Scripture: As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” Matthew 9:32-34 ESV
Observation: Having healed two blind men, Jesus continues his itinerate ministry with his disciples. Along the way, some fellow Jews bring a demon-possessed man who is mute. The Greek word translated as “mute” is kōphos, which covers a semantic range of “deaf, dumb, or deaf-mute.” Regardless of whether the man could hear, we know he could not speak. As for being demon-possessed, while some in Israel held to a superstitious belief that all diseases resulted from satanic oppression, others were more discerning. Indeed, Mark tells of a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment but does not mention that he is demon-possessed (Mark 7:32-33). So we must take these passages at face value.
Hence, in our story, the mute man, burdened by a demon, is set free and begins to speak once Jesus casts out the demon. Witnessing this miracle, the crowd marvels and declares, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel,” which is historically accurate. Nowhere else in biblical history had a prophet of God performed this supernatural healing. Of course, the Pharisees who witness this Messianic miracle immediately dismiss Jesus’ divine power to cast out demons as coming from the prince of demons (Satan).
Takeaway: We see an element of irony in Matthew’s account of this last in a thematic series of healings: the uneducated crowd sees and believes. In contrast, the erudite religious leaders see and renounce the source of the miracle. Why? Because revolutionaries threaten the peace under Rome’s iron rule. So the Pharisees slander the Messiah and the Holy Spirit unwittingly. Indeed, Mark tells us in his Gospel that Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ accusation of casting out demons by the power of Satan with a warning that those who blaspheme such work of the Holy Spirit will be guilty of an eternal sin, for they demonstrate a lack of faith in Jesus, the Spirit-filled Messiah who is their only means of salvation (Mark 3:22-30).
So how does this passage apply to us? It cautions us not to frame our understanding of Jesus and how he works in our world through the Holy Spirit based on reason alone. While we may learn much about physiology and geology through scientific discoveries (General Revelation), Scripture (Special Revelation) overarches what our minds conceive through observation and insight. Specifically, while science dismisses any supernatural association with disease, whether its source or remedy, as followers of Jesus, we must always keep an open mind to demonic influence but, more importantly, to the triumphant power of the Holy Spirit.
The text also calls us to strengthen our faith in Christ, the Logos (the Word), as John announces in the prologue of his Gospel. Jesus, who is God, spoke all things into existence. So he who created us and gave us a voice can undoubtedly open our mouths to speak his words, even when we lack confidence or are afraid. Our part? Like the men who presented the mute man to Jesus and the crowd who followed, we draw near Jesus in faith and watch and wait. We observe his work (assessing unmet needs) and wait for the Holy Spirit to resource and guide us in our words and deeds. And regardless of whether the outcome meets our expectations, it will yield the desired effect: to glorify Christ and grow his kingdom.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who opened the mouths of the mute and still gives voice to us today. So would you please help us exercise faith with reason in watching how your Son works in our midst and waiting on the resourcing and guidance of your Holy Spirit to glorify your Son and grow his kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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