Summary: In one of the most stressful times of Jesus' life, He heard a single voice cry out for mercy. And He stood still.
There is a church in downtown Washington, DC, right in an area where there are a lot of street people. Almost every Sunday, a few of them would come into the church and sit in the back pews and watch the service. They are scary people, because they are toothless and dirty and they have not bathed or changed clothes in months; but, they seem harmless because they are severely withdrawn.
One day a bearded old filthy man came into the church. He looked like the picture of Abraham in some old Bibles, and if you got within a couple of yards of him, your nose would suspect that he might really be that old. But this particular Sunday, this man did not sit in the back pew. He sat right in the middle of the squeaky clean congregation. Right in the middle of the sermon he began shouting, “Hallelujah! Glory to the Lamb!” and other such things. Then he began to preach, confirming what the pastor had said in his sermon, quoting the Bible from memory.
The pastor was clearly terrified during this ordeal. The whole church service had gotten out of control, and he didn’t know what to do. But, when the old man had finished, he departed while calling down blessings on all those in the sanctuary. The congregation sat there in stunned silence and shame - condemned by their expectations of chaos but instead receiving blessings from this dirty, old man.
A similar thing happened a couple of thousand years ago outside Jericho. The Jews were gathering for the Passover, a time to remember the deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It is a mixture of patriotic spirit and religious fervor. They would come from every corner of the world, singing the ancient Psalms of Israel. And they would come encouraging one another in joyous ecstasy. It is estimated that not fewer than a million strangers would gather in Jerusalem at the time of Passover.
Add to this the expectation of a certain Galilean who has raised Lazarus from the dead. Multiply this with the anticipation of a carpenter’s son who had cleansed the lepers. Compound that with the joy over a man who had miraculously fed thousands of people. On top of all that, rumors abounded that the Messiah had come and would take His throne upon entering Jerusalem. It was an important moment in the life of Israel. One that should not be interrupted or disturbed by any one.
Enter the dirty old man. His name is Bartimaeus. He sits on the side of the road on a worn out mat wearing a tattered cloak. He is unshaven, uncombed, and clothed in the dirt and filth of Palestine. His face is placid and his posture resembles that of a hunchback. And when you look into his eyes you see a vast emptiness.
He is also blind. He is deprived of the most valuable scent. He is a stranger to the beauties of nature. He can hear the sounds of voices, but cannot see the faces who speak. He can feel those who come in contact with him, but he cannot behold them. He is perfectly helpless and dependent.
He is also poor. Thus, he is not only blind, but a beggar. He is pitied for both but responsible for neither. He begs because he is poor and his poverty is due to his blindness; therefore, there is no sin in his begging. Apparently he receives enough to support a daily existence. But he requires much more for a full life.
Keep in mind that Bartimaeus is blind, not deaf. He had heard of Jesus. He may have heard about how Jesus had healed a blind man on a previous visit to Jerusalem. He may have heard what Jesus told the followers of John the Baptist: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
So, Bartimaeus sits, waiting. He thinks to himself, “If only I can get close enough for Him to hear me I can be made whole. But, what if he cannot hear me? What if he does not care about someone like me?” Bartimaeus has no one to introduce him to the Savior. No one to speak on his behalf. His one chance for healing will be totally up to him. He will sit and wait patiently for the Messiah.
(I wonder how long Bartimaeus sat there before Jesus passed by? I wonder how much of his life was wasted because he did not know how to find Jesus?)
Bartimaeus now begins to hear the crowd grow louder. He is told that it is Jesus of Nazareth passing by. But he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd saw with their eyes Jesus of Nazareth. Bartimaeus could see that it was the Son of David. In other words, he knew that this was the Messiah. The people saw Jesus as a carpenter’s son. Bartimaeus saw Him as God’s Son. The people saw someone going to be their king. Bartimaeus found the Savior for Whom he had been looking.