On November 30, 1991 fierce winds from a freakish dust storm triggered a massive freeway pileup along Interstate 5 near Coalinga, California. At least 14 people died and dozens more were injured as topsoil whipped by 50 mile-per-hour winds reduced visibility to zero. The afternoon holocaust left a three-mile trail of twisted and burning vehicles, some stacked on top of one another 100 yards off the side of the freeway. Unable to see their way, dozens of motorists drove blindly ahead into disaster. That is a metaphor for all people on the road of life. But it is even worse with people’s spiritual lives. If you are driving a car in the middle of a dust storm, you just might be able to tell whether you can see or not. Look out your windshield. Can you see? But people are utterly blind even to the fact that they are spiritually blind. That is what sins does. As my teacher Paul Tripp once said, “Sin blinds us to our blindness.” To a great extent, the Gospel is about getting people to see. As the great hymn Amazing Grace has it, “Was blind, but now I see.” That is really what this passage is about: spiritual blindness.
Well, if the story right before this one is a resurrection story that proves that Jesus is the fountain of life, this story proves that Jesus is the fountain of light (as Matthew Henry puts it). Two blind men follow Jesus. Notice several things about these blind men. Of course, they cannot see. But to go further than that: they could not have seen the miracles that Jesus has already done. And yet they believe that Jesus can heal them. So, they ask Him. Their faith is an example of what Jesus says in John 20:29: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It is important to realize the full meaning of how they ask. They call Jesus the Son of David. They are the first in Matthew’s Gospel to call Jesus by that name. It is a Messianic title. That is, they believe that Jesus is the one promised in the Old Testament. He would bring in the new era of good things for God’s people. They believed that Jesus was the one to fulfill Isaiah 35:5, which says this: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” Well, the first part of that verse applies to our story here, and the second part of that verse applies to the next story, which is of a deaf mute receiving the ability to communicate. So, the blind men believe not only that Jesus is the Messiah, but also that Jesus has the power to make them see. Notice that they did not actually ask specifically to be made able to see. We can infer that by good and necessary consequence from what they ask. But what they actually ask has more to it than a simple request for healing. They cry out to the living God to have mercy on them. Their blindness is not merely a physical problem. There is certainly a spiritual blindness that they can now see. Isn’t that ironic? They cannot see physically, but they can at least see that they are spiritually blind. The Pharisees can see physically, but, as we will see next week, they cannot see spiritually at all.
Notice something else about these two men. They want to be healed. They are very eager for Jesus to heal them. They want it badly. Verse 28 shows us how much they wanted it. It says that Jesus entered the house. What this implies is that Jesus did not answer them right away. Instead He delays in order to create suspense. This suspense tries the faith of the blind men. They have to keep on pursuing Jesus in order to obtain what they are seeking. As Matthew Henry tells us, this makes them more prayerful, makes the cure more valued, and taught the blind men to continue in prayer until God answers. So, the delay teaches us something as well. We are to be eager for God’s answer. God does not cast us out. Oftentimes He delays His answer in order to test our faith. How badly do they want it? One of the saddest things about modern people is they do not want to be healed. Barclay tells us the story of a man who was an alcoholic. He was asked whether he wanted to go get treatments for his addiction. He said, “I do not want to be cured.” You would think, wouldn’t you, that most people would love to be cured of their sin problem. You would think they would be as eager as these two blind men were. But it simply isn’t the case. So often, we do not want the cure. We would rather wallow in our sin, then take the few steps of faith to get to Christ. How sad is that! What is the solution for such people? How can they be told that they need Jesus? They have to be shown Jesus. They have to have their eyes opened. They are blind even to the fact of their spiritual blindness. They need eyeglasses, specifically the eyeglasses of God’s Word. They need the Gospel. You see, just as Jesus Christ is the Living Word, and He can make people see, so also the Written Word makes people see as well. Many theologians have called the Bible “a pair of spectacles” that makes us see what we could not see before. Are you blind? We all have some aspects of blindness. None of us can see as we ought to see. The solution is always to put on the spectacles of the written Word in order to see the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
Obviously, it takes faith to do that, doesn’t it? To a large extent, this miracle is about faith. It is faith in Jesus Christ, in His power that is the real point of this miracle. What does Jesus ask them? “Do you believe (that is, do you have the faith that says that) I am able to do this?” This is the faith question. Do you believe that Jesus Christ can save your life from the pit of hell, from your sin, from the spiritual death in which we all find ourselves. As Matthew Henry says, “Faith is the great condition of Christ’s favours.” Jesus Christ does not heal those who do not trust in Him. As we have seen over and over again already from Matthew’s Gospel, the miracles are each a snapshot of what salvation itself looks like. As Albert Barnes says, “It was on this simple profession of their faith that the miracle was wrought, as it is on the simple profession of our faith that our souls will be saved.” That is the message of this miracle. Do you believe that Jesus is able, because of His death and resurrection, to save you from your sins? Do you believe that He took on Himself the guilt of your sin, and that He gives you in return, His perfect righteousness?
However, it is not merely unbelievers who suffer from blindness. Even those who see can have blind spots. We might believe that Jesus is able to save us from our sins. But do we believe that Jesus has our best interests at heart in the difficult times? Maybe your fields got quite a lot of hail last week. You wonder why God would do that when it has been such a good year for rain. It seems like such a waste. Perhaps God is wanting to make you see something about his character that you didn’t see before. Look for it. Be looking for that aspect of God that you didn’t see before. Or maybe you didn’t see before how it applied in a specific situation before. You see, it is not the case that this miracle stops applying to our lives once we become Christians. Yes, we were blind, but now we see. But we don’t have perfect vision yet. The eyes of faith see but dimly, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians when he says that we see now as in a glass, darkly. Our vision is cloudy, somewhat like trying to look through a dust storm at times. Indeed, we never will see perfectly until faith actually becomes sight in the new heavens and the new earth. Then we will see Jesus face to face, and there will be no more faith. Faith is how we live here in the Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis calls them.
But Jesus does not reproach His followers for a faith that does not see everything. Again, as Matthew Henry tells us, “It is a great comfort to true believers, that Jesus Christ knows their faith, and is well please with it.” We saw last week how Jesus healed people who had a weak faith. He does not leave us with a weak faith. He is always strengthening it by giving to us the means of grace, telling us to make use of them. However, He does not throw us out because we are imperfect. We are always imperfect in this life. If we were perfect, we would already have the resurrection body. This brings us to an immensely practical application. Do we treat one another as though they should be perfect right now? We may think to ourselves that if they were a true Christian, then they would never sin, and they would certainly never falter or have any doubts at all. And then we look down on those who seem to be struggling. But what did Jesus do? He did not cast them out. He built up their faith. And so should we. Instead of focusing on all the ways that that person has not arrived yet at full maturity, we should be encouraging people in regard to those qualities of faith that are there. Sweet encouragement goes infinitely farther than acid criticism to build up another person in the faith. If you want to exercise your wonderfully critical eye, which sees so much, then direct it back to your own heart.
One last point of interpretation needs mentioning here, and that is the disobedience of the two men after their healing. The reason for Jesus’ warning is that He does not want people to think that He is a political Messiah until the week of His crucifixion. Otherwise, they might try to make Him a king. He wants His kingdom not to be of this world. Therefore He instructs those He heals not to talk about it. This interpretation is confirmed when we recognize that when Jesus did miracles among the Gentiles, He never warned against their telling other people about His miracles. Gentiles, of course, did not have political expectations concerning a Messiah.
So these men disobey their Lord immediately after receiving this great gift. Our proper response to God’s grace is obedience, not disobedience. Obedience to what? Obedience to God’s law. And remember, we do not obey God’s law in order to obtain favor with God. Rather, we obey God’s law out of gratitude for what He has done. He has opened our spiritual eyesight in order to see Him with the eyes of faith! We need to walk in the light, and not stumble around as if we were still blind.
The last application we can glean from these verses comes from looking at Jesus’ example. As Matthew Henry again says, “It must be more our care and endeavor to be useful, than to be known and observed to be so.” Why do you do good deeds? For your own status in the Christian fellowship? So that your neighbors will think well of you? Or do you do them because they are the right thing to do, and because you want to please God? If you do it from that motive, then truly you see, and your eyes have been opened. Give God all the glory.