Matthew 9:18-31

THE IMPERFECT FAITH AND THE PERFECT POWER

Matt. 9:18-31

Before we deal with this passage in detail, we must look at it as a whole; for in it there is something wonderful.

It has three miracle stories in it, the healing of the ruler’s daughter (Matt. 9:18-19; Matt. 9:23-26); the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (Matt. 9:20-22); and the healing of the two blind men (Matt. 9:27-31). Each of these stories has something in common. Let us look at them one by one.

(i) Beyond doubt the ruler came to Jesus when everything else had failed. He was, as we shall see, a ruler of the synagogue, that is to say, he was a pillar of Jewish orthodoxy. He was one of the men who despised and hated Jesus, and who would have been glad to see him eliminated. No doubt he tried every kind of doctor, and every kind of cure; and only in sheer desperation, and as a last resort, did he come to Jesus at all.

That is to say, the ruler came to Jesus from a very inadequate motive. He did not come to Jesus as a result of an outflow of the love of his heart; he came to Jesus because he had tried everything and everyone else, and because there was nowhere else to go. Faber somewhere makes God say of a straying child of God:

“If goodness lead him not; Then weariness may toss him to my breast.”

This man came to Jesus simply because desperation drove him there.

(ii) The woman with the issue of blood crept up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched the hem of his cloak. Suppose we were reading that story with a detached and critical awareness, what would we say that woman showed? We would say that she showed nothing other than superstition. To touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak is the same kind of thing as to look for healing power in the relics and the handkerchiefs of saints.

This woman came to Jesus with what she would call a very inadequate faith. She came with what seems much more like superstition than faith.

(iii) The two blind men came to Jesus, crying out: “Have pity on us, you Son of David.” Son of David was not a title that Jesus desired; Son of David was the kind of title that a Jewish nationalist might use. So many of the Jews were waiting for a great leader of the line of David who would be the conquering general who would lead them to military and political triumph over their Roman masters. That is the idea which lies behind the title Son of David.

So these blind men came to Jesus with a very inadequate conception of who he was. They saw in him no more than the conquering hero of David’s line.

Here is an astonishing thing. The ruler came to Jesus with an inadequate motive; the woman came to Jesus with an inadequate faith; the blind men came to Jesus with an inadequate conception of who he was, or, if we like to put it so, with an inadequate theology,; and yet they found his love and power waiting for their needs. Here we see a tremendous thing. It does not matter how we come to Christ, if only we come. No matter how inadequately and how imperfectly we come, his love and his arms are open to receive us.

There is a double lesson here. It means that we do not wait to ask Christ’s help until our motives, our faith, our theology are perfect; we may come to him exactly as we are. And it means that we have no right to criticize others whose motives we suspect, whose faith we question, and whose theology we believe to be mistaken. It is not how we come to Christ that matters; it is that we should come at all, for he is willing to accept us as we are, and able to make us what we ought to be.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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