10. The fruit of faith, 19:1-15
v] The healing of two blind menSynopsis
Jesus' journey to Jerusalem with the twelve, along with a crowd of other disciples, is nearing its end. As they leave Jericho, heading up toward Jerusalem, two blind men call on Jesus to have mercy on them. They address Jesus as the messiah, "Lord, Son of David" - the secret is out. For some reason or other, those traveling with Jesus tell them to be quiet, but Jesus asks the blind men to tell him what they want. They ask that they might see again. Moved with compassion, Jesus touches their eyes and immediately they regain their sight and follow him.
Compassion in Christian community, of seeking to make the last in line first, requires a new way of seeing, it requires the mind of Christ, the eye of Christ. To this end we must persist in prayer.
i] Context: See 19:16-30.
ii] Background: In the Western church this gospel story became the gospel for the Sunday before Lent, Quinquagesima Sunday, the day when the church faces Jerusalem and the cross.
iii] Structure: The healing of two blind men:
The pilgrims and the blind men, v29-31;
Jesus and the blind men, v32-34.
The structure of this miracle story evidences its oral roots. An inclusio is provided by hkolouqhsen autw/, the pilgrim party "followed him" (Jesus) and the blind men followed Jesus. The story itself involves an exchange between the pilgrims and the blind men, and Jesus and the blind men.
Mark's account of the healing of blind Bartimaeus, 10:46-52, presents as a pronouncement story, "your faith has healed you", but Matthew's version is a simple miracle story. Matthew's account of the healing of the two blind men in 9:27-31 (possibly a doublet) retains the pronouncement, "according to your faith let it be done to you", but here the story is a simple miracle focused on the need, the request, and the power of Jesus for healing. The story certainly demonstrates that he who goes up to Jerusalem is the Son of David (messiah), but above all it demonstrates Jesus humility - "this Son of David is come not to be served but to serve", Hill. The context reveals Matthew's intent. Mark's context nicely frames the disciples' growing faith between the staged healing of the blind man at Bethsaida and this pericope, the complete healing of blind Bartimaeus who now sees through faith. This is obviously not the contextual point that Matthew wants to draw (possibly why he has two blind men instead of one - a different story implies a different line of interpretation).
As can be expected, this passage prompts a range of interpretations. Michael Green takes a negative line noting that "the request of the disciples (for top places in the Kingdom) shows their blindness: the request of the blind men shows their vision - of who Jesus is and what he can do." Gundry, noting the contextual theme of service to others, suggests that this episode "exemplifies such service by giving sight to two blind men", so Morris. France adds, "providing a practical example of the reversal of values in the kingdom of heaven which has been the dominant theme of the last three chapters." Carter, in Households, suggests that "after the uncompromising demands of chapters 19-20 ..... this pericope underlines that God's compassionate mercy and power are available for all disciples who, in the midst of difficult circumstances, recognize their inadequacy and call for God's help." D&A also take this line of interpretation. Keener argues for the theme of "persistent prayer."
If we confine ourselves to Matthew's contextual theme it seems likely that in this miracle he rounds off his exposition of compassion in Christian community, namely, the example of service set by Christ, of striving to make the last in line first, 17:24-20:34. So, unlike Mark who sees the episode as a paradigm for the disciples' coming to faith (they now see), Matthew uses it to identify the power-source for the radical ethic of the kingdom, for compassion, for being other-person-centered, for humility, for affirming the last. This mind of Christ, this eye, this new sight, which is well beyond our comfort zone, is found in Jesus and received in persistent prayer.
Other than a slight assimilation to Matthew 9:27-31 (a doublet?), most commentators see no influence on this story from Matthew's own source tradition. Mark is usually identified as the prime source, with Luke also using Mark for his account of the story. It is though strange that Luke, a rather finicky historian, would drop the blind man's name. It is also rather strange, given that the blind man had a name, that Matthew would cut across such an established fact in this story, ignore the name and add an extra blind man (Matthew likes doubling up???), having already told the story of a two-blind-men healing, 9:27-31. These type of random differences are more likely a consequence of oral transmission - the name got lost, the one became two, ..... so Schweizer, who states "obviously Matthew's knowledge of this brief episode is based on a special tradition."
Text - 20:29
The healing of the two blind men, v29-34. A paradigm on receiving little children / followers, as Jesus receives.
ekporeuomenwn (ekporeuomai) gen. pres. part. "As [Jesus and his disciples] were leaving" - [they] going out. The genitive absolute participle with the genitive subject "they" is best treated as temporal; "As they went out", ESV.
apo "-" - from [jericho]. Here expressing separation; "away from."
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [a great crowd followed] him. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow after." The crowd following Jesus initially consisted of the twelve apostles along with other disciples. This may be the makeup of the "crowd", but it could now include other interested pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
idou "-" - behold. This interjection invites the reader to pay attention to what follows.
tufloi adj. "[two] blind men" - [two] blind. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to cry out"; emphatic by position.
kaqhmenoi (kaqhmai) pres. part. "were sitting" - sitting. This participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men"; "and behold, two blind men who were sitting beside the roadside." They were not part of the traveling party, but not necessarily outcasts.
para + acc. "by" - beside, at the side of [the way]. Spacial.
akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "and when they heard" - having heard. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "when two blind men, who were sitting by the road, heard how Jesus was passing, they shouted ...", Berkeley, so also Moffatt.
oJti "that" - that [jesus is passing by]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they heard.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they shouted" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verbal aspect of the participle "having heard."
kurie (oV) voc. "Lord" - [have mercy, pity on us] lord. Variant, but likely original. Mark has "Jesus", It stands in the emphatic position, as NIV. "Lord" is probably intended, rather than just the respectful address, "Sir".
uiJoV Dauid "Son of David" - Messianic title. At this point, with Jesus heading for Jerusalem, the messianic secret is no longer in play. Whatever the motive of the blind men for not directly asking for a specific healing, their request for mercy / pity fits with the issue of the wider context. Living the other-person-centredness of Christ requires mercy in the doing of it and mercy when we fail.
de "-" - but/and. Indicating a step in the narrative, possibly with an adversative translation, "but".
autoiV dat. pro. "[rebuked] them" - [the crowd rebuked] them. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to rebuke." The verb "rebuke" is somewhat misleading here since it virtually functions to express the way they told them to be quiet; "they told them sharply to be quiet", TH. "People in the crowd told them to shut up."
iJna + subj. "[and told them to be quiet]" - that [they might be quiet, silent]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the crowd said, but possibly adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order that they may be quiet."
de "but" - but/and. Here adversative.
meizon adj. "all the louder" - [they called out] greater. This comparative adjective serves as a comparative adverb, "greater" = "more".
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying [have mercy on us lord, son of david]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to call out." "Son of David" stands in apposition to Lord.
staV (iJsthmi) aor. part. "[Jesus] stopped" - [and] having stood [jesus called them and said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "called", as NIV.
poihsw (poiew) aor. subj. "to do" - [what do you will] i should do. Deliberative subjunctive virtually serving to introduce a dependent statement, "what do you will that I do for you." "What do you want from me", Peterson.
uJmin dat. pro. "for you" - Dative of interest, advantage.
autw/ dat. pro. "[they answered]" - [they say] to him. Dative of indirect object. Note how the historical / narrative present tense "they say" serves to underline the response of the blind men, so Nolland.
iJna + subj. "-" - [lord] that [the eyes of us may be opened]. We are best to follow the NIV with the sentence beginning with the vocative "Lord". The hina then introduces a dependent statement of direct speech expressing what they said, or in this case, what they asked, they asked that they may regain their sight. In the past a special imperative classification for a hina clause has been suggested, but such is better classified as a dependent statement. The local idiom of "let the eyes of us be opened", is simply "we want to see", CEV.
de "-" - but/and. Indicating a step in the narrative.
splagcnisqeiV (splagcnizomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] had compassion on them" - having been moved in the inward parts = moved with pity, compassion. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal; "because ...." The request of the blind men is met with compassion. The point is not so much that we should be compassionate; it's about what Jesus can do, not about what we should do. Our prayers to Jesus will be met with compassion, particularly as they relate to our being empowered to put the last first, the theme of chapters 18-20.
ommatwn (a atoV) gen. "[touched their] eyes" - [jesus touched] the eyes [of them]. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to touch."
euqewV adv. "immediately" - [and] immediately. Temporal adverb. The prayer is met without hesitation.
anableyan (anablepw) aor. "they received their sight" - they looked up = they saw again.
autw/ dat. pro. "[followed] him" - [and they followed] him. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow." Possibly just followed on with the pilgrim crowd, but it is likely that Matthew has commitment in mind, "followed as a disciple"; "the men joined Jesus as disciples", Schweizer. Looking to Jesus, seeking his empowering, we see, we gain the mind / eye of Christ, and so begin to live with compassion. Nolland sees significance in the juxtaposition of "gained their sight" and "followed", and such serves as a worthy conclusion to Matthew's contextual theme of building community through love - acceptance, care, reconciliation and forgiveness.