Sermon Notes for Quinguagesima Sunday, 26 February 2017 Anno Domini
St. Andrews Anglican Church, Enterprise, Alabama
31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. 34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
35 And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: 36 And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. 37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. 38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, 41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God. Luke 18:31-43 (KJV)
We discover in today’s Gospel reading comparison of two forms of blindness and helplessness: the first of the spiritual is the more serious; and the second is that of the physical.
Before delving into the heart of the account of the Apostles’ blindness and that of Bartimaeus, let us first observe the context of the scene:
THE OPENING: Jesus and the apostles are bound for Jerusalem by way of Jericho. The purpose of this last trip to Jerusalem is only too well understood by our Lord – it has been a matter that has shadowed His walk from the wooden crib at Bethlehem to the wooden cross at Golgotha. Now the appointed time draws near – in fact, a matter of days (perhaps one week). If you or I were diagnosed with a deadly disease that would end our lives in one week, attended by the most excruciating pain, it is doubtful that we would continue in our calling to dedicate that little balance of time in teaching and helping others so. But Jesus did as many good works and miracles in his last few days as at any other time in His ministry. He was faithful and persevering until the very end. May we be similarly disposed though we could never reach that high mark of Christ.
THE BEGINNING OF THE OCCASION: Jesus calls His apostles aside and informs them in very plain terms of the fate that awaits Him at Jerusalem: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” Note, in the first place, that this fate is well prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures and available to all to read. (“all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.) Not SOME things, but rather ALL things. A serious Bible scholar of the time would have picked this up from reading the Scriptures. The Scribes and Pharisees were, indeed, Bible scholars and they knew all that was prophesied of Christ, but chose to ignore it in favor of their greed and obstinacy.
The SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS: Though told by Christ DIRECTLY and in DETAIL of the events to occur in Jerusalem, the apostles were made blind to those events; so why did Christ tell them? “34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Our Lord was making preparation for their spiritual understanding which would cpome to light following those events. This was an affectionate kindness displayed by our Lord to the apostles. How would they be able to carry on if they fully understood those things beforehand? So, Jesus tells them at this time so that they would fully understand after the crucifixion that the Prophets had already revealed it to all who would have their minds and hearts open to that understanding.
But there is also another spiritual blindness that renders the soul destitute and naked of the benefits of salvation. That is the darkness and blindness that separates a soul from its Maker. It is oftentimes a willing blindness such as that of the Scribes, Pharisees and Jewish rulers of that day.
PHYSICAL BLINDNESS COMPARED TO THE LOST SINNER: Now, as Jesus approaches Jericho, there is a situation that perfectly fits the condition of each of us before we came to Christ. It is the story of blind Bartimaeus. (see Mark 10:46) This poor fellow had been blind for as long as he could remember. He was helpless in his condition. Family or friends had to bring him daily to this familiar sight beside the Jericho Road where he begged for a pittance of the passersby. Our Lord, too, knew of blind Bartemaeus. Even before he had been conceived in His mother’s womb, our Lord saw blind Bartimaeus sitting there begging. He had kept Bartimaeus in the “apple of His eye” all those years for He had a special plan and purpose for Bartimaeus – just as He has for all to whom He comes and heals.
Bartimaeus was desperately poor as well as blind. Perchance, a blind man from a wealthy family would have had greater leisure, but to be both blind and poor is so very much like the sinner for whom Christ came to save. It is not certain that Bartimaeus would have ever called out to the Lord had he been blessed with perfect vision and a means of livelihood. It is true that the blind and poor can appreciate full vision and a means of living better than those for whom it comes naturally. God placed blind Bartimaeus beside the road for the purpose of blessing him, not for his hurt. He knew from ages past that Bartimaues would receive a greta blessing that would radically change his life on this very Spring day in Judaea. No man could remedy the want and poverty of Bartimaeus but that One Man of Galilee who was walking, at this very moment, toward where he sat. Though we are not able to choose Christ, He is able to come to us where we are.
THE BLIND MAN’S PRAYER: There is not much evidence to suggest that Bartimaeus had ever found the faith to pray until this very moment. Though he was blind, his sense of hearing had been made profoundly keen by the absence of the loss of sight. He used every sensible resource left him to compensate for his blindness. He had listened patiently to the accounts of transients passing on the road of a Savior who could heal the leper, make the lame to walk, cast out devils, raise the dead from the tomb, and, yes, restore sight to the blind! Though we may know the scriptures by heart, if we are spiritually blind, we can never behold their beauty. Bartimaeus desired, above all else, to see the beauty that he heard described about him of the flowers; the green, leafy trees; the butterflies, and the jubilant children playing. But Bartimaeus would soon see more than these.
Bartimaeus heard the commotion of a large crowd of people approaching. He inquired of the men walking by who told him it was JESUS. But wait! Was this not the same of whom he had heard so much! He wasted no time – and neither should any who stand at the abyss of Hell burdened by their sins. “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” Well, this is a very simple prayer – not articulated in grand vocabulary, but in simplicity. Note that Bartimaeus asks no great thing of Christ except MERCY! He knows if the Lord grants MERCY, then all other things of benefit will attend that mercy. Notice also that he addresses Christ in the proper title and respect. He does not shout out, “Hey, Man, gi’ me a break!” or some other vulgar nonsense, but in reverence and proper tone. So should we address the High Sovereign of all Sovereigns. This is an effectual prayer uttered from both need and faith.
THE RESPONSE OF THOSE WITH CHRIST: “39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” Be careful, brothers and sisters, in getting out ahead of the Lord. Heed the counsel of the Psalmist: “14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalms 27:14 (KJV) When we begin to do the work of the Lord according to our own counsel we are bound to go amiss. These men who were nearest to Christ were the very ones who attempted to prevent the one who needed the Lord most from coming to Him. Have we done likewise unwittingly? But those men could not discourage Bartimaeus. He persisted even more ardently: “but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”
THE RESPONSE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: “40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him.” The simple prayer of Bartimaeus stopped our Lord in His tracks. God always has ears for the prayer uttered out of great need and faith. Our Good Shepherd always finds occasion to stop for those who need Him most, and call upon Him in faith. He will stop and listen. Have you tried that approach in times of dire need? I believe it is important to observe that the Lord commanded that the blind man be “brought unto Him.” The Lord gives His servants the privilege of a role in bringing His chosen before Him.
THE RESULTS OF BARTIMAEUS’ PRAYER: It is clear that all who simply pray frivolous and faithless prayers will not get the desired answer to that prayer. The Lord will examine the heart of the supplicant just as He examines that of Bartimaeus. He does so for the purpose of public testimony for He already knows the heart of Bartimaeus. “41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Only upon receiving acknowledging mercy from the Lord does the blind man make his deepest desire known – “that I may receive my sight.” He does not ask the Lord IF He can heal his blindness – he already knows that fact with the certainty of faith. “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.” Note that the eyesight of Bartimaeus was granted, but something altogether MORE! That other ting was SALVATION! “thy faith hath saved thee.”
THE RESPONSE OF BARTIMAEUS: How can one be cured of such a debilitating malady and not rejoice? How can one be saved from a life of decadence and ruin without glorifying the Lord who granted it? “43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God.” When your eyes were first opened to the Gospel of Christ, and His salvation, how did you respond? Hopefully, in the same manner as Bartimaeus! We immediately drop our mundane affections and follow Christ – IMMEDIATELY! And every step of the way, we glorify the Giver of all Mercies!
THE RESPONSE OF THE CROWD: How do those about us react to the witness of a newfound salvation? How did the Samaritans react to the testimony of the Woman of ill-repute who met Jesus at the Well of Jacob? THEY BELIEVED HER! She had a newfound authority and credibility which she had lacked before Christ. “8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9 (KJV) The men beside the road at Jericho that day had seen the blind man daily begging there in that same place; but now, they say a new man – a man restored in his vision, but also in his soul! “and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.”
Friends, it is hoped that those around us KNOW that we are the Children of God, and that they will be moved to praise God for the outward, and inward, blessings of which we have been recipients from His Mercy and Grace!