Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 9:27-31

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 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.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

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This healing — creative — miracle took place after Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. ‘There’ in verse 27 refers to his house.

Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, so Jesus would have been on His way to retire for the evening. We do not know where the house in verse 28 was, but it is possible that it was Peter’s home, as Bible scholars say that Jesus stayed there often.

The two blind men had been following Him. No doubt there were crowds around Him, too, as John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

He has two crowds, really:  the crowd that’s been following Him all along, the crowd that pushed their way through the little narrow streets of Capernaum all the way to the house of Jairus, the crowd that was there when he healed the woman with the issue of blood, the crowd that is looking for His miracles, that is fascinated by Him.  And now another crowd has been added; and that’s the crowd of mourners and paid musicians, flute players, and weeping women who were holding the funeral service for the daughter.  The funeral was broken up when He raised her from the dead.  And now He has this whole collection of humanity; and He moves from that place back toward the house in which He was staying; and as He does, the story unfolds. 

The two blind men were persistent, to the point of boldly following Him into the house. He was not about to heal them in public and even told them to keep quiet about the restoration of their sight (verse 30).

However, our two commentaries tell us that Jesus wanted to test their faith before He performed the miracle.

No doubt He could hear their crying, which was actually shrieking. MacArthur explains:

It is a word that has a broad range of possible interpretation, but the word basically means to yell or to scream or to shriek; and in the Gospels it is used of an insane person who is just screaming and shrieking unintelligible babbling.  It is used of an epileptic.  It is used in Mark 5 of the maniac of Gadara who was demon-possessed and was screaming and shrieking and yelling.  It is used in Mark 15 of our Lord on the cross; and it says, “He cried out and gave up His Spirit.”  It is used in Revelation 12:2 of a woman who is screaming the pains of childbirth.  It is a word that doesn’t necessarily have to refer to intelligent speech, intelligent verbalization.  It may be the unintelligible crying in, in agony that we see in those illustrations. 

They were desperate. Their blindness had broken them in the biblical sense. They wanted healing. They needed relief. MacArthur continues:

And it interests me that it says they were not only shrieking and screaming and crying, but they were, interspersed with that, actually saying some intelligible things, such as, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”  But it wasn’t a, a calculated, cold, pedantic, academic kind of thing.  They were crying out in agony and desperation and deep need and shrieking, pleading, begging. That is the desperation of which regeneration is made.

They called Him ‘Son of David’, which was the universal Jewish way of referring to the Messiah.

He asked them whether they believed He could restore their sight (verse 28). They answered in the affirmative, calling Him ‘Lord’.

He healed them simply by touching their eyes and saying (verse 30):

According to your faith be it done to you.

He would have known they believed in Him and wanted to increase their faith, new and imperfect as it was. Matthew Henry says:

They followed Christ, and followed him crying, but the great question is, Do ye believe? Nature may work fervency, but it is only grace that can work faith spiritual blessings are obtained only by faith. They had intimated their faith in the office of Christ as Son of David, and in his mercy but Christ demands likewise a profession of faith in his power. Believe ye that I am able to do this to bestow this favour to give sight to the blind, as well as to cure the palsy and raise the dead? Note, It is good to be particular in the exercise of faith, to apply the general assurances of God’s power and good will, and the general promises, to our particular exigencies. All shall work for good, and if all, then this. “Believe ye that I am able, not only to prevail with God for it, as a prophet, but that I am able to do it by my own power?” This will amount to their belief of his being not only the Son of David, but the Son of God for it is God’s prerogative to open the eyes of the blind (Psalm 146:8) he makes the seeing eye, Exodus 4:11

Note, The treasures of mercy that are laid up in the power of Christ, are laid out and wrought for those that trust in him, Psalm 31:19.

As soon as Jesus touched their eyes, they were able to see fully (verse 30).

At that point, Jesus told them not to say anything about the miracle, even though they did (verse 31).

There were several reasons for this but part of it was because our Lord knew they would be zealous about their healing. Henry tells us:

This was more an act of zeal, than of prudence and though it may be excused as honestly meant for the honour of Christ, yet it cannot be justified, being done against a particular charge. Whenever we profess to direct our intention to the glory of God, we must see to it that the action be according to the will of God.

There were other reasons for Jesus’s request for silence, despite His many miracles recorded thus far in Matthew’s Gospel. It could be that silence was intended against the people of Capernaum, where our Lord based Himself. They knew and saw these miracles, yet did not believe. Another possibility was that the more miracles the people knew about, the further the ire among the Jewish leaders who feared He was becoming more popular than they. He also wanted to guard against an idea among the people that He would be a temporal Messiah.

Ultimately, what we learn from this miracle, that of Jairus’s daughter and the woman with the 12-year blood flow, is that they approached Jesus in their brokenness and desperation. In the case of the blind men, they had not only a physical disability but a spiritual one. They were given faith that they might believe. In their faith, Jesus healed them.

Today, with all its atheism and unbelief, this miracle has relevance with regard to personal desperation and need for redemption. As in Jesus’s time, the self-sufficient and self-righteous do not think they need His saving grace and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. MacArthur explains:

You never find the self-sufficient people.  You never find the people who think they have the resources.  You never find the people who don’t really have any questions. I talked to a man this week, and I said to him, “You, I can introduce you to Christ.  I can talk to you about Christ.  I can tell you about Christ if you really want to know.”  He said, “I don’t want to know.  I don’t have any need for that.” The thing to do in that situation is pray that God’ll bring him to the place where he has a desperate need, because it’s only desperate people who come.

It’s useful knowing where blindness featured as a disability in our Lord’s era. MacArthur says that congenital blindness was common not only in Israel but other nations in the region. Much of it — though not all — was caused by gonorrhoea, difficult to detect in women:

In fact, the gospel records include more healings of blind people than any other type of healing.  That may indicate its commonness.  Poverty and the unsanitary conditions that went with it, brilliant sunlight, excessive heat, blowing sand, accidents, war, infectious organisms.  All of those things contributed to blindness.  Many of the people were blind from birth; and, very commonly, their blindness from birth was caused by a form of gonorrhea.  Sometimes it was not even known to be existing in the mother; and, yet, when the little baby passed from the uterus down, those particular germs that lodged in that mother’s womb would find their lodging in the conjunctiva of the eye; and, as they did, they would begin to multiply; and within only three days, the child would be permanently blind.  That is why, today, antiseptic drops are put in the eyes of a newborn baby; and for all intents and purposes, we have eliminated that problem.

Because of the link between venereal disease and blindness, the Jews connected it with parental sin that had been passed on to the child:

That may also have been what was in the mind of the question on the heart of the disciples in John 9:2, when they saw the man born blind and they said, “Who sinned?  Did this man or his parents?”  There may have been a theology in that question, but there also may have been a little bit of medicine in that question, or a little bit of the physical.  They may have been saying, “Is he blind because of his parents’ sin?”  Because very often venereal disease contracted in a sinful situation was the cause of a child’s blindness.  So that was a common thing for people born blind.  There were also infective organisms and viruses that were the common cause of trachoma.  Sulfa drugs have pretty well eliminated that nowadays.  But all of these things created the problem of blindness, and it seemed to be a, a major problem, and blind people hung around together.  It was not uncommon to see a couple of blind people hanging onto each other; and, thus, did our Lord say to the Pharisees on one occasion, “You’re like the blind leading the blind.  You both fall in the ditch.”

In closing, a thought on faith. MacArthur cites Richard Chevenix Trench, a devout Anglican of the Victorian Era. Trench served as Dean of Westminster Abbey and as the Archbishop of Dublin. He said:

The faith which, in itself, is nothing is yet the organ for receiving everything. It is the conducting link between man’s emptiness and God’s fullness; and herein lies all the value faith has. Faith is the bucket let down into the fountain of God’s grace without which the man could never draw water of life from the wells of salvation.  For the wells are deep and, of himself, man has nothing to draw with.  Faith is the purse which cannot of itself make its owner rich, and yet effectually enriches by the wealth which it contains.

May we remember this as we go about our daily responsibilities this week.

Next time: Matthew 9:32-34

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