As Jesus went on from there, 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.
After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
The crowds were amazed!
Today’s reading concludes two chapters about Jesus’ ministry in action, after the sermon when he was sitting on the mountain. On his way down the mountain, to Capernaum and across Galilee and back, he took opportunities to heal people from leprosy, paralysis and fever, and to show his authority over the natural world, the supernatural, and human sin. He had challenging exchanges with some people who wanted to follow him, and later with scribes and Pharisees, and with the disciples of John. Then he brought healing to more people who had shown faith in him.
Matthew 9:27-34 recounts two incidents about seeing and speaking. Healing is given to these people who are blind and mute. But the stories are also about whether people can see who Jesus is, and whether they can tell others about him. They end up with crowds being greatly impressed by his achievements, while the Pharisees call him demonic. Matthew summarises that Jesus went on to all the cities and villages, curing every disease and sickness.
These chapters were helpful when leading devotions to encourage church health workers and school teachers as well as preachers in difficult remote valleys of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Jesus was not just healing bodies and minds, but relationships in the community too: the man with leprosy to be welcomed back to worship, the servant to the centurion’s household, Peter’s mother-in-law to the family and guests; and the news about the leader’s daughter and the two blind men was a blessing throughout their districts. The summary of Jesus’s work in 9:35 – teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing disease and sickness – showed the foundation for those three dimensions of the circuits’ and region’s work of the emerging church in the PNG Highlands.
God of the whole world, whatever type of community or culture we are in, whatever the systems of health care and education, food production, other industries and services, help us to see that Jesus is concerned with the life of the whole person and whole communities. Help us to respond by using our gifts and skills, resources and opportunities, in his ways, and to encourage others in the sharing of your love, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev’d Bernie Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton