The Messiah at Work, Part 3
I’m not sure what comes to your mind when you think of a powerful person. In our culture today, we often think of someone whose really busy, influential, proud… Maybe arrogant. Someone who has a lot going on and doesn’t have time to worry about others, and probably wouldn’t if they could.
I also wonder what comes to your mind when you think of someone compassionate. You probably think of someone in a lowly spot in life, with very little power. Many of us tend to think of someone who has no influence, but who empathizes with people who need some extra love and help, because they themselves have needed some help.
The point is that when we think of power and compassionate, the two seem mutually exclusive. We don’t really think of them hand in hand together because in the world, they very seldom are. But not so with Jesus!
If we’ve seen anything about our Lord in Matthew so far, it’s that He breaks the categories of the world, and boggles everyone’s mind’s. Jesus is powerful beyond imagination, and at the same time, as we’ll see today, He’s also compassionate beyond measure.
Today we’re going to look at 3 miracle accounts that show us just how true this is. There are actually 4 miracles, but the first two are presented as one event, and they prove some very similar points.
Remember, Matthew has been presenting us with a trilogy of 3’s. Three miracles, and then Jesus would teach. This happens three times, and today is the last set of three miracles. So, if you’re not already there, please open your Bibles to Matthew 9 starting in verse 18.
THE RULER’S PLEA
"18 While he was saying these things to them,"
Alright, stop right there. What things was Jesus saying to them? Remember last week Jesus was explaining that He didn’t come to “fix up” old dying religion for old hearts. He came to give new life and new hearts.
The kingdom of God is here, and Jesus is showing us what it looks like with both His teaching and His miracles. So, while we go through the text today, keep in the back of your mind that these events are painting a picture for us of God’s kingdom; who’s allowed in; how do we “get in”; how does life change once we’re “in”?
behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”
So, we have a ruler, kneeling before Jesus and he’s showing faith! Matthew doesn’t actually say what kind of ruler, but Mark tells us that this man’s name is Jairus, and he’s a synagogue leader (Mark 5:22); a religious leader of the Jews.
So already there’s some irony going on here. Jesus just got done pointing out that their religious system was obsolete, and yet a leader from that system is here, kneeled before Him, showing childlike faith.
How do we see his faith? Well first of all, he bows down to Jesus. The KJV interprets this word as worship, and while it’s probably not quite that strong, this ruler is at least identifying Jesus as a powerful master, worthy of reverence.
Secondly, he’s showing trust in Jesus in front of religious leaders who hate Jesus. Remember, this account is picking up right from last week, so there are religious leaders just outside, if not inside.
And here comes Jairus. His religious buddies were probably thinking “oh he’s going to ask a good question, and trip Jesus up!” A silence probably falls around the place to hear what Jairus is about to say.
And this brings us to the third way he shows his faith; he asks Jesus to come and touch his dead daughter to raise her from the dead. Matthew is telling us that she had just died. This is raw.
During that era, almost half of all children died before adulthood. But you parents here today, you know that statistics could never take away the sting of death, and all of the tears it would bring.
His daughter dies, and he doesn’t go to the religious for comfort. He doesn’t go to the synagogue. He doesn’t even stay with his mourning family. He goes to Jesus.
He’s never seen Jesus raise a dead person. He’s likely heard of Jesus’ other miracles… but nothing like what he was asking Jesus to do now. But he’s desperate.
We shouldn’t get the idea yet that Jairus is looking to be a sold-out disciple of Jesus. He defiantly doesn’t have the faith of the centurion who didn’t even ask Jesus to come to his house.
His faith certainly isn’t perfect… But Jesus is his only hope. If anyone can heal her, Jesus can.
So, what does Jesus say? How will Jesus respond to imperfect, desperate faith?
THE MESSIAH'S REPLY
19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.
We don’t even know what Jesus said. Or if he said anything at all! We just know that He rose up right away to help this man.
We know that Jesus wasn’t afraid to rebuke imperfect faith (remember His rebuke; “O’ you of little faith in Matthew 8:26”). So, Jesus could have also rebuked this man, and then help him. But he doesn’t do any of that. He simply raises up to go and raise this girl up from death.
This shows us that Jesus will always respond with charity and grace to imperfect faith, because it’s not about how good or durable our faith is. It’s about Jesus’s heart for sinners, and about Jesus getting glory out of our circumstances.
If death isn’t enough to stop Jesus from getting glory and helping desperate sinners, then neither are any of our circumstances.
So, they’re on their way to Jairus’s house to raise his daughter, and now they’re interrupted;
A MIRACLE ALONG THE WAY
20 And behold, (look!) a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment,
Matthew doesn’t tell us exactly what was causing her discharge of blood, but from what we know it was likely a hemorrhage, or a never-ending menstrual flow. Physically she would have bee exhausted and debilitated.
But maybe worse than that, were the impacts that this would have had on her social and community life.
Leviticus 15 tells us that because of this woman’s condition, she, and everything she touched, and everyone who touched her, and even those who only touched the things that she touched…. Were unclean.
Think about how that would impact her life! No normal family relationships… No friends (none who could physically console her at least) …. No ability to publicly worship, or take part fully in her religion.
You can’t help but think of the leper. This woman likely hasn’t felt a touch in years... 12 years. Can you imagine 12 years without family, or friends, or worst of all, 12 years without coming to be with the church? Imagine 12 years with no EBC!
This woman was a total outcast from the religious community and from society. And just like Jairus, she was desperate.
21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”
Now there’s a couple things mixed into this statement. Firstly, why is she only wanting to touch the fringe of Jesus’s garment?
One possibility is this; She didn’t want to impurify Jesus, so she didn’t want to get very close to Him. “I’m unclean … what business do I have to touch… Jesus?!” But even so, because of her desperation, she pushed through the crowds to try.
But we can’t miss how great her faith was! She still believed that there was something special about Jesus! That He was so powerful that even touching His clothes would reverse 12 years of physical and social misery.
So again, we have a mix of faith and desperation… She didn’t have everything together, but she did come to Jesus! So, how will Jesus respond to desperate faith this time?
22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
12 years of misery…. And when she comes to Jesus everything changes with one command. Instantly she was made well.
No more avoiding friends and family! No more being careful not to touch stuff and contaminate people! Now she can freely go to the temple and worship the God who just healed her! She was clean.
Notice that Jesus audibly says with everyone around listening that she was well now. This would cue to everyone watching that this woman could become part of the community again!
This shows us something about Jesus’s heart for His people. His will is to make them clean and put them back into the community of God’s people! He doesn’t want us to be alone on our own!
And why do I say God’s people and not just social community? Well, look at what Jesus calls her… “Take heart… daughter.” Better than any other community she could have been a part of, now that she had faith in Jesus, she is called daughter, and a part of God’s family.
We should just be amazed at how quickly this woman’s life changed because of Jesus. I hope by now we’re seeing the power and compassion of Jesus working side by side.
Just a couple more points here; the phrase “your faith has made you well” is a phrase that has been abused by a lot of false teachers, and we’re going to come back to that point later in the sermon.
But also, the words “made well” could also be interpreted as your faith has “saved you”. I think Matthew used a word that could mean both on purpose, so that in this woman we could have a pattern and example for saving faith.
Imperfect and desperate, but world changing. So, take heart! This isn’t just a story about this woman. This is a story about everyone here who crawled to Jesus and became pure through Him.
Now remember, this miracle only happened on the way to raise Jairus’s daughter. Can you feel each of Jairus’s steps becoming lighter as he walks with Jesus and sees Him dispensing miracles on the way?
Can you feel his faith building with every step? Jesus hasn’t done what Jairus is waiting for yet, but just walking with Jesus, he’s seeing just who it is he’s trusting in. So, now back to Jairus.
JESUS’ POWER OVER DEATH
23 And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”
We know from ancient reports like Josephus’s that funerals, much like weddings, were a big deal to people in that day. Not to downplay their significance today, but at this time, they were way more of an ordeal.
Even poor people hired flute players, and professional mourners to just stand there and weep and wail for the deceased. And Matthew says there was just that – along with a commotion. Needless to say, there were loads of tears.
And Jesus just walks in and says…” go away – she’s not dead but sleeping”.
Imagine Jesus doing this at the funeral of your loved one! What would your reaction be? Well, here was theirs;
And they laughed at him.
No kidding! We don’t know if they were laughing because they thought it was funny, or if it was a laugh of mockery mixed with anger and emotion, but it’s hard to judge them for laughing. If Jesus was an ordinary man, what He just said was ridiculous.
25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.
Wow. It may be important to note here that this wasn’t the first resurrection in the Bible. Elijah and Elisha each raised someone from the dead (Elijah:1 Kings 17:17-24, and Elisha: 2 Kings 4:17-37).
But when they did this, they had to pray to God fervently, and throw their bodies over these people, and they really weren’t even certain it would happen. They were just asking the one who could raise people from the dead to help them.
But Jesus… Without praying… Without giving thanks after… As easy as waking someone from sleep, took her hand and gave her life. Just like that!
Unlike the prophets, Jesus has life in and of Himself. Jesus is the author of life. John says that “In Jesus was life. And the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
Perhaps the Son of God was the one who Elijah and Elisha were asking, without knowing it, for the power of life… Wow.
So, for this girl, death really was just (in a sense) sleep. For those who go to Jesus, death isn’t a cul-de-sac of darkness. It’s just a dark tunnel that we go through until one day Jesus raises us all from dead permanently.
26 And the report of this went through all that district.
I Bet! How could you keep silent after that! You wouldn’t be able to help but share what Jesus had done.
Let’s quickly reflect on the contrast between these two miracles, because there’s a point here. Both were women, and women were often ignored in that culture. One girl was rich. One was poor. One belonged to an elite religious family. One was an outcast.
But Jesus loved both.
THE INSIGHTFUL BLIND MEN
Now we move on to our second miracle story, starting in verse 27.
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
Yet another miracle just as Jesus is walking from point A to point B. Jesus is full of miracles, it’s like they just flow from Him!
Now blindness was considered the incurable disease in those days. Almost even as much as death. Nobody in the Bible so far has been cured of their blindness… yet.
They call Jesus “Son of David” which is the first time in Matthew’s gospel that someone besides Matthew Himself at the beginning of the gospel, calls Jesus the Son of David.
So, not only did this show faith, but it showed a more theologically accurate faith. They expected that Jesus was the Messiah, David’s son – which means He would be the king and bring the kingdom of God!
This is a Messianic title. Isaiah 42:7 promised that God’s servant would open the eyes of the blind, and they expect that Jesus can do exactly that. The irony is that though they’re blind, they see Jesus maybe more clearly than anyone has so far.
28 When he entered the house, (So, Jesus doesn’t even answer them their first attempt at begging. Instead, He just walks into a house.) the blind men came to him, (so they followed Him desperately) and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”
It’s interesting that Jesus asks them if they believe He can do this. Isn’t it obvious? They’ve already confirmed His identity, they even followed Him into the house.
Matthew is drawing clear attention to their faith. So, lets follow Matthew’s lead, and look at three things their faith shows us;
- Who or what should our faith be in? Jesus the Son of David. The Messiah come to save God’s people!
- What do we have faith in Jesus for? Mercy. “Have mercy on us Son of David”. Ultimately, we don’t go to Jesus because He owes us a miracle. He doesn’t owe us anything, and we may not always get a miracle.
But He does freely give away mercy. That’s our greatest need. Forgiveness, and mercy in spite of our sins.
- How should we come to Jesus in faith? Desperately. Imagine how hard it would be to follow Jesus through a crowd blind. And when He goes into the house, they don’t give up!
They just follow Him in! We need to go to Jesus with persistent desperate faith that keeps knocking, and keeps seeking, and keeps asking.
And because of their faith;
29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened.
Jesus heals blind sight. Jesus is the only one who can take away blindness physically and spiritually.
Exodus 4:11 asks who gives men sight or removes it — “Is it not I, the Lord?” Psalm 146:8 declares, “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” Let those verses sink in.
Now I said earlier that we’d discuss the phrase “your faith has made you well” which gets abused so often. I thought it would be appropriate to discuss it along with this phrase “according to your faith, let it be so”.
Many false teachers will say these verses show that the amount of someone’s faith is what heals. However, much faith you have is how much healing you get. Didn’t get healed? Not enough faith. But we know already from Matthew that this isn’t true, don’t we?
I mean think about the imperfect faith we’ve seen so far, but Jesus still heals. Think about the centurion. He had even greater faith than anyone in Israel, including these people! Did they get any less healed? No.
It’s not the amount or perfection of someone’s faith that appeals to Jesus, but the mere presence of faith. We should also add that faith doesn’t always get you your miracle.
Sometimes Jesus went off and prayed instead of healing. Sometimes He passed through whole towns without healing anyone.
The only sure promise we have when we come to Jesus in this life is mercy. And faith the size of a mustard seed wins Jesus’s mercy. And shouldn’t that be enough for us?
Continuing in verse 30;
And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”
Why didn’t Jesus want people to know about this? Likely because if this word spread, He would be crowded more and more, which would encumber Him and make His ministry harder.
We also know that Jesus wasn’t wanting a big movement or rebellion. But what do they do anyway?
31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
It would be easy to look at this and think this is an act of “cute disobedience”. “Oh, they disobeyed, but they had good intentions. Besides, what harm could come from spreading Jesus’s work?”
This is how we view a lot of sins in our culture actually. “It’s technically wrong, but it doesn’t hurt anyone, and the Lord knows my heart!”
But Matthew puts this here as a subtle rebuke to the blind men’s disobedience. In other words, we can’t disobey Jesus, even if His command doesn’t make sense to us. Even if we think we’re doing something right with good intentions, disobedience is disobedience.
Once they gained their vision, at least for a time, they stopped living by faith, which is always shown in obedience.
JESUS AND THE VOICELESS
So far, we have the ruler’s daughter and the woman with the discharge, along with the story of the blind men. Our last miracle begins in verse 32.
32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke.
There’s not much ink spilled over this miracle. There’s no discussion of the faith of the mute, and hardly any on the miracle itself. Jesus is powerful over demons, He casts them out, the man is free. Simple as that.
And while that’s still amazing, the focus here isn’t on the miracle, but rather it’s on the reactions to the miracle.
And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
Nobody has a category for Jesus! And if nobody in Israel among God’s covenant people has ever seen anything like this, then we can safely say that nobody in the world has ever seen anything like Jesus! They’re amazed.
But the pharisees - the teachers of the law. The ones who should be able to so clearly see Jesus! What do they say?
34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
…What? Amazing! They think that Jesus is a servant of Satan, doing this all in Satan’s power! They don’t even deny that Jesus does mighty works! They can’t! Nobody can. But they write it off to Satan.
Even the blind men could see who Jesus was, but the Pharisees can’t! What a twist of the knife of irony. In Matthew 23 Jesus will call the Pharisees “Blind guides, blind fools”, and “blind men”.
John 9:39 says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
This is one of the great reversals of the kingdom of God. Desperate sinners given sight, and religious leaders who should see but don’t are given in to their blindness.
We should appreciate how difficult of a situation this is. Israel’s pinnacle of organized religion just labeled Jesus a servant of Satan!
So, we have 1) Jesus, 2) The crowds, and 3) The Pharisees. The crowds are sort of in the middle. They see how great Jesus is and marvel.
And the Pharisees aren’t just snickering, obviously evil bad guys in the corner. The Pharisees are the ones teaching these people the law. The Pharisees are the mentors, and spiritual fathers of the crowd.
They’ve probably led these people through some hard times, and these people probably loved them. And now they’re telling the crowds that Jesus is of the devil.
The cost of following Jesus just went though the roof. There are two mutually exclusive groups now. Jesus, and the Pharisees. And the people can’t follow both.
Even though it may seem more nuanced today, the world is still always fighting for our allegiances. The world or Jesus. Not both.
This is a huge turning point in the gospel of Matthew. The whole dynamic shifts. We’ve seen the Pharisees questioning Jesus’s theology before this, but this is way more explicit.
This is like one those scenes in a movie where you’re not sure how bad the bad guy really is, and then he says that one really ominous thing, and the whole conflict launches from there.
From now on Jesus and the religious leaders are going to be head-to-head, and this theme going forward ultimately leads to Jesus’s death.
JESUS, POWERFUL AND COMPASSIONATE
So, today what do you say to Jesus? Firstly, we’ve seen His power. His power over chronic disease. His power over death. His power to heal blind eyes, and His power over the forces of darkness and muteness.
We’ve also seen the compassion of Jesus. It was said of Jesus “a bruised reed, He will not break” (Isaiah 42:3). When Jesus came across someone who was mostly broken, even if they had imperfect faith, He didn’t break them. He healed them.
We’ve seen Jesus’s compassion in taking broken, messed up people and reintroducing them into community. Social community, religious community, and even the family of God.
And hasn’t He done the same for us? I mean, look at us… What are we doing in this building, singing, meeting once a week to talk about a Jewish man?
We’re all different people who are all messed up in all different ways who would have nothing to do with each other if it wasn’t for this; Jesus found us broken, bruised, and messy… And made a family out of us.
Whoever’s on your left. Whoever’s on your right. Whoever’s across the aisle that you never talk to. If they believe, even with an imperfect, desperate faith… That’s your brother now. That’s your sister now.
Even if we have nothing in common but Jesus… we have everything in common. Are we acting like it?
Are we afraid of the messier people in our church, or are we going to love them and be personal with them like Jesus? Why not invite them over if they seem down and out? Even if they seem a bit confused and messy. Why not associate yourself with them?
Are we going to deny our own messiness? Or are we going to humble ourselves and desperately kneel at the Messiah’s feet and say “have mercy on me Son of David. Make me clean”.
Why not be more open about our mess? Why hide that here of all places? Why don’t you try being real about your struggles, even if up until now people haven’t caught on that you have them?
If you’re here, and you’re part of the crowd, and you don’t know if you can be part of this family. If you’re a bruised reed. Don’t be afraid of Jesus.
Though you’re bruised, though you’re faith is imperfect, He wont break you. He will do you no harm. And if you only believe, His message is “take heart daughter… take heart son… your faith has saved you.”
He makes us pure and clean. He brings people from death into eternal life. He opens blind eyes. He considers the voiceless. Truly, our Messiah is strong and kind.
Kids, you just learned that song “Jesus strong and kind” in Sunday school. That’s another way to say He’s powerful and compassionate.
And what’s the song say? Jesus said that if you thirst, or if you’re weak, or if you fear, or even if you’re lost, that you can always run to Jesus… Jesus strong and kind - Jesus powerful and compassionate. Let’s pray.