The Healing Touch of Jesus

Matthew 9:18-34

In the Hindu religion with its caste system, those who are often the neediest are the one who are called the Untouchables. Jesus often touched those whom He healed. He could heal at a distance without ever even seeing the recipient of His miraculous power. However, He chose to touch the eyes of blind. The unclean lepers would feel His touch even though they were the untouchables. To show love and mercy is to touch the object of your love and compassion. This is why Jesus touched. He identified with those He came to heal and save.

Touching the Hand of the Dead, 9:18,19, 23-26

It was while Jesus was dealing with the disciples of John on the subject of why Jesus and His disciples failed to fast, that the chief ruler of the synagogue abruptly spoke to Jesus about an urgent situation. His twelve-year-old daughter was about to die. Jairus was the highest-ranking religious figure in all of Capernaum being the chief ruler at the local synagogue.

Imagine the thoughts of the Pharisees when they saw Jairus worship Jesus. This was a man who was desperate to save his daughter. He did not care at this point what they thought of him. It only mattered what he thought about Jesus’ ability to touch with His life-giving hand his dying daughter. At this point in His ministry, Jesus had never raised anyone from the dead. Later He had a habit of breaking up every funeral He attended. As they were about to bury the widow of Nain’s son, Jesus ends the procession to the cemetery by raising Him up to life. As they were four days into mourning the death His friend Lazarus, Jesus calls him from the dead. As women come to Jesus’ tomb for further burial preparation, Jesus resurrects from the grave.

By the time Jesus arrives at the house of the ruler, the girl is dead. The professional mourners and musicians have already arrived. The Babylonian Talmud says: “even the poorest in Israel should hire not less than two flutes and one wailing woman” (Ketuboth 4.4). They were already making quite the commotion. Jesus commands them to get out of the house. This is not before He claims the girl is asleep. Jesus is not lying. Throughout the Bible death is often called a sleep (Dan. 12:2; 1 Thess. 4:14). Jesus has the power to awake the dead. The girl’s condition was not terminal but temporary.

The other Gospels inform us that Jesus let Peter, James and John along with the girl’s parents to accompany him. Jesus taking her by the hand called upon her to raise. She arose immediately.

Even though Jesus knew dead bodies were unclean, He touched the dead to bring life to the body instead of bringing uncleanness to Himself.

Touching the Hem of the Garment, 9:20-22

It was while Jesus was on His way to the house of Jairus that His travels were interrupted by a woman. This woman had been suffering as long as Jairus’ daughter was alive. She was bleeding constantly most likely from her womb. This made her unclean according to Leviticus 15:25-27. This resulted in extreme isolation. If married, she could not be intimate with her husband else, he would be unclean for a time. If unmarried she could not get married. She would not be able to go to the synagogue or the Temple.

Her condition was incurable. She had sought out help, but no healing could be found (Luke 8:43). Her situation grew worse (Mark 5:26) and left her penniless. “The Jewish Talmud prescribed eleven different cures for it. Among the remedies, most of them superstitious, was that of carrying the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer and in a cotton bag in the winter. Another involved carrying around a barleycorn kernel that had been found in the dung of a white female donkey.” (MacArthur 80).

She was truly an untouchable. What hope did she have of being healed by the touch of the Master hand? If Jesus did touch her, He would become ceremonially or ritually unclean. If she were to touch Him directly it would mean He was considered unclean. However, she had a plan and to give her the courage to carry it through, she kept repeating to herself the plan. If she could just touch the hem of His garment, she would be clean. This not only demonstrated her great faith in Jesus’ power to heal but also her respect for Christ and not to contaminate him. Furthermore, she shows knowledge and respect for the Law of Moses.

As soon has she touched the hem of the garment power went forth to heal her immediately, that is, “from that hour.” Jesus would turn and ask who touched Him. He shows the woman respect by calling her daughter and commending her faith. She did not make Him unclean by her touch transferring any uncleanness, but His power transformed her. Some believe the hem here means the tassel sewn onto the end of the garment (Num. 15:37–41; Deut. 22:12).

Touching the Eyes of the Blind, 9:27-31

Before Jesus could return to the house where He was staying in Capernaum (perhaps the home of Peter), he was being called upon by two blind men from the crowd, “crying out and saying, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us!’ And when He had come into 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, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’ And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See that no one knows it.’ But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country”. Notice how many times Jesus who was always surrounded by the masses of people would ignore them, so He could focus on the needs of individuals like John’s disciples, the ruler of the synagogue, the woman in this context, and now these two blind men. These “interruptions” were used by Jesus as opportunities.

Blindness must have been a common problem for first century Palestine. Jesus cured many who were blind.

At first, Jesus seems to ignore them crying out to Him until they follow Him into the house. They proclaim aloud their faith in Him as the Messiah by using the royal title “Son of David.” Their request is “mercy.” They could not demand healing from Jesus. They did not have anything to give Him. In response, Jesus asked them if they had faith in His ability to give them sight. At their confession of faith, they were given sight.

As Jesus often did, He sternly commanded them not to spread this around. This seems to be an odd request. After all, those who have known of these two blind men would notice they could see. Perhaps this is what Jesus desired. He wanted the crowd to see the healing and make up their own mind what it proved about Him. They needed to believe Him to be the Son of David, the Messiah sent from God. Instead of obeying the Son of David, they spread the good news about receiving their sight from Jesus to everyone everywhere they went.

Touching the Ears of the Mute, 9:32-34

Although there is a clear distinction between healing physical diseases and casting out demons, sometimes demon possession resulted in physical afflictions. The demon possessed man was “dumb.” This means he could not speak. Since the term also could mean deafness, the man may have been rendered mute because he could not hear. When the demon was cast out the man could immediately speak.

There are two responses to the casting out of this demon. First, the reaction of the multitudes: “It was never seen like this in Israel!” (9:33). Second, is the response of the Pharisees who could not deny the great power of Jesus over demons or His ability to heal. So, they attribute Jesus’ power to that of Satan: “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons” (9:34). They would later repeat this claim in Matthew 12:22ff. The ruler of the demons is the Devil himself. However, these same Pharisees had no problem proclaiming their source of power of demon was Divine (12:27).

Blindness is often a symbol in Scripture of spiritual blindness which is unbelief and ignorance. In this case the blindness to who Jesus was is self-imposed by the Pharisees. They were also dull of hearing and could not speak the truth about who Jesus was.

Today, while men and women study the evidence of Jesus’ credentials, they too must come to a conclusion about Jesus. Was He Demonic? Was He Demented? Was He a Deceiver? Or was He Deity? Those who are blind and dull of hearing will not be able to make the right choice.

– Daniel R. Vess


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