Pastor David B. Curtis

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Jesus Opens Blind Eyes

Mark 10:46-52

Delivered 01/21/2007

Mark is writing about the closing events of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. While the entire Gospel saw every step Jesus took bringing Him to the mission of the Cross, now His steps quicken and become more definite as He sets His face towards Jerusalem and the betrayal, condemnation, and death that awaits Him.

In our last study Jesus gave His third passion prediction. His very clear statements about His up-coming rejection, persecution, and execution were not understood at all by the disciples. The amazing thing for me is that even with such a specific prophecy, the disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about. They would only understand Jesus' rejection, crucifixion, and death after His resurrection.

After Jesus talks about His torturous death, James and John approach Him requesting favored positions in His kingdom:

Mark 10:37 (NASB) And they said to Him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left."

Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die; the disciples' response conveys that they still think Jesus is going to Jerusalem to reign. This self-seeking is deliberately set against the passion prediction to bring out its enormity.

Then, for a second time in this Gospel, Jesus tells them how to be great in His kingdom:

Mark 10:43-44 (NASB) "But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.

Jesus takes human values and turns them upside down. We think greatness is about being first. Jesus says that greatness is about being last. We think greatness is about having a position of power and prestige where we can be served. Jesus says that greatness is about being a servant. From Jesus' perspective, a great person puts everyone else before himself and takes on the role of a bondservant.

True greatness is manifested in humble servanthood. And it is through humble servanthood that we are exalted. This is a principle that is found all through the Word of God in precept and example. James gives us the principle in:

James 4:10 (NASB) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

It is a Biblical law-- exaltation follows humility. Just as sure as the law of gravity is the law that those who humble themselves will be exalted. And the one who exalts himself will be humbled.

Mark now tells us the story of blind Bartimaeus. Jesus comes to the vicinity of Jericho, possibly having traveled south and west from the region of Perea beyond the Jordan to arrive in the city on His way to the city of Jerusalem in time for Passover. As a matter of fact, Jesus enters the city on the same day as the lambs would have been selected for each household that was celebrating the festival (Exodus 12:3), thus pointing towards the symbolism of Himself being His people's lamb of sacrifice:

John 1:29 (NASB) The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

We know from the other accounts that Mark skips over a number of events that happened in Jericho. Mark skips over the story of Zaccheus and all the other events in connection with Jesus' encounter with this man. Mark goes immediately to the time when Jesus left the city. He does this in order to tie it with what had gone before. The story of this blind man may appear like a separate event on their journey to Jerusalem, and indeed it is. But it is also Mark's pertinent illustration of the disciples' blindness.

Mark 10:46 (NASB) And they came to Jericho. And as He was going out from Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.

There is a major problem with the Gospel texts as to the exact location at which the incident took place. Our text and Matthew's account (Matthew 20:29) record that it took place "...as He was going out from Jericho..." But Luke says:

Luke 18:35 (NASB) And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging.

Luke follows this incident with the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2-10), which takes place inside the city walls.

This appears to be a contradiction here. What is the primary rule of hermeneutics? The Analogy of Faith, or Scripture interprets Scripture. No part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture. The problem for the commentator is to try and adequately explain why both Matthew and Mark should speak of the incident taking place as they were leaving the city, while Luke notes that it was while they were approaching it.

I think that the best explanation is that Mark, the Christian Jew to whom ancient Jericho was important, was speaking of the site of old Jericho, having in mind that Jericho was the first town reached by Israel when originally entering the land. Notice his stress on "they come to Jericho," which seems otherwise redundant. While Luke, the historian, had in mind entry into the new town, built by Herod the Great and his son Archelaus and standing to the South of old Jericho. The events of Mark 10 probably occurred as He was on the road between the old Jericho and new Jericho. So Mark and Luke are both accurate, the were "going out from Jericho" and "approaching Jericho."

The City of Jericho

There are actually three cities at Jericho: an ancient city, a New Testament city, and modern Jericho. It is the oldest-known city in the world, with archaeological finds that date to at least 8000 BC.

Jericho stood below sea level as an oasis in the desert. Known for its abundant fig trees and date palms, Jericho also was the center for balsam trees, appreciated for its aromatic wood and medical balm made from its "coagulated juice." The concoction was thought to having healing properties for the many afflicted with eye problems. So the two blind men sitting by the road were not the only blind men of Jericho; there were likely dozens and dozens of others living in Jericho, hoping that the balsam concoction would heal their blindness.

From Jericho, the main road to Jerusalem (sometimes called the Jericho Road) winds through the Judea Wilderness to the West. Many Bible characters traveled this way to Jerusalem.

Mark 10:46 (NASB) And they came to Jericho. And as He was going out from Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.

There was a great multitude with Jesus. It wasn't just that Jesus was passing through the city that had caused the people in Jericho to amass and to follow after Him as He headed towards Jerusalem, but that Jesus had already been ministering to many Israelites beyond the Jordan, and these people were probably following after Him along with the pilgrims who were journeying by His side for the Passover festival in Jerusalem. As they leave the city with the Lord and His disciples, their pilgrimage is interrupted by the shouts of a blind man, Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus was sitting by the road out of Jericho. Beggars always have certain spots picked out where the traffic is more frequent, and where, for some reason, there seems to be more generosity expressed (e.g. outside the temple). He could not see, so his begging would have been triggered by what he heard--a footstep, the sounds of passers-by talking, etc. The blind man would have heard Jesus leaving Jericho. He would have heard the sounds of the crowd from some distance. He asked those around him what was happening. Someone told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

Do you think that Bartimaeus knew about Jesus? Let me remind you of something we have already studied in Mark:

Mark 3:7-8 (NASB) And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, 8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.

Let me try to give you an idea of the size of this crowd. This was not just a few people or a few thousand. There were literally tens of thousands of people, undoubtedly, in this crowd. They came from all over this country: from Galilee; from Judea, which began fifty miles to the South; from Jerusalem, the capital of Judea some seventy miles south of the Sea of Galilee; and beyond that from the land of Idumea, or Edom, way down in the Southern desert; from the region east of the Jordan River stretching out into the Arabian Desert; and from the West clear to the Mediterranean coast and up the coast to Tyre and Sidon, the area now in the country of Lebanon ­ from throughout this entire area they came. They flocked out from all the cities to hear this amazing prophet who had risen in Galilee and was saying such startling things.

Why were so many coming such a long way in order to see Jesus? It was because they had heard of the miracles that He was performing. They had heard the wonderful stories of this Jewish Rabbi who could heal the sick, who could cast out demons with a word and restore the paralyzed.

With all these people coming from such great distances, there is no doubt in my mind that this blind beggar Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus. You can imagine how the rumors would circulate about Jesus among the sick and the infirmed, especially concerning His miracles of healing.

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.

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

Mark 10:47 (NASB) 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!"

The words translated "cry out" are from the Greek word krazo, which means:"to communicate something in a loud voice, call, call out, cry." If he was going to be heard above the noise of the crowd, he would have to really yell out. Bartimaeus began to call out to Jesus as loud as he could yell­he was desperate.

Have you ever felt desperate? A walk through hospital intensive care units reveals desperate people hoping for some respite in their need. Scattered throughout communities, desperate people hope against hope for some financial crisis to be remedied or a broken marriage to be mended or a wayward child to return safely home. Desperation is part of human existence. The size of one's bank account or position in life doesn't matter; desperation can dog anyone's steps.

When desperation settles into the minds, the most natural reaction is to despair of hope. We've all seen it and, maybe, even experienced it. A situation arises that seems to have no resolution; desperation sets it, and despair reigns. Bartimaeus was no doubt living in desperation­until now, now he has hope, and he cries out to Jesus.

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Blind Bartimaeus of Jericho is the only figure in Mark's gospel to address Jesus with the Messianic title of "Son of David." The coming of a son of David as deliverer was certainly a common idea in the Scriptures:

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB) For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

(See also Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23)

He heard about Jesus Christ and, in his darkened world, had the opportunity to think about what he had heard. What he heard was of the words and works of this Jesus of Nazareth. What he was then thinking was that this man was the Messiah, the promised Son of David. He put what he had heard together with what he knew and came to a conclusion; this is the Messiah who can cause the blind to see­so he then cried out to Jesus.

He knew his hopelessness apart from Christ. His cry for mercy was not made to a two-bit healer promoting his snake oil remedies in Jericho. He saw Jesus as the Christ, the promised One, and the One who would rule forever on David's throne as the Messianic king of an eternal kingdom. Though he could not see and read, he listened carefully as the Scriptures were read and as the talk of Christ spread through the city. The connections were made­hope was near in Christ the, "Son of David."

Bartimaeus calls out "Have mercy on me!" "Mercy" is the Greek word eleeo, which means: "to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the wretched, show mercy to someone, help someone (out of compassion)." Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity. The verb signifies a feeling of sympathy with the misery of another, especially when manifested in action. Mercy is an appeal to the goodness of someone much greater; in this case, it is the goodness of God. Theologians often consider mercy as a subordinate category to the attribute of God's goodness. Louis Berkhof calls mercy, "the goodness or love of God shown to those who are in misery or distress, irrespective of their deserts" [Systematic Theology, 72]. So, mercy is action that flows from God's love toward those in desperate straits.

Mark 10:48 (NASB) And many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Why was the crowd annoyed with the blind man's persistent shouts? He was disturbing their peace and interrupting Jesus' discourse. It was common for a rabbi to teach as he walked with others. When the crowd tried to silence the blind man, he overpowered them with his emotional outburst; he keeps on shouting and, thus, caught the attention of Jesus:

Mark 10:49 (NASB) 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."

The crowd who was trying to silence him is now telling him to "take courage."

Mark 10:50 (NASB) And casting aside his cloak, he jumped up, and came to Jesus.

We do not really appreciate the significance of this until we consider what the cloak was for a blind beggar. The cloak was the large outer garment that a beggar used to carry his earthly belongings, to wrap around him as he would sleep in the door ways and in the streets, and even spread in front of him to collect the coins given to him by those who passed by. The cloak was just about the only thing a beggar owned, and it was very important to him. By casting it aside, Bartimaeus was forsaking his former way of life, he was completely confident that Jesus would heal him.

Mark 10:51 (NASB) 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!"

Notice the question Jesus asks Bartimaeus, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Does that sound familiar? This is precisely the same question Jesus asked James and John:

Mark 10:35-36 (NASB) And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You." 36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

What do you want Me to do for you? These are exactly the same words Jesus says to Bartimaeus. What was the trouble with these disciples? They were blind, were they not? They could not see what was involved. They wanted something but they did not see what was connected with it. They could not see the cup, the baptism, the hurt, the cross. They were blind. What was the matter with Bartimaeus? He was blind. Jesus asked, in both cases, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Mark puts this account of Bartimaeus immediately after Jesus' interaction with the disciples to give a pertinent illustration of what they needed. They needed their blindness healed.

Was it just by chance that as Jesus was leaving Jericho, a blind man named Bartimaeus was sitting by the road? Well, it can be read as though all that Mark is doing is giving a chronicle of the events that happened, and this was just one of those events which occurred by chance as they left the city. But do things happen that way? Or was it perhaps by the prearrangement of an infinitely wise Father, a Sovereign God, who arranged to have a blind man named Bartimaeus there because it tied in directly with what Jesus had been saying, and exactly illustrated something more He wanted the disciples to know?

This blind beggar is called "Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus." Bartimaeus, literally means "son of Timaeus." So, why the repetition? It is redundant to say, "Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus," unless, of course, you are trying to make a point. That is precisely what Mark is doing. The Greek meaning of Timaeus is: "honor." Bartimaeus means: "son of honor." James and John were asking for positions of honor. They wanted to be sons of honor.

Bartimaeus, the son of honor, was blind, and he knew it. The disciples, who wanted to be sons of honor, were blind as well, but they didn't know it. They thought they could see, but could not. Bartimaeus knew he could not see.

The words translated "regain my sight" is Greek anablepo, which means: "to gain sight, whether for the first time or again, regain sight."

I believe what God is communicating is that we all need to ask Him to open our eyes that we may see the implications of our desires. We need to have our eyes opened that we may see what is important, really important to God. Because what is important to God ought to be important to us. Bartimaeus' blindness is symbolic of the blindness of all of the sons of honor, God's children. With our eyes upon self, we cannot see.

So the point of the story, the truly impressive thing about this account, and the reason why Mark has placed it here, is what Bartimaeus did. Here was a man who was conscious of his blindness, whereas the disciples were not. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he became tremendously excited, and he asked Jesus to meet his greatest need­"I want to regain my sight!"

Every miracle of healing the Lord preformed was designed to give us an analogy to the spiritual healing we need. We are blind and deaf to spiritual things, we are lepers alienated from God, we are dead in our sins, we are lame unable to walk the Christian walk; we need the touch of Christ in our lives to heal us spiritually.

The disciples had trusted Christ, but they were still blind in many ways. I think this is true of believers today. The analogy of blindness is used in the New Testament in a number of passages. Notice what Paul prays for the believers at Ephesus:

Ephesians 1:18 (NASB) I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Notice what John says to those believers who are not walking in love:

1 John 2:11 (NASB) But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Look at what Jesus says to the church in Laodicea:

Revelation 3:17-18 (NASB) 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

The Laodiceans let their material wealth rob them of spiritual insight into their true condition. They evaluated themselves and said, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing". The Lord gives them their true state, "thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

Despite all their money, spiritually, they were poor; despite their world famous eye salve, they were spiritually blind; despite their production of fine black wool, they were spiritually naked. This is our Lords' analysis of Laodicea. They were lukewarm and pridefully deceived. The Laodiceans were unconscious of their weakness. They thought they were strong, and therefore, they were weak.

Peter also talks about the blindness of believers:

2 Peter 1:9 (NASB) For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

The disciples were blind in many areas and so are we. It is only as we realize this need and come to Jesus as Bartimaeus did that will have our eyes opened.

I often pray this prayer as I open by Bible:

Psalms 119:18 (NASB) Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law.

I realize that unless God opens my eyes to the meaning of His word, I'll never understand it. We all need our spiritual eyes opened.

Mark 10:52 (NASB) And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

The word translated "well" is the Greek word sozo. This is a general word that means: "to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve, rescue." Jesus is literally saying, Your faith has saved you. Not only were this blind man's eyes opened physically, they were also opened spiritually. He became a child of God.

This healing is the last to be recorded in the Gospel of Mark and is dissimilar to the previous example of the healing of the blind recorded in Mark 8:25 in the fact that, at that time, Jesus felt compelled to command those healed to make sure that no one came to know about the healing. This is also recorded in Matthew's account:

Matthew 9:30 (NASB) And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "See here, let no one know about this!"

This instruction has been variously given to the recipients of healing in all three Synoptic Gospels, and we've previously noted that Jesus was aware that, in order to reach as many as He could, it was important that He was to move freely about the area, and that unnecessary popularity would only fuel the flames of Roman interest in Him, which could provoke a confrontation earlier than He wanted. Here, however, Jesus knows that the time of His death is imminent and so no such command exists.

Mark is also conveying another message­that the son of David, the Messiah, had come, entering the land of promise and opening the eyes of the blind in fulfillment of Scripture (Isaiah 35:5; 61:1 LXX). And this was what He longed to do spiritually in Jerusalem and would do for those who believed and put their trust in Him, for the idea of Isaiah was not only literal but spiritual.

Mark 10:52 (NASB) And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

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."

This story not only shows us our need for our blindness to be healed, it shows us the compassion of God. Bartimaeus cries for mercy were met with compassion. Matthew writes:

Matthew 20:34 (NASB) And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

The term "compassion" is used of Christ throughout the Gospels. It is a very strong word. It means: "to be so moved on the inside that it compelled Him to take action on the outside." Sometimes we see situations, and we would say: "You know, I feel sorry for them." But that is not this word. This word goes well beyond that. It is to be so moved that we actually do something about it to help resolve the situation.

Jesus saw the broken, blind, and hungry and felt compassion. The word literally conveys the idea of a heart contracting convulsively. We might say that His heart was squeezed by what He saw, or He was overwhelmed by the consciousness of human need. The Greek word used here for compassion is splagchnizomai. Splagchnizomai is found only in the Gospels, and in every usage it is always related to need. Normally, it is the sight of people "distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd" that moves Christ to compassion; or the sight of two blind men when Jesus, "moved with compassion," touched their eyes and healed them (Matt 20:34); or it is the sight of a leper when Jesus, "moved with compassion," touches and heals the leper (Mark 1:41). It is used of the time that Jesus saw the funeral procession of the son of the widow in the city of Nain, and upon seeing her in the loss she experienced, He felt compassion for her and raised her son to life (Luke 7:13).

Our God is a compassionate God. When Moses stood before the Lord on Mount Sinai, Yahweh revealed Himself to Israel's leader. The first adjective the Lord used to describe Himself to Moses is "compassionate":

Exodus 34:6-7 (NASB) Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."

He is a God that judges and deals with sins. But He is also a God of great compassion, patience, and grace! Compassion belongs to the Lord God; it is a vital aspect of His divine nature. So when we look at Christ, we should not be surprised by the compassion that He demonstrated as the Messiah. The Lord Jesus Christ is a compassionate God.

Remember, compassion means to be so moved on the inside that it compels you to take action on the outside. As Christians, as children of the heavenly Father, we have a duty to imitate Christ, who is described in the Bible as compassionate.

Colossians 3:12 (NASB) And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

In the healing of Bartimaeus we see the compassion of our God that is also to be seen in us.

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