The blind men who followed Jesus (Matthew chapter 9)

  • Question 190, from Ben

    Matthew 9:27 says that blind men followed Jesus – I find that a little confusing, how on earth did they follow him if they were blind? I believe the event true, just curious about some information on how blind people got around in that era.

    ‘Blindness’ covers a variety of sight disorders in the New Testament, in the same way ‘leprosy’ refers to a number of different skin conditions as well as leprosy. It may be the men in question were partially sighted, extremely-short-sighted, or suffered from cataracts. In those instances they may have had enough peripheral vision to see and follow Jesus.

    Even if they had been completely blind, Jesus was travelling in a large party that was drawing significant attention from other people. The two blind men would presumably have been used to finding their way around despite their blindness, and could have very easily been directed by members of the crowd. There is no indication that they had to follow Jesus a great distance before they reached him and were able to ask for healing.

    This is an interesting parable in symbolic terms. Matthew’s gospel makes the comparison between blindness and disbelief in Jesus in several places. For example, in chapter 15, verse 14, Jesus calls his opponents, the Pharisees “blind guides”. There is a discussion between Jesus and his disciples in chapter 13 where Jesus commends them for “seeing” what others “do not see”. Being able to ‘see’ means the disciples have “the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven” (verse 11).

    The gospel writer therefore is using this miracle story to show that whoever follows Jesus will “see”, that is, they will be saved and be part of the Kingdom. It is notable that the faith of the blind men in Jesus precedes having their sight restored. This is a keystone message for Matthew – believing in Jesus means his followers are no longer blind, but can see.

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