Mark 10:46-52 “Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
This event in the life of our Lord is not only well known but it is also loved by every one of his disciples. One of the greatest of all preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon of London, has left the church a sweet legacy of eight sermons on this incident. The healing of this blind man is unique in the New Testament for the warmth of its tone but more particularly for the fact that this is the only person healed by Christ in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, whose actual name is recorded, ‘Bartimaeus’, and also, incidentally, the name of his father. It is as though, by the time Mark wrote this gospel, this family were well known members of one of the Christian congregations, and Bartimaeus didn’t tire of recounting the events of that never to be forgotten day when he first saw the Lord. This is the last miracle of healing in Mark’s gospel, in fact the writer records just one more sign of Jesus. We love the account for the definiteness of its tone. We are told where it took place, in the beautiful city of Jericho, 18 miles north-east of Jerusalem. What you have heard read occurred on this planet, do you understand? This incident is not like the saga myths of Homer – not that any of you have read Homer – but this really did happen just a short time ago – relatively speaking – in this world, where a degree of latitude crosses a degree of longitude, less than ten days before the Lord Jesus was crucified.
1. THE PLIGHT OF BARTIMAEUS.
We are told that Bartimaeus was a blind man, sitting by the roadside begging (v.46). What a combination of troubles! Bartimaeus was not partially sighted, he was blind. When his mother smiled a smile of encouragement, he could not see it; he could not glimpse the maternal love etched into his mother’s face. When a pile of ox dung lay in his path he could not see to step across it. He could not see the ditch, the low-hanging branch, the angry dog. When the night sky above Jericho was bright with a million stars it was all darkness to him. The beauty of birds and butterflies and rainbows and flowers and trees and little children were all withheld from him. At night when he closed his eyes and in the morning when he opened them again it was all alike utter blackness. That was the world he lived in, and the New Testament tells us that that is the world occupied by all men and women who do not know the living God, a world of utter blackness. Tell them of the beauties of the Saviour and they cannot see him. Read to them the Sermon on the Mount and it is vocables they hear, and that is all. They cannot see the loveliness of those sentences. Tell them John 3:16 and they are blind to its promises. Bring them to a church service, and whereas they are aware of men speaking, and people singing they can’t see the point. They are blind, because the god of this world, the devil, has fastened a thick secure blindfold around their eyes and they see nothing of the glories of the living God.
Without Jesus Christ you are all blind. Kind mothers, but blind. Brilliant scientists, but blind. Wonderful musicians, but blind. Creative artists, but blind. Bank-managers, doctors, road sweepers, postmen, policemen, media people – every one of you is blind. H.G. Wells told the fictitious story of a mountaineer who was the first man to cross a high mountain range and descend into a valley on the other side to discover that all the people living there were blind. He lived among them for a while until they grew angry with his talk of stars and clouds and colours and twilight. They decided that what was making him crazy were the two protuberances beneath his forehead and they had better get a knife and cut them out to cure him. So he slipped through their hands and escaped, ascending the steep sides of the mountains to return to the land where people can see. The great question is this, in what world are you living? The world of the blind, under the sway of the god of this world, unable to see God’s glory all around, and his loveliness in the face of his only Son, Jesus Christ, or has this Saviour given you sight?
But Bartimaeus was not only blind, he was impoverished. There have always been those born blind whom providence has put in loving affluent homes, whose parents have cared for them, and encouraged their education so that they have risen to the highest positions of responsibility. Consider our present Home Secretary, what a remarkable man David Blunkett is, utterly blind, but one of the senior members of the government. He is not carrying a sign and sitting in Regent Street begging for money, but this man Bartimaeus was, the blind pauper of Jericho begging for food or pennies to survive, listening for the approaching footsteps of people and crying to them for alms. He had nothing to sell; he didn’t have anything to lose. He was utterly dependent on others . . . and so are you. Who is God? How can he be known? How can you gain eternal life? It takes more than your wits to answer such questions. By searching can you find God? No. Can you shoot an arrow out of the heavens? No. You depend on God making himself known to you, speaking to you by the Spirit through the Bible, giving you life, providing for you knowledge and strength and comforts to live and to die.
More than that, Bartimaeus was marginalised and sidelined, “sitting by the roadside” (v.46). He was not involved in running the affairs of Jericho; he was not on the local P.T.A.; he was not running for office in the council elections; he did not sit with the wise men at the gate hearing disputes and passing on his wisdom; he was an illiterate outsider, and so are you who are outside the kingdom of God. The important events in Wales these weeks are taking place in Christian homes, churches, camps, conferences, in the sale and reading of books and the preaching of sermons. These activities are bringing the reality of eternal life, the heavenly rule of God, into the interfaces of our society, but you are marginalised from it all. You live in the fantasy world of the soaps, the gutter press, sport and TV. In that unreal world you live and in that unreal world you will die, but then, at death, you will be confronted with the reality you have defied – the living God who has been speaking to you all through your life in your conscience, but you have lived outside the kingdom of God, as an alien. Have you seen that? You sin has blinded you. Your sin has impoverished you. Your sin has marginalised you from reality. You are just like blind Bartimaeus.
2. THE KNOWLEDGE OF BARTIMAEUS.
But Bartimaeus was not a moron; handicapped people can get treated as if they were simpletons when in fact they are intellectually much brighter than the people shouting at them, or talking down to them. The most important thing about Bartimaeus was that he was a man in the image of God. He could think and reason and rationalise, even though all those faculties had been damaged by sin, as they have in all mankind. He’d heard about Jesus of Nazareth. In a little backwater like Judea, firmly under the control of Rome, nothing much happened from year to year, and so the preaching and signs and wonders of our Lord were the talking point of the women at every well and market, and the men who gathered at the city gates. “Who is he? Where does he come from? What did his father do? What is his message? What about his miracles?” Everyone had a cousin or auntie or friend whose life had been transformed by Jesus. Bartimaeus heard all this with his keen sense of hearing. He thought about them in a way that Annas and Caiaphas the chief priests never did. He had witnessed none of our Lord’s mighty miracles. He’d not had the opportunity to talk with the widow of Nain’s son, or with Jairus, or with Mary and her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus. He had never seen dead people raised with a word, and lepers healed with a touch. Of all such privileges his blindness had totally deprived him. But he had his ears opened and the wheels of his mind revolved furiously in his life of darkness. He took seriously the hearsay of many conversations and put together all the information he’d gathered, these wonderful sayings and deeds. At one time someone must said to another in his hearing that Jesus had healed a man who was born blind. The man had washed in the pool of Siloam and had gone home seeing. How could you forget such things?
What would you do if your dear child had a rare genetic disorder and you heard of an identical child healed by an extraordinary physician? What would you do if you discovered that that physician was coming to your town? What would your love for this little one and your desire to see him or her healthy again constrain you to do? To seek out the doctor and bring your child to him and plead for him to examine him and cure him? Would knowledge and longing make you to act in this way? Of course. You could never sit in front of the TV while your child was hitting his head against the bedroom wall constantly. Yet you hear of the Lord Jesus Christ and do nothing! You ignore the one who preached the Sermon on the Mount! You ignore the one who rose from the dead! You marginalise the one who spoke and the winds and waves obeyed him. You rarely come to church. You wont pray and you’ll never read the Bible. You refuse to ask this Jesus to save your wretched guilty soul from hell. You won’t cry mightily to him for sight and life and mercy. Is that a sensible response? Would an intelligent man do that? Would a loving person behave like that, show such disdain for Jesus Christ before his family, his children, his wife?
See how Bartimaeus responded when one day he heard a bustle and the most intense excitement in the air. There was a “large crowd” Mark tells us (v.46), and when he asked what was happening someone told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. What was his response? Did he think, “Here is a crowd and so there’s an opportunity to make some money?” Did he think, “They are on their way to Jerusalem to the Passover feast, religious folk, feeling pious and looking forward to a break from work and seeing friends in the big city as every year. They will be more generous than other people plodding to the fields for a day’s reaping and feeling cynical about a man sitting begging.” So did he shout to the crowds for alms because he was blind? Did he take advantage of Jesus being there to line his own pocket and make a bit of money? Many do, but Bartimaeus did not. He began to shout. He didn’t mutter about, “Another religious charlatan; another man claiming to have direct access to God; another false prophets that the gullible will follow; when will they ever learn?” He didn’t mutter; he shouted as loudly and as long as he could.
What did he shout? “Jesus”. That was the first word on his lips. “Jesus,” he cried. This was the name not chosen by his father but given to the new-born Jesus by a messenger from God: “Thou shalt call his name ‘Jesus’ for he shall save his people from their sin.” The name speaks so eloquently of who this one is and why the Father sent the Son into the world. It means, “Saviour . . . salvation is of the Lord . . . Jehovah saves.” Bartimaeus wanted the attention of Jesus the Saviour: “Ye blind, behold your Saviour comes.” But Bartimaeus said more, “Son of David,” he cried. He lived in Judah steeped in the history of his nation. He lived 18 miles from King David’s great city, Jerusalem. He knew something about this one who was the greatest of all the kings of Judah, to whom God had made this promise, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom . . . and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:12&13). Bartimaeus had heard all these stories about Jesus, and he added to them all the bits of knowledge he had gained from his knowledge of the Scriptures. Thus by the entrance of God’s word light and truth began to dawn. Who was this Jesus, the great Saviour? It was the Messiah, great David’s greater Son. What honour he gave to Christ, to address him like that!
But more than that, Bartimaeus cried to the Son of David these words, “Have mercy on me!” See how he further magnifies the Lord Jesus. Bartimaeus saw himself as a guilty man, not as a victim to be pitied. He took responsibility for his own sin, his self-pity, his pride, his lust, his greed, his short temper, his contempt, his jealousy, all the sins that he as a blind man was guilty of, and yet here was the one who could show him mercy! I have no authority to show you mercy and declare you forgiven for the sins of your mind and thoughts and imagination. You must go to God and confess your guilt to him. But Bartimaeus went to the man Christ Jesus. This Lord would not treat him as he deserved to be treated, to be judged righteously and then condemned to hell. Mercy he sought for. Mercy he cried for; “have mercy on me!” Have you ever asked God to show you mercy? If not you have never seen your sin. You are still living in the valley of the blind. Bartimaeus knew it and cried to the Lord for deliverance.
There is also something particularly striking about these four words, something incredible. This phrase, “have mercy on me” is found in the book of Psalms, in psalm 4, and in psalm 6, and in psalm 41, and in psalm 51, and in psalm 109, and in psalm 123. There they are found, and in every instance the one addressed is Jehovah God, but Bartimaeus takes that cry of a sinner for mercy and he directs it to the Lord Jesus, to Jehovah Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” Have you done that? Have you seen that all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Jesus of Nazareth. That he was in the beginning and he was with God and he was God, and yet he was made flesh and dwelt amongst us and men beheld his glory as the incarnation of God himself. Have you with your eyes seen what Bartimaeus without his eyes could see?
You think it is terrible to be blind, or to be deaf, or be dumb? I am sure it is, but better to be blind and see in your heart the truth, the true and living God, than to have two eyes and see nothing. Better to be deaf and hear in your mind the voice of the living God speaking and saving, than to have two ears and hear nothing. Bartimaeus had developed his own inner world, and a contemplative thoughtful spirit, and many of the lusts of the eyes had been no temptation to him. Do not pity Bartimaeus, pity yourself. Don’t speak of your pity to those who don’t ask for it; ask God to pity you.
3. THE AMAZING PERSISTENCE OF BARTIMAEUS.
Bartimaeus had little encouragement from the Jerichico-ites to cry to Jesus. On the contrary, we are told that “Many rebuked him;” they told the old beggar to be quiet (v.48); “Shut up you fool.” Bunyan tells us that right alongside the wicket gate Diabolus had built a castle and from its towers he used to shoot arrows at all who tried to pass through the gate. He also had a great fierce dog and it always snarled and howled threatening anyone who tried to pass through the gate. Whenever someone knocks on the gates of mercy they hear it in hell and every attempt is made to drive people away. “Hold your peace about religion,” the world will say. The men of Jericho yelled at Bartimaeus, but they could as soon silence the roar of Niagara. Bartimaeus was not to be stopped. There was that grand phrase which Spurgeon told to his students; “Show the hounds the fox.” Let them scent or see it and off they race. There is no need to cajole them. So it is when a wounded dying sinner catches a glimpse of this Saviour. He will not rest until he has him! Bartimaeus was utterly determined to meet the one person whom he longed to tell his troubles to. He didn’t have some vague, wistful, sentimental wish to see Jesus. He was absolutely desperate to meet him. If others didn’t know the misery of blindness, Bartimaeus did. If others didn’t think it worthwhile to be considered a fool in order to see, he, at any rate, knew better. He didn’t care if familiar grumbling voices from the know-alls of Jericho told him to shut up, “he shouted all the more.” What encouragement did he have? Did he not know those great words which God had promised through the prophet Joel that whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved?
If you would be saved from the god of this world, and from being intimidated by mere teenagers, and from the effects of sin in your life you mark well what Bartimaeus did, and you do exactly what he did. There comes a time when you will need steel in your backbone; you must leave the place you live and walk to church and tell your friends that that is where you are going because you want to know God for yourself. There will never be a lack of people who will tell you that you are too young to get caught up in religion, that it is too late, that you are going too far, too fast, that you don’t need to pray so much or be pernickety about what you do on Sundays, or read your Bible so much, or be anxious about salvation. Pay no attention to such people. They are the blind inhabitants of the valley of the blind. Like Bartimaeus if you know that Jesus Christ is somewhere then you will go there and seek his attention.
Why don’t people throng to hear us preach each Sunday? Why are they so deterred from seeking Christ, so discouraged from drawing near to God? The two answers are short and simple. Firstly, they don’t feel sufficiently the bitterness of their own sins. They refuse to face up to their own hearts and the disease of their own souls, but once let a man begin to see himself as God sees him, wicked, depraved, lost, condemned, without God, without hope, then that man will never rest until he has found pardon and peace in Christ. Those who know their own deplorable condition will persevere until they know the healing power of Christ in their lives. Why don’t they come to hear of Jesus? Secondly, because they don’t know him, and don’t appreciate him, and don’t want to know him, and don’t want him interfering in their lives because they love their sins too much.
But Bartimaeus would not be silenced by men, and he knew what to say to God in Christ, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He hadn’t read that in a book, because he couldn’t read. No one had told him to repeat those very words when he bowed before God. How simple were the words. He didn’t need a prayer book; he didn’t need to look in the index to learn what to say when a man feels guilty and wretched before God. It was his sense of need that supplied him with the right language and the right spirit in which to speak. If there is one regular request the people who work in our Christian Book Shop get it is whether we can sell them a book of prayers. These inquirers are taking services somewhere and they want prayers to read to their little congregations, but we have only the book of Puritan meditations called Valley of Vision (Banner of Truth). John Bunyan said, “The apostle Paul said he knew not what to pray for, and yet, there are many infinitely inferior to the apostle Paul, who can actually write prayers; who not only know what to pray for, and how to pray, but who know how other people should pray, and not only that, but who know how they ought to pray from the first day of January to the last of December.” This man was a blind pauper begging for his living, and the Lord Jesus Christ was passing by, don’t you think he would know what to say to this man?
It was not enough for this man to sit idly there by the roadside saying and doing nothing while Jesus was passing by, pleading fate, that whatever will be will be, that if he were destined to receive sight that somehow it would be granted to him, that if Jesus wanted to help him then he would somehow find Bartimaeus because he was omniscient. No, Bartimaeus had no rights to Jesus’ mercy, no claims upon our Lord, no entitlement to eternal life. He might have sat there mutely until he’d died and then gone to hell utterly unchanged and Jesus would have done nothing amiss in treating him as he deserved. “Have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus cried. “Have mercy on me!” That was his only plea and he would not be silenced though many rebuked him. He was blind and wretched. Jesus had power to open his eyes. He was the only helper under heaven. It was now or never with him. If he didn’t get his eyes opened then what would happen to Jesus when he went to Jerusalem where Bartimaeus knew many hated him – he had picked that up as he sat and listened to people walking up and down the streets of Jericho. So Bartimaeus persisted with his prayer.
So it is with you sinner; it may be now or never. I know that God saves men at the eleventh hour, but I also know that many remain unsaved at the eleventh hour. It is five minutes to midnight and many give up because they think that it’s too late then and their conscience stays mute, and no Holy Spirit bears them witness. Such may be your case. What do the words on the chapel clock say? “The time is short.” “Today if you will hear his voice,” the gospel says. “Now, or never! Now or never! Today on earth, tomorrow in eternity.” If you would have Christ then the only time to seek him and the only time we can guarantee is today. Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation. I heard a man speaking this week. He told of his father ill in hospital and how he had gone one morning four weeks ago to visit him. He told his Dad of the gospel, the loving welcoming Saviour who would have him and freely forgive him. But his father was as unresponsive as ever. Then the doctors told him that it would be all right for him to leave the hospital for his father was in no danger. But in the early afternoon he was constrained to return to the hospital to see Dad again, but when he entered the ward his father’s bed was empty, and when he made inquiry he learned that his father had died an hour or two earlier. “I dare not think what state he is in at this moment,” he said. It was very solemn and very moving to hear a son talk like that. A son who loved Jesus Christ more than anyone else. What of you? Mercy will pardon you if you cry mightily to God for that mercy.
4. THE RESPONSE OF THE LORD.
We are told that Jesus stood still – that is what the word ‘stopped’ means. The cries of a poor worthless man were enough to cause the Maker of the universe to stop in his tracks. Jesus had time for him. There are many people who have said no to God this morning, that they wouldn’t come to hear his word. They had too much to do to worship God and make peace with him through Jesus Christ. Too busy! Always too busy for God! Here in Jericho Jehovah Jesus had the coming extraordinary final week on his heart; it was going to be seven days full of tribulations and responsibilities. Jesus would have to purge the Temple again. He had to meet in the Upper Room with the disciples. There he had to preach the greatest sermon ever preached and then pray as no man ever prayed. He had to agonise in the Garden, and be arrested and beaten and tried and crucified. He had all that on his heart; it was heavy within him bearing the weight of many thoughts, but he stood still when he heard a sinner call out to him! Jesus’ disciples had no time for this man. The crowd just shouted at him to shut his mouth, but Jesus stopped what he was doing. Jesus stood for Bartimaeus. Later he will stand for Stephen, and one day – wonder of wonders – he will stand for me too. “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Let me introduce you to my Father and to all the hosts of heaven.”
“Call him!” said Jesus. There were hundreds there but Jesus singled him out. In all his loving particularity his grace fell that day on the man who was crying out to him, “Have mercy upon me!” “Call him!” said Christ. And all over the world today there are preachers and God has said to them, “Call that guilty despairing sinner to me. You make sure you do. Call such sinners. Don’t you spend your time flattering the wealthy and praising the righteous. Enough people do that to them every day. When convicted needy sinners come into my presence call them!” So, we are told, “they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! on your feet! He’s calling you'” (v.49). Was it the same people who had told him to shut up two minutes earlier who now told him to cheer up. Shut up! Cheer up! So similar. Just two little words’ difference between the phrases, but all the difference between despair and hope lie in those two exhortations. Wha t did the Jericho-ites mean with their cliche ‘Cheer up’? What do people mean by that an such phrases today? Have a nice day! Keep smiling! Did the people in the Temple try to cheer up the praying publican with the words, “Cheer up,” as the despairing man gazed at the floor and beat his breast and cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner”? “Cheer up you may never die!” Yes, you will. Cheer up there may not be a hell. Then Jesus Christ is a vile deceiver!
What did they mean when they looked at this poor blind man and told him to cheer up? Did the sadness and longing in his hearts touch them profoundly? Or were they only interested in the ‘sport’ of the occasion – the silly old man crying out to Jesus of Nazareth? What will happen now? We don’t know what was the precise meaning of the words, but they urged him to go to Jesus. “On your feet! He is calling you!” I can say the same to you. The Son of God the mighty Jesus Christ is calling you today. He has called you here and now he is calling you to himself. On your feet! Come to him. Cheer up! Why despair about your future? God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world, and he is ready now to receive you.
Look at the alacrity of Bartimaeus’ reply. He’s out of the starting blocks, on his feet and off he goes. Have you ever seen a blind man jump? Never! In his blackness Bartimaeus leaped. He threw aside his cloak. This would have been spread out to receive the money that people dropped before him. Away with any hindrance! What were those shekels in comparison to coming into the presence of Jesus of Nazareth. Certain opportunities come just once in a lifetime and he knew that this was one of them. Bartimaeus came to Jesus. That is salvation; you in your darkness and sin and need coming to the mighty divine welcoming Saviour.
5. THE QUESTION HE WAS ASKED.
“‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus said to him.” (v.51). All the questions in the Bible that God asks men seem naive questions, beginning with the first question of all, “Adam, where are you?” But they are all deceptively simple. Here was the very heart of the matter, what does this man want from God? Why had Bartimaeus called on Jesus? Why had a blind beggar shouted at the King of the Universe? Did he want a handout? How much, or how little, did he believe that Jesus could do for him? Bartimaeus was not a problem to be dealt with, another statistic of healing and saving for the disciples to notch onto the Conversions’ Stick at the end of the day. Jesus can do something with this man. “What do you want me to do for you?” You, a real person made by God and for God. Express yourself now to God. Stop the blarney! Cut out the clever speech! Stop trying to make an impression that you are Mr Cool. Speak with judgment day honesty to your God! What do you want the Son of God to do? Give you a big house and a new car and a pad in the city and a cottage on the Riviera? A stint in Harvard Business School can certainly get you that. What do you want from God? Health and long life? Is that all? Most men and women in Wales are going to get that anyway. You are going to live as long as God himself and you ask God for trinkets. What do you want God to do for you? Think eternally!
Tom Wright tells of an incident in his life; “It took some weeks of persuasion before they came to see me. The grown-up son was desperate to get his ailing and depressed mother into some kind of a home where she would be properly cared for. As long as she lived with him he couldn’t do his own work or have any private life. She swamped him with demands for help and attention. We looked at several options. There were small communities, large communities, nursing homes, sheltered housing. Any of them would have been real possibilities. The mother, though, saw some flaw in each of them which became, to her fatal. None of them would do. After an hour she turned to the son with triumph gleaming in her eyes. ‘There you are!’ she said. ‘He can’t do anything for us.’ But the truth was that she didn’t want anybody to do anything for her. She wanted to go on being a victim, putting moral pressure on her son (and everybody else in sight) to feel sorry for her. Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus addresses exactly that possibility. ‘What do you want me to do for you? Do you, Bartimaeus, want to give up begging? Do you want to live differently, to work for a living, to have no reason to sit by the roadside all day whining at passers-by?” (Tom Wright, “Mark for Everyone,” SPCK, 2001, p.143).
With the Lord we have to be precise and particular because we serve a particular God. In other areas of life you’d be considered a fool if you were vague. If you make an appointment to see the dentist you ultimately go into his surgery and sit in the chair. He will say to you, “What’s wrong? What can I do for you?” Are you going to say, “Why don’t you take a tooth out”? No you’re not. You are going to be precise in describing what your dental problem is. You focus on the disease and the pain and ask him to deal with it. So it will be if you want to borrow money from a bank you tell the manager about the sum you want, or if you take your dog to a vet you explain what’s wrong with Fido, or going to the railway station to travel somewhere – you don’t say, “Sell me a ticket!”
6. THE REPLY BARTIMAEUS GAVE HIM.
“‘Rabbi, I want to see.'” (v.51). Just one thing he wanted, and that was his sight.
“Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come!” (Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).
What do you want from God? Why are you here? “I have a soul,” you say, “and it’s a sick soul, and I have heard that there’s a great Physician named Jesus, and he comes every Sunday at 10.30 and at 6.00 to meet with sick sinners in Aberystwyth at Alfred Place, and I need him.” Is that what you are saying? Do you know exactly what you want from God? If you don’t then no wonder your life is in such a muddle, and it will always be in a muddle until you tell Jesus Christ why you need him.
Look at this man, there is no stammering and no stuttering, no “I really don’t know what to say.” He just said it once, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Listen to what Spurgeon said when he spoke on these words on Sunday morning August 7 in the year 1859, a year when God was doing wonderful things all over the world. Did he bring pressure on people to get out of their seats and come to the front and then give them assurance that they had become Christians because of that? Not at all. The thought never entered his mind. Listen to what Spurgeon said, “Let me beseech you to go home to your room, and there, kneeling by your bedside, by faith picture the Saviour saying to you, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Fall on your knees, and without hesitation tell him all, tell him you are guilty, and you desire that he would pardon you. Confess your sins; keep none of them back. Say, ‘Lord, I implore you pardon my drunkenness, my profanity, or whatever it may be that you have been guilty of,’ and then still imagine you hear him saying, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Tell him, ‘Lord, I would be kept from all those sins in the future. I shall not be content with being pardoned. I want to be renewed.’ Tell him you have a hard heart, and ask him to soften it. Tell him you have blind eyes and that you can’t see your interest in Christ. Ask him to open your heart; confess before him you are full of iniquity and prone to wander; ask him to take your heart and wash it, and then set it on things above, and prevent it from being fond of the things of the earth any longer. Tell it out plainly, make a frank and full confession in his presence; and what if it should happen, my dear hearer, that at this very day, while you are in your room, Christ should give thee a touch of grace, put your sins away, save your soul, and give you the joy to know that you are a now a child of God, and now an heir of heaven. Imitate the blind man in the explicitness and straightforwardness of his confession and his request – ‘Rabbi, I want to see.'”
7. THE SAVIOUR’S RESPONSE.
“‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘Your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (v.52). Our Lord didn’t say that if he promised to follow after him and put money in the bag each week he would be able to see. “Go! You are healed!” said Jesus. What Bartimaeus wanted had been done and now he can go. Go! He trusted himself to Jesus of Nazareth. Shouldn’t we believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ? Isn’t it wickedness not to believe in the Jesus of John’s gospel? The Jesus of Mark’s gospel, the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the Christ of the Bible in all his loveliness of character and the fragrant beauty of his personality, the conqueror of death, the one who rose from the dead on the third day, the one who lives in the lives of all those who have received him? Why should any one not trust in this Christ? What moral reason? What ethical explanation can there be for rejecting the Lamb of God? Bartimaeus believed right into Christ and cried to him to have mercy on him, and he was changed. That faith saved him. He who was blind saw, and the first thing he saw was the face of Jesus, and he did go, just as Jesus said, but it was to follow Jesus along the road. When we first met Bartimaeus in verse 46 he was sitting on the side of the road like so many of you marginalised men and women, but what a difference now. He is on the road; he is following Jesus along the road. He is following him to the cross. He would see for himself the blood of the Son of God. He sees the one who gave him new life give up his own life. I believe that Bartimaeus was there with the five hundred on the Mount of Ascension. He saw the risen Christ, the conqueror of death.
Everyone here this morning is on a road. No exceptions. Every road leads somewhere. Every one with a destination. Who are you following? Does one say, “I had a teacher in school, absolutely brilliant and he persuaded me that there was no god and no possibility of knowing him.” That is where you are and that is the one you are following to a godless eternity, you and your teacher. Or there is Bartimaeus, and he is following Jesus. Aren’t you going to go along with this man who once was blind, but now sees?
What a time to start following the Lord Jesus when hundreds of young people have been here all this week listening to the word of God, preachers entreating and beseeching us, camp leaders presenting to us the living Christ. Isn’t this a favoured time for you to trust in Jesus Christ? Isn’t this the time when the devil will rebuke you and tell you to be quiet. Won’t he say to you about these longings and convictions that it’s just emotionalism? Don’t listen to him. Do you know that you’re a sinner? That’s not emotion. That is truth. Don’t you know that for years you have failed to see the glories of God in Jesus Christ? Seeing Jesus’ glory is not emotion. That is truth. So it is not emotionalism at all. It is the Spirit of truth that is leading you to Christ, that you should believe on him and follow him. Don’t delay for a moment. Accept no excuses. By the authority of the ever-living God I urge you not to resist the mission of the Holy Spirit as he’s come from the throne of heaven this day to bring you here to hear this message, when he says to you, “Believe it oh sinner, believe it. Receive the glad message it’s true.” This may be our last chance. This sauntering casualness about religion is unbecoming. This jesting superiority about going to church and those who worship the living God is unacceptable. You are a poser. What have you got and what have you done with your life that makes you so superior? Don’t go on admiring Jesus and his people but being uncommitted yourself. Don’t go on torn between two opinions. Cry out to Jesus with confidence. He will receive you. Cheer up! On your feet! He is calling you, and if he calls then you can go to him. Don’t let your past shame keep you from present mercy. It is the same Jesus still, the same heart that pitied the blind man at Jericho. Go to him boldly, and when he asks what you want, then tell him you desire that your eyes may be opened. Why die when such a glorious Saviour is near? Why go down to hell like one dying thief, right from the side of the dying Saviour?
I call heaven and earth to bear witness that if you perish after this, your blood will be upon your own head. And if you go down from the streets of Aberystwyth where there has been so much gospel preaching and testimony, where the kindest of Saviours has been passing by how much worse will be your hell. You will wish you had never heard this sermon. O that you would be wise, that you understood this, that you would consider your end. Turn! Turn! Turn! Why are you determined to go to hell? Why will you perish? Jesus of Nazareth is passing by and he can save you. Cry to him now.
15th August 2004 GEOFF THOMAS