“Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.” Matt. 12:22 (KJV)
I cannot imagine what it would be like to be unable to speak. Can you imagine the agony of desperately desiring to communicate to someone and being unable to? Especially being a pastor, where I make my living by…well…talking. It’d be catastrophic.
In Matthew chapter 12, Jesus encountered a man who was both blind and mute. Jesus is always encountering people with physical ailments, but this man is particularly afflicted, having lost 2 of his 5 senses. One thing you realize if you study the Gospels is that the condition of the particular physical bodies Jesus encounters is often reflective of the condition of the nation as a whole. This man was blind and mute, but so was Israel. Blinded by its lost leaders, and left mute by the oppression of Roman occupation, the condition of the nation could also have accurately been described as “blind and mute.”
Societal muteness means that there are vast amounts of people that don’t have a voice. It means there are people who are unable to speak because their voice has either consciously or subconsciously been dismissed by those in power as lacking credibility.
The man Jesus encountered was “possessed by a demon.” I have no reason to doubt that demon possession is possible. But more important than whether or not you believe in demons is what being demonized meant. It meant to have your entire person under control of evil. Whether or not this man was actually possessed by a demon or had simply been accused of it, this man was one whom everyone saw as under the control of evil. They say “perception is reality,” and the reader of this story is reminded of the corporate character attacks launched at marginalized members of the community, rendering them voiceless. The institution (in this case, the Temple aristocracy) had declared this man to be demon possessed, thus discrediting his words (right after this they will do the same thing with Jesus, telling him that it is by the power of the Ruler of Demons that he casts them out).
It is eternally curious that Matthew tells us that Jesus healed him so that he could speak and see. Seems kind of redundant, Jesus. I mean, obviously when you heal someone who is blind and mute they will be able to speak and see. But Matthew is calling our attention to a deeper reality. Among other wondrous things, I believe that one thing the presence of Jesus brings is the liberation of language so that the cry of the oppressed is finally heard. The salvation-history of God and his people always begins with someone in oppression crying out and their voice being heard (“out of the slavery, their cry for help rose up to God” Ex. 2:23-24). Often those cries for help involve the upheaval of the current regime…the catastrophic subversion of the current institution. So its no wonder why we try to silence them. But when those regimes are overthrown, whether by miraculous intervention or suffering love and nonviolent resistance, people long mute are able to speak again.
The problem with centers of power that set themselves up as ideological monopolies is that they will always react in self-preservation against dissenters. Because they have the resources, the power, and the numbers to back themselves up, they are often ruthlessly efficient in the mutification of the marginalized. If the character-attack doesn’t work, there is always the cross. As such, the cross becomes the ultimate price for refusing to conform to the corporate society’s crippling language.
So the man disappears from the story, speaking and seeing, and now Jesus is front-and-center for the character attack of the Temple regime. All Jesus does is give them a strong warning about how the words they are speaking against people are leading the entire nation into a forever deepening blindness.
Who are we unintentionally marginalizing with the words we speak?
Who are we rendering voiceless in our attempts to preserve and protect our institutions?
What restitution must be made in order to invite the marginalized, forgotten, neglected, and oppressed to a seat at the table?
What ‘ideologies’ need to die in order that ‘individuals’ might live?
What societal sin do we need to repent of in order to discern God’s activity in and through the Messiah?
Could it be that in our attempts to protect our corporations and our “ministries” we are unintentionally opposing the healing presence of the Messiah?