On the 7th Sunday of Matthew

Matthew 9:27-35

7th Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s Gospel describes one miracle among many which are included in chapter nine of the Gospel according to St. Mathew. Today’s biblical reading is from Matthew 9:27-35.

The passage tells of two miracle healings: the first being the healing of two blind men, and the second, the healing of a dumb demoniac. It should be noted that in chapter nine of St. Matthew there are many accounts of miracles of healing. The chapter begins with the healing of a paralytic who was brought by his friends to the Lord Jesus, followed by the healing of a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years and then the raising from death of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. We arrive at today’s reading that describes the two healings mentioned earlier.

The theme of faith, mercy and compassion of Jesus is at the centre of all these miracles. The faith of either the patient or their relatives are highlighted clearly in these passages.

With the healing of the paralytic, faith was first displayed by those who brought the paralysed man to the house Christ was visiting and let him down through the roof. The evangelist says: “When Jesus saw their faith, he forgave his sins.” Then He healed the paralytic, saying to him: “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Then, we read that in the event of the healing of the bleeding woman, she came and touched Jesus, because she said to herself: “If I only touch the hem of His garment, I shall be made well.” This was a clear display of faith without hesitation or doubt.

In the third account of healing, we read that the ruler came to Jesus and worshipped Him, saying: “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Again, a display of fervent faith without hesitation or doubt.

Christ’s compassion, borne of His divine love for mankind, appears in His responses to the requests of those who came to him in faith. God offers His divine love and compassion, and they offer their faith in Him; in this way, they become participators in His miracles.

We see that Christ expresses His mercy and compassion through the sense of touch. The bleeding woman obtained healing by “touching the hem of His garment”. In the case of the daughter of the ruler, Jesus came “and took her by the hand”, and in the case of the two blind men, Jesus came “and touched their eyes”. All these confirm what is mentioned at the end of the chapter in verse 36, when the evangelist concludes by saying: “But when He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus departs the area where he healed the daughter of the ruler and encounters two blind men, who could not see Him but had heard of Him. It is possible words had reached their ears that Christ was a wonderworking healer, so they approached in faith. When He had entered the house, the blind men followed Him crying out and saying: “Son of David, have mercy on us.” In Israel, this title was considered the greatest possible honour, for it was well known among the Jews that the “Messiah” would come from the seed of David. By using this title, the blind men show a high level of respect for Jesus.

As we read earlier, the blind men showed faith by approaching Christ, but Christ takes it one step further and instead requires of them steadfast faith, so he asks them to publicly proclaim their faith. Faith then is there, both in the heart and on the tongue, as the Apostle says in Romans: “For if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9).

Christ then asks them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Their immediate answer was, “Yes, Lord.” This is faith without hesitation or doubt. Then He touched their eyes saying: “According to your faith let it be to you, and their eyes were opened.” In this way, the blind men saw because they believed; they did not believe because they saw.

To impart a lesson of humility, Jesus warns them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” Jesus did not perform miracles in order to gain glory from people, but for the salvation of souls. However, he could not stop their zeal and gratitude towards Him, for when they left the house, they “spread His fame through all that district “. The blind men did not follow his instruction, but immediately became preachers and evangelists of the Lord Jesus as Saviour (Messiah).

This lesson of humility is also repeated elsewhere in the scriptures when Jesus says the words, “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39). Our Lord does not speak in an ambivalent way, rather we have a different audience and a different circumstance, and yet His unfathomable wisdom determines each instruction and answer.

We read on that after the blind men went away, the people brought to him a dumb demoniac. In Arabic and in another English translation, the word “dumb” is translated as a “mute”. In 19th century British English “mute” and “dumb” meant “non-speaking” and were not pejorative terms. In the original Greek text, the word is “κωφός -Kophos,” which translates to “deaf” rather than “dumb” or “mute”. The combination of deaf and mute has particular significance in old Jewish law; because it was thought impossible to teach or communicate with them, deaf-mutes were not moral agents.

In the case of the deaf-mute in this gospel reading, the disease was not a natural one, but from the demon, therefore others brought him forward for he himself was not able to call upon Jesus, as the demon had bound his tongue. Therefore, Jesus did not require faith of him, but faith was shown by those who brought him to Christ. For that, Jesus immediately healed him by casting out the demon which had prevented his speech. Jesus cast out the demon first, that is, He healed him spiritually. Then the mute spoke, thus being healed physically.

These miracles divided the multitudes into two groups: the faithful who marvelled at the miracles, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” These believers glorified God and saw in these miracles the hand of God, His power and authority. On the side, the Pharisees blasphemed against Him, saying: “He casts out demons by the prince of demons,” a rather nonsensical statement, how can a demon cast out another demon? How can they work against each other? The Lord answered the Pharisees in a different place by saying: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation”. (Mathew 12:25). Casting out the devil is the work of God almighty, a declaration of His power and authority, and a sign of the advent of the kingdom of Heaven.

The passage ends with: “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity.”

He was teaching for the salvation of souls and healing every pain and malady of the body. He is the true Physician and Saviour of both souls and bodies. Amen.

+ Metropolitan Basilios