Healing Miracles, Part 9
The Secret of the Blind Men
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. (Matt. 9:27-31. NIV)
Soon after I started practice back in the 1980’s I consulted on an elderly woman with neck and arm pain. The pain was severe enough to keep her in the hospital for a week on injectable narcotics, but the diagnosis was uncertain (this was before MRI scans and CT myelography). Her age and health added significant surgical risk. I advised a wait-and-see plan, knowing most pains from disk herniations and degenerative changes get better with time.
Unfortunately, she didn’t get better. Each day I’d see her and advise patience, and each day she’d tell me to operate. After another week, her internist assured me the surgical risks were not too high, and urged me to do something. So, reluctantly, I scheduled an operation that I hoped would work.
On the morning of the surgery, I met with the patient while she was lying on a gurney outside the operating room. I reviewed the procedure and risks, and asked her again if she was sure she wanted to go through with it.
She asked me to lean a little closer. I did. Then she grabbed my tie and pulled me nearly nose to nose. “Listen, Doctor,” she said, “I want you to fix this thing, or I don’t want you to wake me up. Do you understand me now?” I did understand then, and was sorry I hadn’t understood earlier. How desperate she had been! She had been chasing after me, begging for mercy.
Her surgery went well, and her pain was immediately relieved. Afterward, she didn’t say, “Thank you.” She said, “I told you so.”
I had allowed her to beg for mercy because I was uncertain. I wonder why Jesus allowed the blind men to beg for mercy.
It must have been quite a sight, these two men stumbling along after the crowd yelling for mercy, using the title “Son of David” as flattery, maybe as a challenge. Jesus kept going; he’d already had a busy day with John’s disciples coming for clarification of holy living, a woman sneaking up on him to heal her bleeding problem, a near funeral where people laughed at him, and a little girl who came back from the dead. Now these two guys, hollering for mercy, wouldn’t give up.
Maybe Jesus was just tired. When he raises a little girl from the dead, I think of him as God, and he is. But he also chose the limitations of a human form, and those limitations include physical and emotional exhaustion. Maybe he ignored the blind men because he was too weary to deal with one more problem. He just wanted to go home.
I totally understand. Rest can be a precious commodity. Sometimes you just can’t keep on going. The question becomes not, Do they need help?, but Can it wait?
But the blind boys not only followed him home, they followed him inside. Probably Jesus invited them in. He sat them down and asked them if they believed he could do what they wanted.
They had just come from the place where a little girl had been raised from the dead, so, well, yeah. If he could raise the dead, he could heal the blind, right? They called him Lord and told him yes, and he did the expected: He touched their eyes and their vision returned.
Then he did the unexpected: He warned them not to tell anyone.
He must have known that his stern warning–See that no one knows about this–would be an impossible instruction. Imagine years of blindness, then going home with your vision restored:
Mom says, more aptly than she realizes, “Oh my God! This is a miracle! What happened?”
“Ahh…Sorry, Mom. Can’t tell you. And, by the way, you remember Joe? The other blind guy I hang with? He can see too.”
“What do you mean, you can’t tell me? You can’t waltz in here like this and keep a secret like that. Did you do a deal with the devil? What have you done?”
“Nothing like that, Mom, really. No deals, no devil. I just can’t tell you.”
“I changed your swaddling clothes when you were a baby, young man. You will not keep secrets from your mama. If you’re not talking, I’m going to see Joe’s mom right now. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“Joe can’t tell you either, Mom. Come on, please, just let it go.”
“This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m not letting it go. Say…this doesn’t have anything to do with this Jesus guy, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, does it? I heard he was over at the synagogue leader’s house today. Some big rigamarole about a sick kid?”
“Can’t say, Mom. Anyway, you need anything from the market? Me and Joe are going to go down, hang out, and see if we can get a job.”
Mom shakes her head and lets it go for now, but only until he’s out of the house. As her son leaves for the market, she heads for Joe’s house. His mother knows no more that she does, but neighbors talk.
Did you hear about the crazy lady, the one who’s been bleeding forever, and how she sneaked up and grabbed the hem of Jesus’ robe? Some people said she tore off one of the blue tassels, and now she says she stopped bleeding. Then those idiots at the rabbi’s house thought his daughter was dead and started the funeral, wailing away until Jesus showed up and threw them out. The girl’s fine! Can you imagine? Now they’re having a party. Then Jesus heads home, and these two blind guys start following him, hollering for mercy.
“Wait. What? Two blind guys?”
Oh, I don’t know if it was your boy or not. I just heard about it.
“What happened to them?”
Nothing I guess. Jesus just kept right on walking like he couldn’t hear them. Went straight home and went inside.
“And the blind guys?”
The woman shrugs. Don’t rightly know.
Mom is home when her son gets back from the market.
“Good news, Mom. Zebedee is looking for two fishermen to take the place of his boys. You remember James and John? They’ve left the family business. Simon isn’t fishing much now, either, so it could be a great opportunity.”
Mom nods. “That is good news, son. By the way, was that you and Joe who were following after the Jesus crowd today, shouting for mercy?”
“So what happened?”
“Jesus went home.”
“Can’t say, Mom.”
My mom would have figured it out by now, whether I said anything or not, and I guess that is what happened. But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region (Matt. 9: 31. NIV). Some secrets are hard to keep. Jesus must have known this, so why did he warn them sternly not to tell?
I don’t know.
Maybe he wanted them to know this healing touch was totally personal, not part of a public demonstration of messianic power. Jesus waited until they were inside, then showed them that all they needed was their faith, and not only could he heal them, he would heal them. He showed them more than power; He showed them love. That’s something worth waiting for.
Or maybe he simply wanted them to see, because amazing things were about to happen in Galilee and Samaria and Judah and around the world, and he wanted them to see it as well as hear about it.
These two guys in Capernaum were not the last to have their vision restored by Jesus. When he went through Jericho a couple years later on his last trip to Jerusalem, another pair of blind men cried out to him using the same words, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Again, Jesus touched their eyes. This time Jesus didn’t ask them to keep it a secret. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (Matt. 20: 34 NIV)
A few hundred years later, a loudly profane, atheist, slave-ship sailor in fear for his life called on the Lord to have mercy on him. A few years later he found himself in the pulpit of a small town church on New Years Day, 1773. He wanted to tell the congregation about his spiritual journey, so he wrote a poem. Maybe the words are familiar to you. His name was John Newton, and the poem started like this:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Jesus keeps touching eyes, and blind people keep receiving their sight. The blind guys in Capernaum, the blind guys in Jericho, and John Newton don’t really need to tell you how it happened. That can remain a secret between them and Jesus. But they would like you to know what they saw after they started following Jesus.