DUNCAN/Jesus preaches and teaches
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 9:18-38. This passage tells us much about the claims of Christ. The Lord Jesus is sovereign, and He displays that sovereign power even over death in this passage. But this passage also tells us much about faith. This passage gives us a description of important details of the nature of faith in all those ways this passage enriches us. I would like to point you to four important things that we find in this passage. First, the nature of faith. Second, Jesus is the proper object of faith. Third, our blessing is not in our faith but in the power of Christ. And fourth, the warrant of faith.
I. The Nature of Faith.
In verses 18-26, Jesus’ power is clearly displayed, but simultaneously, as Christ’s power is displayed, we learn something about the nature of faith. Here in this passage, we learn that we must believe, we must trust in Jesus, as the One who has the power to restore life. In the story, which is familiar to you all, we are told about an elder, a synagogue official. When the elder first came up to Christ, his daughter was still alive, and while He was in the midst of asking Jesus to come and heal his desperately sick daughter, news came that she died. But He did not cease. He did not desist. This synagogue official showed trust in Christ. At any rate, as Christ is on his way to perform this mighty miracle at the house of this elder, He is interrupted.
We are told a woman comes to Him who has had some sort of a hemorrhage for twelve years. There was nothing physicians of their time could have done to have healed this woman. But this woman knows that if she can just touch Christ’s garment, she’ll be healed instantaneously. I want you to notice how faith itself is stressed throughout the passage. The elder believes that the Lord Jesus Christ can raise his daughter from the dead. The woman is commended by Christ with the words “Daughter, take courage, your faith has made you well.” We must embrace Him by faith. We must believe. We must trust. And so he reminds us of this in this passage.
After the healing of this woman, the Lord continues on to the house of the elder, and when He gets there, the professional mourners are already there. And He walks in and announces, “Do not fret, do not be anxious, the little girl is not dead, she’s only asleep.” Now don’t miss what the Lord Jesus is saying there. The Lord Jesus’s words are meant to remind them of His sovereignty over death. He is sovereign over life and death.
II. Jesus Is the Proper Object of Faith.
In verses 27-31 we see Jesus as the Messiah, as the proper object of faith. First, Matthew stresses that we must trust in Christ, that is part of faith, but now the focus of faith is zeroed in on Christ Himself. First, in the first story that Matthew gives us, he stresses the importance of faith on the part of both the elder of the synagogue and the woman with the hemorrhage, but there is nothing said about the object of that faith. In the second story here, in verses 27-31, the focus of faith is upon the Lord Jesus Himself, and that’s why, though it may seem anticlimactic for Matthew to record a resurrection from the dead, and then go down to a mere healing of blindness, the point that Matthew wants to drive home is that the focus of faith, is not in faith, it’s not in ourselves, it’s in Christ Himself. He is the proper object of faith. And so, as He heals the blind man, Christ’s power is stressed, but also, our faith in Christ Himself is stressed.
There are two high points you see in this passage: one is the resurrection of the dead showing Christ’s power over everything. But the other high point you find in verse 34. That is where, after all these miracles, the Pharisees refuse to believe. And so their refusal to believe is contrasted with faith in Christ throughout this passage. These blind men, though they had no physical sight, had the spiritual sight to see Jesus as He was, the Son of David, the Messiah, the Son of God.
III. Our Blessing Is Not in Our Faith but in the Power of Christ.
In verses 32-34 we learn that the source of God’s blessings is not to be found in our faith; it’s to be found in the power of Christ. Here we see that Jesus’ power is not dependent on the faith of those who have been healed. Here we see also the hardness of the Pharisees’ heart. As Jesus is leaving these blind men who He has healed, He is approached by people who bring to him a man who was demon possessed. The physical effect of his demon possession was that he was unable to speak, he was mute, he was dumb. And Jesus delivers this demon possessed mute, a man brought to him by others, and clearly in that circumstance the man’s faith is not the ground of his healing. The Lord Jesus heals of His own power.
It is interesting that the Pharisees do not try and deny that the Lord Jesus has done these miracles. They ascribe the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. And so they blaspheme. Isn’t it ironic that in verse 30 we have the spectacle of blind men seeing Christ by faith, and in verse 34 we have the spectacle of sighted men blind to Christ because of unbelief? What an irony Matthew sets before us. They were the religious leaders of the day, and yet they were blind to the Messiah.
IV. The Warrant of Faith. The Promise of the Free Offer to All.
Finally, in verses 35-38 we see the heart and the compassion of our Lord Jesus revealed, and there, also, we see a focus on the warrant of faith. The warrant of faith is a nice phrase that theologians use to stress the reasons why people ought to be motivated to come to Christ. Verses 35-38 give us a warrant for faith, because there we see the compassion of our Lord revealed, and we, too, must seek the same compassionate spirit of our Lord.
This passage is so important for us, because when we feel our sin as we ought, our natural tendency is to desire to run away from the judgment of God, but Christ here beckons those who feel themselves sinners to come to Him, for He has compassion, for He sees that we are sheep without a shepherd. If you have an awareness of your sin, embrace Him, for He longs to restore the scattered sheep to the fold of the one true shepherd.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at email@example.com.