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Matthew 9:27-31 “Authority to Give Sight”

“And as Jesus was going from there two blind men followed Him shrieking and saying, ‘Be gracious to us, Son of David!’ So, when He came into the house the blind men approached 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, ‘According to your faith it shall be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. And Jesus warned them saying, ‘See that no one knows!’ But they, going out, spread His fame in all that land.”

 

Because the miracle of raising the ruler’s daughter and healing the bleeding woman are wrapped up in a single narrative, this account is the second miracle within the third and final cycle of Jesus’ proven authority. With that, there are several things to observe concerning both Matthew’s context as well as the significance of the event giving sight to the blind in and of itself.


Regarding Matthew’s context, this scene has parallels to previous miracles within this section and makes certain connections to elements of the SM. (1) Thinking of the nearer context, these two blind men bear similarities to the two demoniacs of 8:28-34.[1] (a) There are two of them. (b) Both pairs “shriek” (κράζω) at Jesus (8:29 vs. 9:27). And (c) both pairs correctly identify Jesus (Son of God vs. Son of David). (2) In reference to the SM, Matthew has already revisited the application of fasting (6:16-18 vs. 9:14-17, 18-19, 23-25) and here could be revisiting the issue of mercy/grace/compassion (6:1-4) which is also a blessing promised in the beatitudes (5:7).[2] True to form, Matthew seems to be advancing his narrative while summarizing previous points at the same time.


When we consider the idea of giving sight to the blind, we must recognize it for what it is: completely unprecedented. It is tempting to consider that Jesus raising the girl from the dead would be the climax of this cycle of authoritative proofs. Even though raising the dead is indisputably miraculous, this feat has been accomplished before, even if there are only two Old Testament accounts of it. On the other hand, giving sight to the blind is completely without precedent.[3] Because of this lack of precedence, it is given as a specific sign that will accompany Messiah (Is. 35:5-6). In other words, Matthew is building to a climax of Jesus’ undisputable identity that must also complement His mission. This passage not only proves that Jesus has the messianic authority to give sight to the blind, but through its three stages (following the blind men) Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ mission as savior and restorer more so than His future role as ruler and king.

 

Public Petition: Jesus is Messiah (vv. 27-28a)


Matthew provides some temporal context with the opening words “and going on from there” (καὶ παράγοντι ἐκεῖθεν). “There” refers to the ruler’s home where Jesus has only just raised a little girl from the dead. Having finished His business with the ruler, Jesus departs. As Jesus is doing so (temporal participle from παράγω) two blind men follow Him. This scene therefore takes place in the open and likely in full view of many spectators and interested parties (were the mourners still hanging around to see what would happen?). The two blind men had picked a very interesting moment to make their confident and well-informed move.

 

Well Informed Desperation (v. 27)

And as Jesus was going from there two blind men followed Him shrieking and saying, ‘Be gracious to us, Son of David!’

 

These two blind men were not content to simply tag along with Jesus and the disciples (and perhaps others) who doubtlessly followed Him. The adverbial participles (κράζοντες καὶ λέγοντες – shrieking and saying) complement the main verb (ἠκολούθησαν) to convey what they were doing as they followed Jesus. As already stated, κράζω was the verb used by Matthew to describe the shrieking of the demoniacs in the second cycle of proofs. The term is not altogether uncommon, but always carries a sense of deep conviction whether that conviction is panic (Matt. 14:26, 30), desperation (Matt. 8:29; 9:27; 15:22, 23; 20:30), enthusiasm (Matt. 21:9, 15; 27:23), or even relief (Matt. 27:50). The point is that the blind men were making quite the ruckus and were desperate to get Jesus’ attention. What should draw most of our attention is what these men were saying.


The content of the blind men’s petition comes in two parts. First, there is the request itself. The request for grace/mercy/compassion (ἐλέησον) is a specific request with a rich biblical tradition behind it. The LXX uses this imperative 22x, 19 of which are found in the Psalms (Ps. 6:2; 9:13; 25:16; 26:11; 27:7; 31:9; 41:4, 10; 51:1; 56:1; 57:1 (2x); 86:3, 16; 199:29, 58, 132; 123:3 (2x)). Each psalm’s context deals directly with the perspective psalmist (almost exclusively David[4]) asking Yhwh for grace/mercy (חנן) because of the psalmist’s trust in Yhwh’s promise and/or the relationship the psalmist enjoys with Yhwh. This is an Old Testament prayer which the faithful Israelite made to Yhwh for covenantal restoration/salvation/deliverance and these men are making the same request to Jesus. 


This understanding is confirmed by the second part of their request which identifies Jesus as the Son of David. This is an unambiguous affirmation that these blind men recognize Jesus as the one promised in the Davidic Covenant. In the same way David petitioned Yhwh for grace and mercy in the psalmist, these men petition the Son of David. As they follow Jesus and His disciples (and perhaps others) through the streets of Capernaum, they are screaming for the Davidic Messiah to have divine mercy on them. They know the prophecy of Is. 35:5-6 which specifically relates the coming of Messiah with the blind receiving their sight. That they call Jesus the “Son of David” affirms their faith in Jesus’ identity as God’s Messiah. They may be crying out of sheer desperation, but that desperation is well informed. For being blind men, they saw much better than either the Pharisees or the disciples of John for that matter.


One cannot help but notice that Jesus doesn’t seem to break stride but continues walking with the blind men in tow. This does not seem to be consistent with others who approached Jesus and were met with an immediate response (8:3, 7, 14-15; 9:2, 19, 22). There seems to be two reasons for this apparent contradiction. First, while the title Son of David is certainly a Messianic title, it is a title that emphasizes the kingship of Messiah more than anything else. The role of Messiah certainly includes the kingdom, but also involves being a representative Israelite, substitutionary sacrifice for sin, healer, husband, restorer, and rest-giver to name a few. While Jesus’ Davidic connection (1:1, 6, 17, 20) is necessary, the emphasis of Matthew’s gospel has been on Jesus’ mission of salvation (1:21) through Mosaic Covenant fulfillment (5:17). Drawing attention away from this present mission (salvation from sin) by emphasizing the coming kingdom is not helpful. The Messianic expectation of the 1st century was not a biblical expectation but a political one. Jesus is not a political savior and is not interested in perpetuating that stereotype. He did not come to challenge the political system of Roman subservience by means of Herod Antipas ruling Galilee and Pilate over Judea. Emphasizing the kingly aspect (via names like Son of David) to the exclusion of the savior/redeemer angle will bring confusion at best and incarceration for sedition at worst. At this point, it’s best to just keep walking.


A second reason for Jesus’ apparent indifference has more to do with consistency with His own teaching. He has already taught that giving mercy/grace/compassion (ἐλεημοσύνη – ἔλεος/ἐλεέω) is not something done with the blaring of trumpets in the streets (6:1-4). Because these men ask for mercy/grace/compassion (ἐλήσον - ἐλεος/ἐλεέω) Jesus takes them to a private setting before even addressing them. The grace of God is a tool to establish political or personal credibility.

 

Confident Persistence (v. 28a)

So, when He came into the house the blind men approached Him.


Apparently, Jesus never so much as looked behind Him until He arrived at the house. This is not a random dwelling but is described as the house (τὴν οἰκίαν). The house in question is most likely the house He departed from, that is, Matthew’s house (vv. 10-19), though could conceivably be Peter’s home (8:14) or even His own (4:13). The point is simply that Jesus has arrived at the place where He intends to stay the night after a long day’s ministry. What is remarkable is that these two blind men follow Him inside. It is after Jesus enters the house that these men approach Him. So confident that Jesus is the Son of David that they refuse to be put off by Jesus’ apparent indifference. Nothing but a direct audience with Jesus will satisfy them. Now that they are out of the public eye, Jesus turns His attention to them.

 

Private Affirmation: Jesus is Messiah (vv. 28b-30a)


Because only Matthew records this account, and Matthew does not include any dialogue between Jesus and the blind men up to this point, we are forced to assume that Jesus spoke not a word until the party was off the street and inside the house. The content of the blind men’s faith is superbly accurate, but Jesus says not a word to confirm or deny their proclamations and petitions until they are in a private setting.

 

Faith Confessed (v. 28b)

And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’


It is worth noting that even here, neither Jesus nor the blind men explicitly bring up the issue of blindness or sight.[5] What they asked for was Jesus’ grace and mercy (ἐλεέω) as the Messianic Son of David. What Jesus asks is whether or not they believe (πιστεύω) He is able to do just that. To put it as simply as possible: Jesus asks the blind men if their faith (πίστις) is in Jesus as the Son of David to show mercy/grace (ἔλεος) to them. He is asking them if they truly believe Him to be Yhwh’s Anointed who will open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, make the lame leap like deer, and loosen the tongues of the mute to shout for joy (Is. 35:5-6). They claim that Jesus is the Son of David. But do they trust in Him to possess the ability to graciously restore them as only the Son of David can do. 


Faith, not knowledge, comes to the forefront. The faith (πίστις) of the woman and the ruler was revealed by their actions. They acted because they trusted in Jesus’ authority to heal and restore. Thus far, these two men of professed faith only. Thus, Jesus purposefully centers their attention on Himself as the object of their faith.[6] Do they trust (πιστεύω) Him and do they believe (πιστεύω) that He is able to do this?


Their reply is as simple and straightforward as His question: Yes, Lord. There is no need to downgrade this “Lord” (κύριε) to a polite “sir” nor is there any warrant to guard against the fully nuanced “Yhwh” in their reply. If they know Jesus is the Son of David, who is Messiah (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 72; Matt. 22:42), then why can’t they know that David’s Son is also David’s Lord (Matt. 22:43-45; Ps. 110)? What is even more incredible, being blind, these men saw none of Jesus’ miracles. They are operating solely on what they have heard about Jesus.[7] Yet in hearing, they believed.

 

Faith Confirmed (vv. 29-30a)

Then He touched their eyes saying, ‘According to your faith it shall be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.

 

The touching of the eyes is in keeping with the woman’s touch of Jesus’ tassel and Jesus’ laying His hand on the ruler’s daughter. But even more acute for these blind men, Jesus made contact with them in such a way that there would be no doubt that it was He who healed them. Robbed of their sight, Jesus makes physical contact with their eyes.


Again, faith (πίστις) comes to the center. The statement “according to your faith” (κατὰ τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν) is not a statement of proportion (the amount of faith equates to the quality or extent of the blessing) but is rather a statement of correlating content (you believe that I am able to do this, so it will be done to you). They believed (1) Jesus is the Messianic Son of David who (2) possesses the authority and ability to grant mercy/grace. Therefore, Jesus responds in kind and thus confirms their faith as accurate. 


Their eyes were opened. The verb is passive (ἠνεῴχθησαν from ἀνοίγω – to open) indicating that they did not open their own eyes. It is not as if they simply needed to lift their eyelids in order to see. Jesus opened their eyes for them thus validating their faith in Him to do so. Jesus is the Son of David who gives sight to the blind. The beauty of this miracle is in the simplicity of Matthew’s telling.

 

Public Proclamation: Jesus is Messiah (vv. 30b-31)


With the miracle comes the aftermath. We are not always told what happens after Jesus heals or restores someone. Matthew tells us nothing of the leper, the centurion or his servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, or any of the rest after Jesus had healed and restored them. Yet here, at the climax of Matthew’s authoritative proof, we learn what happens with these two men after Jesus has acted for their benefit and according to their faith. 

 

Direct Demand (v. 30b)

And Jesus was moved by them saying, ‘See that no one knows!’


The demand to say nothing is not completely without precedent. Jesus said something similar to the leper (8:4), yet that had more to do with the leper wasting no time in order to get to the temple and present his offering in accordance with the Mosaic Law. This command to say nothing is different. Most translations render ἐμβριμάομαι as “sternly warned”, which fails to capture the nuance of this strong term. This is the same verb translated as “scolding” (Mk. 14:5), “deeply moved” (Jn. 11:33, 38) and “disheartened” (Dan. 11:30). Ancient writers have used this verb to describe the snorting of an anxious horse. The passive voice (ἐνεβριμήθη) makes Jesus the recipient of the action and thus describes Him as being moved or disheartened by them (αὐτοῖς). Something about these men moved Jesus on a deep level, agitating and disturbing Him so that He says, “See that no one knows!”

This is very similar to what Jesus told the leper, though here it is greatly abbreviated. To the leper, Jesus gave additional instruction with a rationale. To these men, no such additions are given. There may even be a play on words in relation to their eyes being opened and their sight restored: see (ὁρᾶτε) no one knows (μηδεὶς γινωσκέτω). Jesus could not have been more direct.[8] No one is to know. 


Two questions immediately come up. What is no one to know and why? Regarding the what the two men are to keep secret, it cannot be the fact that they are no longer blind. Is Jesus really commanding them to pretend to be blind for the rest of the lives?[9] Nor is it likely that Jesus commands them to keep secret the fact that He was the one who restored their sight. Because Jesus is the only resident miracle worker, what other explanation could there be for the sight these two men now possess? The answer then lies in the only remaining piece of the puzzle: the identify of Jesus as the Son of David. It is not that Jesus is afraid of drawing attention to Himself as a worker of miracles (He’s hardly been keeping a low profile) but that He is avoiding the politically charged identity as the Son of David.[10] 

This now helps to answer the second question of why Jesus should command these men to remain silent. Clearly, these two men have made the connection between Jesus and His Messianic identity. But because the title Son of David carries such a political force (literally the heir of David and rightful claimant to Israel’s throne), this title is not one Jesus wishes to pursue at this time. He has come to save His people from their sins (1:21) not to rule and reign as David’s son and heir (Ps. 72). He has come to call Israel to repent (4:17) not rebel against Rome. To proclaim the king and the kingdom without repentance and faith in the One who not only forgives but also pays for sin would undermine Jesus’ mission and is in fact very similar to what Satan offered Jesus (4:8-9). This command is an imperative to leave off with the “Son of David” language. All will become evident in good time.

 

Direct Disobedience (v. 31)

But they, going out, spread His fame in all that land.


The two men did not listen. There is no way around it and no way to justify their response to their savior’s command. The point is not to make comment on their redemptive status. Their faith was accurate and genuine. They believed Jesus was God’s Messiah with all of the details zeroed in with lazar-like precision. They trusted in Jesus’ ability to be gracious to them, to show them mercy and Jesus responded to their faith. Yet, they were more consumed with what their Lord had done for them that they neglected to observe what He commanded them. This is the danger of man-centered theology which focuses on the blessings to the point of completely forgetting the One who blesses. Leon Morris summarizes well by saying, “These two men had faith, and it was in response to their faith that they were given sight. But they lacked obedience. They did not supplement their deep conviction that Jesus could give them sight with an equally deep resolve to do his will” (p. 235).


These two are remarkable in that being blind, they see much more clearly than those around them (the Pharisees and John’s disciples). They believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of David and the son of Abraham only from what they have heard about Him. These are excellent qualities that set them apart from most. And yet, they did not follow Jesus. 

We are not told what happened to these two men after this encounter. Perhaps they returned, repented, and remained loyal to their Lord. Yet, two points are to be made. The first deals with Matthew’s intention. There is a coming collision point where the people of Israel are going to be forced to come to a decision about Jesus. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and they must make a choice for themselves. Is Jesus the Christ, the son of David, and Israel’s savior? And if so, will they follow Him? The second is more applicational in nature. Knowledge about Jesus is not the same as faith in Jesus. Likewise, faith in Jesus is not the same as obedience. One must know before one can believe and in believing one follows. But these terms are not interchangeable. It’s one thing to know who Jesus is and quite another to trust Him. It’s one thing to trust Him, but that demands that we put that trust into action and obey Him.



[1] Archibald Robertson, Matthew and Mark, vol. I, VI vols., Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1930), p. 74.


[2] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), p. 400.


[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992), p. 232. Not only is there no OT account of the blind given sight, but of Jesus’ miracles, restoring/giving sight to the blind is the largest of any category (raising the dead, healing from illness, casting out demons, etc.).


[4] Of the listed psalms, only 199 and 123 are without an explicit claim of Davidic authorship.


[5] Morris, p. 234.


[6] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1973), p. 436.


[7] Morris, p. 234.


[8] Grant Osborne, Matthew, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2010), p. 356.


[9] The present imperative ὁρᾶτε carries the sense of “keep seeing to it” and thus indicates a continuing action. The men are to see to it not only today, but tomorrow, the next day, and so forth.


[10] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), p. 379.

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