Summary: It's a curious thing: Jesus regularly instructed people to keep quiet about the miracle He'd done for them. This passage provides insight into why Jesus did that.
A LINGERING QUESTION: Why did Jesus tell people to stay quiet about the miracles?
- Matthew 9:31.
- This is something that happens repeatedly throughout the gospels: Jesus does a miracle and then instructs the healed not to share what happened.
- It’s hard to understand: wouldn’t you want to shout about these miracles at the top of your lungs?
- We live in an age where we praise ourselves over the smallest accomplishments. How would you not want to tell everyone about something that great?!?!
- And yet He consistently tried to keep it quiet.
- As I’ve dug into this passage, I’ve come to believe that it is uniquely suited to answer that question for us.
WHAT WAS JESUS LOOKING FOR? Jesus was looking for obedience.
- Matthew 7:21-22, 24, 26.
- Jesus wasn’t going for fame, attention, notoriety, respect, or applause.
- He was after disciples, followers, apprentices.
- If He had been after the attention, He would have publicized the miracles.
- We read in Matthew 7 repeated emphasis on the importance of obedience.
- It’s the defining characteristic of a true Christian.
- When we understand this, it helps us to have a better understanding of reasons that Jesus did what He did.
COMPARING THE TWO STORIES: The first is a “friendly” disobedience and the second is a “fierce” disobedience, but both are equally failures.
- Matthew 9:27-30, 32-34.
- Let’s look at how many contrasts there are in the two stories:
a. The first story has the oppressed speaking words of faith (“Have mercy on us”) (v. 27); in the second story, the person is unable to speak (v. 32).
b. The first story deals with natural evil (v. 27); the second with demonic evil (v. 32).
c. In the first story, they call Jesus “the Son of David” (v. 27); in the second, He is said to be in league with the “prince of demons” (v. 34).
d. In the first story, the miracle happens “indoors” (v. 28); in the second, it happens outside among a “crowd” (v. 33).
e. In the first story, Jesus is sought by the oppressed (“the blind men came to Him” – v. 28); in the second, the oppressed is “brought” to Jesus (v. 32).
f. In the first story, the oppressed have “faith” in Jesus (v. 29); in the second, there is no expressed faith (v. 33).
g. In the first story, “no one knows” initially (v. 30); in the second, everyone knows initially (v. 33).
- That’s a lot of contrasts.
- Because of all those contrasts, the initial inclination is to think of these as being two stories that make opposite points. That’s incorrect, though. As I’ve studied this, I’ve come to believe that the contrasts are there to highlight the common outcome that happens.
- The two stories are tied together at v. 31. That’s the central verse and the central point of these verses. It’s in the middle of these stories because it’s the heart of these stories.
- The two situations are different in all the ways that I just highlighted. But the outcome is the same, not different. This is the easily overlooked point.
- The first story initially looks like the “successful” story, but it’s not. The men have faith, but they don’t have obedience. Jesus tells them – and not casually but by “warn[ing] them sternly.” They do not obey. They had faith but not obedience. Faith is a good thing, but it’s not the big thing that Jesus is seeking.
- The second story is a straightforward “unsuccessful” story. They opposition is obvious and clear.
- The point that the text is making is something like this: “Look at all the differences in these two situations, but they were both ultimately frustrating to Jesus because in neither did obedience result.”
- This explains a major piece of Jesus’ frequent statements to people not to tell others about the miracle.
- Here we have two miracles that arise from two wildly different situations and see two markedly different immediate responses and yet neither creates obedience.
- If Jesus’ goal is followers, then miracles don’t help further that agenda as well as you’d hope they would.
- We’ll get more into the scenario where the miracles sometimes have a positive impact on discipleship in a minute, but for right now I should just say that the immediate reason that Jesus did the miracles was His compassion for the oppressed person. That would explain Him doing the miracle but not wanting it publicized.
WHEN DOES THE MIRACLE INSPIRE REAL FAITH? When you have the miracle first, people usually walk away impressed; when you have the obedience first, people usually walk on encouraged.
- Let me emphasize the words “away” and “on.”