Session #124 Two See Twos
Scripture Matthew 20:29-34
Summary In Matthew 20, the account of Jesus healing two blind men seems a little out of place. Was it just about the two who finally get to see? Perhaps there is more than meets the eye. Henson takes a closer look at Matthew 20:29-34 and discovers lessons that will help us align with Jesus and His kingdom.
Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. Matthew 20:29-34
There are quite a few two’s or pairs or double mentions in this passage and also from broader contexts and parallel passages of Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43. To better understand the twos, we must consider the biblical significance of the number two., Depending on how and where it is used, the number two can denote comparison/unity i.e. two coming together-agreement, partnership, testimony (witness). Alternatively it can denote contrast/division i.e. two standing apart-opposites, extremes, right vs wrong. We will next explore the twos with this in mind.
In Matthew’s gospel, there are actually two accounts of two blind men healed by Jesus: in Matthew 9:27-34 and Matthew 20:29-34. Why? Let’s examine the context in each case.
For the account in Matthew 9, the key focus is the faith of people in the King and His kingdom. Preceding Matthew 9, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5,6 and 7 is the King’s declaration of the precepts (or ways) of the kingdom. Matthew 8 and 9 consist of narratives about the King’s demonstration of the power of the kingdom. This first account of the healing of two blind men is part of a series of miracles that demonstrated this power – woman healed of issue of blood, girl raised from dead, two blind men received sight and demon-possessed mute set free.
For the account in Matthew 20, the key focus is humility and service of the King and His kingdom. Preceding Matthew 20, the fourth discourse in Matthew 18 is about kingdom relationships. Matthew 19 and 20 consist of narratives that further emphasise the kingdom trait of humility in relationships, in marriages, in service and ministry, in leadership and what is the right kingdom way to kingdom greatness. This second account of the healing of two blind men serves as a practical application, an object lesson and a conclusion of Jesus’ teaching on humility and lowliness and about serving others.
Two (textual) Issues:
Two Blind Men
In both accounts, Matthew mentioned two blind men whereas in the synoptic gospels, Mark and Luke mentioned only one (Matthew 9:27, 20:30; Luke 18:35, Mark 10:46). There is no contradiction as Mark and Luke focussed on the one who was more prominent of the two. Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience and his main intent was to establish Jesus as the Messiah. To make his point, he followed the Old Testament protocol and provided two to serve as witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). This can also be observed in Matthew 8:28 where he mentioned two demon-possessed men in Gadarenes whereas Mark and Luke reported only one man. Jesus mentioned the same principle in Matthew 18:15-16 when He taught about resolving conflicts in kingdom relationships.
Matthew 10:29-34 is a final story set in Jericho before Jesus (Yeshua) enters Jerusalem. It parallels the story of Joshua (Yehoshua) taking Jericho as a foothold before entering the promised land. However, Matthew and Mark record Jesus as leaving Jericho while Luke records Jesus as approaching Jericho (Matthew 20:29, Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35). There is no problem in the accounts as there are two Jerichos – the new Jericho, built by Herod, was about a mile south of the old Jericho (mouth of Wadi Quilt). Jesus was leaving the old Jericho in Matthew and Mark (significant to the Jews) and moving towards the new Jericho in Luke (gentile audience). Jericho is pivotal and strategic, a transition from the old to the new as Jesus moved to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem.
After addressing the two textual issues, we next look at the content of the passage.
There are two declarations in the passage and two key points in each declaration. The first is about mercy which is not just pity but compassion to act decisively and an appeal to authority for action. The second point is about the Messiah; this authority they are appealing to is not just Lord but the Son of David, the Messiah. Matthew started his gospel with this messianic title (Matthew 1:1). The Messiah will come from the line of David and it is ironic that it takes blind men to “see” that Jesus is the Messiah.
The blind men heard that Jesus the Messiah was passing by and believed in the Messianic Promise that they had heard again and again that the Messiah will heal the blind, deaf and dumb (Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5-6, Psalms 146:8) and made the first declaration – they heard and believed. Then they heard everyone telling them to keep quiet but they cried out more to Him. They heard the promises but also the conflicting voices and discouraging remarks and still believed Jesus had a place in His heart for them and made the second declaration. Will you also keep hearing and keep believing that Jesus and His kingdom will have time and a place for all that have faith in Him and cry out to Him?
There were two very different reactions to the blind men’s declaration -the contempt of the crowd and the compassion of Jesus. The crowd rebuked them and asked them to be quiet and to stop disturbing and distracting Jesus from His kingdom assignment. In contrast, Jesus was compassionate and stopped to address them personally, asking them for their request and responding to them. It was mentioned three times in Matthew that Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion-to be deeply moved (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32). Sadly, the multitudes did not know how to see others with the same compassion. Are we the same? We want the compassion of Christ but fail to extend the same to others. We want God to be patient and gracious with us but are often impatient with others, considering them as unworthy or too sinful or not faithful enough to receive anything from the Lord. Instead, we are contemptuous (we do not say it but we think it) and judgmental. And we are upset with others when they stand in the way of our ‘blessings’ and ‘spiritual experiences’.
Consider two seemingly similar questions by Jesus to two pairs of men in Matthew 20:21 and Matthew 20:32. In the former, Jesus asked the two disciples, James and John: What do you wish? and to the two blind men: What do you want Me to do for you? The two different answers in these two contexts reveal the hearts of those answering. James and John answered from a posture of strength and pride that they are good and deserve everything the kingdom has to offer, a position based on merit. The two blind men answered from a posture of weakness and humility, that they are undeserving and will be thankful with whatever the King gives; a petition based on mercy. Which do you think captures the King’s heart and attention? Let us not be presumptuous in the way we approach the Lord because it is always, by His grace and according to His great mercy.
We now examine two outcomes from the above two seemingly similar questions. The difference in outcomes is that the two blind men received answers to their request immediately (Matthew 20:34) while James and John did not get what they asked for (Matthew 20:23). What is the same in the outcomes is that both had eyes opened to see. For the two blind men, their physical eyes were opened to see the King while for the two disciples, their spiritual eyes were opened to understand the ways of the kingdom, that it is not about power and prestige but being humble and lowly, as a servant and slave, serving everyone especially the lowly, the lost, the last, the weak, the poor, the unworthy, the useless, the rejected, etc. That the King would stop to open the physical eyes of the two blind men was an object lesson that also opened the spiritual eyes of the two disciples.
Two groups were following Jesus in Matthew 20:29-34. The account opened with a great multitude following Jesus and closed with the two ex-blind men following Jesus. In the gospel, multitudes were contrasted against the disciples. They had their own ideas of Jesus and the kingdom and followed the crowd in following Jesus when things were good; not knowing what following Jesus entailed. The two ex-blind men followed Jesus after receiving healing, implying they became disciples of Jesus but we cannot presume this always happens. It is still an important decision to be made, to follow Jesus, as after the awakening, comes aligning and then assigning. Following Jesus would entail receiving and accepting the agenda and the assignments for the kingdom and the costs of discipleship apply with possible sufferings, persecution and even death.
How are we following Jesus? It is possible to just follow without fully seeing and believing, doing the ‘church’ or ‘Christian’ thing. If you claim to see and believe, it must result in following Jesus as His disciple. Otherwise, what have you seen? What do you really believe? Do not follow blindly. Ask God to open your eyes to the things and perspectives of the kingdom. It will totally change the way you follow Jesus.
Let’s review the points covered. The two accounts discussed help to determine the context. The focus is kingdom humility and service. Two blind men are mentioned as two is the witness and testimony that everything about Jesus and His kingdom is true. The two Jerichos point to Jesus moving from the old to the new and similarly, let’s move with the King. The two declarations emphasise that Messiah is merciful and will act accordingly and we are to hear, believe, declare and persist and hold on to His promises. We learn from the two reactions that we are to move with the compassion of the Christ and not the contempt of the crowd. Jesus poses two questions to reveal the postures of hearts and it is always based on mercy (how good Jesus is), not on merit (how good we think we are). We can see from the two outcomes that outcomes can be different but the one common desired outcome for all is that eyes will be opened to see the King for who He is and the kingdom for what it truly is. Finally the two followings – do not follow blindly, follow Jesus wholeheartedly with your eyes wide open.
In conclusion, what is the significance of two? On the one hand, it is about comparison with a reference point, a unity so that as we line up with the right reference point, we become as one i.e. let us get aligned with Jesus. It can also be about contrast and division, that it could be a misalignment and the Lord could be showing us what we should be doing or not doing or the way we live kingdom. Where kingdom perspectives are concerned, “What Jesus sees, we are to see too.”