BLIND PEOPLE CAN HAVE THEIR SIGHT RESTORED BY CALLING UPON JESUS FOR HIS COMPASSIONATE MERCY
D. A. Carson: It reminds us that the one going up to Jerusalem to give his life as a ransom for many is the Messiah, the Son of David, whose great power, used mercifully (v.30) and compassionately (v.34), is not used to save himself.
Robert Gundry: For Matthew and his audience, their shouting “Lord” two times puts a double emphasis on Jesus’ divine lordship, and their shouting “Son of David” two times puts a double emphasis on Jesus’ human kingship. Their double plea for mercy (the second one implied) asks him to exercise the mercy that he commanded others to exercise (9:13; 12:7 [compare 5:7]). The greater loudness of their shouting a second time and its coming despite the crowd’s reprimand strengthen the plea.
Craig Blomberg: Matthew 19:1 – 20:34 has now concluded the way it began—with Jesus on the road, surrounded by great crowds and healing people (cf. 19:2). Matthew is building up to the climactic entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with which chap. 21 begins. Jesus seems to have a great host of followers and admirers, but they will soon turn fickle and abandon him.
Donald Hagner: Just before arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus performs a striking miracle in the healing of two blind men, who appeal to him using the title Son of David. This is the same title with which Jesus will be greeted on his entry into Jerusalem (21:9). In the temple Jesus will again heal the blind and the lame too (21:14). The present passage thus at once rounds out the preceding main section of the Gospel and serves as a transition to the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem and the events to occur there. The present miracle has the effect of confirming the messianic identity of Jesus as the Son of David. With sovereign power he brings sight to the blind, and they respond by following him in discipleship—all this in strong contrast to the way he will be received by the Jerusalem authorities. . .
Jesus on the way to his death in Jerusalem does not cease being the Messiah who meets the needs of individuals. The giving of sight to the blind is a dramatic miracle that points to the dawning of the era of messianic fulfillment. The Son of David is present among his people. And as he compassionately delivers them from their literal darkness, so he continues on his way to Jerusalem, where in his sacrificial death he will deliver all of humanity from an even greater darkness—that of the bondage to sin and death. . . This healing pericope thus may be seen as the gospel in a microcosm.
Grant Osborne: Jesus takes the blind living in darkness and gives them the light of God so they can see spiritual truth. In Jesus, God is ever open to bring sight to those who call out for divine mercy and open themselves up to his healing presence in their lives.
(:29) GEOGRAPHICAL TRANSITION
“And as they were going out from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.”
D. A. Carson: Matthew and Mark say that Jesus was “leaving,” Luke that he was “entering,” Jericho. . . Many avoid geographical contradiction by noting that in this period there were two Jerichos—an older town on the hill, largely in ruins, and the new Herodian town about one mile away (cf. Josephus, J.W. 4.459 [8.3]). In this view, Matthew and Mark, under Jewish influence, mention the old town Jesus was leaving; Luke the Hellenist refers to the new one, which Jesus is entering. This may well be the explanation. But there is no certain evidence that the old town was still inhabited at this time, and we do not know the local names of the two sites. . .
Jericho was not only the home of Jesus’ ancestor Rahab (1:5) but was also a day’s journey from Jerusalem. The “large crowd” implies more than messianic excitement; it also reflects the multitudes of pilgrims from Galilee and elsewhere heading to Jerusalem for the feast.
Michael Wilkins: Jesus leaves Jericho for the final approach to Jerusalem, which lies ahead on a winding road for fifteen miles as it ascends three thousand feet through dry desert. It would take some six to eight hours of uphill walking, so he and the disciples are naturally eager to make it to their destination before nightfall, because the road was infamous for highway robberies (cf. Luke 10:30ff.).
I. (:30-31) PERSISTENT PLEA FOR MERCY BY TWO BLIND MEN
A. (:30) Seizing the Opportunity to Petition Jesus for Mercy
“And behold, two blind men sitting by the road,”
Grant Osborne: Matthew frequently uses “look” (ἰδού) to add a dramatic emphasis to a scene (see on 19:16). These men are “sitting alongside [παρά] the road,” probably the trunk road to Jerusalem in order to beg alms from pilgrims passing by (quite lucrative at this time of year). The presence of “road” (ὁδός) continues the road to Jerusalem theme (cf. 20:17; 21:8, 19). The emphasis on “hearing” most likely refers both to the excited talk of the crowd that Jesus is approaching and to the previous stories the two blind heard about Jesus.
Bethany Bible Church: Our Savior was on His way at that very moment to accomplish the most momentous work of service in all of history—His sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead for our justification. And yet—even at such an important moment as as that—Jesus willingly stopped on His course to the city to respond to the pleas of to two poor, miserable, blind men whom the rest of the world had largely ignored.
What an encouragement this ought to be to us to cry out to the Savior with importunity! He is never too busy to minister to those who genuinely trust Him and who cry out to Him in sincere faith.
“hearing that Jesus was passing by,”
Matthew McCraw: It’s important to realize that life for blind people is much different today. There are resources, organizations, and advances in today’s culture that are able to assist visually impaired people in a lot of ways. However, blind people in Jesus’ day were often unable to receive any kind of genuine help and as a result, it left them in desperate situations. These two men needed help and they knew that they needed help. They needed mercy from Jesus and they knew that Jesus had mercy for them.
“cried out, saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
Daniel Doriani: Each element of their address merits reflection.
- “Lord” may be the Greek substitute for the name of Yahweh, the living God, or it may be a term for a leader (as in “lords and ladies”). Since most people thought of Jesus as a prophet (21:11) and since we can hardly expect these beggars to know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Second Person of the Trinity, it is the latter.
- Yet the next title, “Son of David,” shows that the beggars knew Jesus was more than a mere man. “Son of David” refers to the king who fulfills the prophecy of 2 Samuel 7. That Son of David would be the king, healer, and leader of Israel.
- Finally, the plea for mercy (“Have mercy on us”) means they believe Jesus has the power to stop and heal them.
Jason Lim: These two blind men, they have 20/20 vision. They were physically blind, but they were spiritually sharp. They knew that this poor carpenter’s son is the very Messiah, the everlasting King. Now many people didn’t see it, especially the Jewish religious leaders. They were blinded! They saw, they heard about Jesus’s great miracles. They heard about his great preaching, but they do not recognize Him as the Messiah. They were blinded by arrogance and pride. But these blind men, reduced to nothingness in society had perfect vision, seeing that Jesus is the Christ.
Ray Fowler: There’s a lesson here for us as well. Don’t let Jesus pass you by. You never know whether this may be your only opportunity to come to Jesus. None of us has a claim on tomorrow. That’s why the Bible says today is the day of salvation. Don’t miss out on opportunities for salvation or Christian growth. Don’t let Jesus pass you by. These two men were determined not to miss out on this opportunity, so they cried out for mercy in faith.
B. (:31) Shouting over the Opposition to Persist in Asking Jesus for Mercy
- Muzzled by the Multitude
“And the multitude sternly told them to be quiet;”
Daniel Doriani: A little earlier, the apostles had tried to keep little children away from Jesus. On this day, the crowd tried to keep the blind men away from Jesus. The crowd rebuked them and ordered them to silence.
Walter Wilson: In overcoming the attempt of a third party to block their access to the healer, the blind men bring to mind the tenacity of the Canaanite woman, who even utters a similar appeal: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David” (15:22). In contrast to Mark 10:46, Matt 20:30 mentions neither the names nor the occupation of the two men, thereby enhancing their representative potential (cf. Matt 9:18 || Mark 5:22). In the same vein, no information is provided regarding how the men have come to know that Jesus is the Son of David, though perhaps the reader is meant to assume that, being blind, they are endowed with prophetic insight. In any event, when they hear that Jesus is passing by the spot where they are sitting alongside the road, they cry out to him (20:30). The response of the crowd, which rebukes the blind men (20:31a), strikes the interpreter as odd, since elsewhere crowds are depicted as following Jesus specifically for healing (cf. 4:24–25; 12:15; 14:13–14; 19:2), and in a short while they will be crying out something very similar (21:9). Perhaps the role of the crowd in this instance is simply to “act as a foil to the welcoming attitude of Jesus,” just as the disciples had done in 19:13–15 (also with ἐπιτιμάω). Note, too, how Matthew omits the mediating action attributed to the crowd in Mark 10:49b, thereby simplifying their role and making the contrast with Jesus more apparent.
- Motivated to Shout Louder
“but they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’”
R. T. France: Matthew does not explain the source of their knowledge. No explanation is given for the crowd’s attempt to silence them, and perhaps none is needed: crowds can be like that! But the result is that the reader is shown the men’s persistence and is given a second chance to hear the title “Son of David,” and perhaps to reflect on the ability of these Judean beggars to discern who Jesus is when the religious leaders in Jerusalem will so signally fail to do so.
Matthew Henry: Here is an example of importunity in prayer. They cried out as men in earnest; men in need are earnest, of course. Cold desires only beg for denials. When they were discountenanced in it, they cried the more. The stream of fervency, if it is stopped, will rise and swell the higher. This is wrestling with God in prayer, and makes us the fitter to receive mercy; for the more it is striven for, the more it will be prized and thankfully acknowledged.
II. (:32-34) MERCIFUL MIRACLE – RESTORATION OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND
A. (:32) Perception of Jesus
“And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’”
B. (:33) Problem of Blindness
“They said to Him, ‘Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.’”
Daniel Doriani: In the Old Testament, there is no record that a prophet or servant of God ever heals the blind. But the healing of the blind is Jesus’ most common miracle. Why? Because the Bible says God alone gives sight to the blind (Ex. 4:11; Ps. 146:8–9). When God restores all things, when his Servant comes, then “the eyes of the blind will see” (Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). Thus Matthew attests the deity of Christ.
C. (:34) Performance of Miracle
- Two Components
a. Motivated by Compassion
“And moved with compassion,”
b. Methodology of the Physical Touch
“Jesus touched their eyes;”
Grant Osborne: Jesus’ compassion and touching their eyes are not found in Mark and add to the centrality of the messianic miracle in Matthew. Jesus’ compassion is also found in 9:36; 14:14; 15:32, all connected to his miraculous ministry to the crowds. Jesus had great pity for the human dilemma and always responded. Most busy teacher-rabbis, let alone messianic pretenders, would never have “stopped” in their rush to destiny to help the unfortunate, but Jesus does so every time. The use of “touch” for healing is also found in 8:3, 15; 9:29 (9:20–21; 14:36 of people touching Jesus) and stresses further the physicality of the miracle.
- Transformation to Discipleship
“and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”
D. A. Carson: Matthew’s account is simple but stresses that Jesus mercifully healed the men despite the opposition of the crowds (v.31) that, like the disciples (cf. 19:13–15), wanted to bask in his glory but not practice his compassion. After this healing, unlike 9:30, there is no command to be silent. That point in Jesus’ ministry has been reached when more public self-disclosure could not change the course of events. The two healed men joined the crowds following Jesus (20:34), pressing on to the Passover they expected and the cross they did not.
Daniel Doriani: By this miracle, Jesus demonstrated mercy in all of its forms.
- First, he acted in mercy by restoring their sight.
- Second, Jesus felt mercy and affection for the men, as we read, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes” (20:34).
- Third, Jesus entered a relationship with them and they followed him.
- Fourth, he entered Jerusalem where he would offer his life for them so he could grant them the mercy of forgiveness.
Matthew McCraw: How many of you all have been changed by Jesus? Now, you are followers of Jesus. Listen, church: Jesus has transformation for you and that transformation is life-changing. That transformation leads to devotion to Jesus. That transformation not only transforms your life, it also transforms you into a Jesus follower.