As God Brings the Kingdom - Matthew 9:27–38
How do you feel when you experience the satisfaction of seeing the results of your work? You made your plans, carried them out, and enjoyed the fulfillment of what you planned coming to pass. Maybe you experienced it after time spent working in the yard or in your home, or after cleaning out a closet or your garage. Maybe after some project for work or a hobby. If I asked you, “What kind of results have you produced lately?” you could show me things you’ve done and goals you’ve accomplished.
[**Please pardon the poor sermon audio quality**]
But have you ever experienced the satisfaction of seeing the results of God’s work? What kind of results is God getting these days? Is he still working in our day and age? If the answer is ‘yes,’ we should be able to observe the results of his work.
The Scriptures exist, in part, for that purpose: to show us how God works in our world and to help us identify the results of his work. As we read through Matthew, we see miracles Jesus performed as he brought the kingdom, and by “kingdom” I mean the reign and rule of God over the lives of his people.
Is God doing the same things today that he was doing during Jesus’ earthly ministry? We don’t observe miracles with that same frequency today. If fact, you’ve likely never seen results like what we see in parts of Matthew. Does that mean that God is not at work anymore? Or that the gospels are not true? Well for certain, we all naturally question God’s work and the coming of his kingdom in the present day. We think: “Why are the things that were happening back then not happening now?”
But still today, God is bringing his kingdom. The kingdom has come, and it continues to come, and what Jesus began is still coming to pass. So, even though we don’t many of the unique works of that age, we should still be able identify the results as God brings the kingdom. But for what kind of results should we be looking? Here at the end of Matthew 9, we see some of the results of God bringing the kingdom – results evident all around us today. You’ll notice an outline on page 6 of the worship guide of three things we see as God brings the kingdom: he tests faith, he exposes doubt, and he rescues sheep.
Now look again at verse 27. Matthew writes, And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” This is the first time in Matthew where Jesus is called by this title, “Son of David.” It refers to the most famous and beloved king in the history of Israel: David of Bethlehem. In 2 Samuel 7 of the Old Testament, God made a covenant with David, with a promise
that from David would come a king who would reign forever in a kingdom that would never pass away. David reasoned that for this to occur, God would have to raise up a king who would live forever. And so, those of faith in Israel looked for an eternal king to come – a messianic king. After that covenant with David, over and over in the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of the future work of this king and of his experience on earth.
And regarding the human nature of the king, his descent from David would make him a Son of David. Matthew showed us, in chapter 1, the human lineage of Jesus and his descent from Abraham and then David. So, Jesus is the offspring promised to Abraham and also to David. The implication in verse 27 is that these blind men believed Jesus to be this Messianic king.
Listen to a description of the Messiah’s work by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 35. He writes that when the Messiah comes 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. Especially for a blind, deaf, lame, or mute person during the early first century in Israel, the coming of the messianic king would be a thrill! Of course, they would come to Jesus.
But notice verse 28. When they cry out to him, Jesus passes them by and goes into a house. He passes them by! He doesn’t stop to heal them. But they persist and follow after him. Verse 28 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.” Notice that when Jesus presses or tests their faith, it is then that he draws from them the essential confession of true belief. What is that essential confession: they acknowledge Jesus as “Lord.”
Now “Lord” is the title of one’s master, of one with decisive authority over another. If you have a lord, what the “lord” says, goes. You and I don’t have anyone on earth with this kind of decisive authority over us. And so, you and I have to think on this in order to grasp the meaning of Jesus, our Master and our Lord.
Now, verse  Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And he heals them, but warns them not to spread the word about it. Why is that? Well, for one, Jesus was not doing miracles just for the sake of doing miracles. Miraculous physical works were not the backbone of Jesus’ mission. The age of Jesus’ earthly ministry, followed by the age of the apostles’ work, was what Paul called a “foundational” period. It was unique in many ways. The core of Jesus’ work was bringing people to faith in himself as the Messianic king. And the miracles were coupled with his teaching and preaching. We see that down in verse 35.The miracles set Jesus and his apostles apart in history, which is referenced in verse 33.
We will look both of those shortly, but understand that Jesus gives the blind men this instruction because he was doing his work at a certain measured pace. Hysteria was only going to increase as word spread of Jesus’ work, and everyone would know about Jesus soon enough; not just his power, but his gospel. Matthew’s point is obviously not their obedience to Jesus. They disobey his command. But what was tested was their faith in the one they claimed to be the “Lord.” We see Jesus testing faith repeatedly in the gospels. He tested the faith of his disciples, which is compatible with how God tested faith throughout the Old Testament. And James, the brother of Jesus, reiterates this aspect of God’s work in chapter 1 of his letter to the churches. He says,  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
My grandparents, like many of yours, were affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s. To say that times were hard then would be a gross understatement. I remember the words of my grandmother, many years before her passing, sitting in the living room of her home. She said, “Stacey, everything in life is a test.” She said it with such grave certainty. And the older I get, the more I understand. How did believers living in the time of the Great Depression makes sense of what was happening to them? God tests faith as he brings his kingdom.
How is God testing you right now? In what circumstances must you persevere? This picks up with some things I said in my last sermon about trusting and waiting in faith. Perseverance is faith on display. Could it be that as God tests your faith right now, he means to draw out from you the confession that he is Lord of your whole life?
Now, not only was Jesus testing faith during his earthly ministry; he was also exposing doubt. In these next verses, Jesus deals first with a man described as “demon-oppressed” and “mute.” What we translate here as “mute” meant “deaf and unable to speak” in Greek. That condition was not always thought to be a result of the demonic, but this case was. So, Jesus casts out the demon and restores the man, which he did many times for people. But notice Matthew’s emphasis here. Verse  when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” As I said earlier, this was a unique age in God’s redemptive plans, and people recognized the uniqueness of Jesus – the extraordinary nature of his work.
If you’re ever in Birmingham, AL and you want to try the best local restaurants, I could make some recommendations. And one would be Dreamland BBQ. Great food, and I love their slogan: “And nothin’ like ‘em nowhere!” Pardon my grammar, but many people of Israel saw and heard Jesus, and they knew, there was nothin’ like him nowhere. And yet, not everyone believed. Not everyone was captivated and showed reverence, including many Jewish religious leaders. Look at their response: verse 34, “But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” In other words, they say he’s from Satan. What is Matthew doing here by relaying this aspect of the event? Well, for one, he’s demonstrating that not everyone embraced Jesus, even when they saw the miracles.
Do you ever think that if people today could see a miracle, then they would believe and embrace Christ and his gospel? That wasn’t the case during Jesus’ earthly ministry. The gospels explicitly say that not everyone believed even when they saw these things. Do you ever think that people today would believe if they saw Jesus himself doing miracles? Well, these people saw Jesus doing these things and they didn’t believe. Why would people today be any different? Why would we assume that every person would believe if they could view Christ performing a miracle? We think that seeing a supernatural work would be enough to change someone’s heart. That’s not God’s plan as he brings his kingdom in the present age. Certainly, God can and does perform supernatural works in our day. But God is not trying to coax anyone’s faith or buy their acceptance in that way.
As he brings the kingdom, has God exposed your own doubts? Even that is the mercy of God. Why? Because you must reflect on your doubts and determine the way you will go. Will you scoff at the evidence of God in the world around you? Will you shrug your shoulders at the good news of his grace in Jesus Christ? God is testing faith, exposing doubt, and finally, He is rescuing sheep. Notice first the order in which Matthew describes Jesus’ work.
In verse 35, teaching and proclaiming the gospel are first, and miraculous healings follow. Again, this type of miracle work was not the long-term plan for bringing the kingdom. Ancient writings show that even in the late first century, as the apostles passed away, the early Christian church understood this to be the case. However, we shouldn’t exile God’s miraculous works to the first century A.D. God still performs supernatural works in our world. We should still pray, and God still acts. But, you know, many people today believe in the supernatural and the miraculous but they don’t associate those things with the gospel of Jesus.
That was the case in the first century as well. People could see Jesus perform the miracle, believe he performed it and it was real, but not realize themselves to be sinners deserving the wrath of a holy God. It’s that way today also. And so, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word – the proclaiming of the gospel, is still primary. And through that work, God rescues his sheep. Now, the “sheep” label is not demeaning. It does not mean that people are stupid. The sheep comparison is very historic language for the people of Israel. Two examples: First, when Moses was appointing his predecessor, Numbers 27,  Moses spoke to the LORD, saying,  “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation…who shall lead them…that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” Moses would die, but the people would still need godly leadership.
Second example: Ezekiel 34. A prophecy of the messianic king. In this chapter, God issues a scathing indictment of the shepherds (or leaders) of Israel. He blames the rebellion of the people largely on the leaders. And in verses 10-11, he says that he will rescue his sheep, search for them and seek them out. And Ezekiel writes,  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. In light of those passages, and the overall Old Testament theme of God the shepherd and his people the sheep, these verses of Scripture show the heart of Christ. I’m going to pick up next week with verse 37 because it is a transitional verse as we move to the next section of Matthew and the next phase of Jesus’ ministry. But you see the plan of God for the rescue of his sheep. It is Jesus working through his body on earth, which is the church.
As we go to the table today, we remember that Jesus has done for us what we could not do. Do you feel that you fail the testing of your faith? Rest in the one who passed the test. Do you feel that the exposure of your doubt has left you naked and ashamed before God? Rest in the one who persevered for you and cloths you in his own righteousness? Do you feel harassed and helpless, all alone with no guide in the world?
Rest in the one who is your good shepherd? Jesus said,  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He rescues his sheep from sin and death.Do you know the good shepherd in this way? Is your life one of turning from sin, hating the evil and turning to Jesus Christ in faith? Receive and rest in the free gift of God which is eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray together.