Bible boy_reading_bibleThe 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 (here and here).

Matthew 9:32-34

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 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.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

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Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s healing of the two blind men who followed Him into the house where He was staying in Capernaum.

His healing the deaf mute took place immediately afterward at the end of a very long day which involved raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead and healing the woman who had the 12-year blood flow. Before that, He condemned the pharisaical method of fasting and cured a paralytic. He was surrounded by crowds the whole time that day, except for brief periods: inside Jairus’s house and at Peter’s house when He healed the blind men.

The blind men with fully restored sight no sooner went away (verse 32) than a demon-possessed deaf mute stood before Him. He might have been someone in the crowd and was presented to Him. However, John MacArthur thinks he was a companion of the two blind men:

Now, this would have been one of their friends.  They were blind, he was deaf and dumb; and together they made a whole person …  And they immediately went out, and they got hold of their friend, “possessed with a demon, and they brought him in.”  This is the commitment of the men.  One of their fellow beggars.

He tells us that the word in Greek for the man’s affliction is

koufos.  It is translated in Matthew 11:5 as deaf.  It probably means deaf and dumb.

If one cannot hear, one cannot speak.

Matthew Henry says that the fact that a demon rendered this man deaf and mute illustrates that Satan is no friend of mankind (emphases mine):

His case, which was very sad. He was under the power of the devil in this particular instance, that he was disabled from speaking, Matthew 9:32. See the calamitous state of this world, and how various the afflictions of the afflicted are! We have no sooner dismissed two blind men, but we meet with a dumb man. How thankful should we be to God for our sight and speech! See the malice of Satan against mankind, and in how many ways he shows it.

That said:

Of the two, better a dumb devil than a blaspheming one.

However:

When the devil gets possession of a soul, it is made silent as to any thing that is good [,] dumb in prayers and praises, which the devil is a sworn enemy to.

Therefore, this state of being can be compared in our time to becoming a slave to the devil and sin, where we forsake a close relationship with the Lord for pleasure, greed, depravity and self-sufficiency.

As soon as Jesus cast out the demon, the man — now fully healed — spoke, causing the crowd to marvel (verse 33). They exclaimed that nothing like this had ever occurred in Israel.

Should we then deduce that the crowd converted that day and followed our Lord ever afterward? Only in the sense that they were curious and amazed.

Henry says that the crowd might have recalled Psalm 98:1:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.

However, he makes this observation:

The multitudes marvelled and well they might[,] though few believed, many wondered.

They followed Jesus to see miracles.

MacArthur likens the crowd to today’s cinema goers who go for a thrill and then leave it behind. At the time he preached his sermons on Matthew in the 1970s, The Exorcist was showing on the big screen:

I’m amazed at people today, you know.  They, they may, they go see these movies that scare them to death; scare them out of their wits and just sit there and let themselves be scared into a frenzy, sweat.  Some of them have to run out into the lobby at the scary times.  Why would people line up for blocks to see The Exorcist?  Well, you know, there’s a certain funny fascination about that.  As long as you’re sitting in a soft seat shoving popcorn in your mouth and you can leave when it’s over.  See, you, you don’t want to get in the situation.  You just don’t mind watching somebody else in it.  There’s a certain thing about that.  And I believe there was something of this fascination in these people who were terrorized by Christ, but also astounded and amazed at the supernatural.  But they wanted to make sure it was just at arm’s length; and when it began to crowd their status quo, that was the end of it: They wanted Him dead.

Jesus’s miracles were entertainment for the vast majority in the crowd, nothing more.

Another aspect of their fascination was that they expected a temporal Messiah, not a spiritual one.

They were not ready to leave Judaism under the manmade laws of the Pharisees. They were not ready to devote their lives to Jesus. They had what they needed in their lives. He was, sadly, for them, an exciting phenomenon, not the Son of God.

When Jesus became too threatening to the status quo, He had to go:

in Matthew chapter 21, they could make only one conclusion: “And the multitude,” it says, the same multitude that marveled.  That’s a broad word.  The multitude said, “Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.'”  They threw palm branches at His feet.  That’s the marveling multitude: “Isn’t He wonderful?  Oh, He’s the Messiah.”  The next thing you know, they got the word that He was going against the establishment; that He was preaching a message that they didn’t want to hear; that He was a threat to their security, a threat to their life.  But it says in Matthew 27 that the same multitude screamed at Him to be crucified, that Barabbas should be released, and Jesus should be executed.  But that’s how it is with fickle mobs, you see.  Marveling multitudes eventually screamed for His death.  The fickleness of that superficial fascination; it’s like John 6.  They followed Him for the free food, you know?  They really weren’t interested in what He said.  They liked Him at a distance.  They liked Him doing His miracles.  They were fascinated.  There was a certain awe.  Even though there was a certain terror involved, if you could keep it at arm’s length, it was okay.

The Pharisees were spiritually blind and deaf. Therefore, they accused our Lord of being in league with Satan in driving out demons (verse 34). Their reaction was as psychologically and spiritually complex as the crowd’s but for different reasons. They did not like His preaching, even though they should have recognised it, but they were spiritually bereft. They liked their privileged status and feared the crowd might reject their hold on them. They also did not think that Jesus had anything to say to them. They were the foremost among the self-sufficient. Furthermore, Jesus was not among their number. He did not mix in their circles nor did He have their training. He had to be derided, ridiculed and blasphemed then killed.

Ultimately, the Pharisees had to diminish His power among the people. For now, they shamefully lied about the source of His miracles. Henry says:

The Pharisees blasphemed, Matthew 9:34. When they could not gainsay the convincing evidence of these miracles, they fathered them upon the devil, as if they had been wrought by compact and collusion: he casteth out devils (say they) by the prince of the devilsa suggestion horrid beyond expression we shall hear more of it afterwards, and Christ’s answer to it (Matthew 12:25) only observe here, how evil men and seducers wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13), and it is both their sin and their punishment.

In closing, the parallel account of this healing — creative — miracle and Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is in Luke 11:14-23, about which I wrote last year.

Next time: Matthew 11:1

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