Friday, August 13, 2010

Matthew 9:32-34 - "And as they were going out, behold a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to him."

Our last passage ended with Jesus warning the formerly-blind men not to tell anyone about their miraculous healing. Since the opening of chapter nine Jesus has had his first confrontations with open hostility, beginning with the scribes who grumbled about his pronouncing forgiveness upon the paralytic, and then the Pharisees who complained about his eating with tax collectors and sinners. It's possible that Jesus tends to be more secretive about his miracles where there's unbelief, and perhaps that's why he charged the blind men he'd healed not to say anything. Of course they went around spreading the news anyhow and, sure enough, guess who shows up to spy out Jesus' activities? The Pharisees come ready to put their own spin on the miracle Jesus does with the mute, demon-possessed man.

This story of healing is different from the others we have read up to this point because the emphasis is not on Jesus' interaction with the man (or, I should say, the demon who controls the man). The demon is cast out and the mute man speaks--Matthew is rather blasé about it. Matthew instead wants to draw attention to the contrasting reaction Jesus gets from the crowds and the Pharisees. The crowds say, "Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel." But the Pharisees say, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."

Sometimes you think, "If I just tell everyone about what Jesus did for me, or about the miraculous answer to prayer I received, or if I bring people to hear the word preached at church, then they'll want to become Christians too." But as you can see from this passage, not everyone who sees Jesus really sees Jesus. We are all like the blind men of the previous passage, waiting to be healed of our spiritual blindness. When the crowds see Jesus' miraculous powers they marvel, but only as those who see in part. As for the Pharisees, they are not only completely blind, but they don't even know they are blind, otherwise they might have asked to be given sight. They are in the worst possible spiritual state: blind, yet thinking they can see. The evidence of their utter blindness is that they call Jesus' miracle an act of black magic. Where there's white they see black and what is black they call white. A holy act of God is an act of the devil in their eyes, and their own wicked self-righteousness is pleasing to God in their minds.

The crowds marvel, but Jesus knows that is different from believing and following him as a true disciple. Jesus is never enamored by the applause of crowds. He knows they yet hang in the balance, and at some point each individual must decide for himself or herself what to make of these things. Like Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus has come to strike the hearts of the multitudes and divide them to either one side or the other. And with the Pharisees having chosen their side, you can already see it happening. Is Jesus the Son of God or the ruler of demons? Are these holy miracles or devilish magic? Shall we hail him as king or crucify him as evil?

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