|WHAT THE BLIND MAN SAW
Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Thirty Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 16, 2018
Would you stand with me as we come together before God’s word. Would you read with me our passage for this morning: Mark 10:46-52:
And they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
And the blind man said to Him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.
Last Sunday we left Jesus and the disciples where? Some place on the road from Perea to Jericho heading towards Jerusalem.
In verse 46 we’re told that Jesus and His disciples have come to Jericho. And that as they are leaving Jericho they and the crowd encounter Bartimaeus - who is blind and a beggar - and the son of Timaeus.
“Bar” in Hebrew meaning “son.” He is… Bar - Timaeus. Other than that we don’t know a whole lot about him.
We need to understand the where and the when of that. This is The Pilgrimage.
Jericho is a stopping point on the journey to Jerusalem that Jesus has been on. Jesus and the disciples left the Galilee and probably have followed a route through Perea - east side the Jordan River - and have crossed back to the west in Judea and have arrived at Jericho.
Arrived at Jericho with hundreds - if not thousands of others - who are also traveling to Jerusalem. Why?
Because it is almost the high holy feast days of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits - and 50 days after Passover the end of harvest festival Shavuot - or what we know as... Pentecost. This is the time to be in Jerusalem. And the nation is on the move getting there.
And it is a “partay” - crowds of people traveling together - camping together - reunions - shish kabob and humus at night - good times. There is a spirit of comradery and community and celebration - and anticipation of what’s coming when we all get to Jerusalem.
Jericho was the last stop on that Pilgrimage. Looking at the map.
Jericho is just north of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea being the lowest dry land place on the planet. Meaning that Jericho is about 845 feet below sea level. Jerusalem is about 2,475 feet above sea level. An elevation change of about 3,300 feet. The distance between Jericho and Jerusalem is about 20 miles - or what the average person could walk going up hill in one day.
I can tell you from personal experience that that change in elevation in that short distance is ear popping. And while today there’s a freeway for most of that distance - in Jesus’ day it was a winding dangerous road ascending through the mountains.
So Jericho was the place where people stopped and camped and “partayed” and prepared for the final 20 mile ascent to Jerusalem. Anticipating the feasts and celebrations of the coming days.
The Psalms of Ascent - Psalms 120 to 134 - are what these Pilgrims would sing together as they ascended into Jerusalem. Not having iPhones and iTunes they shared a great worship service together on the road. Singing psalms that express a wide variety of emotion and spiritual experience.
Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills.” Imagine looking up from Jericho to Jerusalem and anticipating being at the Temple and the long winding road to get there. “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”
Psalm 125: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion - like Jerusalem or where Jerusalem is located - which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore.”
So Jericho is the pilgrim’s camp ground before the ascent. Where Jesus and the disciples have been and are passing through and preparing to ascend from along with these large throngs of people.
In the midst of all that sits blind Bartimaeus - who’s blindness has reduced him to begging for alms. The road to the ascent - along with people probably selling stuff and making money off these pilgrims - the road was lined with beggars asking for alms. Which those heading to worship - being more mindful of their accountability to God - these pilgrims might have been more freer to contribute.
We know that around here people have locations staked out where they know people will pass by and might be freer to part with change. Or people show up here before or after services expecting us to be more freer with our money. Maybe trying to guilt us into giving.
So Bartimaeus sits with many on the road begging from the hundreds of pilgrims passing by. And as he’s sitting there he’s listening to what people are talking about as they pass by. A huge topic of discussion was undoubtably Jesus.
Most probably Bartimaeus is hearing pilgrims talk about what Jesus has been teaching and about His miracles - especially healing the blind. It’s not hard to imagine how that would have stuck in Bartimaeus’ mind.
He’d probably heard how Jesus - in Nazareth - how Jesus had claimed to be the One Isaiah spoke of. Jesus in the synagogue reading from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1,2; Luke 4:18,19)
From what we know of how Bartimaeus responds to Jesus - we understand that Bartimaeus as he’s sitting and soaking all that in - Bartimaeus is connecting the dots. He’s processing Jesus. He’s adding things up in his mind and coming to his own conclusions about just Who this Jesus is.
So, in verse 47 - when Bartimaeus hears that it’s THE Jesus of Nazareth who’s passing by in the midst of this crowd of pilgrims - he begins to cry out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Before we move on - let’s be clear on the conclusion Bartimaeus has come to - as he’s processing Jesus. Son of David is one title with two meanings.
Son of David speaks of Jesus’ royal lineage. He’s a descendent of THE King David. The title is also Messianic. Bartimaeus in processing Jesus has come to the conclusion that Jesus is THE Messiah foretold by the prophets.
Meaning that Bartimaeus is crying out to his Messiah - the Christ - for mercy knowing that it is Jesus alone Who is able to help him in the darkness and poverty of where he’s living his life.
Verses 48 to 50 records Three Responses.
The first response is the crowd rebuking Bartimaeus. “Shut up!”
We know - because we’ve been following Jesus around since chapter 1 - we know that the disciples were still fuzzy on what Jesus was doing and why. We know that the crowd - the paparazzi - had their expectations of Who Jesus is and what they expected Him to do.
They all had their versions of who the Messiah was suppose to be and what the Son of David was suppose to do in setting up his kingdom. Which we know was all about them and not about what God - what Jesus - was actually doing.
This blind beggar - among many - crying out as he was - without anything to contribute to the mission and work of Jesus and the coming confrontation as Jesus establishes His kingdom - and what all that might mean to those who were “pilgirmming” with Jesus who are thinking only about themselves - this poor blind beggar among many begging is seen as a nuisance - a distraction - potentially keeping Jesus from going up to Jerusalem and confronting the leaders there and ushering in His kingdom.
The response of the crowd is try and silence Bartimaeus.
The second response is Bartimaeus who cries out all the more: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The Greek word for “cry out” is “krazo” which is not a short loud bursting out cry. But a shriek.
It’s the same word used of the possessed man in the Decapolis - in the tombs at night crying out - shrieking - screaming - a blood curdling - toe curling - sound piercing through stillness of the night shriek.
The crowd tells Bartimaeus to shut up and he screams louder. The desperation of his need overwhelms any sense of pride or restraint or dignity. His only hope is passing by. Who cares what anyone else thinks of him.
Let’s be clear. Jesus could have just walked over to where Bartimaeus was sitting. Jesus stopping and calling for Bartimaeus is a teaching moment.
Jesus instructing the crowd “Call him” is a rebuke of the attitude of the crowd. The crowd that saw Bartimaeus as an outcast - a blind beggar having nothing to offer and being a distraction - a drag on Jesus’ ministry. The crowd that tried to silence Bartimaeus. The crowd that has been a hindrance to Bartimaeus’ healing.
Have we seen this before? “Let the children come. Don’t hinder them.” Check your attitude. Heart level - are we tracking with God or is this about us?
Jesus - involving the crowd - is teaching about what it means to bring others to Him. That’s what they need to be doing. They need to be participating in Jesus’ ministry. What Jesus is really all about. And the joy of that. They get to encourage Bartimaeus. “Take heart. Jesus is calling you.” And their having a part in the miracle that comes later.
And Jesus is teaching about Himself. This man who had been brushed off - passed by - who in the assessment of the crowd had nothing to offer - is brought front and center and used to demonstrate how God works in His kingdom. Jesus demonstrating his compassion and love and grace and mercy and how God desires to restore and elevate those who are broken and cast down.
So Jesus stops and the cry for mercy is answered with the call to come.
And Bartimaeus wastes no time in coming. Without any hesitation he literally drops everything to come. Tosses his outer foot catching cloak aside - jumps to his feet - and comes - probably running.
Years ago I had blind friend who had had on his bucket list that he wanted to drive a car. Not something completely blind people normally do. Although the way some people drive you we might wonder if some are.
Somehow Rick convinced a friend to let him do that. In a large empty parking lot. The two of them in this friends car. Rick behind the wheel driving.
What would that be like? A blind man running through a crowd. Not caring much about anything except getting to Jesus. Who cares what he runs into or over. Just get to Jesus.
We can learn something from Bartimaeus. Can’t we?
How desperate are we for God’s healing in our life? That nothing else matters. That we’re willing to let go of everything - what we own - our pride - whatever. And regardless of who stands in our way or might restrain us or whatever obstacle might be between us and Jesus we’re running to Him. How desperate are we for God’s healing in our life?
Verse 51 brings us to Jesus’ Question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Duh!!! The guy’s blind. Heal him.
Let’s be careful. There are other answers to the question. The crowd doesn’t know why he’s crying out to Jesus. All they know is he’s a beggar who’s strategically located himself on Route 1 to Jerusalem… to beg. Crying out for mercy. Mercy probably means money.
Possible answer number one: “Can you spare a few shekels for a blind man?” Meaning that Bartimaeus is just like all the other beggars on the road. His priority in life. Where his heart is at. That he has a very limited faith and expectation of what Jesus can do for him.
Let’s be careful. Jesus already knows the answer to the question. Jesus knows our needs before we ask. It’s for our benefit that we ask. Asking is about exercising our faith - a faith exercising - faith growing - heart level trusting God - opportunity.
Jesus’ question is about revealing what’s really in Bartimaeus’ heart. What’s in the heart behind the cry.
A Chuck Swindoll quote: “Far too many ask for too little of Jesus; they seek an extra margin of comfort in their miserable slavery to sin when they could ask for—and receive—a full measure of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and saving grace.” (1)
Bartimaeus doesn’t ask for a few shekels. Without hesitation Bartimaeus responds: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
“Rabbi” being a title of respect that Matthew and Luke render in their accounts as “lord.” Meaning that Bartimaeus is looking to Jesus as not just your average “been to Rabbi school” teacher but as someone much greater than that.
“Recover” in Greek has the idea of both “regaining” and “gaining.” Meaning Bartimaeus is looking to Jesus to give him something that only God can give.
“Sight” - which in the way this reads in the Greek means both physical and spiritual sight. I want to recover my sight. And to gain much more than that.
Bartimaeus who’s added things up - knowing Who Jesus is - by faith asks to gain his sight - physical healing. Yes. But he’s also asking for spiritual “sight” - spiritual healing. Bartimaeus’ answer to Jesus’ question come from a heart level faith in what only Jesus can do for him physically and spiritually.
In verse 52 Jesus responds to that faith: And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus physically healing Bartimaeus outwardly demonstrating Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus’ inward spiritual condition - spiritual healing - salvation - redemption and righteousness and relationship with God now and forever.
Which we’ve seen before. Right? In Capernaum.
Four friends cutting a hole in a roof and lowering their paralyzed friend down in front of Jesus. Jesus - Who in response to the faith of the five and especially the man on the stretcher - Jesus declares his sins are forgiven.
Which elicits a cry of foul from the Pharisees. “He’s blaspheming!”
To which Jesus responds: “What’s easier? To say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?”
And Jesus does what? Heals the paralytic to demonstrate His divine authority to forgive sin. (Mark 2:1-12)
Jesus’ question. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Is a question focused on Bartimaeus’ heart. Where are you at in your faith towards God? Towards Me?
And immediately - sight restored - Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way. Meaning, Bartimaeus is all in as a disciple of Jesus for whatever lies up the road in Jerusalem.
Processing all that…
Four takeaways for us this morning.
First: Bartimaeus encountered Jesus’ healing power - not on the basis of his own strength but in his weakness - sitting on the side of the road - reduced to begging - with no hope of anything ever being different - with no ability to ever change the direction - the situation - of his life.
The crowd did get that right. The crowd got it that Bartimaeus had nothing - nothing to contribute to what Jesus was doing. He’s just a blind beggar on the side of the road begging along with all the other blind beggars.
God speaks through His prophet Joel: “...everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32)
That’s you and me. Most of us aren’t exactly the living lifestyles of the rich and famous. Merced is not exactly the cultural hub of the western hemisphere. And with all of our foibles and failures - even in our best moments - what exactly do we bring to the table?
What do we contribute to what Jesus is doing? Except weakness and brokenness. Beggars on the side of the road here in Merced. Who are we except some of the everyone’s of this world?
Take away number two is that Jesus had time for Bartimaeus. He stopped.
Jesus walks ahead. Jesus is on a journey. Galilee to Perea to Jericho to Jerusalem. He’s on a mission. Purposeful. Focused. Jesus - at the height of His popularity being followed by the disciples and this huge and swelling crowd of paparazzi with all of their expectations.
All of this takes place just before the high holy days - Palm Sunday - with the high stakes and pressures and emotions and concerns and knowing what’s coming - conflicts in the temple - the betrayal and beatings and trial and rejection and scourging and humiliations and the cross - His death.
I don’t know how you handle pressure or multi-tasking or interruptions when you’re focused on something crucial. If you’re like me, not well.
It is impressive that Jesus - with all of that driving Him and weighing down on Him - as Jesus is beginning the ascent and assault on Jerusalem - He just stops. Stops the whole procession. And takes the time to focus with compassion - lovingly - graciously - mercifully - on this blind beggar who has nothing to offer.
It’s almost like Bartimaeus is the whole reason Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. In a sense, maybe he is. Right?
What’s here is a real time demonstration of what Jesus was just teaching back across the Jordan River in Perea. Remember this from last Sunday? The greatest in the kingdom are those who serve - who are the slaves of all.
What stands out here is the greatness of Jesus as He calls this helpless man out of his darkness into the light of relationship and life with God. Jesus’ compassion and care that leads to the salvation of a new disciple for the kingdom.
The take away for us in that is that Jesus has time for us. For you. For me. Always. As we cry out to Him. Each of us is why He has come into the flesh and blood of our humanity and journeyed to the cross.
The third take away is that Jesus does not change.
Sometimes we can read and study these accounts in Scripture of God at work - and what Jesus did back then - and we can marvel at all that. Maybe draw some inspiration or encouragement from what we’re reading.
So we might feel a sense of detachment from all that. Between us and all those Bible characters and what God did in their lives.
But the link we have with them isn’t found on that level - of time and circumstance. Our link with all that is God Himself. And it is hugely important that we understand that truth.
A J.I. Packer quote: “...the God with Whom they had to do is the same God with Whom we have to do. We could sharpen the point by saying, exactly the same God; for God does not change in the least particular. Thus it appears that the truth on which we must dwell in order to dispel this feeling that there is an unbridgeable gulf between the position of men in the Bible times and our own, is the truth of God’s immutability.” (2)
The immutability of God meaning that God doesn’t change.
Which is a truth about God that is difficult and impossible for us to fully understand because we change and everything around us is changing - has changed and will change. But God never changes. Who He is, is Who He has been, and is, and will be. He is - period.
God isn’t like a Marvel or DC superhero. He doesn’t gain powers or lose the ones He had. He doesn’t get wiser or better or more perfect. God does not - cannot - change for the worse. God doesn’t grow older like we do. God doesn’t become bitter or grow more cynical or become some crotchety old man.
And here’s where this truth gets personal: God never becomes more or less truthful or more or less loving or more or less gracious or more or less merciful than He is. His word and His promises towards us will never change. His purposes and actions towards us will never change.
Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ [God in the flesh and blood of our humanity - the Messiah - our Savior] - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 7:25: “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” - us.
The truth of that should be a bottom line foundational encouragement for us as we read about Bartimaeus and consider our own lives. That same Jesus who responds to the cry of Bartimaeus - also calls us to Himself with the same compassion and love and grace and mercy - and the same unchanging desire to bring His healing and renewed life to us.
And because He is Who He is we can respond unreservedly - without hesitation - throwing else aside - and running to Him in complete trust for all that we need.
Take away number four is our need.
Several years ago I was with a group of tourists visiting Bangkok, Thailand. Any of you ever been there? Bangkok is a very different place.
One of my overall impressions of Bangkok was a city - very dirty - very crowded - full of hopeless people. Our hotel was like an island in the midst of all of that. A modern high-rise in the middle of confusion, congestion, and poverty.
One night - about dusk - I left the hotel to look around and find a few bargains. There was a kind of shopping bazaar close to the hotel. I saw something that night that has stuck in my mind.
On the sidewalk - a few feet away from our hotel entrance - on the sidewalk up against the hotel wall - sat a boy - probably about 9 or 10 years old. A boy who was begging.
This boy was crippled - his bones broken and pushing out at very odd angles. His bones had been broken and no attempt had been made to set them right.
In Thailand - as in other places - parents deliberately break the bones of their children - cripple their children - so that their children can earn more for the family while begging. The more they’re crippled - the more they’re pitied - especially by the tourists. The more pity the more money people will give to them.
A while back I was in downtown San Francisco. That’s not unusual. What was unusual was that this time I just stood there - down on Market Street - with my back up against a building - and just watched the world go by. San Francisco is a very different place. That’s an understatement.
Years ago we always had to dress-up if we were going into “the city”. Downtown was a special place - opulent - surreal - the opera - theaters - the financial district - business men in suits. It’s not like that today. Just standing there, watching everything that was happening, was to vividly see how empty, how hopeless, how impoverished our society is today.
Merced - in many ways - is no different. Despite all the good things about Merced - we know that when we open our eyes - what we see around us is tremendous need. Maybe even here at Creekside.
It is easy to see the brokenness of all that and to not see that brokenness in ourselves.
The crowd that tried to silence Bartimaeus were themselves blind. In their pride - and stature in life - even their devotion to God as they followed Jesus and prepared to ascend to Jerusalem - they had lost sight of their own depravity and sin and desperate need for what God was offering them in Jesus. They - and we - are very much like Bartimaeus.
The scribes of the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, and they asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with those people? They’re tax collectors and sinners!”
Jesus heard them and said, “It’s not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are... sick; I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. I came for the poor people - for the captives - the blind - the oppressed.” (Mark 2:17; Luke 4:18,19)
And that’s us if we have eyes to see it.
In the sovereignty of God’s plan Jesus is purposefully moving to Jerusalem - to Palm Sunday - to the events which lead to the cross - to resurrection - for the hopeless - the desperate - those who are bound and looking for release. Who’s marriages are breaking. Who’s families are coming apart. Who’ve hit bottom and see no way up. Those struggling with deep issues of the heart - wounds - grief.
For those who are spiritually empty. For those who understand their spiritual poverty and will cry out to God for mercy.
John 10:10 - Jesus says, “I came that they may have... life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Not just eternal forever and ever. But right here. Right now. With God.
How about you?
1. Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016) page 290.
2. J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 1973) page 68.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.