None of us have ever seen Jesus with our physical eyes and we are blind until we come to Him, but Jesus is able to hear your cry from the roar of the crowd. He is listening for your voice, and will stop and respond to you. In this message, we are going to examine an encounter a blind beggar had with Jesus. Let’s read about it in Luke 18:35-43:
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.” 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!” 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. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight, your faith has healed you.” Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
We know from Mark 10 the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call him Blind Bart. He can teach us a great deal about how we can relate to God. Our problem may not be physical blindness, but we need the same thing Bart asked for–mercy. Let’s study his story and learn five important things about the Christian life:
1. Faith is Hearing and Believing Even When You Can’t See
Bart was not only blind, he was a beggar. Most blind people today lead productive lives, but in Jesus’ time, blind people couldn’t work. Medical help was not available for their problems and people tended to ignore their obligation to care for the needy (Lev. 25:35-38). There was no Americans with Disabilities Act, so blindness was a terrible handicap. Everyday Bart sat beside the road holding out his hand pleading for money. Beggars had little hope of escaping their degrading way of life, but this blind beggar took hope in the Messiah.
Bart couldn’t see, but as with many blind people, he probably had a keen sense of hearing. On the day described in our text, he could tell from the sounds of the crowd something unusual was happening. He turned and asked someone, “What’s going on?” Over the mumble of the mob, he heard, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” No doubt, Bart had heard of Jesus. Perhaps he heard about how Jesus healed people, even restored sight to the blind! Even though he couldn’t see Jesus, based on what he had heard, he believed. He didn’t just believe Jesus was in his city: he believed Jesus had the power to change his life. He cried out, “Jesus! Son of David, have mercy on me!” The term “Son of David” was one reserved for the coming Messiah, the King. It was a title of Divine power. Blind Bart was confessing Jesus was more than a mere teacher–He was the King!
Faith is the first step you and I must take to receive mercy from God. Faith is not just believing God exists; it is acting on that belief. It is staking your entire eternity on the offer God has extended for you to have a personal relationship with Him.
Like Bart, I have never seen Jesus with my physical eyes, but I’ve heard about Him and I believe in Him. Faith is not just believing facts about Jesus; it is trusting Him with your life. I don’t just believe He was born in Bethlehem and died on a cross 33 years later; I believe He has changed my life. I don’t just believe in the fact of the resurrection; I believe Jesus is alive and living in me!
Like Bart, we are blind until we come to Jesus. There is someone who wants to keep you blind to the truth about God. The Bible calls him the god of this age, which is another title for the devil: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Satan wants to keep you from seeing the truth about Jesus. It’s not easy to believe without seeing, but that’s what faith is. Perhaps you are like millions of other people who say they would believe if they could see some reliable proof. Their motto is, “I’ll believe it when I see it!”
But to believe in God because you saw something is not faith–it’s simply sight. The Bible says, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). By faith, Blind Bart called out to Jesus for help. Even though you’ve never seen Jesus, when you hear and believe, you’ll call out for mercy, too.
2. You Must Resist People Who Hinder Your Spiritual Progress
When Bart cried out to Jesus the people surrounding him didn’t say, “Good for you, Bart! Jesus can help you. Call out louder.” Instead of helping him, they rebuked him and told him to shut up! You’ll find when you are bold enough to cry out to Jesus, not everyone is going to be excited for you. In fact, there will be some people who will rebuke you and discourage you. When you start getting serious about seeking Jesus the voice of the crowd will try and “boo” you down. Our popular culture wants to mold you into being a clone of everyone else–wear the right labels, listen to the right music, and speak the same language everyone else uses. Our culture tells us it’s okay to be a little religious, but if you become a radical follower of Jesus, you won’t fit in with the pop culture anymore. They will ridicule you and call you a weird religious fanatic.
When you diligently seek to follow Jesus, you’ll face opposition and criticism. Paul wrote, “A great door for effective service has opened to me and there are many who oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Sometimes those who oppose your spiritual progress are members of your family–or even people claiming to be Christians.
When these people try to hinder you, do what Bart did–resist them. Don’t let them intimidate you into silence. When they told Bart to be quiet, he wouldn’t be silenced. Verse 39 tells us, “he shouted all the more.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He yelled so loudly everyone got quiet. Some of you want to shout “amen” or “glory,” but you are afraid of what the crowd may think. Bart didn’t listen to the crowd, he just shouted to the Lord!
3. Jesus is Never Too Busy to Pause and Help You
Verse 40 says Jesus stood still and instructed the people to bring the blind man to Him. (By the way, He is still instructing us to bring people to Him.) At this point, Jesus was headed for Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. Within the next few days, He would face betrayal, arrest, torture, and crucifixion. He was a man on a Mission, yet He paused to answer the cry of one blind beggar.
Surely, there were hundreds of voices in the crowd that day calling out to Jesus, but He was able to distinguish Bart’s cry for mercy from the roar of the crowd. Jesus is still listening for the one voice among the murmur of the crowd. When you call out for Him, He will stop and respond to you.
You may think that in the larger scheme of the entire universe you aren’t very important. But the fact is you are of such importance to God, that when you call out to Him, He pauses to help you! The awesome God who keeps the entire universe running will stop and answer your cry for help as if He had nothing else to do. God isn’t distracted by the millions of other voices. He always has time for you.
On the way to the cross, Jesus paused and helped Bart; and whatever else He is doing today, He will pause and help you too. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Jesus always meets us at our point of desperation. But it’s not desperation alone because you can be desperate and never call on God for help. People all around you at work, school, and perhaps in your family may hinder you from crying out to God, but keep shouting even louder like Bart did!
4. You Must Admit Your Need in Order to be Changed
At first, I was surprised by the question Jesus asked Bart in verse 41. He said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” At first, I thought, “What a funny question. Jesus knows Bart is blind!” But then I recalled Jesus asked a similar question to the paralyzed man who lay everyday at the Pool of Bethesda. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Bart had a pretty simple life. He had grown accustomed to sitting beside the road and accepting handouts. After all, some people like the attention they get from their suffering. It would be like asking someone today who is physically able to work, “Do you really want to get off welfare?”
They say, “Beggars can’t be choosers,” but Jesus gave Bart a choice. He asked him because He wanted Bart to admit his point of need and to confess he believed Jesus could change his life. And that is exactly what Bart did. He expressed his need and demonstrated his belief in the power of Jesus. He cried out, “Lord, I want to see!” The best prayers are simple and specific.
Jesus stands before you today and asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?” You can’t pray specifically until you are willing to admit your point of need. God can’t help you until you say, “Lord, I’m addicted to alcohol! I want to stay sober!” Or “Lord, I’ve got a pornography problem, I want to be pure!” Or “Lord, I’ve got a problem with anger, bitterness, and gossip. I want to be changed!”
5. When You See the Face of Jesus, You’ll Follow Him Anywhere
Without touching him, Blind Bart received his sight. Jesus said, “I see your faith and that’s enough!” We have several accounts of Jesus healing blind people and He used a variety of methods. Jesus healed one blind man by touching him. For another man, Jesus touched him once and his sight was blurred, then He touched him again. Still, with another man, Jesus spit in the dirt, made clay, patted it on the eyes of the man, and told him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam. That’s a great lesson about how Jesus changes people in a variety of ways. Don’t ever insist someone else has to have exactly the same experience you’ve had. That’s how different churches and denominations get started–people start insisting there is only one way God does things. Someone once said, “If those four blind men were here today, we’d have four churches by Friday: The Word of Faith Church, The Once-Touched Church, The Twice-Touched Church, and the Spit-in-the-Eye Church!”
When Bart opened his eyes, the first thing He saw was the face of Jesus. The last sentence in Chapter 18 says Bart followed Jesus. Jesus was headed for Jerusalem and a cross–and Bart followed Him. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to heaven and find he was a part of the 120 disciples who were praying in an upper room on the Day of Pentecost.
Here’s the lesson: When you see the face of Jesus, you’ll follow Him, too. You may be thinking, “Wait! I thought faith is believing without seeing! And now you say I need to see the face of Jesus? Make up your mind!”
You can see Him with eyes of faith. When you cry out to Jesus and trust Him to change you, you WILL see Him. His light will shine into the darkness of your heart. You don’t need physical eyesight to see Jesus. In fact, people who are physically blind can often see spiritual truths more clearly than those of us who have sight. Fanny Crosby was blind, yet she was one of the most prolific hymn writers in America history. She wrote over 8,500 poems and hymns. Imagine a stack of 15 hymn books piled on top of each other–it would take that many to contain all the songs Fanny Crosby wrote. Some of her more familiar hymns include, “To God Be the Glory,” “Blessed Assurance,” and “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.” Fanny Crosby could see things most of us can’t. She had wonderful insight because of her blindness. She glimpsed at the glory and greatness of God, and she looked forward to the time when she would see Jesus face-to-face.
The title of this message is “Lessons from a Blind Beggar.” Even before he was healed, Bart saw at least two important things. First, he saw his need: do you? Next, he saw an opportunity passing in front of him. The bystanders told him, “Jesus is passing by.” This is a powerful example of how great opportunities pass in front of us. Bart was faced with a split-second decision. If he remained still and silent, his opportunity for healing would be gone. Perhaps he thought, “There’s a crowd here today, maybe I’ll catch Jesus the next time He comes through Jericho.”
Some of you here right now need to do business with Jesus and you are hesitating, “Oh, I’ll do it after the first of the year.” What Bart didn’t know was Jesus never passed through Jericho again. He went straight from Jericho to the cross. Jesus is passing by right now, what are you going to do?
This encounter teaches us about the critical importance of seizing the opportunity. Today, you have the opportunity to cry out for mercy. Will you do it?
Today, Jesus is passing by. You may not have another opportunity like this one. I encourage you to call out to Him, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” If you’ll do that, I can promise you, on the authority of God’s Word, that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” (Romans 10:13)
* Read more in my book, Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.