"According to Your Faith"
(Delivered Sunday, October 30, 2005 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)
I'm going to ask you to do something unusual this morning. Now, to get ready for it, I ask you to first arrange yourself so that you're sitting right next to one other person. Now, please turn in your Bible to the ninth chapter of Matthew. Keep your Bible on your lap and opened up to that chapter, because we're going to look at it a little later.
Now, once you're situated and comfortable, I'm going to ask you to do something that is going to be a bit of a challenge. On the count of three, I'm going to ask you, and the person sitting next to you, to both close your eyes - and I'm going to ask you to keep them closed for most of my sermon this morning!
Now I know that, ordinarily, a pastor would have to be out of his mind to actually ASK people to close their eyes during his sermon. I already know that some of you were going close them anyway . . . without my asking! But I have a good reason for asking this today. I want you to just relax and listen for a while. I want you to use your imagination; and actually feel as if you've become a part of this morning's story. You're going to need to keep your eyes closed in order to do so.
So, are you ready? One - two - three! Close your eyes.
Now keep them closed until I tell you to open them. It'll be hard to do; but do your best not to open them. In fact, pretend that even if you wanted to see, you couldn't.
You see; I've just put you into this morning's story from the Bible. I've just turned you into two blind men who lived 2,000 years ago; sitting by the side of the road in the ancient Galilean town of Capernaum.
* * * * * * * * * *
How did you come to be blind? Well, we're not told the exact details. You might have been born blind. Or you might have become blind as a result of an accident. It may even be that you became blind through an illness or an infection. Historians tell us that this - unfortunately - was something that happens to people quite often in your day. You live in an unsanitary world compared to the one from which you just came. There isn't any such thing as "eye protection" in your day. The combination of hot summers, the glare of the sun, the dirt, the dust, and the flies that prevail where you live, all combine to aggravate any infection or inflammatory disease that may strike your eyes.
But in the end, it doesn't much matter how it happened. All you know is that you are blind - and your blindness is beyond human remedy.
May I tell you how you might possibly look? I'm sorry to tell this, but it's not a very pretty sight. Ancient near-eastern eye diseases were often very repulsive - looking not too different from the effects of leprosy, in some cases.1 The skin around your eyes would be red and swollen; and your eyes would be pale and shrunken - or in some cases, grotesquely protruding. Your infected eye sockets would often run; and would be itchy and painful.
And you yourself are in a pretty pathetic condition. You're poor and needy. You can't work. You can't participate in the normal, daily life of your people. There aren't the kinds of accommodations in your world such as would have been made for you in modern times. There are no signs on doorways that are written in braille. There are no sloped sidewalks, so that you can walk up into different places with safety and ease. There are no guide dogs to protect you and lead you; no books on tape to help you read; no television or radio so that you could at least hear the news. You have no protection from abuse, or from the cruelty of passers-by, or from people who steal from you or take advantage of you.
You are constantly at the mercy of others. You are constantly in need. You are constantly in a world of darkness. And all that you can do is sit somewhere and ask alms of people as they go by. It's a sad and lonely existence.
Ah; but isn't it nice that you at least found each other - you and the blind man beside you. Perhaps you knew each other at some other point in life. But it's just as likely that you were simply needy strangers who happened to stumble upon one another - two poor blind men that share a common state of helplessness and need. Perhaps you felt that you could make it along better with each other than you each could on your own; and so, you cling to one another in this lonely existence of yours. You both "look out" for each other . . . so to speak.
* * * * * * * * * *
Today, you're sitting along one of the roads near Capernaum, waiting for the daily traffic of alms-givers to come by.
For two men without sight, you've actually gotten to be pretty good at getting around together. You can tell what time of day it is by which side of your faces the heat of the sun beats down upon. You can tell what direction you're both facing by the smell of the fishy wind that blows up from the busy shores the Sea of Galilee. And you can even hear the screeching of the sea birds - and the chatter of the crowds in the market places.
And speaking of that chatter; it sure has been interesting chatter lately. You've both been hearing a lot of talk in town from the passers-by about this prophet from Nazareth - this Man named Jesus. You heard about the amazing sermon He preached up on the nearby mountain. People still talk about how they never heard anything like it. They say that this teacher Jesus doesn't speak like the scribes do; that He teaches as one possessing a great authority all His own. And the things they say that He said - things the likes of which no one had ever heard before! - things that had more than just a deep and profound ring of truth to them!
They say that multitudes where there to hear that sermon of His. Oh, how you both wish you could have been there too . . . to have heard Him with your own ears!
* * * * * * * * * *
But it wasn't just the things that people are saying about His teaching that catch your attention. You also hear the news going all over Galilee about the things He does! You hear about how He heals all kinds of people - people who are afflicted with various diseases and torments; people who are demon-possessed, or epileptics, or paralytics! From the talk you've been hearing, you'd think that there was nothing this Man Jesus couldn't do!
Why; just the other day, you heard someone talking about a leprous man that Jesus healed! They say that this horrible leper came right up to Jesus and worshipped Him - calling Him "Lord", and saying, "If you are willing, You can make me clean!" And then, you heard that Jesus just reached out His hand and touched the man! No one ever dares to touched a leper; but this Prophet Jesus did. And they say that, when He did, the leper was instantly healed . . . of all his leprosy! The people you heard talking about it say that they heard the story directly from the leper himself!
Then, you heard that Jesus entered into town and, right away, healed the servant of a centurion. The young man was paralyzed, they say; racked with pain and torment! And yet, Jesus healed the poor man from a distance - just by speaking a single command! He merely spoke the words, and the paralysis left the man that very hour!
What's more, you heard that it wasn't too long after that that Jesus healed another paralyzed man - a man who was lowered down through a roof to Him. The story is that there were lots of people who saw it; and that they marveled that God would give such power to men!
In fact, you even heard that Jesus went to a fisherman's house and healed the fisherman's mother-in-law of a terrible fever. She got right up, they say, and made everyone dinner! And then, before the day was over, you heard that crowds and crowds of people gathered at the fisherman's house - bringing all kinds of sick people, and demon-possessed people; and Jesus healed every one of them!
And so, you both begin to talk and reflect together on the things you've been hearing about this Jesus. You've both been to lots of doctors in your time - and none of them have been able to help either of you with your eyes. But you start thinking to yourself, "Who is this Man? If the things I'm hearing about Him are true, then He must not only be a great prophet and teacher! He must also be the greatest healer that ever lived!"
* * * * * * * * * *
And then you think that, perhaps, He's more than just a prophet and a miracle worker. Maybe much more than just a mere man.
One of you says to the other, "You know what I heard? I heard that He was out in a boat with a few of His followers - caught in that strange storm that struck the lake the other day. Do you remember how it came suddenly - how we could hear the wind howl; and how we had to grab our wraps, and keep them from blowing away because of the strong breeze?
"And then, remember how it all just suddenly stopped; and how there was a great calm afterwards? It was weird! Well; I was told by someone that it stopped because this Jesus stood up in the boat and commanded the wind and the waves to become calm - and they obeyed Him! He may be a great prophet and a great healer; but who ever heard of a mere man who could command the weather?"
Then, the other of you says, "Yeah! I heard about that too! And I heard something else that'll really raise the hair on the back of your neck. You know about the two demoniacs on the other side of the lake? Scariest two guys you'll ever run into! They met Jesus and His group on the shore - but not to threaten Him like they typically do to others. This time, they came to Him in fear - falling on their knees and trembling before Him. I heard that the demons begged Him not to cast them out. I heard that they cried out to Him, 'What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?'
"And then do you know what happened? He cast the demons out and into a heard of pigs! Pigs didn't do too well, I hear; but those two guys are perfectly fine now."
Then you sigh; and say, "Well, I can think of two other guys that could really do with a meeting with this Jesus!"
* * * * * * * * * *
Now you can just imagine that, when you're a couple of blind men sitting along the road in ancient Capernaum, you've got some time to think. And you don't have much in the way of distractions, if you know what I mean; so you can think pretty deeply.
So, you start to roll things around in your mind. "'Son of God', eh? That's what the demons called Him? They said, 'What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God?'"
"Yes; that's what I heard. And you know; it has started me to thinking about a promise from the prophet Isaiah. I don't know why I remember it so clearly just now; but it says, 'Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong. do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you."'"2
"I know that passage! I was thinking of it too. That's a promise about the Messiah - the long-awaited Son of King David.3 And do you remember how the rest of that scripture goes? It says, 'Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing . . .'4 Do you think it really could be that the Messiah has at last come? - that He really walks the streets of our own town?"
"It must be! My heart tells me it's true. After all, everyone is talking about Him in ways that no man has ever been talked about before. The stories being told about Him can't have been made up. Too many people have seen Him do these things that only the Messiah can do! They say that they've never seen anything like what this Man does!"5
* * * * * * * * * *
Now; with these kinds of thoughts rolling around in your mind, you begin to hear a commotion. There are crowds and crowds of people coming walking along the street - almost running, actually. They're talking wildly and excitedly. Is it a parade? Is there something wrong? What in the world is going on?
One of you reaches out and pleads with someone to stop and explain. And someone stops - almost breathless with joy - and tells you!
"It's Jesus! The Prophet from Nazareth is passing by just a few streets over! And I saw what He did! It was a miracle! He was on His way to the home of the ruler of the synagogue, going to heal the man's sick daughter. Then, He stopped along the way and healed a sick woman of her bleeding disease. She had been sick for twelve years - and yet, she merely touched the hem of His garment and was healed! Completely healed! And then, He went to the ruler's house and raised his daughter! She wasn't just sick - she was dead! And yet, He raised her to life! He's passing by right now, on His way to the house of the fisherman! Everyone is heading there! I'm going too!"
"Wait!" you both cry out. "Take us with you!" But it's too late. The man who was telling you this has hurried away and is gone.
And so, you both jump up and stagger behind the crowd, shouting out, "Jesus! Help us! Heal us! We know who You are! You are the Son of David! The Messiah! We know it! Stop for us! Wait for us! Have mercy on us!"
Right now, there is nothing more important than for both of you to get to Jesus! Nothing can stand in your way! There may not be another chance! So you run as fast as you dare - shouting all the while; "Son of David, have mercy on us!" One of you trips on something and falls hard to the ground; but the other stops to help, and you continue to run. The other of you slams into the side of a house; but the other holds you and helps you. You are running recklessly; but neither of you cares! How glad you are that you have each other!
Together, you keep stumbling and running - hands out, groping desperately for the crowds that are following Jesus - listening, and straining to hear the sound of the mob - and crying out the whole time long, "Jesus! Wait! Son of David - Messiah! Have mercy on us!"
You now know in your heart that nothing is too hard for Jesus. Surely, it would be easy for Him to give you both your sight. But why won't He stop for you? Why won't He wait for you? Doesn't He hear your cries? Doesn't He care?
And yet, you have both determined that you will not take "no" for an answer! You both must have Him touch your eyes! You both must have Him heal you! You both are determined to do just as your great, patriarchal father Jacob did - you will find this One who is God in human flesh, and you will both grab ahold of Him, and you will both say "I will not let you go unless you bless me!"6
* * * * * * * * * *
At long last, you reach the outer fringes of the crowd. The chatter is almost deafening; but you can hear them as they talk about Jesus. You can hear them say that He went into the house; and so you feel your way through the crowd to the door - shouting out for Him all the while, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" You push your way through the crowd. People see the determination on your sightless faces; and they get out of your way. You must get in to Jesus!
And then, you reach the door. Someone stops you. "Hey; you guys can't go in there!"
"Out of our way!" one of you snaps! "We may be blind, but there're two of us!" And so, he wisely moves aside. And in you go. No house - no doorway - will stand in your way. You enter, shouting over the voices inside, "Jesus! Son of David! Can you hear us? We can't see You; but can You see us? Oh please, have mercy on us!"
You must be getting closer to Him. You feel the people inside moving out of your way - making room for you. And then, you hear the room grow suddenly silent and still. It must be that He sees you. It must be that you are right there before Him.
And then, you hear the most wonderful voice you could ever hear, breaking the silence. It's a gentle voice - but a very strong and commanding voice as well. It's His voice; and He says to you, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"'Able to do this'?", you think to yourselves. "So then; He did hear us after all! He wasn't ignoring us! He knew all along what we wanted!"
And so, there you are - two poor, helpless, needy blind men; standing before Jesus. And of course you believe that He is able to give you your sight. That's why you fought so desparately to get to Him. And so, you both dare to speak to the Son of David, and say, "Yes, Lord!"
Then, you are startled to feel the sudden but gentle touch of His hand upon your eyes! (Reach up right now, and touch your own closed eyes.) Can you imagine what it must be like to feel the touch of Jesus' hands upon your eyes? What a wondrous experience that is! No one would have dared to touch your eyes before. They're too repulsive. But He is a God of great mercy and love. He touches your eyes without even being asked to.
And then, He says to you both, "According to your faith let it be to you."
Now, dear brothers and sisters; open your eyes.
You can see!
* * * * * * * * * *
Now, as your eyes adjust to the light; just let those words of our Savior sink in: "According to your faith let it be to you."
Do you know that the problems we face in life - the challenges we deal with, or the trials we undergo, or the needs we have; whatever they may be - are never the real problem? We face them in the presence of One for whom nothing is impossible. The "problems" we face are never the problem when Jesus is present!
No. The real problem is us! Our own lack of faith in Him is the problem.
And so, there's a great and very practical lesson for us to learn from this morning's passage. It teaches us that Jesus is a merciful Savior who is sufficient to meet any need for anyone who has sufficient faith in Him. Now that you've "experienced" it in your imagination, let's read it together.
The setting was the time when Jesus left the house of the synagogue ruler; after He had raised the man's daughter from death. Matthew tells us that "the report of this went out into all that land" (Matthew 9:26). And it's then that we read;
When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to 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 let it be to you." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "See that no one knows it." But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country" (Matthew 9:27-31).
* * * * * * * * * *
Let's quickly consider a few of the details - and learn the lessons of faith it seeks to teach us from these two blind men.
First, notice what it teaches us about . . .
1. THE NATURE OF THEIR FAITH IN JESUS (vv. 27-28).
The most important thing to notice is what they believed about Jesus Himself. They called Him "Son of David" - which is a very "messianic" name. Jesus once asked the Pharisees, "What to you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" And they answered correctly, "The Son of David" (Matthew 22:42).
Clearly, these two blind men understood who Jesus was. He was the long awaited Messiah - the promised offspring of King David - the One from God whose throne would endure forever! They had put the pieces together about Him; and believed. You might remember that Matthew introduces Jesus to us at the very beginning of his Gospel by saying, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David . . ." (Matthew 1:1); and yet, the cry of these two blind men is the first time anyone actually called Him by that name.
You might say that these two blind men "saw" Him more clearly than anyone else. They stumbled upon the truth about Him, but believed the truth about Him with all their being. Theirs was a saving faith. I believe we will see them in heaven! And I also believe that they will see us too - if we have the same faith in Jesus that they had.
* * * * * * * * * *
And then, notice how it was their understanding of who Jesus was that motivated them to seek His mercy so aggressively. Look at how they "demonstrated" their faith in Him! Matthew tells us that they "followed" Him - even into the house! He says that they cried out to Him - with what we might call "importunity"! They asked for "mercy" from Him. The tense of the verb that Matthew uses lets us know that they were continually, persistently crying out to Him for mercy.7 They would not give up.
And the reason for their persistence is because they knew - with unshakable confidence - that because of who He is, He could heal them of their blindness! When He asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?", they answered in a strong affirmative: "Yes, Lord."
Their answer was not like the man who once asked something from Jesus with the qualifying "if" - saying, "If You can . . ." Jesus told that man, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes"; and the man cried, saying, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:22-24). That man was honest; and Jesus was merciful to him. But I note that there was no "if" with these two blind men. There was no qualifications; but just a simple, straight-forward, "Yes, Lord. We believe you can do it!"
And that's the kind of faith to which our Lord responded.
* * * * * * * * * *
Now, stop and think about something with me for a moment. We've all heard the stories - tragic stories - of people who have had sick children, and who, in the name of "faith" have refused to give those children medicine or any kind of doctor's care. They have boasted that they rely only on "faith"; and, as is often the case, their child dies and they are prosecuted for criminal neglect. How do we view such things in the light of this story?
Well; I think it's important to notice the manner in which the blind men approached Jesus. When Jesus asked if they believed He could do this, they didn't just answer, "Yes". They said, "Yes, Lord." And that last word - "Lord" - lets us know what they understood about Him. They recognized that, as Lord, the prerogatives where all His. It was up to Him to heal them, or to not heal them. And if He chose to heal them, it was up to Him as far as how it would be done. He could have just as easily said, "According to your faith let it be to you. Go to the doctor, and I will grant success to his care for you."
You see; the way people often fail is by placing their faith in the wrong thing. They place their faith in "faith" itself. And there's a huge difference between "faith in Jesus as Lord" and "faith in 'faith'". "Faith in 'faith'" very quickly turns faith into a form of magic. And our faith is never to be in "faith", but only in a divine Person - a Person who is sovereign; and who acts toward us according to His own will, with wisdom and love and authority.
To place a demand on Him that He heal - or, for that matter, that He answer any request we place before Him - in the specific way that we demand, is to "boast" in a faith in "faith"; and to treat "faith" as a kind of "lever" we pull to get the results we want. And when we do that, we cease to recognize Jesus as "Lord".
These two blind men give us a great example of faith. Their faith was not in the power of "faith", but rather in the power of Jesus as "Lord". That makes their faith a very bold and very Christ-honoring faith.
* * * * * * * * * *
Next, notice . . .
2. THE RESPONSE OF JESUS TO THEIR FAITH (v. 29).
Notice first how Jesus seems to have been slow in answering to their request for mercy. Isn't it fascinating that He makes them work at getting an answer?
You realize, I'm sure, that if our mighty Savior could feel the tiniest touch of the sick woman who reached out to touch His garment (vv. 20-22), then He surely would have heard the cry of these two blind men. And what's more, He clearly demonstrated that He knew what they wanted well in advance; because when they came to Him, He didn't say (as He once said to another blind man), "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Matthew 20:32). Instead - without even once asking what they wanted - He said, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
What's more, do you notice that He makes them come out and say it? It's as if He forces them to stand before Him and say, "Yes, Lord! We believe You can open our eyes and give us our sight! We really do believe it! Look how hard we have worked to get to You! Look how we would not take no for an answer! It's because we really, truly believe that You are the Son of David - God in human flesh; and that it's in Your power to give sight to the blind, just as the scriptures say!"
Could it be that one reason we don't always see immediate answers to our prayers is because Jesus is seeking to draw out of us a clear testimony of our faith in Him? Could it be that He is making us work at it, because He wants to get us to the point where we trust in nothing but Him personally as Lord first, and truly "see" Him for who He really is? Could it be that we don't always get what we're asking for right away because we're not truly asking with the right kind of faith in Him yet? Could it be that we don't get immediate answers because we're not yet asking in accordance with His sovereign will to answer?
Perhaps you have a need; and it doesn't seem as if Jesus hears your cry. Could it be that He is making you work at it for a reason?
* * * * * * * * * *
Finally, notice . . .
3. THE RESULT OF JESUS' RESPONSE (vv. 30-31).
One result is, of course, quite obvious. The two men received what they asked for. They could see.
But notice also what Jesus says next. Matthew says that Jesus warns them "sternly" not to tell anyone about it. It's as if, now that their eyes are open, He grabs them by the shoulders, looks them square in those healed eyes, and says, "Now listen to Me, fellas. See to it that no one knows what I just did for you. I mean no one! Tell nobody! Got it?"
Why would He say this? I suspect that Jesus wanted no one to know about it because, if they did, the crowds of people would soon so surround Him that He could no longer move around. We're told that, in spite of Jesus' stern command, these two went out anyway and "spread the news about Him in all that country" (v. 31). And as we read on, just five verses ahead, we see that Jesus then beheld "multitudes" (v. 36). He had compassion on them all; but it surely must have gotten to the point that He could hardly walk across the street because of the crowds pressing in on Him!
Let me make two observations about this. First of all, we have to admit that the two blind men disobeyed Jesus. I don't think we can condone what they did; but personally, I find it hard to blame them. I suspect that they could barely keep it in! They were almost ready to explode with joy over what Jesus did for them! And who would we be to point a finger at them? He told them to keep quiet about Him, and yet they blabbed the news all over the place; but He commands us to tell everyone everywhere about Him, and yet we keep quiet.
And another thing I notice is that, in telling everyone, look at what it is they told. They didn't tell everyone about themselves. Matthew says, "they spread the news about Him in all that country". They told of Him; because it was by faith in Him that they could now see.
* * * * * * * * * *
So; what need do you have today? How great is your need? I hope now that you know that the greatness of that need is not the real question.
The real question is suggested in Jesus' words to the blind men: "According to your faith let it be to you." The real question is, How much faith do you have in Jesus? What do you believe He is sufficient to do?
1Fredrick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2004), Vol. 1, p. 436.
32 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14.
7The present active participle of kraző (to cry out) is used.
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