“And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way. “
All the synoptical gospels record the narrative of the miracle, but the accounts differ in two respects. First, as to the number of men restored to sight. Matthew tells us there were two men. Second, as to the place where the miracle occurred. Luke places the miracle as taking place at Jericho, while Mark informs us that it took place as Jesus was leaving this city. None of these apparent discrepancies spoil the central importance of the wonder performed. We are satisfied to accept Mark’s account as that of an eye-witness.
Important it is, for a proper understanding of what transpired, to form, if possible, a mental picture of the scene enacted.
Jesus and a great multitude are passing out of Jericho on the way to Jerusalem. It was perhaps a day or so before He called Zaccheus out of the sycamore tree. And in another day or two He would be entering upon the last week of His life upon earth. And sitting along the way, and perhaps near the gate of the city, were blind men begging. This, we are told, is a common sight even to this day. Bartimaeus is one of these blind beggars. That Mark mentions his name, is not so much that he was notorious as a blind beggar, but most likely because this Bartimaeus later was to become known as a faithful disciple of the Lord. And as the multitude following the Lord jostled in the way, and were perhaps even singing His praises, Bartimaeus, learning the cause of the commotion, cries out his cry for mercy, to which the Lord responds.
It is needless to say, that the awful condition of this blind beggar defies description. We who have never suffered want, can hardly imagine the lowly condition of this beggar. His poverty lay not only in the fact that he was dressed in rags, but along with this deprivation he bore the stigma of being a poor beggar. Along with his lowly condition he was also despised. As so much rubbish, he sat by the side of the road, hardly noticed, and if noticed, spurned by the passerby.
Such conditions ought not to have been allowed in Jewry. For the Lord God had commanded His people to care for the indigent, and never to allow their brethren to come to this awful plight. But Israel, when it forsook God, also neglected His people; and in their self-centered life each sought his own welfare, not that of others. Consequently, being forsaken of his own people, Bartimaeus was left to scramble in the dust for a bite to eat, or a stitch to wear.
Added to his affliction was the fact that he was blind. It is perhaps wrong to say that blindness is the most serious of physical maladies. Those with other afflictions which they consider worse, might challenge such a statement. Safe it is to say, that only a blind man knows the awfulness of his plight, and can appreciate the smallness of his world.
There he sits in his lonely world which is dark and dismal. Few are the faces of the blind that beam with smiles and laughter. Generally their faces reflect the sadness which coincides with the darkness which never leaves them. He is indeed, an object of pity!
But for Bartimaeus no pity is sent his way. Clothed in rags, his body evidently emaciated by hunger, his ears pricked for the slightest sound of tramping feet that would bring him an audience to which he could cry out for alms to relieve him in his suffering. Such is the scene as portrayed to us in the text with its context.
Before we proceed to consider what happened to this physical wretch, we pause to consider for a moment his spiritual antitype. Jesus, you may remember, on another occasion said: “All things take place in parables.” That there is such a parable here, cannot escape our notice. Striking it is, too, to observe the fact that especially in Jesus’ day, there were so many poor, blind, and sick. He Who was the Light, came into the world of darkness, poverty, and death, to draw all manner of men to the light.
Accordingly, Bartimaeus is a picture of man as he is by nature,—despicably poor. Verily, the natural man is clothed in the rags of corruption and sm. He is without God, and without hope in the world. True, he forsook God, his Benefactor, and deprived himself and all his posterity of all his original gifts, including the garments of righteousness. He lost God’s image, and was banished from His presence, and gropes about in the darkness of sin and death. Disgraceful is his state and condition, He is left a spiritual pauper. Even so, this does not begin to describe his awful plight.
Added to his spiritual poverty is the fact of spiritual blindness. O, indeed, not all are physically blind. Most of us are quite able to see in the physical sense. And with the sight of our eyes, the pride of life and the flesh is zealously cherished and sought after. One wonders sometimes whether it were better that we did not see so well. But though we see well with our eyes and perceive with our physical senses, each of us by nature is stone-blind in the spiritual sense of the word. Unable we are of ourselves to perceive the things of the kingdom of heaven. There is hope for the man that knows this.
Noticeably, according to the text, Bartimaeus knew his plight. He knew that he was poor, naked, and blind. His cry is evidence of this. It appears that he also senses that he was in need of mercy,—not merely the mercy that would cure his physical blindness, but the mercy that would forgive his sin, which he saw lay at the root of his physical condition. Surely, it cannot be denied that all of the affliction of this life is the gross result of man’s departure from the living God. Blessed is the man who knows that by nature he is spiritually blind, a condition much worse than the plight of a man who has to walk with a white cane with a strip of red on it. Woe to the man who thinks he sees. There is no greater blindness than that!
But notice, too, a most blessed meeting which this blind beggar had with Jesus!
O, the matter was not so simple that all he had to do was cry, and he would obtain the audience he desired. There was a serious attempt to discourage him in his seeking for Jesus. We read that, “when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace.”
The multitude were zealous followers of Jesus in the way, but little understood the Saviour and the purpose of His coming into the world. No, we do not consider them all to be constituted of Pharisees whom Jesus denounced as “blind leaders of the blind.” Nevertheless they, too, were sorely in need of light. And they followed Jesus, perhaps in the same way many will follow a political leader, or attend one who has been signally honored in their race. In their estimation the Rabbi must not be disturbed, and surely not by one with so mean an occupation as the blind beggar. And so, they severely rebuked him for crying after the Master, and told him in no uncertain terms to keep his mouth shut.
Here we have something that happens frequently in a vivid way even in our day. Here is a sinner who knows, by .the grace of God, his sin and spiritual blindness, and at the same time also the deep need of salvation as it is to be found only in Jesus Christ, who, with this deep sense of need, cries out for mercy. But when he does so, men will turn on him and virtually do what the multitude did to Bartimaeus: tell him to be silent. O, we are not pleading for religious emotionalism, neither for a surge of fanatical revivalism. We are not asking for more “Amens” and “Hallelujahs.” Personally we are not a little irked by the superficial emotionalism one sees today, as well as by the hawking methods of revivalism that is thundered at us by radio and television. To us, much of it seems to be an attempt to put the sacred things of religion on a commercial scale. But we are pleading for a revival of religious fervor and the dissolving of religious indifferentism. When a sinner is brought by the grace of Jesus to see his sin and the need of the Savior, we despise the multitudes that would silence his cry, and plainly tell him to fall back into his darkness and poverty. And this is precisely what the multitude, wittingly or unwittingly, was doing to Bartimaeus. They understood not the sinner, nor the Saviour.
On the other hand, one who really understands his need, as this man did, is not to be silenced so easily. He will allow no obstacle to stand in his way of reaching the Saviour. What a wonderful insight this man had! Notice his address: “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” First of all, he knows Jesus, Whose name means: Jehovah is salvation, or Jehovah saves. That name means more than a mere appellation to distinguish one man from another. Even though He is also called Jesus of Nazareth in verse 47, this does not change the fact that the name, given to Him, not by his parents, but by God Himself at His birth, has the richest meaning. For when that name was given Him, it was said: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” And the apostle, in the Book of Acts, declares: “There is none other Name given among men whereby they must be saved.”
Notice, too, that Bartimaeus is well aware of His true identity, for he adds: “Thou son of David.” That means that he was conscious that this Jesus was the royal Son of David Whom God had said would come to sit on the throne of David forever. He was the promised Messiah, therefore, Whom Bartimaeus now recognized, not by physical sight, for he was blind, but by spiritual perception of faith. The very Messiah Whom the multitudes did not perceive, and Who later was rejected by them, Bartimaeus needs, because he realizes that alone in Him is to be found mercy and salvation. A wonderful insight, indeed, this man possessed.
Most importantly, notice how David’s Son pauses in the way to call the blind beggar to Himself. As we suggested earlier, He is on the way to Jerusalem. and the cross. On that way He must do the work given unto Him of the Father,—He must save those ordained unto eternal life. Not one helpless, repenting sinner may He pass by. Right here, as the promised Messiah, He must also fulfill prophecy. Had not Isaiah predicted, “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” And again, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” And once more he expresses what is expected of the Messiah, “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”
So Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called.
Then said Jesus unto him, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”
What a searching question this is! The Saviour, conscious of His calling to save, draws from the sinner the cry for salvation, which He had first implanted in his heart. This is always the way He saves. We do not first sense our need of Him, and then look for Him to save. No, we are like Bartimaeus, whom Jesus came to meet. And when we meet Him He draws out of us the confession of our blindness, of our need. O, assuredly, Jesus knew what Bartimaeus wanted even before He asked. Had He not come the Jericho way expressly to give cure to this blind man? There can be no doubt of it.
Rabboni, that I might receive my sight!
Wonderful meeting, indeed!
The Fountain of life and light, of mercy and grace, drawing near to the blind and halt, the miserable and wretched: And then, with bowels of compassion, asking the wretch to express in his own words his need. While the blind beggar, pouring out his soul in every word, replies: “Rabboni, I would see again.” There is nothing on this side of heaven that is more wonderful than that!
He, casting away his garment, rose and came to Jesus!
The beggar drops his rags, and you may understand here that he dropped everything else of self. He would hide behind nothing when he comes to Jesus. That’s the way it must always be, sinner. Not with our own righteousness, which is but filthy rags. Just come naked, as you are. And then by faith cast yourself at His feet, and plead for mercy.
Saved by grace through faith!
Another way to be saved there is not!
And faith is a gift of grace!