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Sat, 01 Sep 2012 Feature Article

A BLIND MAN'S ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS

A BLIND MAN'S ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS
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LUKE 18:35-43

As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging.
Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was.
They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.
And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him,
“What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!”
And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.”
Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. (NASB)

INTRODUCTION

Vision that looks inward becomes duty
Vision that looks outward becomes aspiration
Vision that looks upward becomes faith. (Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching)

Said a teacher to a class of boys in a school in Germany long ago: “Boys, when I meet you on the street, I want to remove my hat in your presence, for who knows but that from this class of boys will come, one day, a man who will change the course of human history!” Martin Luther was a boy in that class.

I. JESUS PASSES THROUGH JERICHO V. 35
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem but the trip takes Him by the way of Jericho, a city near the Jordan and about 700 feet below sea level. As He draws closer to the city the crowd with Him attracts the attention of a blind man who inquires about the excitement and is told, Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.

II. THE PREDICAMENT OF THE MAN VV. 36-39
Mark tells us that this man's name is Bartimaeus. He is a blind beggar. His little space beside the road is his home. Trodden dirt is his bed; a stone, his pillow. Like litter that collects in the gutter, he sits there day in, day out, a crumpled-up man on the side of the road. His friends are the discards that life in its hurry, has left behind, used-up, thrown-away people. Living in their own separate place, and living in their own separate pain. Each has a story to tell, but it is a story nobody wants to hear. They cry out for a touch, a kind word, and a snippet of conversation. They cry out, but the world passes by on the road to somewhere else.

Feeling around in the dark, Bartimaeus approaches a passerby with his searching hands, “alms, give alms to the poor, "Have pity on a blind man.” And thus he gropes for his daily bread. A mumbled blessing, and a coin in the cup from a reluctant benefactor; a sharp point of theology thrust at him from one of the more religious. He receives a brusque shove to the side of the road. He is tired of begging. He is tired of insults and harsh judgments. This is what life is like for Bartimaeus. This is what life is for the marginalized and the downtrodden of our society.

For Bartimaeus the road is a dark stream where currents of voices rush by. He hears trickles of conversation down the street. But as people get closer, they wriggle past him and are gone. He feels around this dark stream, hoping to grab one of the voices by the gills and land himself a little something to eat. But it's like chasing minnows, and most slip through his hands.

Living on the roadside, he takes what comes his way: a coin in the cup, a slap on the hand, a blessing, or a curse. This day what comes his way is a bubble of voices: Jesus the Nazarene; Jesus is passing by. He knows that name. He has heard of this man Jesus. Many say He is the future king and heir to David's throne. They say He is the servant Isaiah prophesied about: A light to the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind and release from prison those who sit in darkness.

On the dungeon Bartimaeus has been for so long, locked away and forgotten. O the darkness, the loneliness, and the rub of the shackles. There on the roadside he sits; solitary in his thoughts, like a rock around which the stream of people flows. I must find this Jesus, he thinks. I must talk to this Jesus. And he shouts from the roadside, Son of David, have mercy on me. The crowd raps a few brittle words against him to keep him in his place. Perhaps they were saying, “look at him even if He has not stopped for those of us who are healthy and close to Him, how do you think He would pay attention to you, a mere blind beggar?” But the sharp criticism and opposition of the crowd do not silence Bartimaeus. Rather Bartimaeus redoubles his efforts. The veins protrude on his neck as he shouts from the top of his voice, “Son of David have mercy on me!”

III. THE PLEA THAT GETS THE LORD'S ATTENTION VV. 40-43
Jesus did not let Bartimaeus' plea go unheeded. Jesus stops and sends for the man. Bartimaeus casts aside his cloak and jumps to his feet. Condescending whispers hush as the blind man approaches. All those who were hurling insults at him have eaten their words as the blind man is escorted to the Messiah. He stands now before the heir not only of David's throne but also to the throne of heaven. And for a moment in time this blind beggar has the undivided attention of Deity. So far the blind man has simply requested mercy, and mercy may take any one of a number of directions. Asked to put his desire into words, the man crystallizes his longing, he says, Lord, I want to see. Some of your translations say, Lord, let me receive my sight. Can you believe your ears that such a cast away has the attention of Omnipotence? Can you believe this? It is incredible, isn't it? A blind man standing before the magistrate of heaven; standing before the One who gave light to the sun, moon, and the stars. And the response is not one of exalted king but of a lowly servant. What do you want me to do for you?

Without hesitation Bartimaeus answers, Lord, I want to see. I want out of the dungeon, out of the darkness. I want out of the shackles of these blind eyes. I want out of the prison. I want to be free. “I want to see.” I want to use my hands for something besides feeling my way in the dark. I want to make things. I want to fix my own meals. I want to read. I want to see. I want to look into the eyes of a friend. I want to wave at someone across the way. I want to smile at children and pat their heads and wish them well. I want to love. I want to laugh. I want to live. I want to see.

In an instant Jesus knows everything those four words mean to this man. And the king shows him favor: “Receive your sight.” In the twinkling of an eye, Bartimaeus passes out of darkness into the light. In a flash of seconds, he who could not see begins to see. Sunshine floods his eyes. He sees the blue sky, the armada of clouds in full sail, and the pair of turtledoves winging their way just above the rooftops. He sees the buildings and the amazed faces of the crowd. He then turns and sees Jesus. He sees the tenderness, he sees the love, and he sees the eyes of a King. He sees the gracious face of the Savior, the Messiah.

His faith has healed him. His faith has saved him. He has faith enough to make a fool of himself by shouting and stopping the crowd. He has faith enough to come to Jesus. He has faith enough to ask what no one but God could grant. This is quite a lot to see, for a blind man.

And without looking back this new citizen of the kingdom joins that royal entourage down Jericho road.

To follow a King in whose eyes he has found favor. Bartimaeus leaves forever behind him his beggar's space along that roadside.

Observations

1. The Source of Help
This blind man teaches us that where you go for help in time of need is very important. There are some people who justify that the source from which you receive assistance does not matter so far as you get what you need. There were all kinds of healers and physicians in Jesus' day, but the blind man went to the right source. The end justifies the means. He went to Jesus the Great Physician. He went to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When you have a need where do you go for help?

2. Persistence in Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
The blind man was persistent. The crowd had wanted him to keep quiet and keep his place on the roadside, but the blind man was not discouraged by their sharp protest. He continued to cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The blind man kept his focus on Jesus, not on the crowd. Some people jump from church to church, because somebody gave them a dirty look, somebody didn't respond to their greeting, the pastor didn't talk to them or call them. Somebody makes an unkind remark or gesture, so they conclude that nobody wants them in the church. Christians are supposed to welcome and embrace anyone who comes to the church, but if some don't, never give up. After all, you are not coming to them; you are coming to Jesus. The blind man did not allow the reaction of the crowd to prevent him from crying out to Jesus for mercy. Some people will always hinder you from coming to Jesus (Zacchaeus) to receive your blessing, but if you were persistent, your blessing would come through.

3. Specific Request
Jesus teaches us to make our supplication specific. Initially, the man's plea was for mercy, but mercy is a broad word. So, Jesus asked him to specify his request; and Bartimaeus said, “I want to see.” Some of you when you pray, your prayers are vague; they are too general, but petition or supplication must be specific. Sometimes you make your prayers general because you don't want others to know you have a need. You are ashamed to open up; you are ashamed to be transparent. In fact, your lack of transparency hides a veneer of spiritual pride and false humility. The blind man was not ashamed to tell Jesus that he wants to see. And I believe that the crowd heard his request. Jesus granted his request because it was specific and based on faith. The blind man had faith in Jesus, which the crowd lacked. Many people go to church and claim to be Christians, but not everyone has faith in Jesus Christ. Many in the crowd followed Jesus but at the back of their minds, they did not believe that He was the only source of salvation.

4. The Irony of Spiritual Sight
The crowd could see Jesus physically, but they lacked spiritual vision. The blind man lacked physical sight, but he had spiritual vision. To see Jesus means the transformation of life. When Jesus said, “your faith has healed you,” He did not mean that Bartimaeus' faith has cured him. Rather, Jesus was saying that faith was the means by which he received his healing. The word that Jesus used for healing in the Greek language is sozo, which means 'to save.” The common terms for healing are Iaomia and Therapeuo, from which we get the word “Therapy.” So the word sozo conveys not only healing but “to make whole.” Therefore, Bartimaeus received not only physical healing, but also spiritual healing. He was saved; he was transformed from the inside out. His name was written in the Book of Life.

5. The Reaction of the Crowd
In the beginning the crowd was scoffing at the blind man, but at the end was praising God with him. At the start the multitude was insulting the blind man, but at the end was rejoicing with him. The crowd changed its attitude toward the man. If you joined a church and some people don't seem to like you, focus on Jesus and when they see that your faith is authentic, they would warm up to you. Why are you following Jesus? Are you like the crowd, or the blind man? Do you want Jesus to do something in your life? Until Jesus has done something inside you, He cannot do something through you. In this text Jesus teaches us that faith is not limited to those with physical sight. On the contrary, blindness becomes sight when you turn to Jesus. I submit to you that your deepest need is not your felt need. Your felt need is the symptom of your deepest need. Your deepest need is a relationship and an intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ. Call on Him as Bartimaeus did and He will save you.

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