Luke 18:35-43 “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”
The Lord Jesus has just been talking with his disciples about the future and the horrors of his death and the hope that his resurrection would bring to them, but the meaning of it was hidden from the disciples, and they didn’t know what he was talking about. Surely on the most basic level his words meant that this world is in a mess, because men not very different from ourselves could take a young man whose life was pure and good, and they would devise the most cruel way to torture him to death. That is the world we inhabit, where we see men of vision being taken and killed. But it is a great mistake to think that that is all that the world is. The world is also a place where the power and influence of the risen Jesus Christ transforms the lives of men and women; homes for those with learning difficulties are erected, the educational needs of children in East Africa are paid for by Christians in Wales, wives care selflessly for their husbands who are suffering with dementia – men who no longer realize that they are their wives. In this world just societies are established, tyrannies are ended, and millions of individual men and women will speak to you of the change that’s occurred in their lives through believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is also the world in which we live. There is cruel killing, but there is also resurrection life.
Jesus spoke about this kind of future – our kind of future – to his disciples, but they simply couldn’t see what he was talking about, even after all they’d gone through with him so far. They were blind to the necessity of his sufferings; they were blind to his power over disease and death. Such huge blind spots in their understanding, and so what does he do? He takes them on a journey with him to Jericho. He is going to open their eyes to his mighty power and to their need and what they have to do. They must ask him, “Give us light on this matter! Open our eyes to see what you are talking about! Show us yourself and show us our futures!” How does he change them?
JESUS INTRODUCED THEM TO A PARTICULAR BLIND MAN.
i] This man was begging. “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging” (v.35). Some handicapped children are kept hidden away. We once had a person of diminutive growth in the congregation and her parents told her that any time the door bell rang she should disappear into the kitchen at the back of the house. They were ashamed of her and they kept her hidden away. This blind man in Jericho came out of his house each day and walked on the road where carriages and carts and chariots rolled back and fore. He went to his pitch and he held out his hands and cried to passers by for money, and he did it every day. He didn’t sit at home and wait for people to come with food to him he said, “Though I am blind I will not be a sluggard. I can’t plough or plant or weed, but I can do something. I can beg.” Perhaps he had frail aged parents to support, and so he cried to wayfarers and travelers for their assistance. He was a first century Big Issue seller.
If you desire to understand the message of Jesus Christ then you must start a new routine. There is nothing sacrosanct about your old routine. Becoming a Christian means establishing new routines. You must start to go where you will find him because he has said that where only two or three gather in his name, and they talk well of him, and they thank him together for his mercies to them, and they ask for his blessing on their lives, and they want to be taught by him then he actually joins them and blesses them. You must go to a church that loves and serves Jesus Christ, where you will hear his message of power and love preached, and you must respond to it by talking to Jesus Christ yourself. At the end of the service you notice how many people sit down and quietly pray. They are praying prayers like this, “Lord Jesus I heard today of your grace to save men and women who come to you. I am coming to you again and I want you please to save and keep me!” To expect to make any progress in the Christian faith at all while just sitting at home, never meeting with Christians, and never hearing the word of God is utter presumption. To imagine that we who are Christians became Christians by being passive, doing nothing until one day we suddenly discovered that we knew Jesus Christ – that is a great mistake. We went to meetings; we talked to Christians; we read the Bible; we went to the Christian Book Shop and we bought books and read them; we prayed, “Lord I don’t know you yet but I need you; I need help from you if I am going to become a real Christian.” It is true that “God will have mercy on those on whom he will have mercy,” but it is no less true that ordinarily he has mercy on those who use the means I’ve just been describing to you. It is also true that Christ is sometimes found “by those who seek him not” but he is always found by those who seek him. So seek him where we gather around his word and welcome him to our meetings. This blind man is a good example to us for he went out from the house and he cried for the help. Let me go further: are you too proud to beg the Lord Christ to help you? Noice . . .
ii] This man begged for the Son of David to help him. We learn that he must have been an inquisitive man, he listened and he paid attention. That day there was a buzz in the air; more people than usual were about and so he asked the folk around him what was going on. “It’s Jesus,” they said, “Jesus of Nazareth is coming along the road with his disciples.” When he heard that he immediately started to shout out in the direction of the approaching Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He called him by his name. He did not say, “O ground of being! O high illustrious one!” No. He knew of a man, a carpenter’s son, Jesus of Nazareth. The city had been buzzing with stories of his mighty works and his powerful teaching for a few years. He had heard that Christ had promised that the days of Isaiah’s prophecy were now being fulfilled in his ministry, and that the eyes of the blind were going to be opened. He might have thought, “Would he open my eyes?” He called him ‘the Son of David’ and that is a remarkable expression. The people had told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was coming along, but he had a higher view of him than mere ‘Jesus.’ This was Jesus the son of David. This was a messianic title. There was an occasion when the Pharisees were asked the question, “Who is the Messiah?” Who was the Messiah?! They answered immediately, “The Son of David.” He is great David’s greater son. The prophets in 2 Samuel 7 and in Psalm 89 gave him that title and they foretold the Messiah as coming from the line of David and sitting on the throne of David. Here was a man who had never come into the presence of Jesus before but he had thought and heard about the Messiah, and he had heard and thought about Jesus of Nazareth, and slowly but surely he brought the two together. A conviction had grown in his heart identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah, and so when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by he cried to him using his great title, Son of David.
Why was he shouting at Christ? What did he want from him? Not money. Then what? He wanted mercy. What is he saying? He was not a sinless man; he had done many things of which he was ashamed. He couldn’t plead his perfection as the grounds for Jesus helping him. His father Adam had defied God and so he had forfeited any right to make claims on what God must do for him. He had no other grounds to plead for help from God other than his mercy. When we have no reason for demanding the love of God to enter our lives and change us and lift us up then all we can say to God is, “I deserve nothing; I am a guilty man in your sight. Please show me mercy.” When we have no arguments at all then this one is left, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” This is what this blind man did.
But do you notice when nothing happened the blind beggar didn’t stop his shouting. When people started to tell him to shut up, then he wouldn’t be silenced. He didn’t discover that when they heard he wasn’t asking for alms but in receiving mercy from Jesus Christ that then people became more respectful and kind towards him. No one had rebuked him all the years he was there when he’d cried out each day, “Spare me a penny! Give a little money to a blind man!” Then they just ignored him, but when he addressed Jesus as the Son of David and asked for his mercy then they not only rebuked him but they told him to be quiet. “Hush old man!”
How did he respond to their displeasure? He paid them no attention at all. He was not convicted of bad manners. He didn’t think that these people had authority over him, though they are described as “those that led the way” (in other words they were heading the procession of Jesus shouting out to people to get out of the way, “Make way . . .make way!”) and that he ought to obey them. He would not be silenced. You are 18 and you say to your mother, “Well I’m off to church.” You say to your husband that you’ll be home at the end of the morning when you get back from church. Your unbelieving friends and family would rather you hung around the house, and did the cleaning and cooking as if it were any other day, but you are faced with the opportunity of meeting with Jesus Christ. When it is a question of obeying the Lord Jesus or obeying men then there is only one response, you concentrate on Christ, and so we are told, “but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” His cries got louder and more urgent and rapid as he felt the noise of the crowd getting nearer and nearer. What if Jesus did not hear him? What if he walked by? What if he never met Jesus again? This was the promised time. This was the day of his salvation. So he shouted and shouted. He found the words and the arguments. He wouldn’t be stopped. These people knew nothing of his guilt and need of forgiveness. These people knew nothing of the misery of the blind world in which he lived. He’d never seen the blue sky or the shining stars at night. He’d never seen the face of his mother, and should he be silent because some people thought he was being religiously presumptuous or showing bad taste?
Here were twelve men, and Jesus had drawn them apart and he had been telling them what lay before him in Jerusalem, his crucifixion and resurrection on the third day, and they were blind to the holy wonder of it all. They were in total darkness as to why he had to die, and who he was that the grave could not keep him. Now Jesus was taking them to meet a man whose physical blindness was as complete as their spiritual blindness, but what was this man doing? He was asking the Lord to show him his mercy. He wasn’t saying, “I don’t know why I am blind. It’s not fair . . .” He was seeking mercy from the merciful God.
Listen to what J.C.Ryle said, “What the blind man did on behalf of his bodily ailment, it is surely our bounden duty to do on behalf of our souls. Our need is far greater than his: the disease of sin is far more grievous than the lack of sight; the tongue – that can find words to describe the necessities of the body – can surely find words to explain the needs of the soul. Let us begin praying, if we never prayed before. Let us pray more heartily and earnestly, if we have prayed in times past. Jesus, the Son of David, is still passing by, and not far from every one of us: let us cry to him for mercy, and allow nothing to stop our crying; let us not go down to the pit speechless and dumb, without so much as a cry for help. None will be so without any excuse at the last as church-going people who never prayed” (J.C.Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Luke, Volume 2, p.285)
JESUS HEARD THE CRY OF THIS BLIND MAN.
So as the Lord Jesus was entering Jericho he heard a man shouting at him and naming him and calling him the Son of David. The man wanted mercy from him. So what did Jesus do? He didn’t walk on by. He was on his way to the climax of his mission in Jerusalem and what was on his mind was suffering, rejection, cruelty and death, but he didn’t say to the beggar, “Sorry old fellow, I don’t have time to talk to you just now. One of my disciples will deal with you.” “Jesus stopped!” Do you see those words in the text? He didn’t take another step. He stopped still, and so the whole procession of disciples and women helpers and curious followers and the children drawn by a crowd – they stopped too. Jesus stopped and everything grated to a halt because a blind beggar cried out to him. “Jesus stopped!” Those are some of the most wonderful words in the New Testament. One day God the Son, Jehovah Jesus, stopped, not because his Father in heaven commanded, “My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, please stop for a moment,” no, it was because a blind beggar at the side of the road shouted out to him for mercy, and he stopped for his sake.
Isn’t there hope for you then? You think you are pretty worthless. It might have been a toss-up this morning between ending it all or coming to church and through the grace of God you have come. You still don’t know why you are here. You feel uncomfortable and understand little and are still desperately low in spirits. You see no point to life, but I want to tell you that there is a point, and the point of life is to know Jesus Christ and be loved by him. He has brought you here, not to rub your nose in your past but to promise you a new future if you will walk into it with him. You have been brought here by God to know the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. If you in your heart begin to ask for his mercy he will come to you and speak to you as if you were the only person in this gathering. Jesus will not hurry away from you as though he’s too busy to speak to you having to rush off to more important and worthier people. No. He stands still because he has something to say to you.
What does he do? He says to Peter or John or one of the disciples, “Bring him to me.” So we see first the compassion of Jesus in stopping and then we see the authority of Jesus in giving an order to his men to escort the blind beggar to him. And that is what he has sent me to do to you. He has commanded me to bring you to Jesus. That is what I’ve been doing from my first prayer until now. I have been bringing you face to face with Jesus. You’ve not been able to see his loveliness because you’re blind, but now that I have brought you to him this is what he says to you . . .
i] A word of inquiry. “What do you want me to do for you?” What do you want? Think now carefully because such questions do not come often and sincerely to men and women. Think of the wonder of this, that one day God came to you in his Son Jesus Christ, and he said to you, “What do you want?” He did not say that you can have three wishes like the genie in the fairy stories says. Just one request. What is the most important need in your life? What do you want more than anything else? Do not waste this question with some ill thought out query. It is God who is asking you now what you want. Let me suggest to you that you think of your greatest handicap. What is holding you up? What is keeping you back? What would be your greatest deliverance? What is your greatest need? What do you want Jesus Christ the Son of David to do for you? The man didn’t hesitate. He didn’t ask for enough money to get by both for himself and his mother for the rest of their lives. He said one thing, “Lord, I want to see.” If he could see then he could work for himself and his mother. He wanted to see.
Do you see the growing faith of this man? He begins by calling him the ‘Son of David,’ but now he calls him, ‘Lord!’ He calls him ‘Jehovah!’ He was bowing to him. He was submitting to him. He was acknowledging Jesus’ lordship over his life – ‘Lord’ to worship, ‘Lord’ to obey. This man could see better than Jesus’ twelve apostles could see. He knew the one speaking to him. Someone once asked the blind woman Helen Keller, “Isn’t it terrible to be blind?” She responded, “Ah, better to be blind and see with your heart than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” This man was blind but he had spiritual insight. The twelve apostles weren’t blind, but they had no spiritual insight. We know a man who is totally deaf, but every day in the word of God he hears God speaking to him. He has spiritual hearing. Some of you have physical hearing but you’ve never been able to sing, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest.”
What is the greatest need in his life that Jehovah is able to meet? What is the greatest need in your life? This man doesn’t say, “ . . . that I may know who you are.” He knew who Jesus was, the Messiah and the Lord of glory. Knowing that, what else does he want? He replies with such dignity and simplicity in four words of one syllable, “I want to see;” it is all so basic. He could have said it in one word of one syllable, “Sight!” Give me sight! He was blind. Everything around him was darkness. It was not even a monochrome world. It was blackness. “Give me sight!” he pleaded. There are times in our lives when God calls us to respond, to make a decision, to take a stand, to say who we are and whom we serve and what our chief end in life is. What do you want the one living and true God to do for you in your life? So there’s the word of inquiry.
ii] A word of authority. “Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight” (v.). What could be simpler. Who did it? Jesus alone, by a word. There was no jiggery-pokery! He didn’t wrestle with the man and ‘cast out the demon of blindness.’ None of that nonsense. Jesus didn’t put a hand up before his eyes and ask him how many fingers he was raising so that the crowd would applaud and give him more money! Jesus didn’t even touch him. He did not spit on the soil and make clay and cover his eyes with it and when he peeled it away the man could see. There was no physical contact at all, just the verbal contact. The word spoken to him by Jesus at that moment, that his keen ears heard, just from Jesus and from no one else. That was all and immediately he saw everything! It was when Jesus had spoken . . . We even know that Jesus had no need to speak. It takes just a flash of the will that can and the dead are raised; one determination in the mind of Christ that a centurion’s servant would be healed and from that moment he was restored. There was no need for Jesus to walk back to the tent where the centurion’s servant lay. One flash of Jesus’ will determining sight for this beggar and he would see. Yet in his grace our Lord chose to speak a word, his word, and at that moment the blind man saw. Ye blind behold your Saviour’s come!
He speaks and listening to his voice new life the dead receive.
The mournful broken hearts rejoice; the humble poor believe, (Charles Wesley 1707-88)
iii] A word of explanation. “Your faith has healed you” (v.). Jesus singled out his faith, and so he confirmed that the man was right to be praying for mercy from the incarnate Lord of Glory. He was right to call him ‘Son of David’ and ‘Lord.’ This man was acknowledging that there was no possibility under heaven that he could give himself sight, or that there was another man in all the world who could in the twinkling of an eye give sight to the blind. “It is your faith in me that has healed you,” explained Jesus. That is an enormously important statement. Let’s understand it.
Jesus is not telling the man that his feelings healed him. It was faith in Christ not feelings that Christ mentions here. What does he mean that his faith healed him?
A] True faith recognizes. This man’s mind had been focused on fragments of truth, pieces of information about the coming Messiah, and about the life and teaching and achievements of Jesus Christ. In his life of darkness he had listened to new disciples of Jesus speaking of their faith in him. He had asked questions about him and he remembered all he had heard. No facts, no faith. And in his heart there came a growing conviction that what he’d been hearing was true. That is why he became a believer in Jesus Christ because he believed our Lord was not a phony and a liar. What he said was true; what he was was truth incarnate. You embrace that. That is the beginning of saving faith, the recognition that Jesus is real and true. Do you have that? Then you are on your way.
B] True faith realizes. This man knew personally that he was a sinner who needed mercy from God the Son. He realized that Jesus of Nazareth was his only hope and deliverer, that salvation was available to him personally through Christ, that the Saviour would be willing to hear him, to stop and help him. It was not enough to recognize theologically who Jesus was. Demons know who Jesus is. You have to realize, “I have to deal with him. I have to come into living personal contact with him. He must touch me, and save me.” True faith realizes that.
C] True faith rests in Jesus Christ. Let me illustrate the progress of my description of saving faith like this. First I tell you that the church is on fire. I give you the facts and you recognize what I am saying is true. But you don’t stop there, you realize the consequences of this, that if you stay inside the church you will be burned to death. You have to get out. But even realizing that is not going to save you. Holding that conviction in your mind (“I ought to get out of this place”) is not going to deliver you from death. You have to actually get up and in an orderly manner go up the aisles and get out of the building. Resting in Christ is believing right into Christ, all by yourself. You entrust yourself into the safe keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rest in the Saviour as your prophet to teach you how to live, your priest whose own shed blood makes atonement for your sins and your shepherd king to work all things for your good and keep you day by day. The blind man knew that Christ had the power to change him and so he cried to him persistently, “Have mercy on me and give me my sight.” He had no Plan B, no back up alternative. He rested all his hopes in Jesus Christ. He banked all his future and his eternity in him.
3. JESUS GAINED A NEW FOLLOWER.
What do we read? “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God.” (v.43). The miracle was such that all the mechanism in his brain for analyzing signals through the optic nerves and translating them into recognizable objects was immediately working. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight,” and we are told “Immediately he received his sight.” You say that it is all too simple. That’s the devil who whispers those thoughts in your mind. We are simple people and Jesus came not to call the intellectuals and people whom the world calls ‘wise’ but ‘babes’, that is, ordinary folk. It is a wonderful thing to be an ordinary person. God the Son receives ordinary people.
Then you see that it might be simple but it is also costly, because this man began to follow Jesus. If he had a mother there was a time when he left her to follow Jesus. A new priority had come into his life. He had much to learn. He had to see Jesus and be with him and listen to his preaching. There were sinful destructive patterns of behaviour that he had to overcome, there was trust that needed to be nourished and strengthened. He was hungry for more of Jesus, more of his saving fulness, more of his grace, and so he began to follow him. So I am not saying at all that you make your decision to believe in Jesus and then he saves you and that’s it, you are a Christian. True faith that saves always leads to following him wherever he goes. This blind man had the witness in himself that Jesus of Nazareth was a Lord worth following. He could say to people who grumbled and said that he had become a religious fanatic, “I once was blind but now I see.”
And then again you see it is not that simple because not only did he begin to follow Jesus but he glorified God. In other words for the first time in his life he fulfilled his chief end, why he had been made, what he was to do with his life, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.” He praised God. Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise. I was blind but Jesus gave me sight. He charged me nothing. All I did was cry to him that he would be merciful. He asked me what I wanted and I said, “That I might receive my sight,” and he said, “Receive your sight.” The former blind man could say, “Isn’t it a wonderful world? Have you seen the swallows?” I heard a wife say this week as her husband talked about the swallows on their farm, “I think he loves the swallows more than me.” The blind man could say, “Have you noticed the butterflies? Have you seen the stars at night and the moon? Have you seen little babies and children? Have you seen people smiling and seen their tears? Have you seen the great Temple in Jerusalem and the altar outside it and the priests making sacrifice for sin? Have you seen it . . . have you? I drink it all in and I glorify the God who has made it all. I rejoice in him. Where would I be today without Jesus?”
The change in this man, glorifying and praising God, was contagious. All the people saw it. He didn’t do it for their sakes, but in his artless, naïve and simple response to his new life through Christ many people were affected. He stirred them up from their lethargy. They too became God-centred rather than the selfish people they had been. They too praised and glorified God. It happens in a congregation. A Muslim woman begins to attend a church and is lovingly and respectfully spoken to about the claims of Christ and after 18 months of attendance she realizes that this is now what I believe. “I am a Christian.” She confesses him to her fellow believers in the church and they also praise God.
I have said to you were ten men in Aberystwyth converted then it would impact the whole town because they would all have ten people who knew them well who would see the change in them. A hundred people would see living epistles of Jesus’ power and grace and without a word they would be impacted as they saw new life in men who’d been changed by the Lord Jesus Christ. May it be so.
5th February 2012 GEOFF THOMAS.