Summary: Jesus' mercy is only for those who say, “Have mercy.”
“No mercy” is a popular slogan seen on bumper stickers and t-shirts. Sports fans like to display it. No mercy for the other team! My guess is that pro wrestling has helped to popularize the concept with its tough guy/bad boy image of wrestlers who mercilessly attack one another.
One will also see on t-shirts worn by Christians the slogan, “know mercy.” That is the kind of slogan Jesus would approve as seen by our text.
46 Then they came to Jericho. This is the last leg of the journey to Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples have crossed over the Jordan and are about eighteen miles northeast of the city. They have now joined in with a crowd of pilgrims who are traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.
As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.
Begging is a common sight. Palestine is a poor country and most of the handicapped are reduced to begging. One of the pillars of Jewish righteousness is to give alms to the poor. Bartimaeus is sitting along the road, probably calling out something like, “Alms for the poor! Alms for the blind!” He certainly has positioned himself well along the road that pilgrims take to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. They are in a good frame of mind to do righteous acts on their way to the temple of God.
But Bartimaeus becomes really excited when he hears who is among the traveling crowd.
47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
We are going to come back to this statement, but first note Bartimaeus’ excitement and persistence.
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuke him. “Quiet, will you!” “Hey, hold it down!” The procession, by the way, in all likelihood is noisy. Bartimaeus would have to shout to be heard. This is a large Jewish crowd of pilgrims heading to the Passover festival in Jerusalem. Such a pilgrimage is not a quiet somber affair. Lots of people are talking and shouting, and very likely they are singing. Indeed, at least fourteen psalms are designated as “Songs of Ascent,” i.e. songs to be sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
Let me read the words of one of the songs (Psalm 123).
1 I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.
2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
3 Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us,
for we have endured much contempt.
4 We have endured much ridicule from the proud,
much contempt from the arrogant.
Picture the scene now. A group starts singing: I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. Maybe even blind Bartimaeus joins in. Wouldn’t he love to see God’s throne – the temple in Jerusalem? He hears someone comment, “Look, that is Jesus of Nazareth with his disciples.”