How many times do obstacles get in the way and seem to turn your future opaque? The Bible says that now we see through a glass darkly. But there are times when we don’t even see through the glass. All we see is darkness.
The story of Bartimaeus and the ministry of Jesus is one of the greatest stories in the New Testament. This story powerfully displays how to trust God when you can’t see a thing.
Jesus was traveling southward, towards Jerusalem and coming into Jericho, when He came across a blind man seated by the road. The man couldn’t see a thing. It always seemed ironic to me that Bartimaeus was seated in a city that hosted one of the most important events in the history of God’s people. Trumpets sounded after the march around Jericho, the place was overwhelmed with the power of God, and spiritual break-through occurred.
Yet, with all that history, a man sits there unable to see a thing. Then Jesus came. In their interaction, we see principles of faith about how to believe, how to stand firm in faith and how to function when you can’t see a thing. It’s a lesson to us about how to live our lives under the leadership of Jesus Christ, be led by the Holy Spirit of God and be shaped by Him. Let’s look at this text in Luke:
Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. – Luke 18:35-4
This passage of Scripture brings to mind the sense of absolute helplessness when you can’t see a thing. It begins by mentioning a blind man begging by the side of the road. That’s the position of any one of us when we can’t see ahead. You know you don’t have the resources necessary to navigate. You can’t see how you’re going to get through it. I don’t know where you are in your personal experience today, but the odds are great there could be many dear ones reading this who are facing a very dark or trying circumstance. It doesn’t have to be as dismal as that moment was, humanly speaking. There are things we may just be trying to figure it out. It can be scary. You cannot see how the situation will be navigated.
In Bartimaeus’ case, he was a man without resource who couldn’t see a thing, and he was seated beside the road. The first thing that takes place is he senses a large crowd drawing near. Just consider the ease with which an approaching crowd could trample a man who was just sitting there. You can imagine him feeling nervous about what’s happening.
The words that are spoken to him are pivotal. “Jesus of Nazareth is passing this way.” I don’t know if those words move your heart, but I love to say that. It’s so true, right at this very moment, Jesus is here. He’s passing this way. In a dark time when you can’t see a thing, you can listen for the Lord moving in people’s lives. Men and women who will tell you, “I was in a tough situation but Jesus passed my way.” He will never leave you alone in a circumstance without the possibility of His presence. He’s promised us that (see Hebrews 13:5). When you can’t see a thing, it can be hard to remember Jesus is there, until you pause and listen. No human says it. The Holy Spirit will whisper it to you. You’ll hear the voice of the Lord say, “I’m here with you, always.”
The next thing that happens is that Bartimaeus cries out. When we find ourselves helpless and can’t do anything, we can call out. It’s so instructive and possibly the pivot point of truth in this text. When Bartimaeus calls out, he has just been told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing this way.” That’s the acclaim Jesus had gained in the preceding three years. We’re moving into the last months of Jesus’ ministry at this point in the Gospel, and by now, Jesus is well-known throughout the land.
Listen to the words Bartimaeus cries out having heard that Jesus of Nazareth is passing his way, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Those words, “Son of David,” on the lips of any Jew that day, meant you have more than a prophet here, more than an extraordinary miracle worker. They indicate the Messiah has come. This is the King from heaven. This is God’s promised Son, who has come to redeem the Earth.
Bartimaeus recognizes what is so important. We are not related simply to a pop-culture idea of Jesus, a good guy who sometimes does good things and is well-known. Here is the One who has come as the Lord of all, with the power to break the yoke of bondage, to answer the viciousness and cruelty Satan spoke that day. The One who has dominion over the powers of darkness, and who is adequate in any circumstance. He is the Lord. Will somebody say hallelujah? These are words of worship, of consummate recognition. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
When I study historical narratives in the Bible, I’ll oftentimes say, “Lord, I don’t want to invent a picture in my mind.” But, I’d like to get the picture as close as possible to what the text describes. I’ve been to Jericho, and I have a feel for the situation there. Just imagine, Jesus is coming down the road, and there’s a growing entourage with Him as people hear and come out to meet him, probably a sizeable crowd the closer He gets to town. There were some, the Bible says, who were out in front of Jesus.
In fact, there’s a message in that: There are always people who are running ahead of Jesus instead of walking with Jesus. They’re the ones who will say, “Hey, you’re too excited about Jesus. Making too much noise.” Like those who tried to shut up Bartimaeus, as if to protect Jesus from the nutty blind man over here. They say, “You need to be quiet. Stop it. We have a nice orderly parade going here. You’re messing it up.” Bartimaeus responds by calling out even louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
And then the next words: “Jesus stood still.” Does this speak to you? Jesus has time for people. In fact, He has time for you, loved one.
There’s a back-to-back arrangement of verbs here that I think is important for us to see. The Bible says in verse 40: “Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him… “
There’s an interesting play in the form of the verbs here. “Brought” means somebody assisted him. It’s passive. To “come near” is active. I was trying to fit that together in my mind, as I imagined the story. Somebody brought Bartimaeus. They were escorting him. Now the crowd has thickened. There’s a quiet calm over them, because they know Jesus is known for miracles. He said, “Stop and bring the blind man to me.” It’s not hard for anyone to figure out they are likely on the brink of seeing something remarkable.
Bartimaeus is brought over, and those escorting him come to the edge of the place that had been cleared for Jesus to do whatever He’s going to do. Then they release Bartimaeus’ arms, but he’s not all the way to where Jesus is, maybe eight or ten feet away. The picture in my mind is that now the blind man knows and senses Jesus is there. His eyes stare blankly ahead, and he comes near to the Lord.
Friend, when you can’t see a thing, you can be brought to a certain point. But there finally comes the place where you decide to reach out and move on in for yourself. How many of you have been brought to church? The Lord promises us everything, but there is a time when we have to move in responding to what He has for us.
The key is coming to Jesus. He is the answer. He is the One who has the solution. Ultimately, “your faith has made you whole,” because your faith has been deposited in the One to whom you have not only cried out to, but with whom you have identified for all that He really is. Jesus is the ultimate Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer and King.
When you can’t see a thing, reach out in faith. He will open your eyes and show you the way.