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Posted By Nan

Matthew 9:27-31
Today I am looking at the third miracle, that of the healing of the two blind men. I noted in the overview of these miracles that “Son of David” was the term used by people who were waiting for the warrior Messiah who would lead the Jews to victory over their oppressors. They did not know Jesus well, because they did not know God well. Their faith would not have been very great. They certainly appeared to have a deep faith in the warrior Messiah, but not in God. It is interesting the way that Jesus dealt with these men. He knew their faith was faulty and that they probably had closed minds to God. He wanted to heal them, but He wanted them also to learn. So He responded to them in a few ways.
When the men called to Jesus, he tested the earnestness of their faith by not answering them. The Bible tells us they followed Him to the house He was staying in. In life there are many who are frightened of healing. A person may be in a terrible situation domestically but fear stepping away from it because the bad situation they know is less frightening than the uncertain situation of healing. It is very easy for people to be caught up in a situation like that. Sometimes it is far more comfortable to put up with the current, unpleasant state of illness than to be healed and have to face the uncertainty of life without healing. In Jesus’ walk through life, He would have encountered many people who asked for healing, but feared it. He tested these men to ensure they were really prepared for healing.
Another response from Jesus was to see these men alone. In our walk with Jesus we all have to come to Him alone. We cannot come through the intermediary of a church service, or pastor, or group praying for us. We have to come to Jesus alone. It is very easy to be caught up in the hysteria of a crowd and believe Jesus is what we want, but it is not so easy to take that step when on our own. Jesus needed these men to face Him alone, to truly encounter Him, not just be caught up in crowd hysteria.
Finally, Jesus asked them if they had the faith that He could heal them. If you ask for healing prayer but do not believe you will be healed, then you won’t. You must believe in order for healing to occur. The power of the human mind is so great, it can prevent healing if the person does not believe he will be healed. All the pharmaceuticals in the world will not heal the person who does not believe he can be healed. It is interesting that these men, despite their faulty understanding of Jesus, had enough faith to be healed. Jesus will meet us at our point of need, despite our faulty doctrine. However, that encounter with Him will change our faith, as it appears to have done to these men.
The men disobeyed Jesus and excitedly told everyone about their healing. There is much debate amongst Bible commentators as to why Jesus sometimes told people not to speak of His miracles. I don’t know why He told the men to keep quiet, but He did. The men however could not keep quiet. I am reminded of Luke 19:39-40, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The Pharisees criticised the crowds praising Jesus and He replied that if they kept quiet the stones would cry out. Jesus instructed these men to be quiet, yet they could not. I believe they were so overwhelmed by the revelation of Jesus at their healing they could not keep their mouths shut. Maybe Jesus wanted them to sit quietly with the revelation and learn from it. The Bible does not say. These men were so full of praise they could not contain their response.

 
Posted By Nan
Matthew 9:20-22 The woman who bled for 12 years is the subject of these three verses. Again, more can be read about this woman in Mark 5:24-34 and Luke 8:43-48. For this woman life would have been very hard. In the Talmud there are 11 different “remedies” listed for this woman’s problem. Many of them were superstitious folk remedies of no benefit and this woman had tried all the remedies. Yes her bleeding became worse. Worse still than the constant physical drain of bleeding for 12 years, is the fact that her bleeding made her unclean. Everything she touched was unclean so she was excluded from normal social contacts. If she was married, her husband would not have been able to have any contact with her. It is possible he divorced her. She was also denied entry into the synagogue, so could not worship God in fellowship with others. She took a risk being in the crowd, as an unclean person was not allowed in crowds where she would be forced to come in contact with others and make them unclean. Life must have been very lonely and humiliating. This woman reached out to Jesus’ robe and touched one of the tassels on the corner of his robe. These tassels were blue thread that was wrapped and tied in an intricate pattern on the corners of a Jew’s robe. The pattern of knotting represented the five books of the Law and they were there to remind the Jew that he belonged to God. They also identified the Jew to others. Although Jesus did not know this woman was touching His robe, He knew she had done it. In the crush of the crowd, several people would have touched His robe, but only this woman touched it with the intent of being healed. Jesus stopped to identify the recipient of His healing, not to punish her, but to reassure her. W. B. Yeats once wrote that God loves every unique person and that each unique person satisfies an individual need in God to love them. Whereas the world, to which the follower of Jesus does not belong, divides people up into the important and unimportant, God sees each person as unique and therefore infinitely important. How much attention is paid to the death of a famous person when every day, nameless people die with no one to note their passing? These nameless people are consigned to unmarked pauper’s graves while the famous person’s grave will be visited by many people. It is fortunate for us that God loves each unique individual so no-one ever has to die nameless and unremarked. It is comforting to know that this woman, unimportant and nameless in the crowd, was vitally important to Jesus. It mattered to Him to individually acknowledge her. All His love, and the love of God and all His power and the power of God were available for her at her point of need. She was not a face in the crowd. She was important to Jesus and He did not wish her healing to pass unnoticed. For me, this is the most beautiful aspect of this story. Not that she was healed, although that is certainly wonderful, but that she mattered to Jesus. She was unique and important and you are too. In the busyness of modern life, in the facelessness of our interactions with insurance companies, tax officers, faceless employers, banks, endless regulations and endless crowds, it is easy to lose our sense of uniqueness, to feel unimportant. This is not how Jesus sees you. Stop right now and consider how important you are to Him. How unique you are. How much He loves you and cares for you. How, in the crowd, He sees you. Thank you Lord Jesus, that you love each and every one of us uniquely. Thank you that in you we are never alone.
 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26
The story of the synagogue ruler’s daughter is told very briefly in Matthew. If you would like to read it more fully, see Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56. According to them, the man was Jairus and he was the synagogue ruler. This meant he was a very important person. He was one of the elders in the synagogue and was elected to the position of ruler by his fellow elders. He was the one who oversaw the work of the synagogue and decided who spoke in the synagogue, so he wielded great power. Synagogue rulers were strict in their adherence to the law and regarded Jesus as a dangerous heretic. Asking Jesus for help was the desperate act of a man who had tried everything else.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I would have found it hard to want to help this man after all the nastiness he had said and done against me. Fortunately Jesus is not like that and He accepted the ruler at his point of need.
At the house, Jesus found the full mourning according to the law taking place. The first act of mourning was the “rending of garments”. In the law there were 39 different rules and regulations about how this should occur. They covered things like the posture to be adopted, exactly how and where the rent was to be made and what it should look like. The rules also covered how long the rent garments must be worn.
The second act was “wailing for the dead”. Professional wailing women were employed to maintain a never ceasing wail. This custom is still observed in areas of the Middle East today.
The third act was the “flute-players”. The regulations decreed that even the poorest must have at least two flutes, and one wailing woman, playing for the dead.
Imagine the noise and the spectacle of the rending of garments, the incessant shrieking and the flutes adding to the general noise and clutter. Imagine Jesus stepping into this scene and very quietly telling these people to leave. This was met with laughter. These mourners were intent on the enjoyment of a good bit of sorrow and were not interested in the hope that Jesus offered. They also were so caught up in their rituals they left no room for God’s divine intervention. Sounds like us doesn’t it?
The rest of the story needs no interpretation. Jesus healed the girl and she lived. People were so amazed at this wonderful event that they eagerly spread the story far and wide. I wonder what they thought of the event? Did they give the glory to God and acknowledge His mercy and majesty? Or did they see this as a good party trick that robbed the professional mourners of a bit of income? Was it something fun to gossip and exclaim about? Was there any genuine acknowledgement of God’s hand in this? What of the synagogue ruler? Given his strict adherence to the law, how did he respond to this miracle and proof of Jesus’ Messiahship? The bible does not record his response. If I think of many leaders of churches today and their strict adherence to the doctrinal law of their church, I see the synagogue ruler. Given the inflexibility of many leaders, I wonder if they would find it just as hard as the synagogue ruler no doubt found it to change. The Change following Jesus requires involves great cost. To acknowledge Jesus, the synagogue ruler would have lost prestige and money. He certainly would have been excluded from the elders. It is doubtful he would have been able to convince them to agree with him. A leader in a church today may face the same difficulty. If you are caught up in the strict observance of a doctrine, breaching that law will lead to great losses, unless you can convince the other elders in the church to agree with you. Your predicament may not be as extreme as that. It may involve you having to say to non-believing friends that you don’t want to take part in something that you believe is wrong in God’s eyes. Following Jesus carries a great cost. There are many who refuse to follow Jesus because they cannot pay that cost. Can you?

 
Posted By Nan
Matthew 9:18-34 I am looking at this passage from a number of perspectives. The first perspective is that of the three miracles. The miracle of the synagogue leader’s daughter, the miracle of the woman with bleeding, and the healing of the two blind men. In the first miracle, it is interesting that a synagogue leader, one of those whose love of power and adulation caused him to reject Jesus, has now come to Jesus. I get the impression from the reading, and this is backed up in many commentaries, that this man has come to Jesus as a last resort. He has tried everything else and now he is desperate. His daughter is dead, but Jesus has healed others, perhaps he can help? So the man came because he had nowhere else to go. I find that interesting. So often people come to faith in Jesus because they have tried everything else and find themselves having nowhere else to go. If someone came to me under those circumstances I would find it hard to want to help him. I would want him to acknowledge what a worm he was and that he had been wrong. Jesus, mercifully, is not concerned about His ego. He is willing to accept even those who come to Him because they have nowhere else to go. It is a great thing that Jesus is not flawed like me, or very few of us would ever be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven. The second miracle is about the woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. You can read a fuller version of the story in Mark 5:25-34. This woman has tried everything to be healed. She is also desperate. In a superstitious act, she reaches out to touch Jesus’ clothing. She believes that touching his clothes (which must be imbued with magical properties) will heal her. In the third miracle, note the two blind men refer to Jesus as “son of David”. Jesus never called Himself that. This was a title that those who believed in the warrior Messiah used. What these men thought about Jesus was that He was going to cast out the Romans and all other oppressors and Judah would again rise triumphant. They had no concept of the need for a permanent solution to the problem of sin. So these blind men had an inadequate concept of Jesus. The bleeding woman had an inadequate faith and the synagogue ruler’s motive was inadequate. The message of these verses is that we can come to Jesus as we are. He will meet us at our point of need. We are not expected to develop perfect motives and a perfect faith. All we have to do is take that step towards Him. No matter how imperfect that step is, if it is made towards Jesus, He will meet us with a willingness to receive us. There are two important truths here. We can come to Jesus at any time. It doesn’t matter is our concept of Jesus is faulty, or our faith is less than perfect or our motives are highly suspect. Jesus will accept us willingly with love. Once we are accepted, then He will change us. So we can always be reassured of a willing acceptance. Our response to this, apart from one of worship for our mighty Lord and Saviour, is to never judge the motives, theology or faith of others. Jesus takes us as we are and changes us into who we should be. So as disciples of Jesus we must accept others as Jesus accepts them.
 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 9:14-17
In the last blog I discussed the first part of this section that talked about joy of being with Jesus. The second part (16-17) is about the new ideas Jesus brought to the people of Judah.
It is always hard to accept new ideas. In order to embrace them we have to change the way we think and see the world. Jesus was aware of this and he gave the following examples as proof of that. The first is that of mending clothes. New fabrics shrink. Old fabrics have finished shrinking. If you sew a patch of new fabric onto an old garment, when the new fabric shrinks it will tear the garment and make the damage worse. In other words, new and old fabrics are incompatible. Likewise, new wineskins, that were made of goat hide, stretch. Old wineskins have already stretched so are now stiff. New wine is still fermenting and expanding in volume. In a new wine skin this is not a problem as the skin will stretch with the wine. However, an old skin will break because it can not adjust to the increased volume within it.
For the Jews of Jesus’ time there was a deep attachment to the Law. They were afraid of losing the protection they believed it offered and stuck inflexibly to the Law as they saw it. The trouble is this made them behave in uncaring ways and to be inflexible. This grieved God and brought condemnation on their heads from Jesus. In the same way, many Christians have lost their faith in Jesus and instead cling doggedly to the doctrine of their church. Their inflexibility results in uncaring ways that grieve God and bring condemnation on their heads from Jesus. If you worship, or have worshipped in a church, have you ever tried to, or witnessed attempts to, change anything about the way the church does things? Sometimes those changes are embraced but often the response is “We never did that before”. Those who remember their first love and live in the joy of worshipping Jesus are more likely to be willing to try new ideas and to behave in loving, caring ways.
Barclay comments that this is the pattern of the church throughout history. It has clung to the old. In these verses, Jesus is saying that the time comes when new wineskins are needed and new garments are needed. Sometimes we need to completely throw out the old ways and start again. This is what He was asking His disciples to do. The old ways were no longer serving the people in their need to draw close to God. Barclay warns against the danger of worshipping the past rather than the living God. We must be flexible, like new garments and new wineskins. We need to be able to accept the challenge of the new things God asks us to do. It is the very nature of human beings to cling to what is safe and known, but Jesus calls us to step out in faith into the unknown and the unsafe. In short, we are to get out of our comfort zones. That is stressful, difficult and not pleasant, but the rewards of following Jesus are so worth it!
I leave the final word to Barclay: “It may be that we would do well to remember that when any living thing stops growing, it starts dying. It may be that we need to pray that God would deliver us from the shut mind!”

 


 
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Nan
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