Matthew 20:29-34, “Fervent Faith”
“Fervent.” It seems to be one of those words that people often know and use, but perhaps are rarely able to define. When used metaphorically, the word refers to great emotion – but the root word comes from the Latin “fervere,” which means “to boil.” It’s a word that speaks of great heat. When a child has a “fever,” we mean to say that his/her temperature is elevated…he’s hot.
Christians most use the word when talking about prayer, when we often come to the close of the book of James: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (Jas 5:16) What kind of prayer is “fervent” prayer? What kind of faith leads to that kind of prayer? Faith that heats up & boils over leads to prayer that is passionate and effective. That’s the sort of faith we need in our own lives, and that’s the sort of prayer and faith we see illustrated with the blind men at the end of Matthew 20. In their desperate state, they see Jesus & their faith boils over with wonderful results.
There is much in this short little account of the blind men that resembles our own relationship with Christ Jesus. They recognize their King as well as their need for His power, much like we need to recognize our need for Him. They resist the discouragement of the crowds, as we resist the discouragement of the world. They respond to His grace through faith and discipleship, just as we follow Jesus fully in faith. In many ways, they are a model for us. Nothing could keep those men from seeking after Jesus – they were desperate for His saving power. Unless Jesus acted, they had no hope…and Jesus DID act. Jesus always responds to those who seek Him in fervent faith.
29 Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.
- Where was Jericho? There were actually two cities: the old & the new, located within 2 miles of each other. This helps explain a bit of the discrepancies between the gospel accounts. Luke has Jesus entering Jericho for the healing; Mark & Matthew have Jesus leaving. This is easily explained if Jesus is moving from the older minor village to the rebuilt Herodian city. Of course, the blind men could have just as easily followed Jesus through the town, which would also explain the differences.
- We need to take just a moment to understand the general context. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, which ultimately will take Him to the cross and resurrection. This is the entire reason of His earthly ministry, and things are about to come to a climax. This is the last event that Matthew & Mark recount prior to His entry into the city – yet there was much else that took place during these days. Luke tells us of Jesus’ meeting with Zaccheus the tax-collector, and the parable of the minas (another form of the famous parable of the talents). John tells us how Mary (the sister of Lazarus) anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, and how the priests plotted to put Lazarus to death because of how Jesus had raised him from the dead. (The synoptics don’t mention Lazarus at all…it’s possible Jesus had raised him some months earlier, and not all of the disciples had been present for the miracle.) Whereas the crowds following Jesus had ebbed & flowed in the past, now Jesus was at the height of His popularity and “a great multitude” was following Him. They had seen the evidence with their own eyes that the King of Israel was among them, and they now followed Him as He moved closer and closer to the capitol city. In their minds, they thought that the moment had come: the King was among them and the time for freedom from Rome was at hand! The nation was on the verge of being restored, and they wanted a front-row seat to it all.
- Of course, what the multitude desired never occurred…at least in the manner that they expected. The King was among them, and He was instituting His kingdom in a glorious way when He personally sacrificed Himself for the sin of all mankind, and then rose from the dad in power and victory. But that wasn’t what they were looking for. They were looking for a temporary kingdom, and they were vastly disappointed when it didn’t come. Many of those who were in the multitude that day following Jesus weren’t truly followers of Jesus. They were there for the front-row seat; they weren’t there as actual disciples. Many who were there would later turn on Jesus and demand His crucifixion (which will be very evident during the Triumphal entry).
- Being part of the crowd doesn’t make someone a disciple. Anyone can be a part of a crowd. Anyone can sit in a church service, or walk forward with a mass of people at a crusade, or do any number of things that people do that make it look like they are following Jesus as their lord. But just because someone goes through the motions doesn’t make it sincere. Jesus doesn’t look for motions; He looks for those who will worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus looks for the heart that is surrendered to Him.
30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”