Do We See What the Blind Man Saw?

July 21, 2009

By Lance Johnson

At the prompting of a good friend, I have been doing some reading lately, and that reading has prompted some considerable thought about the nature of our Savior. The mystery of the incarnation is one of those great truths that are foundational to our faith, professed by nearly everyone, and commonly ignored in practice. It is becoming increasingly evident that much of contemporary teaching and preaching ignores the great truth of Christ’s nature. This is spiritually fatal. The true nature of Christ must be declared and applied, believed and practiced. To that end, let’s look at another of the chapters in the story of God’s redemptive work.

“As he [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man, [Bartimaeus1], was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:35-43 ESV)

It was natural that Bartimaeus would want to know about the cause of the commotion passing him as he sat by the road near Jericho. He was blind, not incurious. So, he asked those around him what was happening. The crowd around him answered that it was “Jesus of Nazareth.” They were using Jesus’ human appellation, which was natural enough for that was how the crowd knew him. The crowd correctly knew Jesus for his compassionate work among the sick and unfortunate and for his religious and moral teachings. His teachings drew great crowds as we see in the story of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and his teaching on the other side of the Sea of Galilee when he fed the 5,000 from five loaves and two fish (John 6). He was very popular and his teachings, like those of John the Baptist before him, were a refreshing relief from the corrupt and hypocritical fundamentalism of the Pharisees. It was a very important part of his ministry, and it is important to note that Jesus commanded his disciples to carry on his compassionate work and his teachings.

In spite of his blindness, Bartimaeus saw something the crowd did not see. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he called out to Jesus, “Son of David,” using Jesus’ messianic appellation. He knew that this man Jesus was more than a healer of bodies and a teacher of truth. He knew that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s covenant with his people. Jesus said that he had come to ‘seek and to save the lost.’ 2 Before Jesus’ birth, the angel told Joseph that Jesus would ‘save his people from their sins.’ 3 It is a less visible part of Jesus’ work, but it is ultimately the reason he ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’ 4 The crowd did not understand this, but Bartimaeus did and acted accordingly. He addressed Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and called out to him for mercy.

It is interesting that when he called out to the Son of David, those in the front of the crowd, the more visible ones,  rebuked him and told him to be silent, but Bartimaeus would not be silenced. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah and called all the more for Jesus’ attention. That faith was rewarded. The passage does not tell us the crowds reaction when Jesus commanded that Bartimaeus be brought to him, but I am sure they were astonished. Just as they did not see Jesus’ messianic side, neither did they see the deeply spiritual side of Bartimaeus. The crowd could not see the faith Jesus saw. Jesus did more than simply give Bartimaeus the ability to see. He redeemed his soul as well, as we know because from that time Bartimaeus followed Jesus. He left his old life behind for a new life in Christ. Granted, the life of a blind beggar in the first century would be pretty easy to leave behind, but following Jesus as he did was the fruit of repentance both John the Baptist and Jesus taught was the proof of redemption.

Things really have not changed much. Many know Jesus of Nazareth, but few really see and know Jesus Son of David. Many are content with Jesus’ work as a miracle worker and moral teacher, but few are willing to accept his hard teachings about redemption. Many, I suppose from a sense of duty, attempt to apply Jesus’ teachings to their activities, but few truly understand the nature of his redemptive work and our role in it. Many boisterously follow him down a road eagerly awaiting his next wonderful act, but few truly call out to him in life-changing faith. That reading I mentioned earlier in this post confirms this. The authors have some good things to say, but they miss one very important point. The true prophetic voice points men to Christ and him crucified. No matter how loudly or eloquently one may speak of Jesus and the need to follow him and him alone, if he does not focus on the cross of Christ his teachings are just “espuma.” 5 They are form without substance.

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1 The Luke account of this story does not name the blind man, but the Mark 10 account gives his name as Bartimaeus.

2 Luke 19:10  3 Matthew 1:21  4 John 1:14

5 Espuma is the Spanish word for ‘foam’ or ‘lather.’ It is often used to describe something that is without substance.

One Response to “Do We See What the Blind Man Saw?”

  1. EJK said

    Amen! Your final statements echo the sentiments of Paul, who said, I have determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified!

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