Open Matthew 9:27-31.
Guide dogs are amazing: a constant companion, willing to take a blind person where they want to go. The dog is trained for you personally, so it’s expensive to train one, and it really does become your own personal guide.
We make a huge mistake when we apply the same language to Jesus — calling him “my personal Saviour.” That’s a term Scripture never uses, because it could suggest that we think Jesus belongs to us, and he will take us where we want to go. That’s a completely corrupt way to understand Jesus, as if he was our personal servant and guide. And yet that attitude is widespread in the church today. We’re proclaiming that selfish arrogance each time we tell people, “Invite Jesus into your life; he’ll make it so much better for you.”
If you ever meet Queen Elizabeth, please do not invite her to be your personal queen. You’d be insulting her, as if she did not have that authority already. Please don’t invite her to sit on the throne of your heart! She already has the throne! What you must do is to acknowledge her authority, bow before her in recognition of her regal status, and follow her commands.
So there was this blind man who said to Jesus, “I invite you to be my personal healer.” No, he did not! He gave Jesus an appropriate title:
Matthew 9:27-31 (my translation)
27 As Jesus moved on from there, two blind people followed him shouting, “Have mercy on us, son of David.” 28 After entering the house, Jesus approached the blind people and said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord” they replied. 29 Then he touched their eyes saying, “According to your faith, let it be to you. 30 Their eyes were opened. Jesus strictly ordered them, “Make sure no one knows!” 31 But when they went out, they spread news of him across that whole land.
They’re blind, but they see Jesus’ significance. He is Son of David (9:27). God had promised that a son of David would reign over God’s people in every generation (2 Samuel 7:16), though that had ceased to be 600 years before Jesus’ time. People yearned for the Son of David to restore the kingdom to Israel (Psalm 89:49; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:24). These two blind people “see” what Jesus is doing, and publicly proclaim him as Israel’s long-awaited king.
For Matthew, this title has enormous significance. He opened his Gospel by pointing us to Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David (1:1). It’s a title he includes ten times (1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42). Why is it so significant? Because the arrival of the king portends the restoration of the kingdom.
When the promised king arrived, the centuries of injustice would be over. Those who lost the land will have it back. Those who mourned the loss of so much would finally receive comfort. Those who had hungered and thirsted for justice would finally receive satisfaction. Everything that had been wrong, the king would set right.
So if the king is here and restoring his people, could these two blind people have their sight restored? The prophets had used that kind of language to speak of this wonderful day:
Isaiah 35: 4–6 (ESV)
4 Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.
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.
So the blind people follow after the king elect, requesting him to have mercy on their particular need.
Privately (after moving inside), Jesus asks the blind pair whether they genuinely expect him to do what they asked (9:28). They affirm their confidence in their king, declaring their allegiance to him by acknowledging him as Lord. In accordance with the trust they placed in him, the king grants their request (9:29).
But it’s too early to have Jesus announced to Israel as David’s anointed successor. His own disciples are still coming to terms with his identity (compare 16:16). So the king gives strict orders to these two no-longer-blind people to make sure that no one else knows of their healing — orders they completely disregard (9:31). Perhaps they were not as committed to his rulership as they claimed to be.
But did you notice how the good news worked for these blind people? They started with the big message of Jesus’ identity as ruler, as the son of David restoring God’s people. Within that big picture, they believed Jesus would also restore them, with their particular needs. It’s the kingdom message first, and the individuals finding their restoration with that big story.
To proclaim the good news of the kingdom, we proclaim the king. Individuals receive their healing within that framework. That’s how these blind people saw it: the king restores us along with his world.
What others are saying
Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 372–373:
This expression [Son of David] refers to the promise of the messianic deliverer from the line of David whose kingdom will have no end (2 Sam. 7:12–16; cf. Pss. Sol. 17:23). The messianic age promised to bring healing to the blind (Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7) … These men have profoundly connected Jesus with the prophecies of the Son of David who will heal blindness (cf. 12:22–23; 21:14–15), and they ask for that gift of messianic mercy.
Examples of the recent development of “personal saviour” language:
D. L. Moody, Life Words from Gospel Addresses of D. L. Moody, ed. G. F. G. Royle (London: John Snow & Co., 1875), 69 (emphasis original):
We must have Christ in our hearts as a personal Saviour, not only delivering us from the pit of hell, but saving us from our sins.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Free-Agency of Christ,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 48 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 22:
Seek for personal faith in a personal Saviour. You were born alone; you will have to pass through the gates of death alone.
R. A. Torrey, How to Work for Christ a Compendium of Effective Methods. (Chicago; New York: James Nisbet & Company, 1901), 136–137:
If one is skeptical on this point [hell], though a Christian (in that he has accepted Christ as a personal Saviour) it is well to show him the teaching of God’s Word.
Some even equate Evangelicalism with “personal saviour” language e.g. George A. Rawlyk, Is Jesus Your Personal Saviour? In Search of Canadian Evangelicalism in the 1990s. (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996).
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