I’ve always been encouraged by the story of Thomas and the risen Jesus. When Jesus first appeared to all of the disciples after His resurrection, Thomas wasn’t with them. As a result, Thomas didn’t initially see the risen Savior, but was simply told that Jesus was alive and well. And Thomas said, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). This statement has earned Thomas his well-known nickname, "Doubting Thomas." After he made his statement, eight days passed before Thomas finally was able to see Jesus with his own eyes. Jesus told him, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). Upon doing so, Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" His doubts were removed and Thomas believed that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
But, the most encouraging note to this story comes in how Jesus responds to Thomas. Jesus said, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed" (John 20:29). This describes those of us here this morning who believe in Jesus Christ. None of us have seen Jesus as Thomas did. None of us have touched Jesus as Thomas did. But many of us have believed in Him without seeing. Jesus calls us, "blessed" for doing so (John 20:29). In fact, if you think about it, there are very few in history who were privileged to see Jesus with their own eyes. Very few in history were ever able to witness first hand the healing power of Jesus. The vast majority of His disciples down through the ages have been those who have only heard about Jesus and have believed. When Peter wrote his first epistle to the scattered, persecuted churches, he describes the situation of most believers in Christ, "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:8-9).
We haven’t seen Jesus physically. We haven’t touched Jesus physically. And yet, many of us have believed in Him. We have believed that Jesus was the son of God who came to earth. We have believed that Jesus took upon Himself the punishment the we deserved for our sins, and that Jesus will come again and judge the world in righteousness. Through His blood, we will escape our just condemnation. And this belief leads us to a love for Him that’s undying. It gives us a joy in Him that’s inexpressible, and a salvation through Him that’s ready to be revealed.
This morning, we will look at the story of two men. These two men had never seen, nor had they touched Jesus like Thomas had, but they had believed in what they had heard about Him. The Lord honored their faith by healing their bodies. The men I am speaking about were two physically blind men, whom Jesus healed on the outskirts of a town named Jericho. The story about these two men are included in Matthew 20:29-34.
And as they were going out from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And the multitude sternly told them to be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened." And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.
As we finish Matthew 20, we finish our study of what is often called, the Perean ministry. The name is derived from the location in which Jesus ministered. At the beginning of Matthew 19, we are told that Jesus "came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan." Jesus had spent most of His ministry in Galilee which is in the north. But here we see that Jesus had traveled south and east, across the Jordan. The phrase "beyond the Jordan" refers to the east side of the Jordan river, which is often called "Perea," which means, "beyond." It’s that area "beyond" the river from the perspective of Jerusalem.
In the time of Jesus, it took about a day to travel from Jerusalem to Perea. It was about 25 miles as the crow flies, but it would be a strenuous walk. If you would head east from Jerusalem, you would travel up several hundred feet to ascend the Mount of Olives. As you proceeded up and over the Mount of Olives, you would soon pass through the city of Bethany, which is just on the back side of the mount of Olives. As you proceeded, you would begin your descent down the Wadi Qilt, which would take you down about 3,000 feet in elevation in the span of about 15 miles. At the end of your descent, you would find yourself at a beautiful city called Jericho. Another 10 miles beyond Jericho and you would find yourself at the Jordan river. Once you crossed the river, you would be in Perea.
Jesus had ministered in Perea for some time. Exactly how long, we don’t know. It may have been several days, weeks, or even months. In our text this morning, we find Jesus coming back from Perea, on His way to Jerusalem. At some point, He must have crossed the Jordan, for in our text this morning, we find Jesus in Jericho, which is west of the Jordan. He will soon ascend the Wadi Qilt, as He approaches Bethany, the Mount of Olives, and eventually Jerusalem. In fact, next week, Lord willing, we will be in Matthew 21, where Jesus actually enters the city of Jerusalem.
On several occasions, Jesus had told His disciples that Jerusalem was the final stop for the Son of Man (Matt. 16:21; 20:18). It is there that He will spend the last week of His life. It is there that He will die for our sins. It is there that He will "give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28), as we examined last week. We will be studying the last week of the life of Jesus for the next year or so, as Matthew devotes more than one quarter of his gospel (8 of 28 chapters) account to tell us what took place in that week. I’m telling you, as a pastor, I’m looking forward to our study together, as we really dig into the final earthly days of our Lord. I figure that it will take us about a year to complete. And as I think about spending a year meditating upon the last week of the life of Christ, my soul is excited. I trust that this will be a profitable study for all of us!
In our text this morning, Jesus isn’t quite in Jerusalem yet. He is in Jericho. This is what verse 29 tells us: "And as they were going out from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him" (Matt. 20:29). For some reason, the people had identified in Jesus, something special. It may have been His miracles that produced the crowds. But I hesitate to say that because we don't have a record of any great miracle that Jesus performed in the region of Perea. So, it seems more likely that the crowds were attracted by what Jesus was saying and teaching.
If you look back at the teaching of Jesus when He was in Perea, you will notice that Jesus wasn’t shying away from the truth. He was preaching things that were pretty difficult for the people to receive. He called people to a high standard of righteousness. To the Pharisees, who sought to justify their sinful, divorce-filled, lifestyles, Jesus said that marriage is to be one man with one woman forming a strong union for life. There was only one grounds for which divorce was permissible--when one spouse is sexually unfaithful (Matt. 19:9). To the rich young ruler, who sought to justify his own righteousness, Jesus said that he needed to go and sell all of His possessions to obtain eternal life. Jesus also lifted high the wonderful grace of God that gives freely as He desires. This was the main teaching of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The gracious character of God overflows is giving equally to all who labor in the vineyard, even those who labored for only an hour. Jesus also required of His disciples a self-sacrifice that was far beyond what any of them ever imagined. Jesus said that you need to be a servant. Jesus said that you need to be a slave. They wanted to rule and to reign, but Jesus said that you need to serve. And what was the result? "A great multitude followed Him."
This is how it is with the church of Christ. When you take the Bible and stand upon its truth unashamedly and proclaim what it says, without compromise, people will come. When you speak forth of the extent of the righteousness that He requires, it’s like a magnet that draws people. When you proclaim of the unimaginable wonders of the grace of God, you will have an audience. When others take their place in the kingdom as humble servants and slaves, people will love to be in your midst. Oh, certainly, there will be the self-righteous, who don’t want these things. Oh, certainly, there will be those who hate God and His messengers. But, there will be some, who will love it and will come. This is our plan at Rock Valley Bible Church. We want to stand strongly behind the word of God. We don’t want to shrink back from any of its contents. We want to proclaim strongly that God requires our perfect righteousness. We want to proclaim that God's grace is mighty. We have no hope other than to submit to Him in serving others. We trust that God will draw people who want to hear what the Bible teaches. We also know that there will be many who will hate our teaching. In coming months, we will see the Pharisees in Jerusalem whole-heartedly reject Jesus and His teaching. In our text this morning, we find Jesus preaching strongly and attracting a crowd, who followed him "as they were going out from Jericho" (verse 29).
At this point, I must stop to make a few technical comments about this text. Matthew says that these events took place as Jesus and His disciples "were going out from Jericho" (verse 29). Mark makes a similar comment as well (Mark 10:46). But Luke says something a bit different. He says these events took place as Jesus "was approaching Jericho" (Luke 18:35). And the question comes as to how these to statements can be reconciled. Many will see statements like this and believe that the Bible is full of errors. Many have sought to give explanations for this discrepancy.
- Some have said Luke is recording a different healing than Matthew and Luke. They say that Jesus healed some blind men on the way into the city as well as on the way out of the city. It’s possible.
- Some have said that after leaving the city, Jesus encountered these men and healed them. But then, he came back into the city afterwards, which is when he met Zaccheus. It's possible.
- Some say that Jesus heard these blind men cry on the way into the city, but it wasn’t until He was on His way out that He actually healed them. It’s possible.
- Some point out that there were two Jericho’s at the time of Jesus. Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, who lived near the time of Jesus referred to the two Jericho’s. One he called, "the old city" (The War Of The Jews, 4:8:3). So it could also be the case that Jesus was leaving one Jericho and was approaching another Jericho with the multitudes when these events took place. It’s possible.
I have no idea if any of these suggestions are correct. Perhaps there is another explanation that makes sense. I don’t know. But, one thing I do know is that if we were to go back into time and watch and see what Jesus actually did in healing these men, it would be totally obvious to us how Jesus could be leaving the city and approaching it at the same time. I believe that we are simply lacking the information necessary to help us understand this situation and harmonize the facts. I believe that it is a bit like the story of the man who was traveling with his son in their automobile. They get into a terrible car accident which killed the father instantly. But the son is rushed to the hospital and in need of surgery. A doctor sees the boy and says, "I can't operate on this child; he's my son." If you don’t know the full details of the story, you are confused until you have a bit more information. If I were to say that the doctor who looked at the boy was his mother, it all makes sense. Or, it’s like the story of the three Chinese Sumo wrestlers during monsoon season, who were standing outside under a single umbrella without getting wet. How can it be? If you have ever seen a Sumo wrestler, you know that they are very large men. It’s impossible for three of them to stand under an umbrella without getting wet. That is, unless it’s not raining at the time.
I believe that we simply lack the information necessary to fully understand what took place in Jericho some two thousand years ago. See, you can approach the Bible in two different ways. You can come as the skeptic, who hears of a small difficulty like this, and instantly concludes that the Bible is full of errors. Or, you can come in faith, hearing a this type of difficulty, and concluding that you aren’t smart enough to figure it out.
Since we're discussing technicalities, let me bring up another one that will catch the eyes of skeptic. Matthew clearly states that there were two blind men along the road who were healed. But, Mark and Luke mention only one blind man who they mention by the name of Bartimaeus. So, how many were there? Were there two blind men? Was there only one blind man? The answer is really pretty easy. There were at least two blind men. Mark and Luke simply focused upon the one who was most vocal. Nowhere do they say that there was only one. (There may have been more.) This isn't such an unusual occurrence with the gospel writers. When Matthew recorded the story of Jesus casting out the legion of angels from the demoniacs in Gadera, Matthew said that there were two of them. But, Mark mentions only one of them. The one who comes in faith to the word of God will see this difficulty and rejoice that Matthew and Mark and Luke weren't simply copying each other. But rather, they were giving their God-inspired perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
What is your attitude toward the word of God? Do you believe it to be true? Or, are you a skeptic, jumping on everything that looks like a contradiction so that you might discount its teaching? May the Lord grant us faith to believe in the whole counsel of God.
What’s important in this story isn’t how many blind men there were or where these blind man happened to be sitting, but what is important is what took place on the outskirts of Jericho on that day: two blind men were healed of their blindness. There are some lessons that we can learn from these blind men. I almost entitled my message this morning, "lessons from a few blind men." Because of they teach us. Our first lesson is that ...
This comes in verse 30, "And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, son of David!’"
Imagine the situation with me. Jesus and a crowd of people are heading out of Jericho. I’m sure that many of them planned on making the trek up the Wadi Qilt with Jesus to worship in Jerusalem during the Passover. But along the road, there were two bind men sitting there. It was probably their custom to sit in this location, begging for money by calling out all day long, "Alms for the blind! Alms for the blind!" For blind men in the day of Jesus couldn’t work. In order to survive, they needed to beg. These men weren’t foolish. They set themselves upon the busiest road in Jericho--the one that heads west to Jerusalem. Much traffic would go along this road, increasing their opportunity for a handout. They heard that it was Jesus who was passing by. And they did the only thing that they could do: "They cried out saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, son of David!’"
These men were helpless and blind and without hope. And they knew it. They couldn’t boast of the good deeds that they had done, like the rich young ruler, because they had spent their lives as beggars in the street. They hadn’t worked or labored in the community, and so they didn’t deserve anything. They had few options available to them. And so, they make their appeal to mercy. How different these men were than the rich, young ruler. He probably had so many things going on in his life, that the things of great importance received only a little attention. But these blind beggars weren't distracted by the things of the world. It focused their attention upon the most important issues of life.
In their appeal for mercy, they aren’t relying upon their own resources. They aren’t relying upon their own strength. They aren’t relying upon their own accomplishments. Rather, they are appealing to the shear kindness of another to help them. They appealed to the mercy of Jesus.
This is a great picture of our plight before God. We are in need of His mercy at all times to help us. Before God, we are like blind, helpless people. Your constant cry to God ought to be, "God, be merciful to me. Help me! Guide me! Guard me!" After all, isn't this what Jesus taught us to pray? "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Lord, provide for me, today! "Lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:13). Lord, protect me, today!
Mercy is the cry of salvation. In Luke 18, Jesus told the story of two who went up to the temple to pray. One was a righteous Pharisee, who proudly put on display his righteousness and merit before God. One was a tax-collector who knew his position before God. So, he stood some distance away from the temple. He wasn’t even willing to lift up his eyes to heaven. So, he was beating his breast in disgust and repentance over his sin. And he said, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" Jesus said that the tax collector was the one who went away justified, rather than the proud Pharisee. The scriptures often speak of God’s mercy to undeserving sinners. Let me give you a few verses that are often quoted. Perhaps you have missed their emphasis upon mercy.
Eph. 2:4 - "but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ."
Titus 3:5 - "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
1 Tim. 1:13 (Paul, giving his own testimony) - "even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet, I was shown mercy."
These blind men knew their condition. They knew that the only way that they would ever be helped was by the mercy of Jesus--not by their own merit.
This cry for mercy wasn’t simply a request that came out of their mouth without them realizing what they had said or thinking much about it. No, these men repeated their plea for help. Notice what verse 31 says, "And the multitude sternly told them to be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’" These multitudes were probably like Jesus’ disciples who attempted to prevent the little children from coming to Jesus "that He might lay His hands on them and pray" (Matt. 19:13). For some reason, Jesus’ disciples thought that He wasn’t to be bothered by the little children. These multitudes probably thought the same thing, "Jesus doesn't wan’t to be bothered by you blind beggars. So, Shhhhhh. Quiet down." The people of the town may have wished to have Jesus leave with a good impression of their town instead of being hassled by beggars. But, this didn’t stop these beggars. We read that they kept crying out "all the more." They knew that their only hope was Jesus. They knew that their only hope was in the kindness of Jesus.
I did a bit of study this week in terms of the mercy of God. I searched through the Bible to find those who had pleaded mercy from Jesus. Do you know what I found? Never was any who pleaded mercy from Jesus, denied that mercy. In Matthew’s gospel, we have seen many already that have appealed to the mercy of Jesus and have found help. In Matthew 9:27, there were some blind men who cried out to Jesus, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." And Jesus was merciful. He granted them sight. In Matthew 15:22, the Canaanite woman came to Jesus, pleading for her daughter. She said, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." And Jesus was merciful. "Her daughter was healed at once" (Matt. 15:28). In Matthew 17:15, a man came to Jesus, pleading for his demon-possessed son, who was very ill and fell often into the fire and into the water. He pleaded with Jesus, "Lord, have mercy on my son." And Jesus was merciful. He cast the demon out of the child, "and the boy was cured at once" (Matt. 17:18).
Everyone in the Bible who appealed to God for mercy received it -- except one: the rich man who enjoyed a life of luxurious living on earth. After he died, he was tormented in Hades. He cried out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame"(Luke 16:24). Abraham couldn't grant his request, due to the impassable gulf between them.
Today is the day of mercy. Do you know your condition? Do you know your condition very well? If so, you will plead mercy. All who seek mercy from Jesus will find it. But a day is coming that will be a day of vengeance. In that day, mercy will be sought, but not found. If those who plead mercy from Jesus always receive it, I plead with you, Rock Valley Bible Church, let’s be about pleading the mercy of God. Let’s be a church that really trusts the kindness of God. Lets be a church that constantly prays to God. Let's be a church that leads by showing mercy and kindness to others.
I heard this week of conflict in another church. I have a friend from seminary, who is a pastor of a church. He emailed me this week and said that he had an awful week. Tensions in the church were great! I don't know any of the issues, but I certainly do know that there was a lack of mercy within the congregation. When you know very well the mercy that you have received, you will be merciful. So, Rock Valley Bible Church, let's constantly be pleading God for mercy.
These blind men cried for mercy. Let's look at what their pleading does...
The blind men cried out to Jesus. The text says, "And Jesus stopped" (verse 32). The easiest thing to do in a moving crowd is to go with the flow and keep moving. To stop causes a disturbance. Perhaps you want to try this sometime. Perhaps at the next sporting event or concert you attend. Perhaps at the mall during Christmas time. Just try walking along with the crowd and then stopping. Those people behind you will bump into you. Those behind them will bump into them. A few days ago I attended the Northern Illinois University football game down in DeKalb, Illinois. After the game, as we were filing out of the stadium, the crowd continued along. And so I stopped! There was a woman behind me who bumped into me and apologized for doing so. Perhaps this took place with Jesus. When Jesus stopped, those behind Him may well have bumped him and caused a bit of a disturbance.
To stop causes delays. Jerusalem is where Jesus was headed. He had this whole crowd at the edge of the city, headed for Jerusalem. It wasn’t the time to stop. I have four children. I know what a labor it is to get all of them in the car so that we can drive out of the garage and be on our way. When you are finally driving off the driveway onto the street, that's not the time that you want those in the back seat to say that they forgot to visit the bathroom before they left. When you are just leaving is the time that you want to keep going, not stop.
Why did Jesus stop? I believe that Jesus stopped because He was the ultimate servant. It’s no accident that this story comes just after verse 28, "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." When Jesus came to earth, it wasn’t to be served like a king, though He was the King of kings. He didn’t come to live on easy street. Jesus came to serve and to help those around Him. Here were two beggars who needed help. Jesus was willing to help them. Their cry for mercy brought Jesus into their service.
Lest you think that these beggars would have been attractive people, let me propose otherwise. My guess is that these beggars were a bit like the homeless that live downtown in our city. They may not have had a place to stay. They may not have had a shower for some time. They may not have had a change of clothes in some time, and that would naturally cause them to not have a pleasant aroma to them. When you see that, I think that you can relate to the crowd’s feelings on these matters as they attempted to quiet them down. This was Jesus, the great teacher and great leader. These were despised beggars, who were seen as nobodies. But Jesus, as the supreme example of what it means to be a servant, stops and seeks to help these two helpless, down and outers.
We continue in verse 32 to read that Jesus "called them, and said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’" This is a great servant question. "What do you want Me to do for you?" If you want to be a servant for others, I suggest that you memorize this little phrase. Then, I suggest that you use this little phrase. Ask your spouse, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Ask your children, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Ask your boss or your neighbor this question. But, you object, "I'm in charge at home! Doesn't the Bible say that the man is the head of the wife?" (Eph. 5:25). It sure does. But being the head means that you are free to humble yourself as Jesus did as ask, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
The people at McDonalds have got this down pretty well. You walk up to the counter and they say with a smile on their face, "How may I help you?" The workers at Lowes have this down pretty well. When I’m in their store, it is often the case that a worker will come up and say to me, "May I help you?" I’m guessing that these workers say that hundreds of times per day. As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps we ought to begin saying that to one another, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
The beggars knew what they wanted from Jesus. They believed that He could do it for them. Look at verse 33, "They said to Him, ‘Lord, we went our eyes to be opened.’" In other words, "We want to see." Matthew doesn’t explicitly mention it here, but in Mark and Luke, Jesus specifically commends their faith (Mark 10:52; Luke 18:42). They believed that Jesus could do this thing for them.
But how did these blind men come to believe these things? Certainly they had heard of the many miracles that Jesus had done. At this point, Jesus had been ministering in Jerusalem and in Galilee for three years. During the entire time of His ministry, a massive number of people were healed by Him. All you need to do is go through Matthew and see all of the miracles that Jesus did. Jesus cleansed a leper from his leprosy (8:2-4). Jesus cures a servant of paralysis and pain (8:5-13). Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever (8:14). He cast the legion of demons out of two violent, demon possessed men (8:28-34). Jesus cures the paralytic by saying, "Rise, take up your bed, and go home" (9:1-8). He raised a daughter from the dead (9:18-19, 23-26). Jesus healed a hemorrhaging woman (9:20-22). He had given sight to two other men (9:27-32). He had given speech to a dumb man (9:32-33). Jesus restored a man’s withered hand to normal (12:9-14). Jesus cast a demon out of a man (12:22). Jesus cast a demon out of a boy (17:14-18). These are the things that Matthew has chosen to include for us in detail.
Mark, Luke, and John record healing miracles of Jesus that Matthew didn’t include. The beggars may have heard about those stories as well. For instance, ...
Mark 1:21-28 - Jesus cast the demon out of the man who caused a disturbance in the synagogue.
Luke 13:10-13 - Jesus healed a woman who had been bent double for eighteen years.
John 5:1-9 - Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda who had been lame for 38 years.
These are amazing things that Jesus did. These are the healings of which we know the details. But, these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many verses in Matthew which give us the impressions of hundreds and thousands being healed during the ministry of Jesus. Let's look at a few:
"And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every sickness among the people. And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them" (Matt. 4:23-24).
"And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill" (Matt. 8:16).
"And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness" (Matt. 9:35).
"... many followed Him, and He healed them all" (Matt. 12:15).
"And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; and they began to entreat Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured" (Matt. 14:34-36).
"And great multitudes came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them, so that the multitude marveled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel" (Matt. 15:30-31).
Certainly, the news of the healing power of Jesus had spread to Jericho. Certainly, these blind men had heard about the wondrous things that Jesus had done for others. Just as certainly, they believed that Jesus could heal them as well. When Jesus came, they knew what to do! They appealed to Jesus. And He cam to help them.
This applies to us as well! You attend here each week and hear much about Jesus. Do you appeal to Him in time of need? Do you cry for mercy? Do you believe that He can help you?
Perhaps this is the most wonderful point about this entire story. It almost goes without saying that when someone pleads mercy, the only way to get it is through compassion. When you plead mercy, you are acknowledging that you don’t deserve to receive what you are asking for. When you plead mercy, you are asking for others to be compassionate with you. And Jesus was. In verse 34 we read that Jesus was "moved with compassion," and so healed these men. Jesus willingly became the compassionate servant.
In healing these men, "Jesus touched their eyes" (verse 34). This was how Jesus chose to heal these men, by touching their eyes. On several occasions, we know that Jesus healed by touching those He healed. On other occasions, Jesus healed with a word. On this occasion, Jesus touched their eyes. Perhaps Jesus said a short prayer. Perhaps Jesus said something to indicate what he was doing. We don’t know. But, we do know that "immediately they regained their sight."
Picture it with me. Jesus has His hands on their eyes. Perhaps the thing that I like most about this fact is that the first thing that they ever saw in their life was the face of Jesus. I read this week that Fanny Crosby was once pitied by a preacher, who said that it was a shame that she had lost her eyesight as a young child. She replied that she was grateful, "because when I get to Heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!" We ought not to pity these men, who had the opportunity to see Jesus.
These blind men did the only thing that was appropriate for them to do, ... "[they] followed Him" (verse 34). They were going to walk the Wadi Qilt with Jesus. They were going to travel into Jerusalem with Jesus. They were going to sing with the multitudes, "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" (Matt. 21:9). Such praise was entirely consistent with their theology. I know that I skipped over this a bit earlier, but now I mention it. Look at how they pleaded for mercy. They said, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" "Son of David" was a Messianic title. As they requested their sight, they were professing that Jesus was the Messiah! When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it would have been easy for them to sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David."
What is so encouraging about these blind men is that they saw Jesus before they saw Jesus. By this I simply mean that they understood who Jesus was, long before He ever walked along that road on the outskirts of Jericho. By simply hearing the word about Jesus, they believed it and saw the truth concerning Jesus in their hearts. They weren't like Thomas who wanted more proof. They were like us, only able to hear about Jesus.
Now, If we step back from this passage a little bit, we quickly discover how appropriate these verses are in their context. Jesus is about to enter into Jerusalem and be recognized by the people as the Messiah who has come to save them. That is what "Hosanna to the Son of David" means! It means, "Save us now, O Son of David!" Yet, within the span of a week, the religious leaders will capture Jesus, find Him guilty in a quickly-thrown-together-midnight trial, hand Him over to Pilate to be crucified, and sway the hearts of the multitudes in Jerusalem away from Jesus. The multitudes will demand that Barabbas, the criminal, be let free, while Jesus ought to be crucified (See Matt. 27:21-23). These religious leaders and people were blind to whom Jesus was, despite seeing Him clearly with their eyes.
The Pharisees had seen Jesus do undeniable miracles in their presence. One example is in Matthew 12, when Jesus restored the man’s withered hand, there was no doubt in the minds of the Pharisees that Jesus could perform these miracles. In fact, they are the ones who brought up the healing power of Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" They knew that Jesus could heal, but, it concerned them greatly that He would do a miracle on the Sabbath! When Jesus did so, they hated Him. They saw Jesus, but they didn’t see Jesus.
I think that it was appropriate for Jesus to open the eyes of these blind men as an example of what should have taken place with Israel, as Jesus entered Jerusalem. They should have received Him as their Messiah. Instead, their sin hardened hearts crucified the Lord of glory. Though they saw the truth clearly with their own eyes, they were blind. But these blind men, having never seen Jesus with their eyes, could see the truth. And the obvious challenge comes to you this morning. Have you seen Jesus? Oh, perhaps not with your eyes, but with your hearts. Do you have the faith of the blind men? Or, do you have the blind eyes of the Pharisees?
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
September 26, 2004 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.