Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:32 “As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man
possessed with a devil.”
The stream of needy people never ceased flowing. They kept coming to Jesus, whose treasures are inexhaustible. His powers ever flow and never run out.
This man was speechless because an evil spirit had taken over in him. No one doubted the cause of his illness, not Jesus, not the disciples, not the crowd, not even the Pharisees. They all agreed the malady had no physical source. It was a case of demon possession. Something made it obvious the cause was supernatural.
This speechless man abdicated self-control and allowed an outside power to seize him. He pictures all who yield themselves to evil. They are morally captive.
A famous alcoholic who nightly drank himself into oblivion told a friend, “Every atom in my body craves a drink.” When the friend urged him to seek help, the alcoholic looked shocked, and replied, “I don’t want help. I want to drink.” Demon possession results from the possessed one’s self-abandoned desire for evil.
The Bible rarely ascribes illness to evil spirits. Most sickness has physical, organic causes. An ailment caused by evil spirits is the kind believers should least worry about. A prayer of faith is always effective in removing this type of illness.
In every sickness, we have every right to pray, “Remove anything in this that is from the evil one.” Don’t worry about demonic illness. Just pray it away.
Jesus wants to rebuke and remove from us anything caused by the evil one. Satan’s influence over a believer is limited to the level allowed by the believer.
Matt. 9:33a “And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake:. . .”
Jesus, always ready to help, performed the miracle with natural ease–no struggle, no dramatic pause. Our natural curiosity makes us wonder what the speechless man said, but Matthew was more interested in what the people said.
Matt. 9:33b “. . .and the multitude marveled, saying, It was never so seen in
If not in Israel, then nowhere, for no people ever saw more miracles than Israel did. Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah–the names are synonymous with miracles.
Jesus thrilled the masses, people not warped by prejudice. With no preconceived notions, ulterior motives, or agendas, they were willing to weigh evidence.
Jesus always appears wonderful to any with a sense of need and an open mind. Many have one or the other, but receive no help because both are required.
Matt. 9:34 “But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince
of the devils.”
Few Bible stories better reveal the bizarre absurdities we can let Satan bring on us. While rendering one man speechless, Satan prompted others to blasphemy.
The crowd marveled, the Pharisees maligned. The common people heard Jesus gladly; the clergy heard Him madly. These starkly contrasting responses highlight the impossibility of neutrality toward Jesus. There is no middle position. Jesus is either Deliverer or Deceiver, Deity or Demon, dependable or delusional.
Unable to deny the reality of Jesus’ miracles, the religious leaders sought to discredit the source of His power. With a formula easy to apply and hard to refute, they claimed Jesus was defeating minor demons by the power of the major demon.
No kindness is ever safe from misrepresentation. It is easy to suggest evil motives for all kindness. Expect our good to be spoken against. Do good anyway.
The religious leaders were exasperated. Their frustration had long been simmering near the boiling point. They had nervously watched Jesus claim to forgive sins (9:3), associate with irreligious riffraff (9:11), fast too little (9:14), and begin winning away the hearts and affections of their clientele (9:26,31,33).
They felt something had to be done to slow Jesus’ momentum, but His miracles were too public, too numerous, and too provable to deny. In frantic desperation, they finally blurted out publicly what they had surely been whispering privately, Jesus is in cahoots with Satan. What twisted logic–they saw Christ’s goodness, His kindness, His pity, His power, and ascribed it all to the devil. Go figure.
Ordained men of God did not recognize the Son of God. Beware this sin of the religious. Right is often resisted by those who are supposed to be guardians of right. Spurgeon, Moody, Finney, Whitefield, Wesley–though now famous and revered, these preachers were fought by huge blocks of the religious establishment.
What went wrong in the Pharisees? Analyzing them may help us avoid a misstep.
First, they believed their role was to define truth rather than to find it. They believed whatever they decided to be truth actually was truth. Beware. Truth is in the Bible, not in our opinions. Scripture is set in concrete; our interpretations of it are up for grabs. Truth is not subjective. Our task is not to pick and choose what we want to believe. Truth is objective. God determines it, our role is to accept it.
Second, they counted people as less valuable than opinions. They proved their callousness by deeming it more important to immediately defend their position than to take a moment to rejoice in one’s deliverance from silence. Where’s their gratitude for this healing? They were also harsh to the man born blind that Jesus healed (JN 9). Such lack of concern for individuals is a red flag. If we are not actively showing compassion for others, our whole spiritual walk is suspect.
Third, their thoughts had become slaves of their emotions. Did they really intellectually believe these terrible accusations against Jesus? Yes, because their hearts wanted to believe them. The mind often acquiesces to what the heart wants.
We are not nearly as logical a creatures as we might think. We often know what the truth is, but fail to act on it due to heart reasons. We do not want to offend family, disappoint friends, take scorn from our teachers, or lose face by admitting our enemies may have been right all along. We often say no evidence can change a closed mind. It is also true to say no evidence can open a closed heart. A predisposed emotion can be as hard to change as a preconceived opinion.
A prejudiced heart can keep the mind from being objective. Hatred toward Jesus blinded the Pharisees’ intellect. Hatred is no good. Never make decisions based on it. Until we can clear it from our heart, let others make decisions for us.
Love can blind the mind. Any obsession for a person, drug, lifestyle, habit, or behavior can color and distort everything we think. A person who loves any aspect of darkness and craves to embrace it will have trouble turning to the light.
Fourth, they were prisoners to their own nostalgia. All greatness was in the past. Anything new was bad. To change any tradition was a terrible evil. They did not want to disturb the status quo, especially since they were the kingpins in it.
They were too set in their ways to change, too content with their own self-righteousness, too proud to learn. None are as blind as those who refuse to see.
Jesus preached repentance, the need to admit the error of their ways, but they were satisfied, and saw no need to change. Self-satisfaction is ever the death knell of spirituality. In this lifetime, we never “arrive,” we are ever in transition.