Bart and Zach
Luke 18:36 – 19:10
CHCC: March 20, 2011
The two miracles we’re going to talk about today happened during the last month of Jesus’ life. For several weeks Jesus and his disciples had been slowly traveling toward Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus told his Apostles clearly that he was going to be executed in Jerusalem. But they just weren’t ready to hear that. They still hoped that Jesus would set himself up as the King of the Jews when he came into Jerusalem.
A growing crowd of people traveled with Jesus. And as they traveled, Jesus was teaching and healing. They were only 15 miles from Jerusalem when Luke 18:35 says, As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18:35-38
We know this man’s name was Bartimaeus from the gospel of Mark. Notice that Bart calls Jesus the “Son of David” … which is the title of the Messiah. Bart believed … not just that Jesus was the promised Messiah … but also that Jesus could heal him. He wasn’t shy about calling out to Jesus --- and his enthusiasm annoyed the people around him: Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18:39
This was a procession … or a sort of parade … coming into Jericho. And certain officials were leading the way. These leaders wanted Bart to tone it down … they didn’t want the "riff-raff" spoiling the effect.
Have you ever known someone who got “too excited” about Jesus? You’ll find that if you get “too excited” about Jesus, there will always be people around you who want you to calm down. Mike Yaconelli wrote: “Threaten others with a loud and boisterous faith, and you will be politely asked to quiet down; dance your faith instead of sitting still in a pew, and you will be asked to leave; talk about your faith with passion and you will get expressions of concern about the inappropriateness of your emotions.”
When William Wilberforce was a teenager, his family criticized him for hanging around with the Methodists. The established churches back then had a derogatory term for this new Christian group. They called them “enthusiasts.” The British folk of that day had disdain for any show of intense emotion. This carried over into the church. Religion had its proper time and place, but you shouldn’t take it too far. Wilbur’s parents tried to keep him from getting too excited about Jesus. If he’d followed their advice, William Wilberforce would never have led the movement to abolish slavery in England.
Well, if the crowd thought Bart was too excited, they hadn’t seen anything yet! Soon Bart would be doing a lot more than shouting. You see, Jesus stopped the parade and gave blind Bart his sight. And as soon as Bart was healed, he followed Jesus, praising God.
Here’s what strikes me about this miracle. When Bart received his sight, the first thing he saw was the face of Jesus. It makes me think of a hymn-writer named Fanny Crosby. Fanny was quoted as saying this about her blindness: “If I could have one request it would be to remain blind … because when I get to heaven, the first face that will ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”
Fanny Crosby wrote thousands of hymns. One of them contains these words:
When my life-work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him, and redeemed by his side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him, by the print of the nails in His hand.
The first thing Bart ever saw was the smile on Jesus’ face. He responded by becoming one of Jesus’ most enthusiastic followers. It’s likely he followed Jesus all the way to Jerusalem. If that’s the case, then Bart was about to see another miracle. He was about to see a camel go through the eye of a needle. Let me explain…
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. Luke 19:1-3
Speaking of the Tax Man – this was an actual letter received by the IRS a few years ago – “Dear Sir: Enclosed you will find a check for $150.00. I cheated on my income tax returns last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping, I will send you the rest…”
Zach was not just a tax collector; he was the CHIEF tax collector in Jericho, which was the center of a vast trade network that extended from Damascus to Egypt. This means Zach was extremely wealthy. If Rome charged a 5% tax, the collector would require 10% and take the left over. Zach was in charge of all the agents in his region, so he was at the top of the “tax collector” pyramid.
Jericho was crowded with people going to Jerusalem for the Passover … too crowded for this short little guy to get a look at Jesus. Notice it doesn’t say the Zach wanted to see Jesus. It says he wanted to see who Jesus was. Zach was different in this way from Bart. Blind Bartimaeus believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It sounds like Zach was mostly just curious. He probably thought he’d find a way to take a quick look at this Jesus person, and then go back to life as usual. But that’s not how it turned out.
We’ll summarize the story with a familiar little song. (If you know it, you can sing it with me …)
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree,
And he said, "Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I'm going to your house today, for I'm going to your house today"
The little song doesn’t tell ALL of the story: verse 7 says, All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Many of the people believed that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he would declare Himself to be the Messiah and set himself up as the King of the Jews. They were looking for a Political Savior --- someone who would lead them in a revolt against Rome … not someone who would cozy up to a traitor like Zacchaeus.
Then an amazing thing happened. Zacchaeus stood up and said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Luke 19:8
In Luke 18:25 Jesus had said that it was “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” And here we see just that. One of the richest men in Jericho was willing to give up his wealth in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Albert Switzer once said, “If you own something that you cannot give away, then you don’t own I; it owns you.” Sometimes Christians feel like they’re doing something great if they give 10% to the church. But if you add up everything Zach promised to give away, he might be lucky to have 10% left! This camel through the eye of a needle kind of miracle is rare.
A famous television producer named Kenneth Clark wrote an autobiography where he told about a religious experience he had. He said he was visiting a church when, “my whole being was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had ever known before.” (In other words he came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.)
From that time onward he said that he felt like he was living under something he described as the “gloom of grace.” He realized that if he allowed himself to respond to his spiritual yearnings, his friends and family would think he had lost his mind. So he decided to resist this pull toward God and keep living life as usual. He concluded, “I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course.”
Are you too embedded in the world to change course? Or will you respond the way Zacchaeus did. All it took was a look into Jesus’ face for a little man with a BIG bank account to see the truth. Zach’s spiritual eyes were opened. He saw himself clearly for the first time, and he repented. And his life was immediately … and amazingly … transformed!
Here’s what Jesus said about Zach: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10
3. The Greater Miracle
We’re coming to the end of this series on the Power of Jesus. Week after week we’ve read about miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus healed hundreds of people in all kinds of ways. He healed those with faith and those whose faith was weak. He healed those who asked and some who didn’t even ask for healing. These healings seem effortless. All it took was a touch, or a word, or even just for someone to touch the hem of his robe.
Have you ever wondered why we don’t see these kind of miracles today? I have. I think it’s good to talk about that question, because people can get the wrong ideas about faith and healing.
I’ve know people who questioned God’s love for them because God didn’t heal them. I’ve known others who questioned their own faith … they felt like if they’d just had more faith God would have healed them. In fact, I’ve known people who were TOLD by a faith-healer that the reason they were sick was because they didn’t have “enough faith.”
A few weeks ago, I saw a special on TV about faith healers. In that show, Lisa Ling went to the meeting of a renowned faith healer where she interviewed a man named Steve. When he was 18, Steve was in a car crash that left him with brain injury and a speech impediment. Years after that, he fell off a roof and was paralyzed from the waist down.
Doctors said Steve would never walk again --- but Steve said God had told him this was his time to be healed. He was completely convinced that he would leave that meeting walking and pushing his wheelchair.
His faith was absolute … he didn’t express a single doubt that God was about to heal him.
On the last day of the meeting, Steve’s turn came. He went forward and sat in a row of people where the faith-healer touched his forehead and said “bam!” Then a group of people prayed over him, reached under his arms, and lifted him up --- but then after a couple of minutes, they set him back in his wheel chair. His condition was unchanged.
After this, Lisa Ling became very concerned for Steve. She knew he was completely convinced that he would be healed and she wondered what would happen to his faith. When she found Steve after the meeting, though, she was amazed. He was disappointed --- but his faith was unshaken.
In his halting voice, Steve told her, “It wasn’t my time to be healed --- but one day I will walk and run --- when I get to Heaven, God will give me a new body.” Then Steve laid his hand on Lisa and prayed for her.
When I saw that, I realized I was witnessing a miracle. The miracle wasn’t in the man’s legs … it was a miracle of his soul --- the light of Jesus was shining out of his heart. After all, a physical healing is always temporary. But spiritual healing lasts for eternity.
While he was on earth, --- Jesus healed people who were paralyzed (like Steve.) He healed the sick, the blind, the deaf, the crippled, and the lepers. He even raised the dead. But notice that Jesus didn’t “hype” the healings. In fact, he often instructed people not to tell anyone about their miracle.
Jesus made it clear that healing was NOT the main event. Physical healings are temporary at best. (After all, none of those folks Jesus healed are still alive today, are they?) Jesus performed signs and wonders so we would know that He IS the one and only Son of God.
I believe that God does heal people today. I believe in praying for healing … and I’ve seen God heal people in miraculous ways. But Scripture doesn’t promise that every ailment will always be healed. God’s plan is NOT to keep these mortal bodies running around in this fallen world forever. Jesus came to do something more amazing … and more lasting … than a temporary physical fix.
Bart and Zach give pictures of a physical healing and of a spiritual healing. Bart’s blind eyes were opened. Zach’s spiritual eyes were opened. There is no doubt that Jesus has the power to do both.
But the GREATER miracle is spiritual healing. Jesus came so that our sins can be forgiven and we can receive salvation.
Seek eternal healing that only Jesus can give – the same life-changing healing that Bart and Zach received as soon as Jesus opened their eyes.