This chapter is a Hall of Fame for faith. Four times over we see people actively stretching the bounds of belief, trusting in Jesus for intervention that is outside the limits of what is deemed possible. But they’ve got eyes on him. That’s all that matters.
The first instance is that of the paralytic, manhandled by friends into Jesus’ presence. Matthew doesn’t give the full story, but Mark and Luke reveal (1) that there were four friends (one for each corner of the mat), (2) that Jesus was teaching inside a jam-packed house, (3) that it was so crowded the door was inaccessible, (4) that the friends hoisted the man onto the roof-top, and (5) that they expended considerable effort creating a hole, removing roof-tiles and “digging” through. All of this was fueled by the simple necessity of getting the man in front of the Master. Jesus views this as faith – when he “saw their faith” (9:12) he answered their obvious, yet unspoken, request by giving mobility to the paralyzed man, plus, more importantly (and completely unexpectedly), forgiveness of sins. Faith puts the man in Jesus’ presence.
The second instance is that of a father whose daughter is in desperate need. Having become so familiar with Mark’s and Luke’s accounts (from which we learn the man’s name is Jairus and that he first approaches Jesus while his daughter is still alive, but dying), I hadn’t noticed Matthew cutting to the chase and highlighting the father’s faith even in light of the subsequent knowledge that the girl has actually died. He says, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live” (9:18). Wow – talk about stretching the bounds of possibility.
Meanwhile, the woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years stretches out her hand believing, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed” (9:21) – and she is. Faith stretches.
Finally, two blindmen persist in following Jesus (with the help of others?), crying out shamelessly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”, using the very title Matthew has been at pains to introduce in the first verse of his Gospel. Jesus pointedly asks them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They affirm it. Jesus reaches out and touches their eyes, saying, “According to your faith will it be done for you” (9:29). And it is.
A gallery of faith. Each of these brings the impossible into the sphere of possibility by encounter with Jesus. Or, to put it differently, impossibility is transformed when brought into Jesus’ presence. Faith is the mechanism that brings the two together. It means daring to press in. Sometimes through imagination (the woman “with eyes of faith”, seeing her hand on Jesus’ cloak), sometimes through words of declaration (the father speaking out his belief, the blindmen crying out their need), and sometimes through action (friends on the roof, the woman’s hand stretched out, the blindmen doggedly following).
Faith stretches. Faith speaks. Faith presses in. Oh, may faith abound.
O Lord, may I not hold back from bringing the impossible into your presence. May I be inspired by the friends’ exertion, the father’s unflagging request, the woman’s outstretched hand, and the unabashed outcry of the blind. O Lord, hear. O Lord, see. O Lord, once again transform impossibilities with your touch.
Reflect: What “impossibility” can you bring fresh to Jesus today?