Matthew 9 - IVP New Testament Commentaries
Astonishing Cures for Disabilities
Matthew here reports some more incidents reflecting Jesus' authority to heal.
Jesus Responds to Faith (9:27-29)
See further comment on 20:29-34. The blind men's initial act of faith is approaching Jesus with a plea for mercy (5:7; 20:31; Mk 10:47), recognizing that they are dependent on his kindness rather than on any merit of their own (contrast Greek prayer-comment on Mt 6:7). Their initial faith also includes a recognition of Jesus' identity. Here two blind beggars confess Jesus' messianic identity (Son of David) before Peter does (16:16; compare Jn 4:25-26). Yet despite their initial acts of faith, Jesus forces them to clarify that they not only seek his help and recognize his identity but also acknowledge his ability to heal this otherwise irreversible disability (Mt 9:28). Jesus refuses to heal without faith; he is not a magician, but one who seeks to glorify his Father (compare 13:58).
Jesus Can Cure Anything (9:30)
His ability to cure includes both natural ailments (vv. 27-30) and demonically induced ailments (vv. 32-33), even though we may not always be able to discern the difference apart from divine guidance. Matthew relates these narratives in large measure to encourage us concerning the character and power of the One we serve.
Jesus Avoids Publicity, but Word Spreads Anyway (9:30-33)
In regard to the messianic secret, see comment on 8:1-4. Despite Jesus' attempt to preserve some measure of the secret (9:30), perhaps to delay unnecessary hostility (v. 34), word spread and his popularity increased (vv. 31, 33).
Ridicule Is the Only Tactic Left to Jesus' Opponents (9:34)
Matthew writes not only to encourage his community that Jesus can meet their needs but also to remind them that the opposition they face is not new; Jesus himself had to face it. Jesus' most religious contemporaries were so sure they were right that they were by now sure that he was wrong, preferring to explain his works as emanating from a source other than God (12:24; Mk 3:22; Jn 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20).
When enemies of the Christian message cannot win a debate according to traditional rules of evidence, some of them change the rules, and those who follow them blindly usually assume that they are correct. When the academy became largely anti-Christian, many Christians reacted against academics; meanwhile those who learned of Christianity only from secular academic sources were often misinformed about its character. When possible, a better response than withdrawal would be for Christians to respond reasonably to opposing arguments and maintain that posture despite the opposition, recognizing that many other hearers will listen to the truth (Mt 9:33; Acts 17:32-34).
The Pharisees were hardly antisupernaturalists; they believed miracles could happen. The consensus seems to have been, however, that though some might seek to adduce miracles in support of their claims, scholarly tradition took precedence over miracles (as in t. Yebamot 14:6). We ourselves recognize that charlatans and false prophets can work signs and wonders (Mt 24:24). But it is too easy, even for Christians, to use charlatans as an excuse to ignore the real workings of God. One can understand the sentiments of religious people in Jesus' day; after all, they may have reasoned, if God were still doing miracles like those he had done through Elijah and Elisha, surely he would have been doing it through them. They, after all, were sure that they were the ones with correct doctrine. When we become so sure of our theological system that we cannot listen to anyone else no matter how cogent their evidence, we may risk repeating the kind of mistake many of Jesus' contemporaries made.