Matthew tends to arrange the information about Jesus’ life topically. Chapters 5–7, for instance, collect Christ’s teachings about His own authority. In like manner, the evangelist devotes chapters 8–9 to material that depicts Jesus’ authority apart from His actual instruction on the subject. Instead, Matthew focuses on miracles that illustrate the Savior’s control over the natural (8:1–27; 9:18–31) and the supernatural (8:28–34; 9:32–34).
Today’s passage concludes Matthew’s record of the Lord’s authoritative signs and wonders with His miraculous loosening of a mute man’s tongue. Specifically, demonic oppression renders the man unable to speak (v. 32). The Greek word describing the man’s condition may also indicate that the evil spirit has made him deaf as well. In any case, note that, contrary to many Pentecostal teachers, muteness and other ailments are not always due to demonic possession. Elsewhere, Christ heals the mute without an exorcism (15:29–31). John Calvin comments on today’s passage: “It is probable that this man was not naturally dumb, but that, after he had been given up to the devil, he was deprived of the use of speech; for all dumb persons are not demoniacs.”
Again, the healing of this mute man is significant because the prophets foresaw that the tongues of the mute would be loosened in the messianic age (Isa. 35). With this miracle, as with His restoration of sight to the two blind men (Matt. 9:27–31), Jesus is showing Himself to be the Messiah. And as the son of David, the Christ brings both physical and spiritual wholeness. The early church father Jerome makes the point that “spiritually, just as the blind men receive light, so too the dumb man’s tongue is loosened that he may speak and give glory to him whom he once rejected” (Commentary on Matthew, 1.9.33).
The crowd marvels at the Redeemer’s work, but many Pharisees credit the exorcism to Satan’s power (Matt. 9:32–34). Notably, the Pharisees do not doubt that Jesus has actually cast out the demon, they only disagree with the Lord over the source of His power. As we should expect, even a miracle cannot make the heart-hardened lovers of sin change their worldview (Ex. 7:14–25).
Luke 16:19–31 tells us that there are some who will not believe even if they see someone rise from the dead. Apologetic arguments and ministries of mercy are good things and powerful witnesses to the truth of God, but they cannot soften a hard heart apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. This is why the ministry of prayer is so important to world missions and evangelism. Pray for a country this week that is openly hostile to the Gospel.
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