Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Matthew 9:27-31 - "And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him..."

Two blind men come after Jesus crying, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" They must have had a guide to help them because they managed to get as far as following Jesus all the way into the house he was entering. What house is this? No explanation is given, but back in 9:1 it says Jesus had arrived at "his own city." It's possible he is still in his hometown and has gone back to his family's house where he grew up, which is why there's no explanation about it. Just a guess.

Once again Matthew emphasizes in the telling of this story the faith of the people Jesus heals. Over and over Matthew has shown us different degrees and expressions of people's faith in Jesus. The leper who says, "if you are willing you can make me clean," the centurion who says, "just say the word," the disciples who say, "save us, Lord!" the paralytic who implores in silence, the synagogue official who says, "lay your hands on my daughter and she will live again," and the hemorrhaging woman who thinks, "if I just touch his garments I will be healed."

Here in this story the blind men demonstrate faith by calling Jesus "Son of David," a messianic title. Furthermore they follow hard after him, even to the point of intruding into someone else's house. And yet Jesus demands more. He wants to know specifically whether they believe he can heal their blindness. He says to them, "Do you believe I am able to do this?" They answer, "Yes, Lord." Jesus touches their eyes and says, "Be it done to you according to your faith," and their eyes are opened.

When I first became a Calvinist, my understanding of the sovereignty of God ramped up about tenfold. It was awesome. But one of the difficulties of believing in such an all-knowing, all-powerful God is that prayer doesn't seem to fit in very well with that understanding. If God knows all my needs and has the ability to provide for all that I need, and if he even knows what I need before I think it or name it, and has known it even from the beginning of time, why on earth should I take the trouble to pray to him about it? Dear God, just do it. Why should I have to say it? Why should I put myself through the suspense of asking for something and waiting to see if you'll give it to me and getting disappointed when I don't receive it and holding out hope that maybe you'll still answer and all that bother? You know. You see. I'll just let you do your thing, and that way I don't have to pray to you about what I need all the time, okay? Thanks. Amen.

And yet there stands Jesus before two blind men who have gone through a great deal of trouble to gain an audience with him. He knows their need and sees it plainly, yet still he wants them to say, "I believe you can heal me." For him it is not enough to be treated like a power-dispensing machine, like some blind force of nature that rains on you when you're feeling thirsty and shines on you when you're feeling cold. With Jesus it has to be personal. He wants you to come to him and say, "I need you to do this. I believe you can, I know you can." He wants you to claim him. That's what belief is, isn't it? It's saying, "Not only do I believe you can do this for anyone, but I believe you will do this for me, because you're mine, and I'm yours."

Being a Calvinist may help you understand that God knows all things and has decreed from eternity past the history of the universe from the beginning to the end. But one thing theological knowledge will not tell you is whether you belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to you. That's something you can only find out by seeking a relationship with him. You have to come to Jesus and say, "I believe." You have to bring your blindness to him and say, "Lord, open my eyes so I can see you." You have to get up and to follow him. That's why these Gospels were written, to instruct us about what's truly important in the Christian life. Nothing else matters by comparison.

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