Summary: In Matthew 20, Bartimaeus encounters Jesus. Bartimaeus' story involves the crowd, the confession, and the compassion of Christ.
Encountering Jesus (3)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 1/18/2015
The past few weeks, we’ve been talking about change. Change doesn’t always come easy for us. As the old saying goes, “A leopard can’t change his spots.” But I disagree. Where did we get the idea that we can’t change? From whence come statements like “It’s just my nature to worry,” or “I’ll always be pessimistic. I’m just that way,” or “I have a bad temper. I can’t help it. I’m a red-head.” Would we make similar statements about our bodies? “It’s just in my nature to have a broken leg. There’s nothing I can do about it.” Of course, not. If our bodies malfunction, we seek help. Can’t do the same with our hearts? God wants to transform each of us in some pretty dramatic ways. He wants us to have a heart like his. But we can’t transplant our own hearts any more than we can remove our own appendix. New Year's resolutions, willpower, and best intentions are not enough. What we need is an encounter with Jesus!
I heard a humorous testimony this week. A recent convert was asked to share her testimony in church about the difference accepting Jesus had made in her life. She nervously walked up to the pulpit and declared, “I’m so glad I got saved. Jesus has really turned my heart around. For example, I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I’d never go to his funeral. But then I met Jesus, and now I just can’t wait to go to his funeral!”
The truth is—Jesus does change our hearts and lives. People who have encountered Jesus in very real ways are seldom the same afterward. Jesus changes everything. This morning we’re going to read about two men who know all about that. Let me invite you to read a short story from Matthew 20 with me.
As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
“Be quiet!” the crowd yelled at them. But they only shouted louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him. (Matthew 20:29-34 NLT)
Mark’s version of this story identifies one of these beggars by name, Bartimaeus. The region was known for producing an ointment useful for treating eye defects, so it isn’t surprising to find two blind men along the road begging for money or bread. Needy people standing on street corners, holding signs that say hungry or homeless isn’t a 20th century invention. This is probably how they spent nearly every day. Can you imagine what life was like for them? Imagine being totally sightless for who knows how many years. They lacked the modern treatments and accommodations that allow blind people today to live productive lives, so they were forced to just sit by the road begging for help, day in and day out. Most people ignored them. They’re some else’s problem, passersby thought. But not Jesus. Bartimaeus and his buddy had their world turned completely upside down by their encounter with Jesus.
I want to highlight three important elements to their story. Maybe you can identify with some of them. First, I want to draw your attention to the crowd.
• THE CROWD
Jericho was the home of Jesus’ ancestor, Rahab, and was just a day’s journey from Jerusalem. The air was filled with excitement about the Jesus as the multitudes gathered, making pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Jesus and his entourage were on their way to Jerusalem for his Triumphal entry. People were singing his praises and clamoring just to get a glimpse of his face. There was a lot more traffic than Bartimaeus was accustom to. When he heard the noise of the crowd, he asked what was happening and, the Bible says, “The people told him that Jesus from Nazareth was passing by” (Luke 18:37 GWT). I can just see the excitement on Batrimaeus’s face when he heard the name Jesus. And as soon as he heard it, he started shouting. But the Bible says, “The crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet” (Matthew 20:31 GNT).
Why would they do that? Try to put yourself in the moment. The crowd was filled with enthusiasm as they followed Jesus into the city. They didn’t want anything to interrupt their perfect little procession. Their motives may have varied. Maybe they thought Jesus was too important to be bothered with rabble, like Bartimaeus and his companion. Maybe they figured the beggars would just ask for money, hoping to take advantage of Jesus’s celebrity status. Whatever their reasons, they rebuked the blind men who were crying out for help. Sadly, the crowd following Jesus is often the biggest roadblock to others crying out to Him for mercy.