35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” 42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.
Here in Luke 18:35-43 as Jesus is journeying to the cross we see Him crossing paths with a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. Not only did Jesus intersect people’s lives but He took the time to interact and impact them. Bit as we study the story it is critical that notice first the context of the story, because if we miss the context we miss the cross. The story starts first with the mission, not the miracle. We have to be careful that we don’t get so caught up in the miracle that we miss the mission. It’s here that we see Jesus courageously journeying to the cross. Jesus the Messiah was on a mission to bring God’s mercy to man but His disciples failed to grasp what he was talking about. In reality, they failed to grasp the grace of God, and so often so do we. Now, this is the third time in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus predicted His punishment and impending death. And, each time He told them about what was to come, He got more explicit. If you were to read through the Gospel of Luke, you would notice that beginning in chapter 9, there is a major shift in Jesus’ orientation. Here Jesus travels take a decisive turn, as He chooses the cross, the path of pain and payment for our sin, which permeates the remainder of the book. Look at these verses in Luke which speak to His determination to follow God’s plan even though it ended in His punishment but our payment.
9:51: “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” We see here that His focus was not on the agony of death but the ascendancy of the ascension. The phrase, “resolutely set” out for Jerusalem means that He “set His face towards” the place where He was going to die as the final sacrifice. Jesus faced death head-on, and because He didn’t veer, of course, we have the victory of the cross.
10:38: “As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village…”
13:22: “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem.”
13:33: “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”
17:11: “Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.”
18:31: “…we are going up to Jerusalem.”
As we get to Luke 18:35 we see Jesus approaching the city of Jericho, which was only 15 miles from his final destination in Jerusalem. Jesus is closing in on the cross, Jericho was where the pilgrims would gather to make the final leg of the journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Passover feast. It’s here as Jesus heads into Jericho that He heals a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, we know his name from Mark’s account of the story. Even while Jesus was on His way to sacrifice His life for the sins of the world He still took time to stop and serve those around Him. It’s here in this life-changing encounter with Jesus that we see 4 significant stages that Bart goes through.
1 His Blindness
The first stage is blindness, which was a very common condition in Palestine. While Leviticus 19:14 establishes that God’s people were to care for those who are blind, there was also a cultural and religious stigma against blindness. We see this especially in the account of another man who was healed of his blindness in John 9. It’s there that the disciples ask Jesus a question in John 9:2: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” There was a basic belief that those who were blind deserved their blindness. That their disease was either a direct consequence of their sin or something pertaining to their parents. As a result, blind people were often dismissed and even despised. But Bart didn’t just have a physical sight problem, he had a hurt heart problem. He dealt with the emotional pain of rejection and ridicule. Instead of being wanted by society he was seen as a waste. It’s were some of you are living today, in the emotional pain of your current circumstances. You know what it feels like to be cast aside by the culture. As a result, you are letting yourself be defined by your condition instead of by Christ. Now I want you to notice not just his condition but his position, he’s just sitting there, waiting for something to happen because there was nothing he could do to improve his condition. His condition of blindness confined him to a career of begging. Day after day he was dependent on the mercy of others to temporarily take care of him. This passage paints a picture of our spiritual condition. 2 Corinthians 4:4 states that “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.” We are spiritually blind and there is nothing we can do to change our condition on our own, we need Christ. Just as Jesus gives sight to those who are physically blind, so too He grants spiritual sight to those who are in moral darkness. Here was a man who knew that he was blind, and so did everyone else. Today some of you are living a lie, you are trying to act like you’re not spiritually blind, pretending that everything is perfect. But until you admit your condition you will never cry out to Christ. Are you willing to come clean, to admit your blindness and believe? Verse 36 tells us that when he heard the crowd he called out and asked what was happening. This man was smart, he knew that there would be plenty of pilgrims in Jericho that day preparing to make the final leg of their journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. That’s why he was sitting by the side of the road, he had positioned himself for a handout but ended up with a healing. He started the day looking to people for help and ended it looking to the Provider. It was the commotion of the crowd that caused him to call out, and it was in the chaos that he discovered the answer to his question was Jesus. Today Christ is still creating a commotion, one that our culture is trying desperately to cover up. But the answer to your affixation is the Almighty, the cure to our condition is Christ. What about you do you have the courage to come clean? Are you willing to admit your affliction and call out to Christ or are you going to stumble around in your blindness? While the world will try to convince you that you can fix your own problems the truth is that you can’t save yourself, the only answer is Jesus.