(A) Introduction. Read: Luke18v35to43 See also: Mk10v46to52.

The story of Blind Bartimaeus is found in all three synoptic gospels. Once again there appears to be discrepancies in the different accounts. Matthew has 2 blind beggars crying out for help whereas in the other gospels only Bartimaeus is mentioned. There may have been 2 beggars but only Bartimaeus is named in Mark and Luke because he was a well-known character and the chief actor in the drama.

Matthew and Mark have Jesus healing Bartimaeus as he was leaving Jericho whereas Luke described the miracle taking place as Jesus approached the town. At this time there were two Jerichos - the old city and a new town built by Herod the Great. Perhaps Jesus' encounter with Bartimaeus took place between the two settlements!

I shall mostly refer to Mark's account in this exposition. He deals with these sorts of incidents in more vivid detail than the other gospel writers.

(B) Blind Bartimaeus.

(1) His plight. As Jesus and his disciples ... were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus ..... was siting by the roadside begging. Mk10v46.

There was much Bartimaeus missed. Last week I was doing a bird survey in Boxted with two friends when we noticed a chiffchaff building its nest on a roadside verge. It was entrancing to watch that shy, sleek, little bird flying back to its nest with a beakful l of feathers. Such lovely sights are denied the blind.

Bartimaeus was prone to mistakes. Whenever he washed his clothes he could never tell when they were clean. My friend, Jesse, is nearly blind. She used to be a wonderful cook but now she cannot judge when a cake is properly done.

The blind man had a precarious and humiliating existence. He spent every day sitting by the roadside begging - wholly dependent upon the generosity of others for his daily bread. Yesterday, as I came out of Marks and Spencer in Bury St Edmunds, I saw a gaunt young man squatting on the pavement just silently holding out a copy of the Big Issue. It was a bitterly cold day and his condition was one of abject misery.

Barimaeus' plight is shared by the natural man. There is much the non-Christian misses out on: the beauty of Jesus, the fatherhood of God, the help of the Holy Spirit and fellowship of kindred minds. The unbeliever suffers from many misconceptions about: God, what Christianity entails and the church. I had an e-mail recently from a Mr Robert Stockwell who said that if asked who a Christian was, would reply: "Someone who can truthfully say, 'I believe in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.'" This is not a definition that an unbeliever would give. He would equate Christianity with attending church and keeping rules! The natural man, whether aware of it or not, does have a precarious and humiliating existence. He is dependent upon God, with whom he has no relationship, for every breath he takes. It is like being a long term visitor to a family. You are there on sufferance. You have no claim on the head of the household. He is not your father.

(2) His plea.

It was:

    (a) Urgent. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Mk10v47.

    A man does not shout out unless his need is urgent. A drowning man shouts very loudly!

    We need to show urgency to get saved from sin. It is not like buying a new pair of armchairs. I have been putting this off for the last 12 months. I keep thinking: My old ones will last a little longer. Some people would think I was being very foolish procrastinating over the purchase of comfortable armchairs - that I can well afford. Those same folk have been putting off making a commitment to Jesus for years and years. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. AV. 2Cor6v2.

    (b) Respectful. Bartimaeus by calling Jesus, the Son of David, acknowledged that he was the Messiah. He accepted that Jesus had not just come to earth to heal the sick but to establish a kingdom over which he would reign.

    Sinners who call out for salvation should show respect. Doctors and dentists are public servants. Our taxes pay their wages. This does not mean they are not respected. How much more should we honour the suffering servant who is also Saviour of the World and Lord of All.

    (c) Appropriate. Bartimaeus did the only thing he could. He appealed to Christ's mercy. When we come to Jesus for salvation and new life they are beyond price. Eternal life is not for sale! However, if we throw ourselves upon Christ's mercy what cannot be bought will be given.

            There's a wideness in God's mercy
            Like the wideness of the sea;
            There's a kindness in his justice
            Which is more than liberty.

(3) His Perseverance.

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet but he shouted out the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Mk10v48.

When told to shut up, and there were many trying to make him shut up, Bartimaeus shouted all the louder. There a magnificent defiance about his response.

There is no doubt that perseverance is a very valuable quality. I like this poem that illustrates its value:

          Two frogs fell into a vat of cream
          Or, so I've heard it told.
          The sides of the vat were shiny and steep
          And the cream was deep and cold.
          "Oh, what's the use," cried one frog,
          "Tis fate, no help's around;
          Goodbye, my friend! Goodbye sad world!"
          And weeping still, he drowned.
          But number two, made of sterner stuff,
          Dog paddled in surprise;
          And all the while he wiped his face,
          And dried his creamy eyes.
          "I'll swim a while at least," he said;
          Or, so I've heard he said.
          It really wouldn't help the world
          If one more frog were dead!
          An hour or two he kicked and swam;
          Not once he stopped to mutter.
          He kicked and swam, and swam and kicked;
          And finally hopped out of the butter.

My brother Philip told me of a young man who applied to join the Suffolk Constabulary. He took the entrance examination 13 times and failed each time. On the 14th occasion he still failed but the police accepted him because he was so keen!

It is vital to persevere in the Christian life - in studying, serving, witnessing and praying. Paul could say near the end of his incredibly difficult ministry marked with as many set backs as triumphs: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2Tim4v7.

(4) His priority

Blind Bartimaeus wanted his life to change. When Jesus asked him: "What do you want me to do for you? The blind man said: "Rabbi, I want to see." Mk10v51.

The blind man's eagerness to change was evident from his response to the words: "He's calling you."

    (a) He dispensed with every hindrance. Throwing his clothes aside .... . The beggar's cloak was a treasured possession. It may well have been made of camel's hair and as such was thick enough to keep the sun off in summer and the cold out in winter. But that heavy old coat was a hindrance so he threw it off such was his eagerness to meet Jesus.

    I very much enjoyed reading, 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,' - especially the ending! When the sophisticated London writer, Juliet Ashton, discovered by accident that Dawsey the local pig farmer loved her she wasted no time but there and then went to find him. Juliet found Dawsey up a ladder doing some decorating. When she asked him to be her husband he came down so quickly that he sprained his ankle!

    Sinful men and women need to throw off all that hinders, their excuses, preoccupations, prejudices, fears and doubts and come to Jesus. They can surely be in no doubt that Jesus loves them!

    (b) He responded with alacrity. He jumped to his feet. Bartimaeus sprang up. This was no half-hearted reaction - it was a response full of joyful anticipation.

    When I conducted Geography field trips some pupils never showed much enthusiasm for getting down to work but you should have seen them when I announced, "Time for lunch." They charged back to the bus to pick up their sandwiches in happy anticipation of an hour at play.

    The invitation to believe in Jesus is not like having an hospital appointment. It is more like an invitation to a party. Sad to say even an invite to God's party is often refused. See exposition on Luke14v15to24.

    (c) He came to Jesus. And came to Jesus. Mk10v50. These are wonderful words. You know that all will be well now Bartimaeus has come to Jesus. What a place to come - to Jesus. There is no better destination on earth. So many can say with the hymn writer:

            I came to Jesus as I was -
            Weary, and worn and sad;
            I found in him a resting place,
            And he has made me glad.

(5) His pursuit.

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mk10v53.

When a man or woman is saved and renewed by God's Spirit they are under an obligation to follow Jesus. A Christian is called to follow Jesus' example and obey his commands however inconvenient or dangerous.

(C) The Crowd.

Jesus was only 15 miles from Jerusalem and had been joined by a large crowd of people. The disciples and other followers of Jesus were engulfed by a huge number of pilgrims journeying from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Passover. Many were sympathetic to Jesus and were quite happy to form part of a triumphant procession into the holy city. This must have put new heart into the disciples. This was more like it! This is what they hoped for! It seems as if there was a squad of minders going before Jesus and clearing the way. It may well have been organised by some of the disciples. Nothing must interfere with the King's triumphal 15 mile march to Jerusalem. In this the disciples doubtless considered they were carrying out Christ's will.

Three facts about the minders:

(1) Their mistake.

The minders tried to put Bartimaeus off calling out to Jesus. Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet. Lk18v39. So this rather officious group going ahead of Jesus hindered the blind beggar from coming to Jesus. Their behaviour is reminiscent of the disciple's attempt to keep the mothers from bringing their infants to Jesus for blessing.

It is a sad state of affairs when Christians put sinners off coming to Jesus by:

    (a) The sort of people they are: legalistic, unloving, hypocritical - lacking zeal, passion, joy or any reality. One sunny afternoon Ray gave me a lift home from the garage where I left my car for a service. We had three things in common: an interest in natural history, a passion for cricket and links with the village of Brockley. When Ray was a boy he used to visit his aunts and uncles in the village on a Sunday. One day he was kicking a football around in the garden and his uncle Perce came up, grabbed him by the ear, knocked his head against the fence and said fiercely, "We don't play games on the Sabbath - that's the way to go to hell." This made a lasting impression on Ray - but not one that predisposed him to Christianity!

    (b) Insisting on a certain way. There are many ways to Jesus although only one response is appropriate when you find him. It is wrong to insist that a person have a certain type of conversion experience. Not everyone is saved like Saul of Tarsus. It is equally wrong to insist that an individual can only find Jesus through the rites and rituals of the church. There are even some who would argue you have to be of a certain age before you can come to Jesus. Needy sinners travel to Jesus by many different routes but once there they must exercise faith.

    (c) Not witnessing comprehensibly. Our witness needs to be intelligible - simple, clear, direct and jargon free. When F.W. Boreham went as a young boy to hear D.L. Moody preach in the open air he understood every word. Great evangelists like Paul, Billy Graham, George Whitfield fulfilled the demands of the Sankey Hymn:

            Sinners Jesus will receive;
            Sound this word of grace to all
            Who the heavenly pathway leave,
            All who linger, all who fall!

            Sing it o'er ... and o'er again ....
            Christ receiveth sinful men; .......
            Make the message clear and plain: ....
            Christ receiveth sinful men.

(2) Their misunderstanding.

The minders going before Jesus misconceived his purpose. This is a prevailing theme of Luke's gospel. Christ's militant supporters thought he was marching to Jerusalem to come into his earthly kingdom. He was going to be like David - great David's greater Son - presiding over an even more prestigious realm than his illustrious forbear. Eventually Jesus would confront his enemies and rout the Romans. Jesus' followers just did not understand that he had come to seek and to save the lost.

People still misappropriate Jesus for their own purpose. Some want him as:

    (a) The militant leader of a militant church. They want Jesus to crush his enemies - hence the crusades, the Inquisition and hate campaigns against abortionists and gays.

    (b) The patron of a church organisation. In reality the church is everything - its heirarchy, the politics, intrigues, status and even the dressing up. Christ is just a rather remote figurehead.

    (c) The respectable head of a respectable people. He was a nice man for nice people! I suspect there are several who attend the Church of England who fall into this category!

    (d) A caring example for Christian social workers.

    (e) A mascot where the church is little more than a club.

Jesus is none of these! He is the Saviour of the World and Lord of All.

(3) Their mission.

Jesus told his minders to fetch Bartimaeus. So eventually they went with a message. It was:

    (a) "Cheer up!" We have good news for sinners, for people whose lives are in a mess, for men and women of the most depraved kind, for those still blind to God's compassion and grace. Christians represent Jesus who can save to the uttermost all those who come to him in faith.

    (b) Get up. Blind Bartimaeus was told: "On your feet." Jesus disciples need to impress on sinful men and women the necessity of a quick response. They need to hurry up and come to Jesus. This is something every sinner can do - show willing, come to Jesus and cast themselves on him.

            Come to the Saviour, make no delay;
            Here in his word He has shown us the way;
            Here in our midst He's standing to-day,
            Tenderly saying, "Come!"

    (c) Buck up. The message came to Bartimaeus: "He's calling for you. What an encouragement that was for the beggar to come - to know that he was invited - that Jesus wanted, and was waiting for, him to come.

            Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling -
            Calling for you and for me;
            Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching -
            Watching for you and for me!

(D) Jesus

(1) His presence.

Jesus was passing by! Now Bartimaeus was not unprepared for this moment. He had heard about Jesus and the wonderful miracles he did. I expect he had talked about Jesus and longed for an opportunity to meet him.

I believe men and women have to be prepared for an encounter with Jesus. God uses many means: times of trouble, periods of stress, failures and disappointments, a word of testimony, the example of a Christian friend, a funeral, a mother's letters ... . By a combination of means Jesus draws near. Jesus is passing by and the time comes to take hold of your opportunity - to cry out to him for help.

            Come, weary one, and find sweet rest:
            Jesus is passing by!
            Come where the longing heart is blest,
            And on his word rely.

            Passing by! Passing by!
            Hasten to meet him in the way,
            Jesus is passing by today!
            Passing by! Passing by!

(2) His pity

Three things to note:

    (a) Jesus stopped. Nothing was going to stop Jesus going to Jerusalem. It was his destiny. He had set his face as a flint to go there. Nothing could stop him - not his disciples, not his family, not the Romans, not his enemies, not his friends - neither Satan nor all the forces of hell.

    But blind Bartimaeus stopped Jesus! Jesus found time for him. Sometimes we need to stop what we are doing - however important it might be - to write a letter, say a prayer or to make a visit. I read in the Daily Telegraph only last week that one in eight children never see their parents from one year's end to another year's beginning because they are just too busy. How sad is that! You will always make time for those you really love. Jesus loved Bartimaeus.

    (b) Jesus called him. Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." Jesus took pity on Bartimaeus - he would see him. What hope this must have given to the blind man.

    Sometimes a person with a rare disease discovers that there is only one specialist in the world who can deal with it. Such a specialist with huge demands on his time and expertise finds it difficult to fit in all those who want to see him. When he does finally agree to see a sufferer what hope this gives.

    The Great Physician is merciful. He welcomes every sinner to his clinic. Jesus has the cure for sin and it is freely available to all who ask for it.

            Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
            Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
            Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
            Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

    (c) Jesus questioned him. What do you want me to do for you?" Mk10v51. It was very important for Bartimaeus to speak for himself. Bartimaeus expressed his faith when he said, "Rabbi, I want to see." Mk10v51.

    Jesus will not save anyone until he or she asks for salvation. That is the least the sinner can do. It is what you must do. You must own your sin and willingly throw yourself upon his mercy.

    Back in 1830 George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall, who concluded that Wilson would have to be executed. "A pardon is a slip of paper," wrote Marshall, "the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged." For some, the pardon comes too late. For others, the pardon is not accepted.

(3) Jesus power.

Jesus touched the eyes of the blind beggar and said: Go, your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight.

    (a) Jesus did a hard thing. Jesus did something no-one else could do. Yet, however hard it was to restore a man's sight it was nowhere near as hard as rescuing men dead in trespasses and sin. Jesus cured the blindness of Bartimaeus with a touch and a word but to cleanse us from sin he had to suffer, bleed and die.

    (b) Jesus did a hard thing quickly. Bartimaeus was healed immediately and once healed he stayed healed.

    There is no doubt at all that lost sinners can be changed completely in the twinkling of an eye. Some are so dramatically changed that it is like a new birth. Jesus has the power to bring the sons of darkness into his most marvellous light.

    (c) Even Jesus' power is limited. Why did Jesus tell Bartimaeus that his faith had healed him? Jesus healed him! God's power healed him! Jesus made this surprising statement because he could not have healed Bartimaeus without the blind beggar's faith. Nor can God's grace, Christ's mercy or the Spirit's enlightening power save a sinner unless he exercises faith in Jesus.

    During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her, wanted to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. But she refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood--the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely.* But he had to ask! He had to exercise faith in the Red Cross. So must we if we wish to be saved.

    * Taken from Our Daily Bread, October 11, 1992.