Perhaps the greatest joy of being a teacher of God’s Word in a local church is the opportunity to help scripture come alive in the presence of others. It may simply be my own limited point of view, for I can’t be sure everyone in my Sunday School class felt God’s joy this morning, but as we turned to Matthew 21, and looked at the healing of the blind and the lame in the temple, we began to see the radical nature of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It’s one of those passages that requires us to slow down in our reading, lest we miss the joy in the Gospel:
Matthew 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
If we were to read earlier in the chapter, we discover that Jesus enters Jerusalem with gladness and praise from the crowds, yet strangely, once He’s in the temple, we see Him immediately turning over tables and creating all kinds of enemies. In fact, in all likelihood, the cleansing of the temple is the major event that sets Him on a direct trajectory toward the crucifixion.
So in chapter 21 we see joy (the coming into Jerusalem), shock (the cleansing of the temple), and then, to our amazement, joy again (the healing of the blind and lame). It’s nothing but a whiplash – a dizziness of emotion – a psychological vertigo! What are we to think? Who is this Jesus, anyway? “Hey Jesus, will you make up your mind? Do you want the people to love you or do you want them to hate you?”
Here’s His projected response: “I’m not interested in the people’s point of view. I’m interested in my Father’s point of view.” The way we understand Jesus’ actions is by transporting our minds to a radically different place – a heavenly place rather than an earthly place. When Jesus enters Jerusalem the people immediately think of Him from their own perspective. He is their King – the one prophesied as the Son of David! So He rides into the city on the colt of a donkey. Yet their paradigm of this King is entirely wrong. He does not come to give them what they want. He comes to give them what they need.
What did they need? They needed their paradigm of serving God turned upside down: tables turned over, coins on the pavement, love of profit exposed. The leaders of the people wanted to maintain their status quo. “We can sell the people money. They will have to buy temple coins with Roman coins, and then we can raise the price on the sacrifices. It’s a win, win for us, and a win, win for God’s little kingdom! Sure, it’s a lose, lose for the crowds! But do we really care?”
Yet God’s kingdom is far from little. It is meant to be a kingdom for the entire world. So Jesus hits them unexpectedly and directly in the face. “Money and power is not what you need. Love for others is my Father’s heart.”
We see that Jesus gives the authorities exactly what they need, and shows, for those who can receive it, a radically new paradigm: He heals the blind and the lame. Now of course at first we as readers don’t see the big deal. “Another healing? Jesus is always healing someone so what makes this healing any different?” Here’s the answer: in the Jewish tradition, the blind and the lame were not allowed in the temple (See 2 Samuel 5), much less gets healed in the temple! Yet the Gospel is breaking in with power and authority – Jesus heals them:
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.
Few pleasures exist which are greater than the reading of a sequence of words that communicate joy punctuated with meaning, and in six little words (“came to him in the temple”) joy and meaning abound. The lowest members of society, the people who were not even allowed in the presence of God, are not only welcomed, but lifted up to demonstrate the purpose of worship: healing and praise (the children will praise Jesus in verse 15).
So much more can be said of this passage. So much more can be said of Matthew 21. Jesus has broken into our world and changed it all. Some of us come to Him blind. Some of us come to Him lame. Either way, we only come, and we find a new freedom and a new life from this point forward.