumed such authority by their interpretation of the Law.
Other commentators find it difficult to come to terms with the demonic, but most generally accept the testimony of Matthew here that the man was demon-possessed and that, as a result, he was unable to speak. Though much illness was attributed to demon possession in first century Israel according to historical sources, Jesus only encounters two specific evidences of their presence in these two chapters in 8:28-34 and here in 9:32-34 - a total of two out of nine healing miracles. There is a general reference to the casting out of demons in 8:16 but it’s there paralleled with the healing of the sick and it’s impossible to be sure just what proportion of those who were brought to Jesus were demon-possessed.
That demon expulsion should be a weapon in the armoury of believers is certain, especially as the twelve who were sent out were commanded to do the same (Mtw 10:8) and the commission laid upon the disciples when Jesus was about to leave them included it (Mark 16:17).
Why believers don’t experience the casting out of demons on as regular a basis as both Jesus and the early Church did is probably due to the fact that modern man doesn’t look for their existence and act accordingly, relying more upon psychological techniques and ever stronger drugs to keep illnesses under control. Partly, perhaps, it’s because the Church today doesn’t move in the same sort of authority that either Jesus or the early Church did.
But demon possession, if rightly understood and confronted by the authority of Christ wherever and whenever met, would result in people being liberated from those traits and illnesses which they will never break free from while the symptom is being ministered to rather than the root cause.
Although there are no parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels, Mtw 12:22-24 recorded a little later on has striking similarities (and some marked differences) with the passage we’re now considering but which also shows a progression of thought since the last incident.
In both, a demoniac is brought to Jesus and is healed, and in both the crowds respond by a confession of amazement that such a thing has taken place. In the former passage, they state, rather vaguely (Mtw 8:33) that
‘Never was anything like this seen in Israel’
whereas in Mtw 12:23, they seem to have already gone one step beyond their previous statement when they ask themselves
‘Can this be the Son of David?’
a question which already shows that Jesus was considered to be someone similar to the One who was expected to come as the long-awaited Messiah and to re-establish the kingdom of David (see above under ‘Son of David’).
The Pharisees’ opposition is necessarily present also, and they say virtually the same thing as they have dome previously, though they now equate ‘the prince of demons’ with ‘Beelzebul’ - but both titles are ones used of satan himself (some authorities insist that 9:34 is not part of the original manuscript but there appears to be no good reason for rejecting its presence here).
It’s only the later passage which contains a lengthy denouncing of the Pharisees’ view (Mtw 12:25-32). In the passage currently under discussion, the writer of Matthew simply notes the growing opposition and moves on swiftly to the calling of the twelve disciples.
Mtw 9:34 represents a sinister climax to the miracles of Matthew chapters 8 and 9 and show the increasing opposition of the Pharisees to both Jesus and the miracles which He’s performing. Their animosity stems from the fact that Jesus isn’t someone who naturally fits into their grand scheme of things but One who cuts across their interpretation of matters in the majority of the cases that He deals with.
He’s the One who touches the unclean (8:3, 9:25), who is willing to enter into an unclean Gentiles’ house (8:5-7), who raises up the lower class in society but who rejects pure Jews from becoming His followers (8:14-22), who deliberately walks into the unclean Decapolean regions east of Galilee (8:28), who forgives the sins of those who have a need (9:2-4), who mixes with the rejected tax collectors and sinners and calls them to follow Him (9:9-13), who rejects the traditional religious rite of fasting as a way to God and insists on a new way (9:14-17) and, finally, is One who lets Himself be touched by an unclean woman without so much as rebuking her recklessness (9:19-22).
Because they’re unable to perceive of someone sent from God operating against their own interpretations of the Law, they naturally - almost inevitably - reject Him and so oppose the moving of God as it’s displayed both in and through Him, to their own injury and loss.
But we shouldn’t recoil in feigned horror and think that we wouldn’t have done such a thing had we been around in those days. On the contrary, it’s more than likely that we would have done the very same things - and much more besides.
The religious who are stuck hard and fast into a way of life which they consider to be God’s way and will for their lives will always tend to reject a new move of God when it’s something which they consider to be diametrically opposed to their own ways.
To give one small example, the Internet has come in for so much criticism amongst ‘sound’, Bible-believing christians that one wonders whether satan himself was the prime mover in making the technology possible for it to all come about! Articles appear in magazines and periodicals warning christians to stay away from ‘the evils of the Internet’ and individuals condemn those who surf the world ‘for Jesus’ as being evil and deluded (when, if they’re honest, they use the world wide web for their own ends - or would do if they could afford a computer!).
Christians, insulated into a lifestyle that cannot accept God moving outside their enclosed vacuum, will never be able to open their arms and accept one of the greatest modern vehicles of communication to get the Gospel out into the world - all they will see is a beast which needs opposing, not realising that, in opposing the move of God, they oppose Jesus Himself and so sit in a totally similar position to that of the first century Pharisees.
A decade or so down the line, christians will run to the Internet when they realise the opportunities it affords them but, alas, it will probably be too late then, when restrictions will have been placed on what content can be distributed freely and when governments will have set themselves to officially monitor and block certain web pages which are being accessed by their subjects.
Then the christians will scream loudly about ‘freedom of speech’ - but all to no avail. God will have moved on to communicate the Gospel via another media and they will take delight in opposing that route also.
The Pharisees, therefore, shouldn’t be condemned out of hand but we should realise that the mounting opposition which came through them is nothing less than the opposition which comes through the established church in the present day who are too insular in their experience of God to be able to accept Him moving outside of their own inelastic concepts.
GO TO MATTHEW PAGE