FROM BAD TO WORSE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 25, 2014
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
— Matthew 9:27-34, ESV
Most of us have been on the losing end of conversations or situations that went from bad to worse. It’s a bad day when you find a worm in your apple, but it’s a worse day when you find half a worm in your half-eaten apple. It’s a bad day when your doctor calls you and gives you the news that tests reveal you only have 48 hours to live. It gets much worse when the he adds that he tried to get in touch with you two days ago.
Want a true story? Think about the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, who fell in love with the beautiful Rachel and asked for her hand in marriage. The bad news is that he had to work for her father and wait seven years for the wedding. The worse news was discovered on the morning after the wedding night, when Jacob looked beside him in the bed and discovered he had just married Rachel’s less-than-attractive older sister, Leah. The Bible must be true because you just can’t make up stuff like that.
Speaking of bad to worse and the Bible, let’s take a look at another day in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. While still in the relatively early stages of His Galilean ministry, Jesus meets some people who had it bad and others who had it worse. What’s bad is that these poor people needed His help in the first place. What’s worse is that even Jesus couldn’t, or wouldn’t, help all of them.
Blindness is Bad
Blindness is bad, but it could have been worse. The Messiah just might not have passed by that day. But, He did, and by faith these two blind men could see it.
No one in the Old Testament ever healed the blind. Psalm 146 ascribed such power only to the Lord, and Isaiah predicted many times that when the Messiah came to earth He would make the blind to see in more ways than one.
These two men could not see, but they could hear. They heard the Scriptures read and expounded each week in their Sabbath day assembly. They heard the reports of what Jesus was doing and who He claimed to be. They heard the ruckus that resounded in their village the day Jesus came to town. They could not see, but they could hear, and they did believe.
They could see by faith that Jesus is Lord, and faith in Jesus as Lord made them see. They could hear Jesus tell them not to tell anyone, but even Jesus knew they could not keep such good news to themselves. Their physical blindness had been bad, but if spiritual blindness had kept them from recognizing Jesus, then it would have been a whole lot worse.
Physical blindness is bad. Spiritual blindness is worse, and most people have it. The only cure is to look to the word of God and call upon the name of the Lord. The Bible is a two-way mirror that lets us see the beauty and glory of the Lord on one hand, while convicting us of our attitudes and actions which fall far short. Faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ combined with repentance of sin is truly the miracle of grace that enables a depraved and blind person to see. And once amazing grace has made you see, keep following Christ and looking to His word, or your vision may become dim again.
Now, these two blind mind had it bad. But, as always, when you just look around you can find someone who has it worse.
Demonic Possession is Worse
A devil next door is bad. A devil in your own house, even in your own body, is much worse. Such was the next case brought to Jesus on this day.
How the man became possessed by a demon we are not told. Such occurrences seemed fairly common in Jesus’ day and people make movies about demon-possession in our day. It is a scary sight in either era. Christians should be comforted to know that an evil spirit cannot lodge where the Holy Spirit already lives, so give your life to Christ and the devil becomes very limited in what he can do to you.
The unnamed man brought to Jesus on this day was not so fortunate. He had heretofore not met the Lord Jesus Christ, may well have been involved in some godless enterprise, and now the devil had him by the throat, literally, so that he was unable to speak. In good faith his friends brought him to Jesus, something friends of good faith always do for their friends. Jesus, already proven to be Almighty God with omnipotent authority over nature and spirits and mankind, cast out the demon and enabled the mute man to speak.
I wonder what the man said? “Thank you, Jesus” were probably his first words. It would have been bad if he had not said it. It would be worse to say it and not mean it. People thank God all the time when they get well, get money, get what they need, or get what they want. But do they all mean it at all? It is one thing to praise God when it is time to get, but what about when it is time to give? What about when it is time to give yourself to public worship on the Lord’s Day, to give your tithes and offerings to the Lord’s work, to give of your talents and gifts for the good of others? Yes, it is bad for anyone not to thank the Lord for their blessings, but it is far worse to not even know the Lord you are thanking.
The next time you thank God think about God. Who is He? How can we know Him? Do you know Him? Yes, it is bad not to give thanks to the Lord. It is worse not to know the Lord. But when grace goes to faith you never have to worry about bad going to worse.
In summary, bad things happened to blind men, and they spoke to the Lord. A worse thing happened to a young man, and the Lord made him speak. But now we shall go from bad to worse to worst. For the next group did not speak to the Lord, nor would they speak for the Lord, but they spoke against the Lord.
Worse than Bad and Badder than Worse
Of all the people we encounter in the Gospels, none could be any worse, and in any worse shape, than the Pharisees. Of course they were highly esteemed religious leaders among the people, the guys in the white hats so to speak, but the ministry of Jesus exposed the blackness in their hearts. It was bad to be physically blind, but Jesus could handle that. It was worse to be demon-possessed, but Jesus had a remedy for that, too. But what was worse than bad and badder than worse was to be a hypocritical, slanderous, blasphemous liar. For this there seemed to be no cure.
Jesus’ work with the blind and the demon-possessed had given Him a big lift in the polls. People were beginning to come to Him, listen to Him, best of all to trust in Him. They were beginning to hang on His every word, until the Pharisees uttered these words: “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” Though they were lying through their crooked teeth, the Pharisees said this to cast doubt and discourage people from following the Lord Jesus Christ. They said what they meant, meant what they said, and would ultimately accomplish what they said and set out to do.
There are people in this world whose hearts are three sizes smaller than the Grinch’s on the day before Christmas. They are blind, but just can’t see it. They are possessed or influenced by the devil, but consider themselves the most godly people on the planet. They are generally thoughtless and talentless, but think they are the brightest and best members in the group. The only thing large about them is their ego, which feeds on having a following under their direct or indirect control. And when this following seems to begin to follow another, they will nail him to the cross.
It was bad, what the Pharisees did to Jesus. They spread slander, gossip, and innuendo to plant doubt in people’s minds about His credibility. They enlisted the aid of others, even other people they themselves did not like, to help them in their godless cause. They succeeded, or so it seemed, in causing Christ to lose His popularity, become betrayed by a member of His own inner circle, get accused of breaking the very laws He came to fulfill, and be tried and convicted of crimes He did not commit. It began here, in the earlier part of Jesus’ ministry, that the Pharisees’ lying lips pushed our Lord on a walk to the cross.
It was bad, what the Pharisees did to Jesus. But it would be worse to be one of the Pharisees that did it. And it would be worse than bad and badder than worse to be a Pharisee today and not realize it and repent of it.
Our world, like the world Jesus stepped in to, is full of beggars, thieves, and liars. It’s bad to have to beg, like the blind men in this story, but Jesus made the beggars better. It’s worse to be victimized by a thief, and the devil is the chief thief, like the mute man in the text, but Jesus can restore everything valuable any devil has taken from you. It’s worse than bad and badder than worse to be a liar, like the Pharisees, for only the truth can set a person free. So believe in Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. If you’re life has gone from bad to worse, only Jesus can reverse the curse.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org