Faith That Stops Jesus
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, November 26, 1995
Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
God the Father sent his eternal, only begotten Son, Jesus, into the world so that sinners could be made sons of God. In this story of blind Bartimaeus we see how we who deserve nothing are granted mercy when we cry out to Jesus as this blind beggar did.
The Savior Stops to Save
With other Passover pilgrims, Jesus was traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem. Unlike the others, however, he was going for the purpose of being rejected, mocked and crucified for the sins of the elect of the world. He had spoken about this to his disciples in Matthew 20:17, saying, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
Jesus's route took him through the city of Jericho, an old Canaanite city where Rahab, the ancestress of Jesus, lived during the days of Joshua. Although Joshua destroyed Jericho, it was later rebuilt. Located five miles west of the Jordan river, and fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem, Jericho lies 800 feet below sea level, so one goes "up" Jerusalem, which is about 3,300 feet higher. Jericho has a delightful winter climate, so Herod built a winter palace south of the old city.
While Jesus was passing through Jericho, possibly moving from the old Jericho to the new Jericho, located one mile to the south, he met two blind men. Matthew 20:30 says there were two men, but Mark and Luke mention only one, and Mark alone names him as Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, perhaps because he was the more prominent of the two.
Bartimaeus was a beggar, as we read in the book of Luke, and while he was begging, he heard a crowd passing by. He asked those around him what was going on, and they answered that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He may have heard about Jesus before, and how, during his previous visit to Jerusalem, he healed another blind person (John 9). Bartimaeus may also have heard what Jesus said to those who were sent to him by John the Baptist, as we read in Matthew 11:4: "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." This was a clear reference to the promise of messianic times found in Isaiah 35:3-6.
Bartimaeus had heard of these things and was probably longing for the days of the Messiah. When he heard of Jesus, he formed the correct opinion that this Jesus must be the Messiah, the Son of David, who was able to give him sight. Thinking that as a poor, powerless beggar he was undeserving of anything from the Messiah, he still decided to beg for mercy.
So Bartimaeus began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Now this was a prayer born out of spiritual illumination, born out of the miracle of miracles, new birth. Only through regeneration by the Holy Spirit can one call Jesus the Lord, the Son of David, the King and Messiah. Neither the Pharisees nor the Sadducees nor the Herodians made this confession. They called Jesus a blasphemer, and eventually crucified him for equating himself with God. But although Bartimaeus was physically blind, when he heard of Jesus of Nazareth, his spiritual eyes were opened and he had perfect understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. There was no question that Bartimaeus was a sinner who deserved only hell and damnation, but God made his light shine in his heart, giving him "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ," (2 Corinthians 4:6) and he was born again. Now he was enabled through faith to call upon Jesus and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" The very name Jesus means salvation, and Bartimaeus was given revelation that Jesus alone was the answer to his problem.
The Discouragers Do Their Work
Immediately there came discouragement. In all three records we read that the people around him rebuked Bartimaeus, demanding silence from him. This happens to us also. When one desires salvation from Christ, all hell breaks loose to discourage you from calling upon God. This discouragement can come from those around you, including your own family or your employer.
These people wanted to silence Bartimaeus. To them he was a pest and a nuisance, whose wailing was disturbing them as they listened to the great theological teaching of this rabbi, Jesus. They were all hurrying to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, and they reasoned that Jesus had no time for people like Bartimaeus. To them Bartimaeus must be a great sinner because of his poor, blind state; otherwise, God would have blessed him with wealth and health (John 9:2). But Bartimaeus was born of God. He was given real faith, and so he showed persistence. True faith will not be discouraged by anything. He cried all the louder, paying no attention to these opponents of grace.
We should do the same thing. Pay no attention to discouraging words, including those spoken by the devil himself. When he accuses us of being sinners, we can say, "Yes, I am a sinner, but God loves sinners like me, and, in fact, he came to seek and to save that which is lost. This is my opportunity to cry out to Jesus, and I must keep on crying. Didn't he say to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking? (Matthew 7:7-8) Didn't the widow in Luke 18 come to the judge again and again until her request was granted? I must not give up! The Savior-King is passing by, and he will not despise the broken-hearted (Psalm 51:17). The Lord is merciful and gracious, and he will stop for me. Did he not say to seek the Lord while he may be found and call on him while he is near?"
And so, despite the discouragement of the crowd, Bartimaeus drew the conclusion that he was qualified for Jesus to help him. PGM He probably reasoned: Jesus heals the sick, and I am sick; he heals the blind, and I am blind; he saves sinners and I am a sinner; he finds the lost and I am lost; he helps the poor and I am poor; he feeds the hungry and I am hungry; he justifies the ungodly and I am ungodly; he raises the dead and I am dead in trespasses and sins; he redeems the slaves of sin and I am the slave of sin. I qualify! I will not be deterred by anyone. So he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" It is God himself who generated that prayer in him, so Bartimaeus prayed passionately with purpose and urgency, with focus, faith, and persistence. He had no other plan. He knew that Jesus was the only Savior. And such prayer inclines the ears of the eternal, almighty God.
At the sound of Bartimaeus' cry, Jesus stopped. Now, in Joshua 10 we read that the sun stood still in answer to Joshua's prayer. But here the Creator of the sun and the whole universe stopped in his tracks in response to the prayer of a blind beggar. God hears the humble cry of every sinner, and this standing still of our Savior is a greater miracle than the sun standing still ages ago.
And the text tells us that Jesus commanded those around him to call Bartimaeus. Those who had rebuked Bartimaeus and not shown him any mercy were now ashamed, but they called him. This was the decree of the Son of God--who can resist him? God loved Bartimaeus, so Jesus said, Call him! Bring him to me! I want to see him and speak with him. It was the decree of God to save him.
The whole procession stopped, and now those with Jesus told Bartimaeus, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Oh, when he calls for you, it is good news, isn't it? You can rejoice and take courage that salvation is coming to you because the Savior has stopped specifically to call you and save you.
How did Bartimaeus respond? In verse 50 the Greek says he threw away, cast aside, his outer garment, because it was impeding his movement to Jesus. When the Spirit of God is speaking to us, we need to throw off all impediments and strive with all our might to go to him. In Luke 13:24 Jesus said, "Do everything to enter through the narrow gate, because many will try and will not be able to enter." Bartimaeus threw away his outer garment because it prevented him from going to Jesus in a hurry. Possibly the outer garment was lying on the ground, and people were throwing their alms on it. But this was not the time for Bartimaeus to collect his money. When the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, calls us, we cannot make him wait. When we feel the tug of the Spirit in our soul, we need to welcome that opportunity, get up and respond to God! We need to repent, to trust in God, to call on his name, and be saved.
When Jesus calls us, he tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, and he will give us eternal things. So in response to Christ's call, Bartimaeus cast away his filthy garment that had impeded his progress, and Jesus Christ gave him a garment of perfect righteousness. May God enable us also to respond to his call speedily, and not let anything else--our family or our job or our position or our power--deter us! May we not be like the rich young ruler who refused to follow Christ. Jesus had said to him, " Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me," but "he went away sad, because he had great wealth." He was an idolater who loved the things of this world more than the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:16-22)
The Prayer of Bartimaeus
When Jesus responded to Bartimaeus, he did not correct him for calling him "Son of David," meaning the Messiah. He accepted his prayer because it was the truth. But Bartimaeus was asking for mercy in a general sense, and Jesus wanted him to be more specific. Bartimaeus was coming to the great King, who could give him money, health, a wife, or a nice home in beautiful Jericho. So Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"
Bartimaeus had some understanding into the kingdom of God, and he probably thought, "The people of the world have money and homes, but I want that which the world cannot give, which is my sight. Only the Messiah is able to give sight to the blind." This, then, was his specific request of faith: "Rabbi, I want to see."
Bartimaeus's spiritual eyes had already been opened, and now we read in Matthew's gospel that Jesus had compassion on him and touched his eyes. What a touch of love that was! Jesus is the great high priest who sympathizes with us. Here was a sheep without a shepherd, and the Good Shepherd had compassion on him and touched his eyes.
Bartimaeus instantly received his sight. He concluded that truly Jesus is the promised Messiah, the light of the world who gives light to everyone who cries to him, and he was filled with thanksgiving. If one is really born of God, you will respond to your salvation as Bartimaeus did. The Greek text tells us in Mark 10:52 that Jesus then told Bartimaeus, "Go away, your faith has saved you forever," but Bartimaeus did not go away. If you are really born of God, you are not going to go away. Instead, you will respond as Peter did in John 6:68, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
What did Jesus mean, "Your faith has saved you forever"? In the Greek it is the perfect tense of sozo--to save. But faith does not save anybody. Jesus alone saves. Faith is the instrument by which we receive Christ's salvation, and even this faith in Christ is a gift of God that follows regeneration.
So Jesus told Bartimaeus to go away. But where could he go? His life had just been radically changed. He was begging before, but now he didn't need to beg. Everything changed. And unlike the rich young ruler, Bartimaeus followed his Savior. He became a disciple, devoting his entire life to Jesus in thanksgiving for what Jesus had done for him.
This is what every Christian should do. From the moment a person is truly saved, he begins to follow Jesus and to worship and serve him. If a person finds that very difficult, then he or she is not saved. A person who is saved expresses thanksgiving to God in terms of worship and discipleship. Why? He has been delivered from service to Satan, who blinded his eyes from seeing God, to serve Christ, who opened his eyes to see God.
Like Bartimaeus, every sinner is blind toward God, and an idol-worshiper who exchanges truth for a lie. Satan has blinded his eyes, and therefore he cannot understand who Jesus is. And yet when God regenerated him, this poor, miserable person came up with this perfect, profound confession of who Jesus is: Lord, Son of David, Messiah, King.
In the book of Acts we meet another blind person, Saul of Tarsus. He was very educated and very powerful, a member of the Sanhedrin and a Pharisee who said about himself, "concerning the righteousness of the law, perfect," but he was blind. He hated Christianity and Jesus Christ, but in Acts 9 we read how God opened his eyes spiritually and blinded his eyes physically, so that he saw clearly, and he confessed freely that Jesus is Lord and Christ.
May God give us humility to see ourselves as we are. Whether we are young or old or sick or healthy or powerful or educated or uneducated, we are like Bartimaeus--blind, poor, miserable and unloved. Let us not be like the Pharisee in Luke 18, trusting in our own righteousness. God did not hear his prayer, but he heard the prayer of the publican who prayed, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Jesus came to save sinners. He is the almighty, eternal God who is moved with love for us, and only one qualification is necessary. He will not heal the healthy, he will not save the righteous, he will not find those who are not lost, but he will hear the prayer of a sinner: "Lord, son of David, have mercy on me!"
May God open our eyes and save us, that we may follow Jesus, worshiping and serving him forever. Amen.
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Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
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