Summary: Think for a moment about what it would be like to be blind. No vision of blue skies, wind-blown trees, loved ones, favorite movie. Close yours eyes for a moment right now. Notice the absence of things. Notice all that is missing.
Keeping Prayer in Perspective
As we come to the end of our study in Matthew 20, we find a short story that is included in three of the four gospels. Keeping in mind our general rule of thumb that whenever the Bible tells us something three times it is of major significance, I would like for us today to take a very close look at these six verses in Matthew 20:29-34.
Let’s take care of a little housekeeping first—the variations in the three accounts. We have the account we are studying, Matthew 20:29-34, and then there are the accounts in Mark and Luke: Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43.
Mark speaks of only one blind man, as does Luke, and Mark actually tells us his name: Bartimeus. In the translation of Luke’s account, there is a word, eggizō, that in many translations has been rendered as “was approaching”.
Now, granted, many times that word is accurately translated that way in most instances because of the context that it is in. In this case, however, since the word also means “be at hand, be near”, I believe that it should be simply translated that way. It appears that the primary reason for rendering eggizō that way in Luke is because of Luke 19:1: “He entered Jericho and was passing through.”
Because of the order of the incidents recorded in Luke, the translators seem to have assumed that eggizō must mean, “approaching”. However, if instead what Luke reports in Luke 19, the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zaccheus, is included simply as a highlight of what happened while Jesus was in Jericho, then there is no conflict.
All right, now to our text for this morning.
Jericho was an ancient city and had been known for many centuries as “the city of palm trees”. Approximately fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem (about a day’s journey), it was the first city that Joshua and the Israelites conquered when they entered the Promised Land. One of Jesus’ ancestors, Rahab, was from Jericho.
This is the only time, according to the gospel records, that Jesus was in Jericho. That should make all of us aware that, even though God will continue to draw all mankind to Himself, Jesus may only pass by one time—and it is that one time that a person needs to reach out for Him. He may not be back this way. There may not be another chance.
Think for a moment about what it would be like to be blind. Think about all of the things that you enjoy looking at and watching. Think about how simple life is when you have good, clear vision. Think about how complicated and uncomfortable life becomes when your vision begins to weaken and grow dim.
Now consider all that you would lose if you were unable to see at all. No vision of blue skies, wind-blown trees, loved ones, favorite movie. Close yours eyes for a moment right now. Notice the absence of things. Notice all that is missing.
Do you realize that that is how we are spiritually before Jesus Christ is welcomed into our hearts and lives? Do you realize that, even after we have accepted Him as Savior and given Him the Lordship of our lives that, in every area where we have not surrendered to Him, we still have spiritual blindness?
These two men, sitting by the side of that dusty road just outside of Jericho, could taste the dust in the air, feel the sun on their cheeks, and hear the scuffle of thousands of feet as the crowd went by, but they could see no one, they could see nothing.
They had no visual perception of the sights of that day. But, their hearing was exceptional. Even that is a mercy of God—that He has so created us that, when one of our senses is absent, the remaining ones become heightened in their capacities.
On this day, they heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth that was passing by with the crowd. Now, there had been many, many groups of people—some large, some small—passing this way in recent days. The time of the Passover was drawing near, and hundreds of thousands of people—men, women, and children—were making the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Would these men be going to Jerusalem for Passover? Probably not—how were they going to get there? The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was one of the most dangerous pieces of road to travel in that ancient land. In fact, clear into the 19th century, men were still being attacked, beaten, robbed, stripped of all of their possessions—including the clothes they had on—and left for dead. Remember the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10)? Same piece of road.
So, once again, their hopes of being acceptable members of society, of sharing in their rightful heritage as part of God’s chosen people, their chances were once again non-existent.