As Jesus went on, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’ But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.
Earlier in the week we heard of the crowds gathering around Jesus in order that they might be healed by him. Today’s reading comes at an interesting moment in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus has taught the crowds in his great Sermon on the Mount and he will be going on to commission and send out his apostles. In between these two events, and where we are in today’s reading, we are given two chapters of the gospel narrative in which we see Jesus healing. He heals individuals such as a leper and the servant of a Roman centurion; he heals many at Peter’s house and the Gadarene demoniacs; he heals a paralytic and a woman suffering from haemorrhages. He also stills a storm, teaches about fasting and calls the apostle Matthew. In the space of just two chapters Jesus does so much, and then there comes this short but interesting exchange between Jesus and two blind men.
As we read these few verses we might be forgiven for feeling a little uneasy. We may not know why they are having that effect on us, but something may well feel odd. This account of the healing of the two blind men is different from the other accounts of healing that we have encountered. The question that makes this different is: Do you believe that I am able to do this? Unlike other instances of healing, Jesus is asking those who are seeking his gift of healing to declare their faith in him. We cannot be sure whether Jesus doubted their motives or whether he was merely trying to drive home the message that he should not be taken for granted. However you may want to view the situation in today’s reading, Jesus did not make any declarations about the faith of the blind men, rather he made them offer their own testimony to those gathered around.
Towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us these famous words: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. In these words Jesus was, of course, talking about the need to bring everything to our Father in heaven, in order that he might lead you into the comfort and consolation that can only come from him. The two blind men seemed to be doing just that, when Jesus asks: Do you believe that I am able to do this? In asking that question Jesus is reminding us not to take God for granted. Our Father in heaven wants to have an intimate relationship with us but, as in all intimate relationships, it is not meant to be one-sided. The blind men had heard of the wondrous man who was able to bring healing where all hope was gone. We, too, have heard of that wondrous man. The blind men believed that by just asking, they could receive the gift of their sight. We, too, know that Jesus can remove the scales from our eyes and reveal the wonders of God’s creation in a vivid way that our own prejudices hide from us. But, as we meditate upon today’s reading, we need to remember that this is not a one-way relationship. We are called to believe and trust in the man who is the Son of God. As we come to him it should be in faith and not in desperation. As we beseech him for his healing touch in our lives, or in the lives of those we love in this world, we need to believe and trust in his infinite knowledge of our motivations and our ability to believe.
Rather than viewing today’s reading as just another story of people being miraculously healed, we need to consider our answer to Jesus’ question: Do you believe that I am able to do this? Then we should pray for God to give us the faith that will enable us to say a resounding ‘Yes’ to that very question, no matter how challenging the circumstances in which we find ourselves.