Significant parallels exist between Matthew 20:29-34 and Matthew 21:1-11. The former passage portrays Jesus healing two blind men and the latter is the famous Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. These two stories occur side by side in Matthew, one right after the other. A few of the aforementioned parallels are the use of “crowd” in 20:29 and 21:8, “behold” in 20:30 and 21:5, “two” in 20:30 and 21:1, “Lord” in 20:30 and 21:3, and “Son of David” in 20:30 and 21:9.
There is theological significance, found in a kind of foreshadowing, in that the two men who were blind and could not see Jesus were healed. They were then able to physically see Christ and, more importantly, have their messianic understanding of Christ confirmed. The words from the two men that caused Jesus to stop were “Son of David.” Those words, referencing an obvious messianic title from chapter 1, causes Jesus to stop and listen to the two men. Moved with compassion, Christ opens their eyes so they can see. The crowds in 21:9 who are cheering for Jesus use the same title, “Son of David”, in their adoration. Although this crowd, in contrast to the two men in chapter 20, could physically see Jesus, they were mistaken about the true nature of his messianic kingship. In this setting Christ, who was certainly capable of “opening their eyes” to the truth of his purpose, chooses not to “heal” the crowds of their misinterpretation so that his ministry will reach its completion. This blindness even among those who can physically see also points back to 11:25 where Jesus praises God the Father for “hiding these things from the wise.”
The familiarity with insider/outsider language in Matthew reaches a point of finality with those who thing they are on the inside ultimately being the ones who send Christ to the cross. In that regard, they could be considered ‘insiders” in that they are fulfilling the decreed purposes of God established before the foundation of the world, but from a redemptive perspective, the cheering crowds praising Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem remain on the outside.
Two pastoral applications are in order. First, sincere examination of our own hearts is prompted from these two passages. Cheering for Jesus isn’t enough, nor is a legitimate enjoyment of church, bible study, theology, or religion. “Getting a lot out of worship” is meaningless for those who are on the “outside.” And we of course know that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter his kingdom, neither will everyone who claps their hands at the catchy drum beat during worship. Is your heart and life bearing the kind of fruit of a redeemed child of God?
Second, Jesus provides the ultimate example of keeping our eyes open to the need and hurt of those around us even while keeping our eyes on the big picture of eternity. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus, only steps away from finishing his purpose on earth, takes the time to stop and heal these two men? Most of us would have “zoned out” at that point and concentrated on the big deal of the cross. Just like many of us “zone out” on the day to day ministry of those in need because we are focused on what seems like bigger, more important things. People need the Lord. We are the ambassadors for Christ. Let’s not forget that during Holy Week. Yes, we should attend Holy Week services. Yes, we should meditate on the cross. Yes, we attend worship on Easter. But this week we should be saying, “Yes, I will help feed the poor!” “Yes, I will take the time to talk to that struggling friend!” “Yes, I will pray for those who are desperate.”
Yes, Lord, help us be more like Jesus.