#82. A Blind Man's Insight and Insistence (Luke 18:35-43)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
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Text

Luke 18:35-43

[35] As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. [36] When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. [37] They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."

[38] He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

[39] Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

[40] Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, [41] "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Lord, I want to see," he replied.

[42] Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." [43] Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.


Exposition

Luke 18:1 - 19:10 provides a number of insights into the qualities of followers, examples both negative and positive. These are the characters Jesus brings to his outdoor classroom of discipleship:

  • The Persistent Widow (18:1-8)
  • The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)
  • The Children (18:15-17)
  • The Rich Young Ruler (18:18-30)
  • The Insightful Blind Beggar (18:35-43)
  • The Chief Tax Collector Zacchaeus (19:1-10)

Jesus has just allowed the most "desirable" potential disciple (the rich young ruler) to escape without being saved. Now he pauses on his journey for the social refuse of a person who depends on others' kindness for his very survival. What a contrast!

The Blind Beggar (18:35-37)

"As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.' " (18:35-37)

Beggars would often be found at the city gate where people are passing in and out. Here we find a blind man whom Mark identifies as Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus, perhaps an abbreviation of Timotheos, "one who honors God."[1]) Like the crippled beggar at the gate of the temple (Acts 3:1-3), he is probably used to calling out to those who pass by, asking for money, begging for alms.

Blindness and diseases of the eye were common maladies in the ancient world. Probably the most common eye disease in Palestine and Egypt was purulent ophthalmia, a highly infectious inflammation of the conjunctivae, propagated largely by flies that could land on a sleeping infant's eyes at night and cause an infection. When severe, this could cause the cornea to become opaque. Of course, other eye diseases could cause blindness, as well.[2]

Those who lose one of their senses often develop other sense much more keenly. But it takes no special acuity for Bartimaeus to realize that the number of people on the road crowding into the city is much large than usual. A pushing, shoving crowd competes to stay up with someone who attracts their attention. The blind man cries out to whoever can hear him, "What is going on?" And one of the bystanders says, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."

An Irrepressible Desire for Healing (18:38-39)

Once Bartimaeus is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, he begins to yell at the top of his lungs:

"He called out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' " (18:38-39)

Blind Bartimaeus calls " have mercy," translating Greek word eleeo, the same word group as the word for "alms," and the cry given by the 10 Lepers who recognized Jesus and sought healing (17:13). It means "show mercy to someone, help someone (out of compassion)."[3]

But this is no helpless, feeble cry for help. It is loud and insistent. The word translated "called out" is Greek boao, "to use one's voice at high volume, 'call, shout, cry out.' "[4] The word translated "shouted" in verse 39 is Greek krazo, "to communicate something in a loud voice, 'call, call out, cry.' "[5] In verse 39, the words translated "rebuked" and "shouted" are both in the Imperfect tense, indicating continued action in the past. He keeps on shouting. He won't be shut up, even though the crowd continues to tell him to stop.

Son of David, Have Mercy on Me! (18:38-39)

Some people are intimidated and subdued by their own handicaps. It's possible to almost give up. But not Blind Bartimaeus. What motivates his irrepressible clamor for healing? Faith.

To call someone "Son of David" as a title is equivalent to calling someone, "Messiah," for it signifies to the Jews a person who is the promised descendent of David who will sit upon the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 7:11-16; 1 Chronicles 17:9-14; 22:1-19; 2 Chronicles 6:5-17; 13:5; 21:7; Psalm 89:19-37; Isaiah 16:5; 22:20-25; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15-26; Luke 1:32-33). If you don't count the phrase that appears in Jesus' genealogy (Luke 3:31), this is the first time in Luke that the term "Son of David" is used.[6] These words are also shouted by the crowds during the Triumphal entry that follows Jesus' healing of Bartimaeus by only a few days.

"The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
'Hosanna to the Son of David!"
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!' " (Matthew 21:9; see also 21:15)

During most of his ministry, Jesus doesn't encourage others to refer to him as the Messiah, because the political implications of this title would soon prevent him from being able to minister effectively (Matthew 16:16, 20). But now his hour is come. His face is set towards Jerusalem where he will be crucified, in large part for his unwillingness to renounce the title of "Christ" and "king of the Jews" (Luke 23:2-3, 35; Mark 14:61-62).

Bartimaeus' request for mercy uses the same words that other beggars. But this beggar's address to Jesus is startling. When he asks the "Son of David" for mercy, he is expecting far more than money. And he has faith that the Son of David, the Messiah, will grant his request.

What Do You Want Me to Do for You? (18:40-42)

"Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?'
'Lord, I want to see,' he replied." (18:40-42)

I find it fascinating that Jesus asks the man what he wants. You might think that it is obvious. The word translated "see" (NIV) or "receive my sight" (KJV) is Greek anablepo, "to gain sight, whether for the first time or again, 'regain sight.' "[7] The same word is used in verse 42, where Jesus commands Bartimaeus, literally, "Regain your sight!" and verse 43 describing the result. The blind beggar is very clear what he wants: to regain his sight!

But why does Jesus ask the obvious? I can think of two reasons: (1) to energize faith and cause it to be vocalized, or (2) to help the person himself determine what he wanted from Jesus. This question is nearly unique Jesus' ministry. The only parallel is at the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus asks the paralyzed man, "Do you want to get well? (Greek hygies, 'healthy, sound')" (John 5:6b). The man's answer seems to indicate that he does.

I believe that Jesus' question, "What do you want me to do for you?" can be useful for us, his disciples, in our own ministry to people. John Wimber, founder of Vineyard Christian Fellowship, encouraged use of this question -- "How do you want us to pray for you?" or "What do you want Jesus to do for you?" -- as part of a brief fact-gathering interview before praying for a person. He taught his prayer teams to listen both to the person and to the voice of God's Spirit in determining how to minister.[8]

The fact is, some people do NOT really want to be healed -- a blessing, a prayer, perhaps, but not real healing. They are comfortable with their condition and the niche of caring that the illness has created for them. To ask "Do you want to be healed?" can be kind of like asking, "Would you like to get off welfare?" Yes, of course, they do, at one level, but they may have become dependent and are not willing to give up that dependence for something better, even if Jesus would offer it to them. A question can help surface this ambivalence so it can be dealt with and they can encouraged to receive from God.

In the case of Blind Bartimaeus, I think Jesus is trying to get him to vocalize his faith, since Jesus responds to him, "Your faith has healed you" (18:42b).

Your Faith Has Saved You (18:42)

"Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.' " (18:42)

Jesus speaks a word, a command for healing, and the healing takes place immediately, in this case. Matthew's account of this miracle adds a couple of small points. He mentions a second blind man that was healed at the same time, and the fact that "Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes." Was it the touch or the word that healed? Does it matter? Sometimes Jesus touches only. Other times he touches with a word. At other times he only speaks a word. There is no strict pattern we must follow in our own healing ministry -- only to listen to God and the person, and be agents of what God wants to do for that person, whatever that is.

The word translated "healed" (NIV) or "saved" (KJV) is Greek sozo. This is a general word that means "to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, 'save, keep from harm, preserve, rescue." It can have the special use "save or free from disease," used as early as Hippocrates (Matthew 9:21, 9:22; Mark 5:23, 28, 34; 6:56; 10:52; Luke 8:36, 48; 17:19; Acts 4:9; 14:9; James 5:15). It can also mean "save or free from possession by hostile spirits."[9]

What is so special about Bartimaeus' faith? Once he hears that Jesus is there, he immediately begins to ask mercy of Jesus as Messiah, exhibiting insight into Jesus' true mission. But he also has an unstoppable faith, a faith that won't take no for an answer. The crowd tells him to shut up, and he calls out all the louder. People are embarrassed as the local beggar goes ballistic when Jesus comes to town, but Bartimaeus doesn't care. He has an intensity of desire that overcomes obstacles, rebuke, and embarrassment to achieve what he desires. Jesus is pleased.

Why does Jesus emphasize the recipient's faith time after time? Notice that Jesus doesn't emphasize or point to his own power, as some modern-day healers seem to. He gives glory to God and often points to the faith of the person who is healed. This is to encourage their faith even more. He's saying, "See what your faith in God is able to do?" The next time they come to a seemingly impossible experience, they are more likely to pray with faith themselves, rather than call in the resident healer.

Jesus is a bridge to the Father, always pointing people to a relationship with the Father. Jesus is not trying to make people dependent upon him. But he is teaching them to trust God on their own. Many can see Jesus only, but Jesus keeps encouraging their faith and pointing them to the invisible Father (see John 16:23-28). We disciples also can serve as bridges for people. At first, they are often VERY dependent upon us. We shouldn't be afraid of that, but not seek it. Rather we see it as a stage of faith. Our goal is to help transfer their faith in us to faith in their Heavenly Father. Only when we have achieved this have we succeeded, only then have we become like Jesus.

Praising God and Following (18:43)

"Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God." (18:43)

The result of the healing is immediately apparent. The adverb translated "immediately" is Greek parachrema, "pertaining to a point of time that is immediately subsequent to an action, 'at once, immediately.' "[10]

The once-blind man now becomes a disciple and joins Jesus' band. The word translated "followed" is akoloutheo, the characteristic word that means "to follow someone as a disciple, accompany."[11] The word is in the Imperfect tense, indicating continued action ("was following") or continuous action begun in the past ("began to follow," the inceptive or ingressive Imperfect)

The demonized man of the Garasenes whom Jesus healed "begged to go with him," but Jesus told him to stay with his people and be a witness to them (8:38-39). It wouldn't surprise me if the demonized man -- now freed -- had some behaviors that still needed changing before he was ready for public ministry. But Bartimaeus is ready. He is a man of faith, and is more than ready to leave off begging and take up giving to others.

I expect Bartimaeus serves a tremendous encouragement to others. When newcomers ask about Jesus, the disciples point to Bartimaeus and say, "Jesus healed him of blindness, you know!" Full of praise to God, Bartimaeus brings glory to Jesus.

The story of Bartimaeus' healing is a powerful example to us of how it pleases Jesus for our faith to see its opportunity, grasp it, and refuse to let it go until we receive what we need from God. Who would have thought this beggar would instantly become a giver! What can your faith help you become?


Prayer

Father, sometimes I have given up too easily. The mountain has been too steep and I have been too discouraged. I've just made excuses for myself. Forgive me for my unbelief. Renew my faith with the unstoppable faith that Bartimaeus possessed. Let me be quick to praise God and to follow you in the Way. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


Key Verses

"He called out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' " (Luke 18:38-39)


Questions

JesusWalk: Discipleship Training in Luke's Gospel, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
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  1. What motivates Blind Bartimaeus to call out to Jesus? What motivates the bystanders to try to stop him?
  2. What can we learn about Bartimaeus' faith by the evidence of his actions and his words?
  3. What were the political and spiritual implications of the phrase "Son of David"?
  4. Why did Jesus ask the blind man, "What do you want me to do for you?" What was Jesus' purpose in asking the question?
  5. In what ways is the question, "What do you want Jesus to do for you?" a good question for disciples today to ask?
  6. In what sense did the blind man's own faith heal him? If he had faith, why hadn't he been healed before?
  7. What was the blind man's response after being healed? In what ways is this a good model for us?
  8. What area in your life needs a dose of Bartimaeus' unstoppable faith? What's stopping you from asking God for that quality of faith right now?


References

Common Abbreviations www.jesuswalk.com/faq/abbreviations.htm

  1. BDAG 167.
  2. Alexander MacAlister and R.K. Harrison, "Blindness," ISBE 1:525-526.
  3. Begging in the New Testament. It was considered a duty of pious Jews to offer alms to those who could not work, who were dependent upon others for their existence. Not just those who begged, but neighbors and townspeople, too. Responding to beggars may be part of part of what Jesus means when he says, "Give to everyone who asks you..." (6:30). There are several Greek words used in the New Testament in relation to begging: (1) epaipaiteo, literally "ask for more," here 'beg' as a mendicant" (Luke 16:3; Mark 10:46 variant reading). [BDAG 357-358.] (2) prosaiteo, literally "ask towards," here "beg" (Mark 10:46 variant reading; John 9:8). The related noun is prosaites means "beggar" (Mark 10:46; John 9:8).[BDAG 876.] (3) eleemosune, "generally, 'kind deeds,'" and then "that which is benevolently given to meet a need, 'alms.' "[BDAG 315-316.] It is the most common word used to describe aid given to the poor (Matthew 6:2-3; Luke 11:41; 12:33; Acts 3:2; 3, 10; 9:36; 10:2, 4, 31; 24:17). The verb form, found in our passage in verse 38, translating the words "have mercy," is Greek eleeo, "to be greatly concerned about someone in need, 'have compassion, mercy, pity.' Especially, 'show mercy to someone, help someone (out of compassion).' "[BDAG 315.] (4) ptochos, originally the word meant "begging," but took on a more general meaning, "pertaining to being economically disadvantaged, 'dependent on others for support." It is translated "beggar" (NIV and KJV) in Luke 16:20, 22.[BDAG 896.]
  4. BDAG 180.
  5. BDAG 563.
  6. See also Luke 20:41 and Matthew 9:27.
  7. BDAG 59.
  8. For more, see John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Healing (HarperSanFrancisco, reprinted 1991; ISBN 0060695412)
  9. BDAG 982-983.
  10. BDAG 773.
  11. BDAG 36-37.

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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