You have a right to choose Christ if you want!?

Last week, we saw what it meant that someone might be healed according to his or her faith. This week, Matthew uses the same language to describe the work of Jesus. Again, we ask,  what is faith, and what does it means that Jesus would do anything according to our faith? 

Matthew 9:27-34

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

When He entered 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, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”

And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: “See that no one knows about this!

But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

The blind men (v. 27-31)

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

We don’t know exactly where Jesus is at this point (cf. v. 35). We remember that Matthew’s purpose is not to record a strict chronology or geography. His purpose is apologetic, which means giving a reasoned defense of Christ as Messiah from the Old Testament and basic accounting of Jesus’ worldly ministry. All we can discern at this point is that His ministry began in Capernaum, He travelled across the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, and then across the Sea of Galilee again on His way to Nazareth. After Nazareth and at this point, we only receive the information that Jesus is traveling around Galilee preaching and performing miracles.

I want to notice something about the confession of these two blind men. First, they refer to Jesus as “Son of David,” which means they believe He has the right to sit on the throne that has been prepared through David, the throne that has been reserved for the Messiah. This confession has the same weight as confessing Jesus as Lord. What it means is that these two blind men believe Jesus alone has the authority to forgive sins and deliver the people of God.

Second, they implore Jesus to have mercy on them. As we continue to understand what it means to have faith, this is a very significant detail. This encounter also helps us to understand what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord (cf. Romans 10:9-10). The confession of Christ as Lord is the first confession of the Christian. Since Jesus heals these men according to their faith (v. 29), we know that their approach to Jesus is the approach of a those who have true faith. These men do not feel entitled to salvation. They do not feel entitled to the healing power of Jesus. Instead, their plea is, “Have mercy on us…”

When we recognize Jesus’ authority as the deliverer of His people and as Lord; something about that causes us to recognize that we are unworthy. If Jesus saves us or heals us or shows us any degree of grace, He does so from mercy. No one is entitled to any degree of God’s grace and no one is entitled to salvation. Jesus has already taught that not everyone who refers to Him as Lord or has the appearance of following Him will actually enter the kingdom of Heaven (cf. 7:21-23). The worst lie in the modern church declares that it is the right of the person to choose to follow Christ and so gain eternal life for one’s self. Everything that Jesus has taught up to this point and every instance in which we have seen the genuine faith of people makes the truth plain to us. Salvation is a privilege reserved for the underserving objects of Christ’s mercy (cf. Romans 9:23). 

When He entered 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.”

The wording, here, is interesting to me since Matthew does not clarify a specific location. Matthew writes that Jesus entered into “the” house, using the definite article in the Greek. So, this house is a particular house or dwelling place. We just don’t know which one or whose. After these men follow Jesus into the house, Jesus asks them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this,” this referring to “have mercy on us.” These men have not implored Jesus specifically for physical healing. They have implored Him to have mercy on them. It is good for us not to confuse the order in which Matthew has recorded the conversation, here.

Furthermore, Jesus does not ask them if they believe He will do this. He asks them if they believe He is able. These are two very different questions. There are quite a few philosophies present in the world that claim, “If we simply truly believe that God will do something, or that something will happen, He will.” Jesus asks if the men believe He is able to have mercy on them.

Their reply is, “Yes, Lord.” Once again, these men submit themselves to Christ as their deliverer and the rightful king of God’s chosen people. They recognize Christ as the one with the authority and ability to have mercy on them. They subject themselves to the will of Christ, not trying to impose their wills upon Him. We believe Christ is able to have mercy. We do not believe that we are entitled to His mercy.

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”

Jesus refers to the faith of the two men. Their faith is explicitly described as a confession of Christ as Lord, a belief in His ability to have mercy, and submission to His will. Faith is not described, here, as trust that God will do something, a religious system, or a form of obsequiousness (fawning devotion to something).

Jesus acts in accordance with their faith. So, it is explicitly clear in the text that Jesus does work in accordance with the faith of His people. This is why it is so important for us to understand what faith is. Jesus acts in accordance with our (1) confession in His Lordship, (2) belief that He is able to have mercy, and (3) submission to His will rather than our own.

This text does not describe how these men come to have faith or how these men come to willingly confess that Jesus is Lord. So, we cannot teach the order of salvation from this text. We must refer to other explicit texts to see the order of salvation if we wish to do so.

Once again, we do see that, during Jesus worldly ministry, miracles accompany the preaching and reception of His Gospel because that is what was prophesied in Isaiah 53:4 concerning the Messiah. These miracles are proof that the kingdom has, indeed, come. So, these men are saved and the sign that Jesus has authority to have mercy is that they are healed from blindness. The physical healing is not the most important thing happening; salvation is. The healing isn’t the main point, here; Christ’s ability to have mercy is.

And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: “See that no one knows about this!” But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

These men were once blind, and now they see- in both a spiritual and physical sense. Why do you think Jesus instructed these men to be sure that no one knew about what they had experienced? We saw Jesus give the same instruction in chapter 8, verse 4. There, the account is clearer about why Jesus gives this instruction.

In chapter 8, Jesus instructed the former leper not to tell anyone about the miracle, but to testify according to the word of God in Leviticus 14. While God does do miraculous things, our testimony is not based on our experiences but is the word of God alone. God’s word is sufficient. This is the message Jesus devoted Himself to during His Sermon on the Mount. It is the message He calls His disciples to without tainting or taking from it.

Matthew uses the word, δε, in the Greek, which can be translated, “and,” “but,” “so,” “now,” “then,” “yet,” “however,” “otherwise,” and “also.” Translators must rely on context clues to determine which conjunction to use in English. So, it could be the case that these men were doing what Jesus asked them not to do by going and telling everyone about what had happened to them. Or, it could be the case that they went about telling people about Jesus from the Scriptures. We simply can’t know for sure. What we do know, because Jesus has explained it explicitly in a previous encounter, is that there is a proper way to be a witness for Christ and an improper way to be a witness for Christ.

The mute demoniac (v. 32-33)

As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

The language used as Jesus entered the house was singular. Jesus entered the house as these blind men followed Him. As Jesus goes out of the house, the language is plural. Since the blind men have already gone to spread the news about Jesus, we might discern that Jesus’ disciples are still with Him and have been following Him.

We have seen Jesus casting out demons already. Matthew mentions this detail about the mute demoniac in order to quote the statement of the people, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” This statement goes deeper than people merely noticing that Jesus has power and authority to heal and the ability to have mercy. Matthew makes this quotation to show, again, that Jesus is, indeed, the promised Messiah. It is interesting to me that none of the academic commentaries I have on my bookshelf describe this, even my Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This is an allusion to Exodus 34:10, as God is renewing His covenant with His people and giving them the Law. As part of His covenant, God states that He will “perform miracles which have not ben produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.”

The statement of the Galileans in response to Jesus’ miracles is a proclamation used by Matthew to show that Jesus is God’s fulfillment of His own covenant. Notice, in Exodus, that God takes it upon Himself to perform these signs and wonders that signify the fulfilling of His covenant. When these Galileans recognize Christ as the one doing the signs and wonders that have never been produced before, they recognize Christ as God in the flesh, the only one who can fulfill the Law. Matthew clarifies, again, that he is recording these miracles in order to prove that Jesus is the Messiah predicted by the Old Testament text.

Explaining away God’s power (v. 34)

But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

In contrast to this confession, the Pharisees question the source of Jesus’ power. Instead of recognizing Jesus as Messiah and the fulfillment of the Law, their implicit claim is that Jesus is an imposter. Their explicit claim is that Jesus’ is casting out demons by the power of Satan. At this point, Jesus does not answer this accusation. This is another way in which He shows great mercy, even toward unbelievers. He will, though, answer this accusation in chapter 12, verses 22-37.

Questions

  1. What is the difference between how Matthew presents faith, here, and how the world defines faith?
  2. What does it mean that Jesus works according to our faith?
  3. Do we ever try to explain away the work or power of God? How? Why?
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