In Matthew chapter nine, we have a remarkable picture of the power and compassion of Jesus, that should convince both believers and unbelievers that He is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him. His power and compassion is revealed in His healing of a paralytic (verses 2-8); raising to life Jairus’ daughter and healing of the woman suffering with an issue of blood (verses 18-26; giving sight to two blind men (verses 27-31); delivering a mute demonic (verses 32-34); and healing all manner of sickness (verse 35). In chapter nine, Matthew proves Jesus is the faithful Physician, both of the soul and body.
While the account of the healing of the two blind men is a relatively short narrative and seemingly not as significant as some of the longer ones, it is worth taking some time with it because of the importance in the Bible of the theme of blindness, both physical blindness and spiritual blindness.
While the point of the story is that Jesus has this authority to give sight, the sub-theme of the story is the requirement of faith to be able to see.
We are not told whether these men were blind from birth or were blinded in some other way. However, to be blind then, as at any time, was a severe handicap. The self-righteous leaders in the days of Jesus would have added to the problem by accusing such handicapped people of being sinners whom God had punished. It is true, that there are cases in the Bible where blindness was a punishment from God. Blindness also was symbolic of spiritual ignorance, just as sight was symbolic of understanding. When God announced judgment on the nation of Israel through the prophet Isaiah, part of the judgment was that they would not understand the truth and not believe the message (Isaiah 6:9-10). Jesus used this same symbolism in some of His teachings. Jesus healed a blind man, and found a good deal of opposition for it from the spiritual leadership. So Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). The Pharisees knew He was speaking about them, and so they said, “What?--are we blind too?”(John 9:40). Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim that you see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).
In other words, some who have their physical sight are blind to the truth they are spiritually blind. If they continue to refuse to believe, then like ancient Israel they would remain in their blindness. However, Jesus has the authority to heal their spiritual blindness as a judgment if they persist in it, let the blind remain blind still.
However, there were those who were physically blind, they wanted to see. Because faith was required of those who were blind and wanted to see, those blind people were symbolic or at least representative of those in the nation of Israel, spiritually blind and ignorant of the truth, who through faith received their “sight.” In other words, these men might have been blind, but because of their faith they could see better than others. They followed Jesus. They cried, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
The cry for mercy is understandable, for it is one of the most basic cries for divine help in Scripture. “Mercy” in the Bible is sometimes translated with the idea of “grace” or “favor.” Mercy describes some act of compassion that is undeserved, a gift, and a kind act. It is usually reserved for prayers to God, such as in seeking forgiveness for sin, protection from enemies, healing from disease, or any other number of needs. In the human arena, it can be used from an inferior or subordinate person to a superior or a master to request for pardon, favor, or general benefit.
These two blind men clearly knew that this Jesus had supernatural power and authority, and so they persisted in following Him and seeking His mercy.
When the two men called Jesus the Son of David, they were not merely referring to Jesus’ lineage from David and His right to be a king. Every legitimate king was a son of David; but one Son of David would be the promised Messiah. Since Jesus had been doing the miracles, these blind men believed that He was the one, and they pleaded for mercy from Him. If Jesus were Messiah, He would heal them.
What is the lesson in the miracle? It does not matter whether we are talking about receiving physical sight or spiritual understanding faith is the prerequisite.
The faith of these two men is revealed in their crying out to Jesus to have mercy on them. The crying out to Jesus is evidence they had formed an opinion about Jesus, they believed He was able to heal them. In addition to their faith in Jesus, there is evidence of perseverance. The men followed Jesus from Jairus’ house to where Jesus was staying. They followed Jesus away from the crowds and the public streets into a private area. Jesus probably waited until they followed Him indoors to test their faith further.
When Jesus asked the question, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” He was giving the two men an opportunity to pour out their whole heart, to express their full faith. There are times when we need to get away from the crowds and everyday activities and talk to Jesus about the burdens that no one knows about except Jesus. There are times when we need to get alone with Jesus and express our full faith in Him. Although Jesus knew the extent of the two men’s faith, He wanted them to acknowledge their faith.
Note, Jesus’ response to the men’s acknowledgment of their faith, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” This does not mean that the amount of healing depends on the amount of faith; rather, it simply means that because they had faith they would receive their sight. Therefore, because of their steadfast faith their sight was restored. It should also be noted that His question focused their faith in Him, and not just to God in general. The Lord was fully able to give them sight, but He waited until He was able to draw from them a statement of their faith. They had come to the point of faith based on what they knew the Scripture predicted and what they had heard Jesus was doing.
That is usually the basis of faith. People hear from the word of God how they can be released from the dark prison of sin. They hear how they can gain spiritual understanding. They hear how Jesus fulfilled Scripture again and again in meeting the needs of people in the gospel records, and down through history in the life of the church, and so they can cry with confidence to Him for mercy. It is the way for the blind men to be healed. It is the way for anyone to be healed, physically. However, most importantly, it is the way to be healed spiritually, to have the spiritual blindness removed and spiritual sight given and Jesus has the authority to give sight.
In this account of the healing of the two blind men Jesus gave them a command that applied to that specific time alone and that is not now applicable. When Jesus healed the men, He sternly warned them not to let anyone know about this. Why would He do this? Jesus here was doing a “Messianic” work, another one on the same day, but He did not want the word to get out. In fact, He waited to do this indoors, out of the sight of the public eye.
Jesus was revealing Himself as the Messiah, but in the proper way, the Messiah should be understood. The crowds were enthusiastically following Him for healing and for food; but His mission was, first to deal with the problem of sin and that would not come through enthronement but through His sacrificial death. He had to control the crowd’s response and understanding of His mission. In these incidents where He warned people not to broadcast what He did for them, when He retreated from the crowds into the hills or out in the boat, or when He spoke of His death and the people wanted to make Him king, Jesus was trying to avoid a premature king movement that was falsely based and ill-conceived.
Today we do not have a binding word like this not to proclaim the good news what the Lord has done. Instead, we are to go throughout the entire world telling of Jesus’ Messiahship, and of His miraculous power.
If there were an application from this account of the healing of the two blind men for today, it would be a warning against preaching and teaching the good news about Jesus in a falsely based or ill-conceived way. For example, preaching or teaching the news about the power of Jesus to heal without the primary focus on the spiritual healing through His death on the cross would be close to what Jesus was trying to prevent. People love to throng to one who has the power to heal; but they are not eager to come to one whose death reveals their sin and their need of salvation. Spiritual sight is more important than physical sight.
In other words, unbelief is blindness; and salvation is illumination. Salvation begins with God’s causing light to shine in the darkness. Many people may be well versed in the knowledge of theology and Scripture, but until God shines in their hearts, they cannot see. It is the task of believers to present clearly to the unbeliever the truth of God’s word, to sow the seed as Jesus put it; but unless and until God causes them to see, it will not be understood and received. This should remind us that salvation is a miraculous work of God from the beginning to the end.
The miracle teaches that Jesus has the authority to give sight. He can certainly restore physical sight to people who are blind, and did that frequently enough to show He has that power. This is why people today can pray for healing, although they must allow that the answer to their prayer may come now, or in the resurrection, for God has His timetable and His purposes.
The main point of this miracle is, faith is required to gain sight, both physically and spiritually. Whoever comes to Christ must believe that He is the promised Messiah and that He has the power and the authority to give sight.
Therefore, the task of the church is to take this message to a world that is blinded by the god of this world, the evil one, the deceiver. The people the church reaches out to may be educated, brilliant, clever, and even concerned with moral and ethical matters; if they do not believe in Christ Jesus as the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, the Savior of the world, they are spiritually blind. We who have received our sight, who have come to faith, should then be characterized by
(1) praise and thanksgiving,
(2) devotion to Christ,
(3) a growing spiritual discernment in all things, and
(4) public witness of the glories of the Lord.