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Monday, April 19, 2010

“A Blind Man’s Last Chance” - (04/18/10)

            Many of the books of the Bible have a key verse that summarizes the content of the book and helps us visualize the book as a whole.  For example.
  • Key verse of Matthew = 1:1, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”
  • Key verses of John = 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
  • Key verse of Acts = 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Key verse of Mark = 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  This verse from Mark is beautifully illustrated by the story that immediately follows it, the story of the healing of Blind Bartimaeus.
This story is recorded three times in the NT: in Matthew 20:29-34; in Luke 18:35-43; and here in Mark 10:46-52.  In each account there are details added that give us the full picture.  I will supplement Mark’s text from the other two.

Verse 46: And they came to Jericho.  And as He was going out from [old] Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 
  • Mark focuses his whole story on two men—Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho, and Jesus.  [Matthew relates that there were actually two beggars that Jesus healed.  Luke only mentions one.  However, neither writer includes their names.  Mark, on the other hand, chooses to focus his attention on just one of them, and gives his name.]  What do we know about this man, Bartimaeus?  Not much.  We know his name, his father’s name, the town he lived in, and his general situation.  And just what was Bartimaeus’ situation?  He was in big trouble!  He was blind.  He lived in total blackness.  He couldn’t see anything.  That meant He was limited to supporting himself and perhaps a family on what he could make by begging along the roadside.  His situation was desperate!
  • Darkness is often used in the Bible as a metaphor for evil, and physical blindness as a picture of spiritual blindness.  A good example is Acts 26:16-18 where Paul gives his testimony before King Agrippa.  Here he quotes from the words spoken to him by Jesus on the road to Damascus: But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”  
  • Jesus was just passing through Jericho.  He had no plans to stay there.  Look at the beginning of the verse—He came… and He went.  On His way to Jerusalem He first passed through the area of the ancient walled city of Jericho.  That had long been destroyed leaving only ruins, and no one actually lived there.  This story took place between the old city and the much newer Roman city.  That’s why Matthew and Mark’s accounts say that it happened as He was “leaving Jericho” and Luke’s account says that it happened as he was “coming into” Jericho.  The NT town of Jericho was located 15.5 miles from Jerusalem.  It sat in the Jordan Valley just to the northwest of the upper end of the Dead Sea at an elevation of 1,000 ft. below sea level (the Dead Sea is at 1,300 ft. below sea level).  Jericho was well known for its rich palm and balsam groves that yielded lucrative revenues for the Romans [thus, Zaccheus the tax collector in the story that follows in Luke’s Gospel].  Jerusalem, on the other hand, sits at 2,625 ft. above sea level.  That means a climb of 3,625 ft. in 15.5 miles, or an average grade of 4.4%.  (The climb up Haleakala from the airport is an average of 5% grade, just to give you an idea.)
  • It says there was a “great multitude” with Him.  Remember, this was just one week before the start of Passover and there were hundreds of people on the road, all making their way up that steep mountain to Jerusalem.  Besides the large group of people following along with Jesus there were many others who just happened to be there at the same time.  They all witnessed what happened next.
Verse 47: And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 
  • Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging.  How did he hear that Jesus was passing by?  We don’t know.  How did he know who Jesus was?  Again, we don’t know.  But somewhere or other he had heard about this one that many people said was the Messiah, and was able to do great miracles.  When he learned that it was Jesus who was passing by he began to shout as loud as he could: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  He used a title that specifically referred to the Messiah.  He was not just being polite or politically correct.  He was making a theological statement about who Jesus really was.  [See Matthew 12:23.]  Bartimaeus recognized that this was his great chance.
Verse 48: And many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he began crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 
  • The crowd around him tried to shut him up.  They “sternly” told him to shut up and to quit yelling.  The text uses the imperfect tense, which carries the meaning that they kept rebuking him repeatedly.  In that moment Bartimaeus had to make a choice: to listen to the crowd that was telling him to sit and shut up, or listen to that small voice in his head that told him this was his last chance.  So, he shouted all the more and all the louder: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  [See the publican’s prayer in Luke 18:13.]  This shows us the courage of Bartimaeus.
Verse 49: And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.”  And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, arise!  He is calling for you.” 
  • “Jesus stopped.”  Those are beautiful words.  He was busy, but never too busy to hear the cry of faith of someone in trouble.  The other beautiful words here are, “He is calling for you.”  Jesus was calling Bartimaeus in that moment but He is still calling men and women today.  In fact, He may be calling to you today.
  • In this verse we see a second group of people—the ones who encouraged him to quickly make his way to Jesus.  The verb they used means “to be of good cheer, to be courageous.”  When a person is considering following Jesus there are always two crowds: the first group that says, “Don’t be a chump.  This is just a passing fancy.  Sit down and have another beer.”  Then there is the group that will encourage you to go after Jesus, saying, “Quickly, He’s calling for you.”  The question always is, “Which group are you going to listen to?”
Verse 50: And casting aside his cloak, he jumped up, and came to Jesus. 
  • You can see right here who he chose to listen to.  The verbs used here suggest that Bartimaeus acted with great haste.  He sprang up!  Immediately upon hearing that Jesus was calling for him he threw off every impediment and leaped to his feet.  He was blind but obviously not weak.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime and he was not about to let it slip away from him.
Verse 51: And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 
  • “And answering him…”  This refers to Jesus answering Bartimaeus’ cry for help.  The Lord heard and now He answered.
  • The Lord’s question: “What do you want [lit. wish, thello] Me to do for you?”  The answer seems obvious to us but Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to verbalize his need.  The same is true of us today.  God wants us to tell Him what we need.  He invites us to come to Him and ask.
  • In this verse we see Bartimaeus’ petition.  His answer to Jesus’ question begins with “Rabboni.”  [The same word that Mary Magdalene used at the Resurrection.  Cf. John 20:16].  This is an Aramaic word for teacher/master that shows great respect.  It is a strengthened form of the word “Rabbi.”  Literally it means, “my teacher, or my Master.”  Bartimaeus said, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”  Bartimaeus used the Greek verb anablépo, which is a compound word from blépo, “to see” with the preposition ana, which here means “again.”  Literally he says, “…in order that I may see again.”  This leads us to conclude that Bartimaeus was not born blind but lost his sight through an illness or an injury.
Verse 52: And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and began following Him on the road. 
  • In this verse we witness Bartimaeus’ salvation.  Jesus made it clear that Bartimaeus’ healing was in response to his faith, demonstrated by his persistence and eagerness and his recognition of Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus said, “Go; your faith has healed [literally, saved, sodzo] you.”  I think that both senses of the word are true here.  He was healed and he was saved, both through the power of Jesus.
  • The miracle occurred immediately: “And immediately he saw again.”  The text repeats the same verb used in verse 51, which means “to see again.”
  • Matthew’s account adds a tender detail in 20:34, Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him. 
  • Luke’s account gives another precious piece of information in 18:43, “Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.” 
  • All three accounts say that Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road.  That is, he followed them into the new Roman Jericho.
  • Can you imagine his joy and the joy of his friends and loved ones when he went home that night with a whole different future, telling the story of his meeting with Jesus?  I’m sure there was a party at his house that night!
            The healing of Bartimaeus was the last healing miracle of Jesus’ ministry.  What if Bartimaeus had decided, “Well, He’s busy so I won’t bother Him today.  I’ll catch Him next time He comes to town”?  the fact is, Jesus never passed through Jericho again.  This indeed was Bartimaeus’ last chance!
            Before He headed on toward Jerusalem Jesus made only one other stop-off.  It was to talk to another man, a tax collector by the name of Zaccheus.  Luke records that meeting in Luke 19.  He sums up the miracle that occurred in Zaccheus’ life in verses 9-10: And Jesus said, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’”  This sums up beautifully what happening in both Zaccheus’ and Bartimaeus’ lives.  Salvation came to their homes.  They had both been lost but were now found.  Their encounters with Jesus had changed them completely, eternally.

To sum up…
·       Bartimaeus recognized his dire situation. (v. 46)
·       Bartimaeus saw his chance. (v. 47)
·       Bartimaeus ignored the crowd and exercised courage. (v. 48)
·       Bartimaeus responded to Christ’s call. (v. 49)
·       Bartimaeus made his plea to the Lord. (v. 51)
·       Bartimaeus received his healing and salvation from Jesus. (v. 52)
·       Bartimaeus went home rejoicing because of the grace and mercy of God.

This is the simple blueprint for every person who wants to come to Jesus.  Today Jesus is passing by here.  But He may never pass this way again.  Don’t miss your chance today to experience the healing and salvation that He came to give you.  Trust Him today with your life.  The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  Those words were true for Blind Bartimaeus and they will be true for you as well.

            What did God show you from these verses?  What about Bartimaeus’ life reminds you of your life before you came to know Jesus?

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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