Matthew 15:21-39 Part 3

“And came to Him large crowds having with them crippled, blind, crooked, dumb and many others, and they cast them down at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd to wonder – seeing dumb speaking, crooked sound, and crippled walking around and blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”


Matthew, with the most simplistic language, has described for us a scene which, even at times of our best creative imaginations, it would be difficult to recreate!

I think that’s somewhat due to the language that’s used.  And, to some extent, it’s due to the inability of this preacher to be descriptive.  But, to an even greater extent, it’s because we in the Church, although deeply vexed about the boldness of the world order, haven’t yet suffered like these people did under the weight of intense oppression!  But that’s not to say that we aren’t headed in that direction.

Should the civil authorities proceed to further disconnect themselves from God and His holy Law like Israel’s leaders did, and should our ecclesiastical authorities continue to preach another Gospel, then it is conceivable that we might experience the abandonment and collective sighing that we read here in the text that was the awful state of the nation of Israel at the time of Christ.

I have often thought about the boldness and faithfulness of J. Gresham Machen as he sat before the legislative branch of this government and lectured our representatives concerning their duties as ministers of God.  And I have wondered what I would say to them if I ever conceivably had the opportunity to do the same.

I would pray to God that I would fear no man – and that I would stand as firmly upon the Word of God as did our forefather, Rev. Machen.  And I think, having read and studied this passage of Scripture and the next few verses of chapter sixteen, that I would read it to them.  And then I would warn them of the crushing effect of a godless civil magistrate; that a government which disconnects itself from Gods’ Law ravages its own people; and that the most certain means of de-humanizing a civilization is for the leadership to revoke God’s Covenant!

And I would say to them that, like ancient Israel, there is a collective morbidity consuming this nation; that we are rotting from the inside; and that this culture is becoming invalid.  I would tell them that the people are becoming blind and weak and lame and diseased; that the nation is being imprisoned by a comprehensive hopelessness; that the spiritual capital that many of our forefathers invested is almost gone.

And I would humbly confront them with the fact that they are the latest in a line of God’s ministers for justice who have cast the nation down by replacing God’s Law with their own!  And the direction of this society, because of it, is downward!

Now, Israel is a specific Biblical example of what happens when an entire people become isolated from the truth in God’s Word.  And I want to read for you two short excerpts from God’s direct warning to them about what would happen to them if they did that!  I’ll only read a little bit, but it would do you well to read the whole of Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight.

Here’s the first one:


“And it shall come to pass, if you will listen diligently unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and to do all His Commandments which I command you this day, that the Lord your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth.  And all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you, if you will listen unto the voice of the Lord your God.  You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the field.  Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle and the increase of your cattle and the flocks of your sheep.  Blessed shall be your basket and your stores.  You shall be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out….”


And then there comes after that a longer explanation of the blessings – and they are couched in the language of an Edenic lifestyle!  The cities and the farmland will be blessed; the children and the offspring of the animals will be blessed.  And blessings flow freely in economics and health and international relations and weather – and general well-being!

And then, after that, comes the second passage – same chapter.


“But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all His Commandments and His statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.  Cursed you shall be in the city, and in the field.  Cursed shall be your basket and your stores.  Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land, and the increase of your cattle and the flocks of your sheep.  Cursed you shall be when you come in and when you go out.”


And then, as with the former passage, comes a longer explanation of the curses.  And instead of being the language of the Garden of Eden, these words describe in graphic detail the desolations of plagues and abortions and unfaithfulness in marriage and disease and famine and mental anguish and blindness and governmental tyranny.  All the terminology is descriptive of death and hopelessness and darkness and lostness.

Let me reiterate – the Words that God used are simple and direct and very specific about what would happen to the nation if they turned things upside down and lived by another law other than God’s Law!  The passage is so clear that the explanation of it is unimpeachable! – there is a direct relationship between obedience to God’s Holy Law and the health and well-being of a people!  To misinterpret that would take a damnable alteration of the words themselves, or a monstrous denial of the faithfulness of God to His Own Words!

And you see, the Son of God came, in the flesh, at the appointed time, when Israel was reaching the height of its disobedience and rejection of God’s Law; and at that point in time just before the fullness of all these curses!  Just as the warnings of Deuteronomy twenty-eight, the people were under the oppression of a fierce foreign government.  The internal politics were completely chaotic; the demons of Satan were freely inhabiting the population; Esau’s descendants were the direct rulers – the Herodian family; taxation was oppressive and administered by a patronage system filled with injustice and graft; spiritually the people were blind; physically they were eaten up with plagues and disease and malformed bodies; they were unwell, unfit and economically unproductive; and they were the laughing stock of the pagan nations of the whole world.  She was called “Babylon the whore” because she had lain with every pagan philosophy.  And now the whole world hissed at her in mocking derision – “Just look at that country; where is her god now?”

The people were living under the full weight of the curses of God that we read before.  And the leadership – the Pharisees and the Scribes and priests of the nation – were blindly and fanatically holding on to a man-made eschatology!

But in the midst of this, languishing under blind ecclesiastical guides and oppressed by a tyrannous dictatorship, were the elect remnant of the house of Jacob – some from every tribe – and described often in the Scriptures as being scattered and lost.  God’s Law had been abandoned by the nation, and God’s elect people were laboring under the afflictions resulting from it!

And the Biblical language often describes them as sheep – God’s elect – which had been ravaged and torn and bruised and imprisoned and scattered.  Let me read some of the passages for you.  And you listen for the promises of healing and feeding and restoration by the Good Shepherd.


Isaiah thirty-five:  “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then shall the lame leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing….”


Isaiah forty:  “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young….”


Jeremiah fifty:  “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains… and all that have found them have devoured them….  Israel is a scattered sheep…..”


Psalm twenty-three:  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures….  He restores my soul….  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil….”


Ezekiel thirty-four:  (Read).


And, finally, Luke quotes Isaiah in his Gospel, chapter four:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”


Now.  Our Lord Jesus said:  “Truly I say unto you, I Am the door for the sheep.  All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not listen to them.  I Am the door; if any man enter in by Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture (be nourished).”


All these passages of Scripture lead me directly to our text this morning, for after Jesus climbed up into the mountain and sat down,


“And came to Him large crowds having with them crippled, blind, crooked, dumb and many others, and they cast them down at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd to wonder – seeing dumb speaking, crooked sound, and crippled walking around and blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”


Here are the poor and the sick and the oppressed people of God, ravaged by having been disconnected from the blessings and justice of God’s Law, streaming up the side of this mountain by the thousands, supporting and dragging and carrying one another.  And the diseased and broken and crippled and possessed and blind were cast down at His feet.

And the shore of the sea, and the mountains and valleys around them must have been filled with their presence and the noise from them, as, one by one, for three full days, they were cast down at His feet.  And He healed them all.  They had been wasted by alien shepherds – wolves who had mutilated them and scattered them.  But Jesus reversed the condition of His flock and restored them to life and health.

And as the life-giving Good Shepherd continued to tend His ravaged flock, one by one the lame would get up and leap around like deer, and the dumb would talk and sing, and the blind would cheer and yell and scream at the sight of God’s creation.  And the roar of the crowd would get louder and louder as it expressed its wonder at what was happening to them.

Matthew uses the term “wonder”.  The crowd wondered.  It was in astonishment at the staggering events which were taking place around them and for them and to them!  The One promised by God in Ezekiel thirty-four had come to deliver them and heal their brokenness and free them from their prisons.  He had come from God to find them that were scattered and lost!  The Messiah had come to feed them upon the mountain of Israel, and the collective sigh of affliction and darkness became a thunderous roar of joy and exultation – for salvation had come to Israel!

And Matthew says they all glorified the God of Israel!  The word “glorify” means to give honor and to exalt and to praise.  This is exactly what the Lord Jesus said that His mission was – to give glory to His Father.  And the whole crowd, from the words of Matthew here, seems to have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah sent from God to deliver them.  This was the God of Israel Who had promised Israel a Deliverer, and Who now was fulfilling His promise.  And He was receiving the glory from the recipients of that promise!

And now, very quickly, I want to take you to John’s vision in the Revelation, chapter fourteen, because the glorious event in our text here in Matthew fifteen so very closely fits what John saw as God opened up the heavens for him – to show him what was really happening in the coming of the Lord’s Kingdom.  So listen to the first seven verses of this great passage.  The apostle John writes:


“And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Name and the Name of His Father written on their foreheads.”


Now remember that the hundred and forty-four thousand is the number of the wholeness of the remnant of Israel whom God had reserved for Himself.  And the Names of God and His Son are on their foreheads – signifying ownership!  These are His elect from the twelve tribes of Israel.  And they are standing on the mountain with their Deliverer!  Verse two:


“And I heard a Voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the Voice which I heard was like harpists playing on their harps.  And they sing a New Song before the Throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased form the Land!” (Israel)


The Lord Jesus Christ has found His Father’s people and has restored them, and now the heavenly orchestra is playing the victory Song, for the Son of God is in His Holy Mountain, and He has sealed His people with His Own Name!  And they are the only ones out of Israel who can learn the new Song!  Verses four and five:


“These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they are chaste men.  These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.  And no lie was in their mouth; for they are blameless.”


These are the ones who have not committed fornication with the nations – as their leaders did, and they did not bow the knee to Baal, and they did not believe the false prophesies of the blind guides of Israel!  And they have been purchased by the Lamb as the first generation – the choice selection from among Israel – to be the first harvest of all the earth, which is now claimed by Christ as His exclusive property!  And John continues, verses six and seven:


“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven; having an eternal Gospel to preach to those who sit over the Land, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people:  and he said with a loud Voice:  ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of waters.”


The message of the angel is, first, one of condemnation to those who sit in authority over Israel; and then it is preached to all the nations and peoples and tongues of the earth.  To Israel fist – then to the nations.  And the preaching is this:  Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come!  His Son has come.  It is the Day of the Lord!  Therefore worship Him Who has made the heavens and the earth and the sea (the world itself – Genesis chapter one) and the springs of waters (paradise – Genesis chapter two).

In our Matthew fifteen text, the Lord has come into His holy mountain and restored the elect of God and sealed them with His Name.  And in heaven the beasts and the angels and the elders are singing praises to the glory of God, for the Lord has claimed the first-fruits of His Kingdom!  And He stands on the mountain of Israel as Sovereign Lord of the Land.  And all the people, restored to life in Him, wonder at it all and glorify the God of Israel – for He has made heaven and earth and the sea; and now He has made the springs of living water.  The Garden of Eden, paradise itself, has been restored in Christ.

The next time we pick up with this text, Jesus feed the people with the bread of Life.