“Having An Open-Minded Faith”

Matthew 9:18-38

The final verses of Matthew chapter 9 concludes a series of stories about Jesus that we began in chapter 8. Matthew has established a particular pattern for these stories. Someone has a crisis of some sort and comes to Jesus.

Then Jesus does or says something awesome, generally both. The person in crisis then walks away from that encounter totally transformed. Each story provides a new insight on who Jesus is and how He operates. It’s like a stained glass window of pieces of beautiful glass put together to form the bigger picture of God incarnate.

The first story in today’s Scripture involves two females. The daughter of a Jewish ruler and a woman with an issue of blood.  

It begins where we left off last week. Jesus was explaining to John’s disciples how He had come to make a new covenant not fix the old covenant. There was a Jewish ruler in the crowd who must have believed Jesus was the Messiah because we are told he came and worshiped Jesus and Jesus does not reject His worship. Instead Jesus listens to this ruler’s request for help for his daughter who has just died. It was the father’s belief that if Jesus would come and lay His hand on her she would live. This is not the first father who had come to Jesus to save his daughter. However, this Jewish leader’s faith is small in comparison to the centurion’s faith in chapter 8. This ruler thought it essential that Jesus come and physically touch the girl, where the centurion believed Jesus’ power was able to heal with just a word spoken at a great distance. Yet Jesus doesn’t question the amount of the father’s faith. Jesus takes it for what it is, gets up and follows the ruler. So did His disciples. 

Can you imagine the whispers while they walked? 

“The daughter is dead and Jesus is going to bring her back to life?”

“Why would Jesus care for the life of a little girl of a Jewish ruler? “

“I don’t want to miss out on this!”

While they are walking to the ruler’s house, Matthew squeezes in the story of the woman who had a flow of blood for the past twelve years. He tells us that she sneaks in from behind Jesus and touches the hem of His garment. There are fuller accounts of this story in both the gospels of Mark and Luke, but Matthew narrows the story down to show the compassion of Jesus and to demonstrate that His power was not magical. Instead, God’s power comes as a response to the faith of those who seek Him. 

Such faith this woman had. Step back in time for just a moment. This woman had an embarrassing condition that would have made her ceremonially unclean. If she were to touch anyone, they too would become ceremonially unclean. Yet, in her mind she believes that she doesn’t have to touch Jesus, just the hem of his garment was enough to heal her. She risks being in a pressing crowd and attempts to secretly, perhaps with some type of superstition, tap into Jesus’ healing power. 

There are many details regarding this woman’s thinking and approach that we could find wrong with her faith. But here’s where Hiebert’s analogy of the centered set fits in. This woman’s faith was not in the hem of the garment, or in the power it could provide. Her faith was centered on Jesus. The object of her faith is much more important than the quality or even quantity of her faith. 

We read that she was immediately healed of her 12-year disease. Bingo!

Notice, Jesus doesn’t just let it go. I’m sure the woman hoped to receive healing without making a spectacle of herself, but Jesus makes a public notice of her actions and for good reason. 

  • Jesus looks directly at her and addresses her personally
  • Jesus declares healing was done for an ailment that was private in nature, yet he knew
  • Jesus wanted her to know it was her faith that healed her, not any superstitious touch in and of itself
  • Jesus wanted her to know that He provided healing and she in no way had “stolen” a blessing that she could then possibly be ashamed 
  • Jesus demonstrated to the Jewish ruler and disciples what faith really looked like 
  • Jesus blesses this woman in a special way by calling her “daughter” and honored title that we never see Jesus give to any other person

Jesus then makes it to the ruler’s house and when He arrives He sees flute players and a noisy crowd wailing. There was a written in the Jewish code of law in Jesus’ day a requirement to pay people to come put on a display of mourning for someone who had died. These people may not have even known the child or the father. It just had to look like they were full of sorrow. For this crowd, it was definitely all for show because they quickly go from wailing to ridiculing Jesus, demonstrating a lack of sincerity.

Jesus withstands their ridicule, waits until they have been put outside and then raises the girl to life. 

Jesus was not about to let the scorn of the crowd keep Him from doing the will of God. 

We don’t read that Jesus raised every dead child He encountered. We are given this story which reveals Jesus’ simple act of mercy and compassion for a grieving father. I believe that Jesus hates death and its cause and by providing a small defeat before He would defeat death altogether at the cross and the empty tomb must have brought Him joy. 

The final story in this section tells of Jesus healing two  blind men and then a man who was mute and demon possessed. Which wraps up Matthew’s focus on faith and  trust in Jesus. 

Today the idea of faith has a variety of understandings but for those living in the time of the writing of the gospels, the word faith had a very specific meaning. 

That is what I would like us to explore as we focus on this story. Have you noticed, up to this point in the stories we have read, different types of people have encountered Jesus and they each walk away having very different kinds of experiences? Some people would get angry and were convinced He was a mad man, others walked away impressed thinking He produced amazing spectacles. Yet, others walked away changed, whether physically healed, emotionally restored or spiritually enlightened. 

This still happens today. 

Knowing these differences of opinions occur for different people meeting the same Jesus we should immediately wonder, WHY?

Jesus boils it down to whether or not someone is willing to have an open mind or is willing to trust or have faith in Him. Somehow a posture of openness unlocks the power of Jesus and allows Him to work in our lives. 

At the end of these two stories Matthew tells us about three different responses people have. Each of these responses illuminates something about who Jesus is. 

Let’s look at each of these responses. 

We have responses from 

  • The blindmen
  • The crowd
  • The religious leaders, the Pharisees

Let’s begin with the blindmen. In verse 27, Jesus leaves the Jewish ruler’s house and two blindmen follow Jesus. That had to have been difficult. Think about it. They couldn’t see Jesus so they would have had to ask people around them or listen to different sounds that would have indicated where He was or which way He was going. In the meantime, they call out, “Son of David, have mercy on us.”  This is the first time anyone in the gospel of Matthew has actually called Jesus by this name, “Son of David.” 

It comes from a promise made in 2 Samuel chapter 7. It’s a promise God made that from the lineage of David would come a future king that would lead the people of Israel to justice and mercy and set up God’s Kingdom over the nations of the world for peace. This is where we get the name Messiah, he promised messianic king. This is the first time any person has used this title, but it is not the first time you have read the title “Son of David.” If you go back to the first sentence of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, verse 1 we read, 

“This is the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:”

Matthew put forward who Jesus was at the very beginning of his book. His topic sentence, where He states exactly who Jesus is and then follows up the entire book backing up that statement. 

When we go back to chapter 9, Matthew tells us a story where the first people who recognized the messianic identity of Jesus were actually blind. 

Ironic don’t you think?

Let’s go to our second response, that of the crowds. Go down to verse 32 & 33 where Jesus meets a demon-possessed man and drives out the demon so the man can speak. The crowd’s response was amazement. 

They put their amazement into words stating, 

“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” 

The crowd was not referring only to the demon being driven out or the blind men being able to see, which in and of themselves were never done before. But they have taken in all that Jesus has been doing and rather than recognize Jesus for who He really is, their response reveals that they have no category for Jesus. 

They have never seen anything like this, nothing like this has ever happened, which leaves them with an openness that there must be a category for such a person. 

So we have the blind men’s response of seeing Jesus for who He really is. 

We have the crowd’s response of Jesus redefining everything they thought they knew and have no category, so their minds are blown. 

Then we read about the third response, the religious leaders, the Pharisees. They say, 

“It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  

An interesting response to Jesus’ healing a man who was oppressed by demons and not able to talk. They certainly can’t deny what Jesus has done or that Jesus is powerful. But they immediately conclude that Jesus must be evil. Why did they immediately go to that position? Unlike the blindmen who see Jesus for who He really is or unlike the crowd who were stunned but at least open to allowing Jesus to remake their ideas of what was possible, the religious teachers of Jesus’ day have already concluded who Jesus is. They had already had in their mind of who God really is. They have been leading Israel in knowing who the God of Israel is and believe they know Him. 

Jesus does not match their understanding of who the God of Israel is therefore He must be against Him, a false teacher leading the people astray. They think they already know the God of Israel and Jesus doesn’t fit their mindset. 

Three totally different responses to encountering Jesus.

  • The blindmen have concluded who Jesus is, 
  • The crowd is open to who Jesus is, 
  • The religious leaders had also concluded who Jesus is, but it is not good. 

Notice, these three groups of people all saw or experienced the same event. Yet as a result, they each have a different response. 

You could say you have the 

  • Open minds of the blindmen
  • Blown minds of the crowd, yet open to Jesus
  • Closed minds of the Pharisees

At the very center of these three responses is the concept of faith. The thing that sets these three responses apart has to do with faith. In fact, this is not the first time the idea of faith has come up. If you go back to the stories we have read in chapters 8 & 9, faith has been a theme of these stories as well. 

Look at the conversation Jesus has with the blindmen. The blindmen make their way up to Jesus and He asks them a question, 

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

And they respond, “Yes, Lord.”  Of course, that’s why we followed you here. 

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”;

And they were healed. 

Now before we state what faith is, let’s allow the story to show us what faith is not. Faith is definitely part of the response for the blindmen and the crowd’s response has some element of faith, but with the Pharisees, faith is definitely out of the picture for them. 

Based on this story, we can claim that faith is not having a closed mind. The Pharisees already had a view of what God was like and Jesus didn’t fit their view. They place Jesus in a box, because they have already concluded who Jesus is based on what they believe God should be. 

So whatever faith is, according to this story, faith is the opposite of your thinking you already know everything you need to know. 

One aspect of faith, according to this story is the commitment to be open to Jesus, and just open in general, an openness to new ideas. New ways of thinking about myself, who God is, and about other people. It’s a commitment to open-mindedness. In any relationship, faith is trusting and being willing to make yourself vulnerable. 

You’re refusing to make a conclusion that you already know who this person is and what they are all about. Maybe this person has new things to add to my life.

Like the crowds and the blindmen who opened themselves up to the possibilities, faith requires an open mind. It’s precisely when we think we know how the world works and who God is and what humans are like, that’s exactly when we become like the religious leaders. 

The next question for us is how do you know which response you are? Or 

How do you keep yourself in a place of trust and open mindedness to Jesus? 

Before we answer these questions, let’s look at what Jesus does after these two encounters with the blind and the mute. Look at verse 35, 

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

This is not the first time we have read this exact sentence. Look back at chapter 4, Jesus has been baptized, makes it through 40 days in the desert with Satan and comes out calling some of His disciples, then look at verse 23, 

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 

Matthew has written a summary statement of what Jesus was all about. He was teaching and proclaiming about the good news of the kingdom and then Jesus was healing.

After the first summary statement in chapter 4, Matthew gives us the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5,6 & 7, where He explains the kingdom. There were crowds following Him. At the end of chapter 7 the crowds were amazed over what Jesus had taught.  

After the Sermon on the Mount, we read 10 stories and all of these stories have the same plot line. Someone has a crisis of some sort and comes to Jesus. Jesus then does or says something awesome or both and the person in crisis then walks away from that encounter totally transformed. 

At the end of these stories Matthew gives us three responses. 

Matthew has written the perfect narrative. 

First, tell them what you are going to tell them. 

Second, tell them. 

Third, tell them what you told them. 

Matthew tells us exactly who Jesus is and what He was doing on an average day?

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 

If you want to know – here He is. 

And when people hear and see Jesus, no one walks away neutral. He provokes something – 

  • Either an open mind
  • A blown mind
  • A closed mind

Our question today should be, 

How do we get to open mindedness? A view of trust? 

One has to listen, hear what Jesus has to say to explain the kingdom with an open mind. 

This means that we don’t already know what Jesus is saying but are open to having our thoughts and concepts challenged. One has to then respond to His summons or call, and come under His healing, loving authority and allow themself to be open to change. You can’t assume that you are right about anything at all, but you are always open to hear new things from Jesus. 

We can find an answer to the question of how to get an open mind by going back to the story where Jesus encounters the blind men in verse 27. The blind men have called out to Jesus and we read that Jesus goes into a house. The blindmen follow Him inside. Then Jesus asks the men a question. This is the first time in any of these stories where Jesus asks a question prior to healing the person. Basically Jesus asks the men, “Do you guys trust me? That I am actually able to do this?” And they respond basically, “Yeah, that’s why we are here.” 

Notice, faith is not just the words that we say, it is also what we do. You know what you believe by how you live and the choices that you make. These men respond with yes, our faith in you is how we managed to get here. Look what Jesus does and says next, He touches their eyes and says, “According to your faith, according to your trust, let it be done to you.” And their sight was restored. 

Now before you walk away from this and think, “Okay, the burdens on me.” Jesus has spiritual power and to access it I have to muster up enough faith and when I do, then Jesus’ power becomes available. 

How many of us have had a situation that we have prayed for and asked God for and nothing happened. With this frame of mind, one would conclude that we didn’t have enough faith so you need to muster up so more. So you keep trying and begin to wonder, how do I know when I have enough faith?

I think that view is a misunderstanding of what is going on in this story. It presents Jesus as being passive, like if I put enough faith coins into the vending machine then a certain amount of Jesus’ healing and power will be dispensed. That view puts the focus on you, having enough faith to pull yourself up and having enough faith coins that you can use so Jesus will dispense His power. Think about it. Anytime we take a story about Jesus and make it more about ourselves and our effort, it’s not good. Stories about Jesus are just that, stories about Jesus, first and foremost. Our responses are important, but they are not the main point. Jesus is the focus, the center of the set, the key to everything. 

This story is really about Jesus and how He works with people. In all of the stories we have read, we have different kinds of people with different levels of trust and openness. 

There was the centurion who according to Jesus had the most faith He had yet seen in all of Israel. Then there were the disciples who freaked out in the storm and Jesus said they had little faith. In each story regardless of the amount of faith presented Jesus works with all of them. But He chooses to work with people precisely where they are at. He doesn’t have some sort of formula that needs to be calculated. He meets them at exactly the amount of trust that they have and works with them in that space. 

What we discover about Jesus is that He was going around teaching and preaching the good news and telling about the kingdom. This promotes a variety of responses and the degree with which the presence of the kingdom and the presence of Jesus and the degree with which it will transform people is precisely connected with the degree with which they trust Him. 

If people come to Him with a deep surrender and trust admitting they don’t know everything, and they need Jesus to redefine reality for them. That experience will become transformative. 

Then look at the disciples, their little amount of faith didn’t mean they couldn’t be around Jesus, it meant Jesus could only do so much. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that their faith expanded. 

Lastly, the Pharisees don’t believe in Jesus at all. Jesus does nothing for them. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t like them. Jesus honors where people are at and He honors their choices. So when people don’t want to trust Jesus, He does not force the issue. 

Jesus doesn’t give up though. He keeps teaching and preaching the good news. 2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Jesus didn’t wait for us. He lived for us, He died for us, He was raised for us. His presence is available to us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t sit around waiting for humans to get their act together. He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. 

But He calls us to respond. We can have 

  • An open mind
  • A blown mind, but not going to do anything about it
  • Or a closed mind

How do I know which one I have?

  • Are you actually following Jesus? 
  • Let’s go to the Sermon on the Mount and make a list
    • Take money; do I do what Jesus says, according to Jesus disciples give a lot of their money away, as much as possible
    • Am I willing to hear Jesus talk about sex. The conversation would be quite different from what our world has to say. Which view do I follow?
    • What about conflict, relationships and the issue of forgiveness? 
    • You can keep going

You know how much you trust Jesus 

– Just study your life

– Study your decision making habits

Is there margin for error? Oh Yeah! Lots!

That’s why it is not about us and our efforts. 

It’s about Jesus and His announcement about the Good News. 

For those of us sitting here reading and listening the odds are there are those whose:

  • Lives are being totally overhauled by Jesus
  • Minds are stimulated but they are not yet experiencing the reality
  • And there are those in the church community whose minds are closed to Jesus and they don’t even know it. They say they believe but there is no sense of Jesus’ power or evidence of joy and peace happening in their lives

All of these people are around Jesus. Which one are you?

This is a question only you can answer. I encourage you to contemplate the question and lift it up in prayer and be honest with yourself and with Jesus about where you are at. Seriously ask yourself where you are following Him and where you are not. 

When we offer ourselves to Jesus we find someone who is gracious and kind and who works with us by His grace. Amen. 

Let’s Pray.