In Matthew 8-9 Jesus demonstrated his authority over creation, demons, sin and sickness, and even over the power of death. As people see Jesus’s self-revelation, they have to make some kind of a decision: who is Jesus? Two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31 declare he is the Son of David and “spread his fame” and the crowd marvels. Yet the Pharisees are not yest convinced he is the Messiah and begin to accuse him of being in league with the devil himself (Matthew 9:34).
Two blind men call on Jesus as the Son of David. Why do they call Jesus the “son of David”? Matthew told us Jesus was the son of David in the very first line of the book. Starting in 9:27, the reader learns this is not merely descent in the line of David, but the Son of David who will rule as king in the eschatological kingdom (2 Sam 7:11-16). From this point on in Matthew, Jesus is called the “Son of David” several more times (12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 22:42). The first century B.C. text Psalms of Solomon describes the messiah as the son of David:
Psalms of Solomon 17:21 See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God.
According to Isaiah 35:5-6, the messiah would open the eyes of the blind and the ear of the deaf (cf., Isa 29:18; 42:7-16). The opening and closing of the eyes and ears is an important theme Isaiah 6, a text Jesus will pick up in Matthew 12 in response to the Pharisees who accuse him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub.
Isaiah 35:5–6 (ESV) 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. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.
When Jesus answers the disciples of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:5: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”
Rather than asking to be healed, the blind men ask Jesus to have mercy on them. Mercy (ἐλεέω) refers to having compassion for someone in need or to feel pity for them. This is usually expressed in a concrete action, such as almsgiving (the cognate noun ἐλεημοσύνη). In verse 27 the two blind men do not ask Jesus to heal them, but to have mercy. Since they are blind, they cannot take care of themselves and were likely reduced to begging. It is entirely possible these men call on Jesus for alms, some tangible gift of mercy rather than actual healing.
Blindness is associated with the judgment of God on sin in the Old Testament. For example, the men of Sodom are struck blind by the angels (Gen 19:11). In Exodus 4:11, in response to Moses complaint that he cannot speak, God himself says “Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
Leviticus 21:20 includes blindness in a list of illnesses that prevent a person from going up to the temple to worship. David prohibits the blind from entering the sanctuary (2 Sam 5:8). In the first century B.C., the coming messianic age will prohibit the blind, deaf and lame from participation in the final battle (1QSa 2:3-11; 1QM 7:4-5).
Jesus asks the men if they believe he is able to do this, and they express faith. This is the only place in Matthew where Jesus asks a person if they believe before they are healed.
Jesus touches their eyes. For most healings, Jesus does not need to touch the person, but for restoring sight he often touches the eyes (the part of the body that needs to be healed). This section of began with Jesus touching a leper (8:3), he touched Peter’s mother-in-law’s hand (8:15) and the dead girl (9:25).
Jesus gives them a “stern warning”: see that knows one knows about it. Like the warning to the leper at the beginning of the section (8:4), Jesus warns the men not to talk about this miracle. Why does Jesus warn them in this way?
Is Jesus frustrated with the blind men? The verb ἐμβριμάομαι is sometimes an expression of anger or displeasure (BDAG), or even a sever scolding (BrillDAG). It has the connotation of indignation. The word is used for the attitude of the disciple objects to the woman using the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’s feet (Mark 14:5). But this is also the word John used to describe Jesus’s emotions when he arrived at Lazarus’s tomb (John 11:38, but there is the possibility of anger or frustration).
As usual, the formerly blind men disregard Jesus’s command to be silent and “spread his fame throughout that district.” There is no way to contain the news that the son of David restored their sight!
That Jesus’s fame spreads throughout the region recalls Matthew’s summary statement in 4:24. The result is larger crowds seeking healing. It is not unlikely Jesus asks the healed men to stay silent so that the crowds do not get out of control. The large crowds draw the attention of Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who see Jesus as a messianic movement.