Luke 18:35-43: “Compassion by the Jericho Road”
“And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging. Now hearing a multitude going by, he began to inquire what this might be. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ And those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out more, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
“And Jesus stopped and commanded him that he be brought to him, and when he came near, He questioned him. ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ And he said, ‘Lord, I want to regain my sight!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God” (Luke 18:35-43, NASB).
Jesus’ encounter with the cross and its purpose is at hand as He and His followers head to Jerusalem. He has dealt with a ruler and his search for redemption, albeit on his own terms and not that of the LORD’S. He has also assured His nervous apostles that what they had given up in order to follow Him will be rewarded in ways they do not expect for now. He has also told them of what is to come upon Him when they arrive in Jerusalem in a few days, and they do not have a clue as to what He is implying concerning what will await Him. Jesus is fully aware that these men are not ready for what is to come and the shock that will follow. However, He is preparing them in small steps as to how it will affect their lives from now on when everything He has taught them will be clearly understood during His final meal with them and the commission He will give them when He makes all things new at the proper time.
The group is on their way to the ancient city of Jericho, considered by archeologists and historians to be the world’s oldest inhabited city, dating from 8000 B.C., and is still inhabited today. There were two sites known as Jericho and were within a short distance from one another. The first site is mentioned in Joshua 2, when the Israelites under the command of Joshua conquered the city, the outside walls collapsing according to the instructions God had given them for the attack. Scripture records that the alleged prostitute Rahab and her family were spared due to her hiding the Israelite spies prior to the battle. Rahab’s name is found in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5).
The newer establishment of what was Jericho at the time of Jesus as well as today is located NE of Jerusalem near the border of the Dead Sea with a major road connecting the two cities.
Being a major road, a great deal of horse-drawn wagons, soldiers patrolling the area, foot traffic, and animal packs filled with goods heading to the local market were a continual sight, and the number of travelers were varied, from different parts of the Roman Empire with its polyglot of nations, customs, languages, and wealth, all making for a scene of activity. This road was also a major source of potential charity for the unfortunate souls who suffered from physical maladies such as a crippled limb, paralysis, and for one man in the crowd, a reliable place to hear what was happening in the world around him, but could not see due to a disease that robbed him of his sight, and along with it, the inability to work or have someone attend to his needs and care.
Scripture refers to him as “Bartimaeus,” which is not his proper name, but in Hebrew it means “Son of Timaeus,” a sign of oblivion and forgetfulness, really no name at all. He is obscure and one of many who have had tragedy fall upon them with no record of help or pity, certainly not from the Romans or Greeks. There was no charity system or places where one could go for help apart from family or friends. When hard times hit, you were pretty much on your own and dealt with the consequences. The days of Rome had much grandeur, order, peace, and opulence, but little compassion.
This blind soul hears the commotion of travel and conversation coming into range, and he hears someone mention that Jesus is on the road with His apostles. Somewhere in the past, he had gotten word of the Man from Nazareth and His marvelous works of healing, His teaching, and His compassion on all who came to Him. The idea came to Bartimaeus that if he could get the attention of Jesus, he would ask Him for one thing, and that was to see again. No asking for wealth, personal blessing, no questions to ask Him, or anything that would deter him from a clear objective that only the Lord Jesus could grant. Bartimaeus knew what he wanted, and he was going to get Jesus’ attention before the opportunity passed.
He called out with as loud a voice as he could muster above the noise of the crowd and commotion for Jesus to have mercy on him. The crowds tried to get him to be quiet, thinking he had gone mad or was of no real concern for someone as noted as the Lord Jesus. He ignored the shouts of the people and cried out again, saying the same phrase with a genuine cry from his desperate soul. There would not be another chance, and it was now or never for him. His cry caught the attention of the LORD, who told the people to bring the blind man to Him at once. Leading Bartimaeus by the hand, the people brought him before Jesus, whom he could not see but could hear and was ready to say what was on his heart and mind.
Here is the Lord Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, the Creator of the universe and the One who keeps it under His sovereign control, King of Kings who now gently asks this man whom He had formed in the womb of his mother long ago for a reason and a purpose (Psalm 139:13-16) what it was that He, the LORD God Almighty, might do for him. Who else could do this but Jesus?
Think on that the next time you feel that you cannot come to God out of a sense of guilt, or fear, or a sense of unworthiness and that you believe you have crossed the line of His care or concern and are without hope. You can go to Him anytime, anywhere and run to Him like a child runs to his Mom or Dad when he needs them, or to let their embrace reassure him that he is loved and all will be well. You can talk to Him honestly. He has heard it all before, and He wants you to come before Him with your questions, needs, concerns, fears, and requests, or to simply talk to Him for no other reason than to have an ultimate conversation like two friends.
Why do you think that people gladly came to Jesus and He never turned them away? Do not let anyone tell you that your sins cannot be forgiven, or that you cannot have a new life in Him if you would but ask in faith and repentance. I believe that when I see Him, He will be there with open arms ready, not just for me, unworthy as I am, but for all of us who call on Him.
Bartimaeus asks for the return of his sight. It is specific and to the point. He knew exactly what he needed and had the faith to believe that Jesus would grant him this request, which He did, and the beggar was freed from his situation and now able to work, able to care for himself, and free to go anywhere he wished. It is a clear picture of the true freedom we have in Jesus Christ when He liberates us from the bondage of sin and hell, and we reside permanently in His presence and grace (John 10:28-30).
Bartimaeus now joins the crowd, able to see the day and its beauty, and to see the people with their expressions of joy and praise as he gives glory to the Lord Jesus. I have no doubt that he was one of those who shouted “Hosanna” as the Lord entered Jerusalem. I have no doubt that he, and countless others, shouted “Hosanna” as they entered into the courts of heaven, and I am certain that we who are in this present world will join the chorus when the Lord Jesus comes back to take us home and prepare us to inherit the coming kingdom and its blessings, but more important, His Holy Presence for all time. Your opportunity is here, too. Call on Jesus and then hit the road with us. Do not let this pass you by.