In the last part of Matthew chapter 9, it contains two more healing stories. The first, which is the eighth in the overall series, is about the healing of two blind men. If we look at them in the same context in which we have been looking at the other miracles, we see that they are concerned with what Jesus does when he saves sinners.
These two men came after him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” This is the first use of the title “Son of David” in Matthew, and there can be little doubt that it is used here as in other places with strong messianic expectations. Can it actually be the case that these blind men were confessing Jesus as the Messiah? That is exactly what they were doing! In fact, it was their faith in Jesus as the Messiah that led them to cry out as they did. The messianic age was understood by Isaiah to be a time when “the eyes of the blind [would be] opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped,” when “the lame [would] leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” “If Jesus was really the Messiah, the blind reasoned, then He would have mercy on them; and they would have their sight,” writes D. A. Carson. They may not have been certain that their faith was rightly placed before they cried out, but it was their only chance. Their condition was as hopeless as that of the people in the preceding story. Yet once Jesus turned to them, called them inside, questioned them, and healed them, they knew He was indeed the Savior and the King of Israel.
This story and the following one about the man who could not talk are unique to Matthew. Why does Matthew include such a story here? The reason is his understanding of what these healing stories teach. If we have been right in our study thus far, they teach what is involved when Jesus saves men and women from their sin. They portray our spiritual condition – we are all unclean, isolated, hopeless, even dead in our sins – and they show that to be saved from sin we need the powerful, forgiving, saving grace of God, which is to be found in Jesus Christ alone.
What follows then? Clearly, what follows is the opening of our eyes to see Jesus even better than we did before. Before their healing, the blind men saw Jesus in their mind’s eye, enough to identify Him as the Messiah. But when their eyes were opened, they saw Him as He is, and they began to “spread the news about Him all over that region.”
What happened here reminds us of what happened when Jesus appeared to the two Emmaus disciples when they were making their way back home after the resurrection. They had heard about Christ’s resurrection, but they did not believe it. Dead men do not rise. When Jesus appeared to them, they failed to recognize Him. This was a spiritual blindness, illustrated by their inability to see who He was. But He began to teach them from the Old Testament, and when He did, “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.”
There are three great “openings” in Luke 24: first, the Scriptures; then, their eyes; finally, their minds, as they came to understand even the Scriptures in new ways.
The last story is also unique to Matthew’s Gospel. So why does Matthew include the healing of a demon-possessed man at this point, especially since he already told the story of two demon-possessed men earlier and in detail? Matthew probably included this unique story because due to the man’s demon-possession he “could not talk,” but after the demon was driven out, he could. In other words, Matthew included this healing because it fits his pattern of explaining what salvation is and where it leads. In this case, it leads to speaking for Jesus, which is exactly what Jesus commissions His disciples to do in chapter ten.
Matthew’s point is that people who have been saved from sin will see Jesus in new ways and will tell others about Him. Having been lost sheep themselves, they will have compassion on other sheep who also belong to Jesus but have not yet been brought into His fold.
And speaking of speaking, we should mention that there are three kinds of speaking in these final verses. First, the crowds are amazed and speak about Jesus. They say, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” True, but not good enough. At the very least, the miracles should have led them to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. These miracles prepare for the defense of Jesus’ messiahship to the disciples of John the Baptist. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
Second, the Pharisees speak against Jesus. We saw the sad beginning of their opposition earlier when they called His claim to forgive sin blasphemy. Then they criticized him for eating with “sinners.” In the story of the raising of Jairus’s daughter, they laughed at Him. Here they do the worst thing of all. Being helpless to deny the miracle, they attribute it to Satan’s power, thereby showing themselves to be closer to Satan than to Jesus. They say, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
The third kind of speaking is speaking for Jesus, and it is illustrated by the testimonies of those who were healed. They had experienced a wonderful deliverance, and they were unable to keep silent about it. All who have been saved by Jesus will want to talk about it. Don’t you?