As you know, I do not like talking about politics, be it secular or ecclesiastical, but what has been going on regarding the current presidential campaign and election concerns and troubles me greatly. Certainly, there are a great many questions that need to be answered and so many concerns that need to be addressed for our nation. One of the greatest concerns I have is the ability of both candidates to direct our great nation along the path of righteousness and justice in a manner that is pleasing to God. The most important questions for our nation, therefore, do not concern topics debated by the candidates or the pundits such as immigration, jobs, border security, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, etc. No. The most important questions for our nation concern God, Who He is and how all of these other issues and topics fit in with His plan for His world.
It is not my intent to put down the importance of the topics being debated in the public forum, not am I trying to minimize the importance of what our political leaders do and say. However, I am trying to put those things back into perspective. I am one of the first to say that we, as Christians, need to be involved in the public forum and in the political process. Our voices need to be heard, both individually and as the Church, because we have a lot to offer in the way of wisdom and truth.
We must be involved in both the public debate as in the political process to the extent that we try to reconcile secular society with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the way of life Jesus Himself has set for us as an example. But as we do that, we must also remember that neither the communities in which we live, nor the state, nor the nation is changed toward godliness by politics. They are changed as the individuals within them come face to face with Christ and receive Him and accept His teachings and way of life as their own.
It is with that in mind that I say that the greatest questions facing our nation and society are those concerning Jesus Christ, Who He is and what His relationship is to us both individually and as a society. These have always been the paramount questions of life. It was true when Jesus walked the earth and it is equally true today, especially today as we see God and Jesus being pushed more and more out of our society.
In today’s Gospel reading, we see that St. Matthew continues to build his case that Jesus is the Messiah, God in human flesh, because He has authority to do that which only belongs to God Himself. Jesus has the authority to heal the sick and diseased. He has authority to control nature, and the supernatural must also do His bidding. He has authority to forgive sins. He even has authority over death for He has raised the dead back to life. We have seen all of that in the Gospel readings receding this one for this morning. Jesus is the Messiah. He is God in human flesh. That is who Jesus is, but what does that mean to you personally?
Let us listen again to part of our Gospel reading. “And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him crying out, and saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And after He had come into the house, the blind men came up 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, ‘Be it done to you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See here; let no one know about this.!’ But they went out and spread the news about Him in all that land. And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him. And after the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisee’s were saying, ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’”
Now it may seem somewhat anticlimactic for Matthew to return to telling about Jesus healing the blind and casting out demons after telling about Jesus forgiving sin and raising the dead, but I assure you this is not anticlimactic. Matthew presents in these verses the three responses that are made to Jesus’ ministry. The proof that Jesus is the Messiah has already been given. Now Matthew is telling how the people reacted to Jesus. What did it mean to them personally that Jesus was present? There were those that believed and their lives were eternally changed. There were those that were amazed, but no change took place in their own lives, and then there were those that rejected Him and blasphemed against Him. We still find these same three responses to Christ today. In which category do you find yourself?
The first response is that of the blind men in verses 27-31. “And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him…” As Jesus was leaving Jairus’ home, after raising that man’s daughter from the dead, and was proceeding back to the place He was staying in Capernaum, two blind men became aware that Jesus was passing by and they start following Him. The text does not say why they were blind, and there were a lot of causes of blindness in the ancient world (various diseases, blowing sand, blinding sun, accidents, etc.), but regardless of the cause, these men are without sight, and together they start following Jesus hoping that He will help. As they are going, they are “crying out, and saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!'” The crying out is a very loud shout, a scream. They wanted Jesus’ attention and their request was very obvious: they wanted to see again. They wanted mercy from the Son of David.
Now let me point out here the significance of what they said. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” It is a simple sentence, but full of deep meaning. Notice first of all that their cry was for mercy. A request for mercy is a request to get something good that is not deserved. Incumbent within such a request is the understanding that 1) you do not deserve what is being requested, and 2) the person you are making your request to can give you what you are seeking. May I suggest to you that these two men were poor in spirit, which is the first requirement for those who would enter into the kingdom of God.
Many in our community and nation today claim to know the Lord Jesus Christ, but as you talk with them it is not the Jesus of the Bible that they describe. Their Jesus is emasculated. He is an old grandfather who can see no wrong in his grandchildren regardless of what they do. Their Jesus can be ignored, treated rudely, and even cursed without consequence to all the good things they expect to receive from Him. The Jesus of the Bible is kind, gentle, merciful, gracious, and loving to be sure, but He never excused sin and is plainly described as the coming judge who executes vengeance with wrath on all the ungodly.
In addition, the actions of so many who say they are Christians give proof that their claim is false. You cannot believe that Jesus is who He claims to be and give such utter disregard to the commands He gives. Yet we find people who have a lifestyle of lying, stealing, cheating, drunkenness, adultery, etc. all claiming to be Christians. We even find some denominations within so called “Christianity” making such people their spiritual leaders. Why do so many make such false professions of faith in Jesus when they do not really know Him?
I believe the foundation of the answer to that question is that these people never came to Jesus the same way these two blind men did. They came in utter humility crying out for God to help them based completely on God’s mercy and not some false claim that they deserved anything. It is the poor in spirit that enter the kingdom of God, and the poor in spirit recognize their sinful and desperate situation. Many of those in our land who say they are Christians have not even reached the first step of recognizing their desperate need for Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing from sin.
These two blind men were crying out to Jesus for mercy because they knew they were not deserving of His help. They also were crying out to Jesus because they knew that He could help. That is the second factor in their request to Jesus. They believed that Jesus could help them. How strong was that belief? Well, a case could easily be made that they believed it because they had heard the stories that Jesus had healed other people and that would point out a strong belief on their part. But the text points out something even more significant and of greater demonstration of their faith. Notice that they called Jesus, “Son of David.”
These men did not just believe that Jesus was a miracle worker like one of the prophets. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah Himself and they addressed Him with terminology that signified that fact. And for these two blind Jews, the fact that the Messiah was present would have brought to mind the hope found in Isaiah 35:4-6,“Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, But He will save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a dear, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah.” These men believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore, had great confidence that He would have mercy upon them and heal them.
Now though they were following Jesus and hollering very loudly, Jesus did not respond to them immediately. Our text says in verse 28, “And after He had come into the house, the blind men came up to Him and Jesus said to them…” Jesus waited to respond to the two men until after He had reached His destination, which was the house He was living in while in Capernaum. The reason for the delayed response was to minimize the public announcement that Jesus was the Messiah, and if Jesus had responded to their call to Him as the Son of David it would have done just that.
Why would Jesus want to minimize the announcement that He was the Messiah? Were not all the miracles He was doing broadcasting that fact anyway? Yes, but Jesus was not announcing that fact verbally because of all the incorrect political connotations that had become attached to the term. The common thought among the religious leaders and the people was that the Messiah would come as a conquering ruler who would overthrow Rome and set up Israel as the world power. Instead, Jesus consistently let His teaching and His miracles demonstrate that He was fulfilling all the Old Testament Prophecies for the Messiah. You might recall the story recorded in Matthew 11:3-5 that when John the Baptist was in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus could have easily have just said, “Yes, it is true, I am the Expected One, I am the Messiah.” But instead we find that Jesus says, “Go and report to John what you hear and see; the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” John knew the Old Testament and would know that all these things prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is concerned that the Jews, as God’s chosen people, accept His messiahship on the basis of His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, not simply on the basis of hearsay or mere verbal claims.
Jesus now has them affirm their faith in Him. “And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’” They had already demonstrated they had faith in Jesus by the fact that they were following Him and crying out to Him as the Son of David for mercy. Now they affirm verbally their belief that Jesus was able to heal them. Their use of the term “Lord” is more than just out of respect. Their usage of it is in the sense of deity, for they had already affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus then heals them and gives them their sight. “Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘Be it done to you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened.” We must be careful not to infer that Jesus was limited by their faith in His ability to heal. We have already seen in previous weeks that Jesus can and does heal apart from any faith by the one being healed. The Centurion’s servant was healed without ever meeting Jesus. Jairus’ daughter was dead and incapable of faith, but Jesus raised her back to life. Jesus can heal as He desires and He can also set up criteria by which He will heal. In this case the criterion was according to the faith of the two men and upon His touch. There was little doubt about their faith in light of their actions and affirmations of faith, and so they received their sight. I do not think there is much doubt that they received more than just their physical sight. In view of their statements concerning Jesus and the clear evidence of their faith in Him, I believe they also received spiritual life.
These men were poor in spirit when they went to Jesus. They understood their need and believed Jesus could and would meet that need. They cried out to Jesus for mercy and placed their faith in Him, and upon the basis of that faith Jesus healed them. Such faith is the instrument by which we receive everything. Such faith is the singular connecting link, a pipeline, if you will, between man’s emptiness and God’s fullness, and herein lies all the value faith has. Faith is the bucket let down into the well of God’s abundant life-giving and life-changing grace, without which man could never draw the waters of life and live. That is the nature of faith. Faith in and of itself is nothing, yet through it comes everything one could ever hope for.
Faith is not something that can be manufactured or made up. It is something God has given to those that will seek after Him. Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith, which always manifests itself in good works. Faith and good works always go hand in hand, for good works are the fruit of love which itself is the essence of the Gospel.
After Jesus opened the eyes of the blind men, Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See here, let no one know about this!” This was certainly not a command that they should let no one know that they could see, for such a command would have been impossible and nonsensical. Jesus would not command them to now act blind after restoring their sight, and it would be very obvious to all that knew them that something radical had occurred for them to have received their sight. Jesus’ charge is from the same concern and reasoning that He had delayed His response to their cry for mercy. Jesus did not want people to be proclaiming that He was the Messiah prematurely. The religious leaders were already growing in opposition to Him and it was not time to aggravate that. Also, there were too many false ideas about the Messiah and Jesus wanted the Jews to accept His messiahship on the basis of His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, not simply on the basis of hearsay or mere verbal claims.
Though the command was strong and clear, the two previously blind men did not obey, for the Gospel tells us, “But they went out, and spread the news about Him in all that land.” This was disobedience, and therefore sin and wrong, yet it was a sin born out of overwhelming joy. Most Christians today tend to respond in the exact opposite manner as these who were unable to contain their joy. We have been charged by the Lord in several passages of Scripture to tell others about Him, but too many of us do not obey the command and do not speak up about Him and what He has done in our lives. Out of intimidation, out of fear of others, we fail to proclaim the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we be more like these two men who were so overwhelmed with joy and praise that they could not contain it.
The second and more common response to Jesus’ ministry is found in verses 32 and 33. “And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him. And after the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.'”
As the two men who had been blind leave rejoicing, a man who was dumb due to demonization was brought to Jesus. The inability to speak could occur from a variety of sources, but in this case the cause was clear. The man was demonized and therefore in need of Jesus’ help. Jesus helps the man by casting out the demon and thus releasing him from the bondage he had been in, and he regained his ability to speak. This man is a demonstration of God’s general goodness to men including men who do not seek after God themselves.
There are several notable contrasts between this man and the two men who had been blind. First, the two blind men were the focus of the passage they are talked about. The dumb man is nearly incidental to what occurs. He is passive. There is no action on his part. Second, the blind men sought after Jesus. This man had to be brought. It would seem that the two blind men would have needed the help, not a man who could not speak. This demonstrates that he was either indifferent or somewhat resistant to Jesus. Third, the blind men demonstrated and stated their beliefs and their faith in Jesus. Nothing is said about the belief or the faith of this man. Fourth, the two previous blind men made known to all who Jesus was and what He had done for them. The previously speechless man is only recorded as speaking. What he said is unknown.
The response though that needs to be noted is that of the crowd, not the dumb man, for there is not really anything said about his response. We find the crowd is amazed by all of it. And well they should have been, for on that day Jesus had healed the woman with the issue of blood, raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, given sight to the two blind men, and cast out the demon from the dumb man. So it is the crowd that marvels and says, “Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel,” and not only in Israel, but anywhere in the world.
Certainly Israel had seen the miracles during Moses’ day including the ten plagues on Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the many miracles in the wilderness. There were the military victories under Joshua and the judges that came directly at the hand of God such as Jericho, the sun standing still, etc. There were also the miracles of Elijah and Elisha including physical healings and the raising of the widow’s son from the dead. But never had so many significant miracles occurred in such a short period of time by one man. Nothing like this had ever been seen before and they were amazed. But we find throughout the Gospel accounts that the crowd’s amazement did not turn into personal faith in Jesus. They had fickle “faith” for short periods, but they soon changed their minds. Several times Jesus rebukes the crowd for seeking the miracles and not Him. In The Gospel of St. John, Jesus says to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.” (John 6:26-27). They followed Jesus for the free food and the entertainment of the miracles. There are many so called “evangelists” and “churches” who attract their crowds through the same methods today. The tragedy is that many of these people and groups fleece the flock instead of feeding the flock.
The fickleness of the crowds is most clearly seen during the final week of Jesus’ life. On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem with the people putting down palm branches and their coats before Him while shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” Yet five days later they are shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Most people today believe that Jesus was a good person and they would not purposely malign Him, yet they do so because they do not believe Him to be the Messiah, God in human flesh come to save mankind from their sins by being a substitutionary sin offering. They marvel at His teaching and His life, but they do not follow Him. They pick His teachings apart and do what they want. Jesus said that “He who is not for Me is against Me.” There were amazed, but remain indifferent, and are therefore bound for hell.
The third response to Jesus’ ministry is by those who are openly against Him. We find this in verse 34, “But the Pharisees were saying, ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” Since they could not refute what had happened, they denied the means by which it occurred. They blasphemed and called what Jesus did in holiness a work that was in a league with Satan. They called what was good, evil.
The committed unbeliever will not believe, for no fact or reason, no matter how obvious and convincing, can enlighten him or her. You cannot debate someone into the kingdom simply because a person who is dedicated to darkness refuses to see the light, regardless of the light’s intensity. The only hope for such a person is that their spiritual blindness would be lifted and they will recognize their sinfulness, repent, and turn to Jesus. Otherwise they are doomed for all eternity.
There are really only three responses to Jesus, and only one of those leads to eternal life. The two blind men exemplify this. They knew their need and believe Jesus could rescue them. They cried out for His mercy and received it by faith. The opposite response is the open criticism and rejection by the Pharisees. They condemned themselves to everlasting damnation.
The dumb man and the crowds were amazed and even received temporal benefits from Christ, but their hearts were not turned. They were indifferent to His claim and demonstration that He was the Messiah. And let’s be clear, a person who praises Jesus but rejects Him or ignores and rejects Him is just as damned as those who openly criticize and reject Christ. Any response except the response of faith results in hell, not heaven.
As we get closer and closer to November’s general election, let us all think carefully about our future, both individually and as a nation. Will we accept Christ and the life He offers or will we continue to ignore or openly reject Him? Remember, dear ones, that a life, a community and a nation without God is not blessed. Such a life, such a community, such a nation will struggle and be forever clouded in darkness, chaos and turmoil.
What is your response to Jesus?