“Believe ye that I am able to do this?”
“And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country. As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:27-38)
In the passage before us two blind men and one who was possessed by an evil spirit and could not speak were healed by the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of his touch. The two blind men who were healed came to the Lord Jesus seeking mercy. These two men, who had been companions in misery, were about to be made companions in mercy. The things written in these verses of Scripture are here recorded by divine inspiration to teach us about the mercy, grace, and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ and about our responsibilities before him. Notice what Matthew tells us about these men.
They were blind. All men are spiritually blind. They were earnest. They meant business. They were determined to give the Son of God no rest until he gave them rest. They followed the Savior through the streets and on into the house, crying for mercy. They believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed him to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of David. They acknowledged and confessed him as “Lord.” And they believed he was able to give them their sight. They believed him! They believed him to be both omnipotent and merciful. They sought the right thing — Mercy! They cried, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” All who seek for God to deal with them on the basis of what they deserve shall have what they deserve – everlasting ruin. But all who seek mercy shall obtain mercy (Jer. 29:13-14). They obtained the thing they desired. “Their eyes were opened.”
The two blind men came seeking the Lord; but the poor demon-possessed man who could not speak was brought to the Master (v. 32). Notice the word “behold.” This is a striking case. This man was not himself. A demon had taken possession of him. He does not cry for help. He does not come to Christ. But someone cared enough for his wretched soul to bring him to Christ. Let us do the same. Some will come to the house of God because God creates in them a need to be in the place of worship. But multitudes will never come until gracious souls go out and bring them into the house of mercy.
The experience of grace is vividly portrayed in these three men. The examples are set before us, one immediately following the other, to teach us that the experience of grace is as varied and diverse as the recipients of grace. All three of these men needed mercy. All three obtained mercy. All three obtained mercy through Christ the Mediator. But they did not obtain it the same way. Mercy came to the blind men only after they actively, earnestly sought it. But mercy came to the dumb, demon-possessed soul by such immediate power that he never even thought about it before he had obtained it.
Salvation is the same wherever it is found. It is the same in the experience of all who are saved. Every true child of God has experienced the same salvation. All are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But we do not all experience grace the same way. Paul’s experience was not the same as Lydia’s. Both experienced the same grace, but not the same way. The experience of grace is not always the same. Our needs are the same, the grace is the same, and the results are the same; but the experience is not the same. Yet, all who are saved have a “common salvation” (Jude 1:3). We have a common Savior. We are born into a common family. We have a common Father, a common hope, a common blessedness, and a common inheritance.
We must never try to put God in a box of our own making, imagining that he must work in the way we think. As “the wind bloweth where it listeth” (John 3:8), the God of all grace works as he will. And we must never attempt to determine the validity of one person’s experience of grace by comparing it with our own or another’s.
Faith is frequently found where it is least expected by us. Who would have thought two blind men, or that poor demon-possessed wretch would have believed on Christ? The multitudes marvel, but believed not (v. 33). The Pharisees blasphemed (v. 34). But these three needy souls believed and obtained mercy. The two blind men could not have seen the miracles the Lord Jesus had performed. They were blind. But having heard the common reports of Christ, they believed him. And believing him, the eyes of their understanding were enlightened. It is written, “Faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17).
The Word of God teaches us, with unmistakable clarity, that faith is the gift of God. Faith in Christ is not something we muster up in ourselves by the exercise of our freewill. Faith is something God the Holy Spirit gives to and produces in chosen, redeemed, called sinners (John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:16; Eph. 2:8; Col. 2:12). It is a gift which God sovereignly gives to some and withholds from others (John 10:25-26). It is a gift that God works in sinners by the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10:17). And the object of God-given, saving faith is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures also tell us that faith in Christ is the commandment of God (1 John 3:23) Being God’s commandment to us, it is the responsibility of all who hear the gospel to believe on his Son. Many appear to be incapable of seeing that both these facts are true. When we assert that faith is God’s gift and God’s operation we are denounced by some as hardshells and hyper-calvinists. When we declare that it is the responsibility of sinners to trust Christ we are denounced by others as Arminians and freewillers, teachers off “duty faith,” and accused of teaching that faith is a work of man.
I will leave it to others to beat the winds they blow. The Word of God is crystal clear. If any sinner believes God and is saved by his grace, it is because God gives him faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). If any abide under the wrath of God, it is because they do not believe on the Son of God (John 3:36).
Another thing clearly set before us in these miracles performed by our Savior is the fact that there is a direct correlation between our faith and God’s work. Our Lord asked the blind men, “Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched him. Their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you” (vv. 28-29). Spurgeon wrote, “He touched them with his hand; but they must also touch him with their faith…If we do not in very truth trust our Lord, we shall die in our sins.” How thankful we are that it is not always true, but frequently the measure of our mercies is our faith, or our lack of faith in our God (Isa. 48:18-19; Mark 6:5-6; John 11:40). We must never blame on God’s sovereignty that which is the result of our own shameful unbelief. I often wonder what God might do, if we simply believed him.
"And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country" (vv. 30-31).
The Lord Jesus commanded these men not to tell anyone what he had done for them. We are not told why he did this. It is obvious that our Master was not like the self-serving, glory seeking preachers of our day. He did not seek and did not want worldly fame. And he who is God our Savior is under no obligation to give us the reasons for that which he does or commands us to do. Our Savior’s language was clear and emphatic. In fact, it was a stern command. But they disregarded his command. He left them no option: he demanded complete silence on their part.
Such disregard for the word of our God is utterly inexcusable. I am sure these men convinced themselves that their disobedience was really what the Master wanted them to do; but they were dead wrong. We are never doing right if we disobey Christ. Even if the results turn out to be advantageous, disobedience is not to be excused. – “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). In all things it is our responsibility to submit to and obey the revealed will of God.
I have no doubt that these men did not disobey the Savior contemptuously. They were, I am sure, filled with gratitude and joy, and desired to give him glory for the wondrous work of mercy he had performed for them and in them. Their love for Christ was the thing that moved them to speak forth his praise. But our affections, emotions, and thoughts are not to be our guide, or the rule of our behavior. Our only guide, our only rule is and must be the revealed will of God our Savior. And his Word is his revealed will.
When the Lord Jesus cast the devil out of the man in verses 32 and 33, “The Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” Then, we read in verse 35, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” That was our Savior’s answer to their blasphemous slander. He simply ignored them and went on doing what he was sent of the Father to do. We would be wise to follow his example. Nothing is ever gained, and much lost, by answering the slanderous accusations of men.
We see in the miracles that are described in this passage that none are beyond the reach of Christ’s omnipotent mercy. We must never despair of anyone’s salvation, merely because he lives in unfavorable circumstances. Grace is stronger than circumstances! We must never despair of any because they are blind, or because they are under the yoke of Satan, or because they obstinately refuse to come to Christ. Our Lord’s arm is not shortened that it cannot save. His omnipotent arm of mercy can both break the power of Satan and break the power of man’s obstinate rebellion (Ps. 110:3).
Matthew tells us that the Lord Jesus healed “every sickness and every disease.” None were too loathsome for him to touch. None were too far gone for him to cure. The Son of God is indeed “The Great Physician.” All physical healing is his work. We use medicine, doctors, and hospitals, just as we look both ways before crossing a busy street. But we look to our God for life and health.
The healing of our souls is altogether his work, too. As we read the succession of miracles performed by our Savior in this chapter, remembering that all the maladies and woes of Adam’s fallen race are the result of sin, we ought to be moved to adore and praise him who came into this world to “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” How thankful we ought to be for our all-glorious Christ who came here to destroy the works of the devil! He is the Balm of Gilead. He is the Sun of Righteousness who has risen with healing in his wings. “With his stripes we are healed.” There is no disease of soul he cannot, or will not completely cure (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1:30-31).
Moved with Compassion
Verse 36 shows us that the Lord Jesus is a Savior full of compassion for needy souls. — “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd”(v. 36). I cannot imagine why anyone would feel obliged to try to make this say less than it does. We have here a great display of our Savior’s great compassion. We ought to rejoice in it and pray for grace to emulate his compassion. When our Savior saw the lost multitudes before him, he was overcome by sympathy. What he saw with his eyes affected his heart. His whole being was stirred by the sight of perishing souls. “He was moved with compassion on them!”
What are our thoughts when we see the lost multitudes around us? Multitudes are seen on every side, Muslims and Jews, Papists and Protestants, intellectuals and scoffers, who are spiritually blind, ignorant, unconverted, lost, and perishing! They are as sheep without a shepherd, unfed, unfolded, unguarded. What will become of them? Do you feel their destitution? Do you long to see their destitution relieved? These are serious questions; and they ought to be honestly answered. Those who are unmoved by perishing souls do not have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few, pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (vv. 37-38). — There is a great harvest of souls to be gathered by grace for which we are responsible. The harvest of souls to be gathered out of all the earth is a great multitude, which no man can number. They are God’s elect, Christ redeemed ones; and they must and shall be gathered. The Lord of the harvest is the triune God. He owns the field and controls it. The plants to be gathered are his; and the laborers are his.
Our Savior here calls faithful gospel preachers “laborers” because the faithful performance of their work involves arduous labor. God’s servants labor in the Word and in the doctrine, labor in prayer and the study of Holy Scripture, devoting themselves to the work as workmen that need not be ashamed, for the glory of Christ and the salvation and edification of God’s elect. But such laborers, men who are willing to spend and be spent for Christ, are in every place and generation few.
“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” — None but God himself can send them forth. Man-made preachers are not just useless; they are in the way. Only God can, by the power and grace of his Spirit, gift a man for the work of the gospel ministry, incline his heart to the work, and enable him to perform it faithfully.
Yet, it is the responsibility of every believer to make God’s harvest a matter of prayer and personal concern. Our Savior says to his disciples, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” You may not be called and gifted of God to perform the work of a pastor, evangelist, or missionary; but there are many things you can and should do. You can give generously to support the preaching of the gospel. You can bring people to hear the gospel preached. You can distribute tapes and literature proclaiming the gospel. And you can pray. Pray for those God has sent forth as laborers in his vineyard. Pray that he will raise up and send forth others. And pray that he will give his church a time of reaping.
Our Lord Jesus asked the blind men, and I put the question to myself and to you, — “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” Do we believe that he is able to heal the blind, free the possessed, and gather in his lost ones scattered through all the earth? This much I know – If we believe him, we will act accordingly.