What an encounter this blind man has with Jesus! What a ‘before and after’ story! Before meeting Jesus, his life was one of constant physical darkness. It’s hard for us to imagine what that must be like. Imagine never being able to see the faces of your friends and family. You can hear the birds singing but you can’t see them fly. It’s amazing how much technology can help blind people today, but back then, there were no voice activated computers, brail books, or apps to identify food labels and bank notes. Unable to work, he had to beg by the roadside. It was a life of humiliation and poverty. After experiencing the power of Christ, he is transformed, his sight is restored, he is saved, and becomes a disciple of Jesus, which is the most fulfilling life that we can have.
Last week, we looked at the encounter between Jesus and the rich young ruler. There was no transformation in him. Why? Because he did not recognise who Jesus really is, refused to turn from his idolatry, and as a result would not ask Jesus for mercy. He had no faith. It’s amazing to compare to these two encounters. The rich young ruler is so well respected and has so much going for him, including his physical sight, and yet he is blind to the identity of Jesus. He just calls him ‘good teacher’. He is also blind to his own need, and to Jesus’ ability to save. In contrast, the man who is blind physically, is able to see so clearly spiritually, recognising that Jesus is none other than the Messiah, God’s Promised One, and this is evident as he gives Jesus the well-known Messianic title ‘Son of David’. He entrusts himself to Jesus and this faith leads to his salvation.
There’s so much about this blind man that can learn from and copy. He is one of the great examples of faith in the Bible. What can we learn from his example?
1. He recognises his need for help
This might seem like an obvious point because he is blind. He is unable to work, and unable to heal himself. He is dependent on others for help. He has nothing to offer Jesus, or anyone else for that matter. His needs are so great and yet he has nothing to bargain with. Actually, that is not a bad position to be in spiritually, if it leads us to cry to Jesus for mercy.
In this sense, the blind man stands for everyone who is not yet a Christian. Why? Because those who are unbelievers have a disease which is far more serious than blindness and that is that we are separated from God because of our sin and the fact that we want to live our lives ignoring God. This disease of sin is common to all of us, and is like blindness, because we cannot see our own rebellion, our own wickedness and selfishness. We are blind to the true meaning of life, which involves a relationship of love with our Maker. We are unable to cure ourselves of blindness, and have nothing to offer God to buy a cure. We are but spiritual beggars.
If you’re not yet a Christian, yes, you are blind spiritually, but there is good news for you – you can cry out to Jesus in prayer today and experience the same transformation which the blind man receives.
2. A determined faith
I think it’s likely that this blind man has heard reports about some of Jesus’ healing miracles. He must have longed for an opportunity to meet this great person one day. In fact, probably based on such reports, he knows that Jesus is more than a great person, but is in fact, God’s long-promised King. We read in Isaiah: ‘Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.’ (Isaiah 35:3-5)
The man must have heard the hubbub of the approaching crowd, and as soon as he hears Jesus is passing by, he seizes his opportunity by calling out to him. He’s not too embarrassed.
He calls out for mercy. In other words, he knows God doesn’t owe him anything, but in all his need and helplessness casts himself on the Lord’s care. That’s always the best possible thing we can do. But then we notice that some of the crowd try to silence him. They want him to stop shouting out. Perhaps they thought that blind beggars are at the bottom of the ladder and don’t really matter. But they matter to Jesus.
The blind man will not be put off. In fact, he shouts out all the louder. He is desperate for Jesus’ help, and is determined in his faith. : ‘But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.’ (Deuteronomy 4:29) He was probably used to calling out for money, but now he’s calling out for mercy with more urgency than he had ever had in his life.
Isn’t it amazing that when Jesus passes us by, whether that’s hearing about him in church or as we read the Bible at home, we too have people who want to prevent us from meeting with him? Here, it’s the crowd trying to stop the interaction. For you, you might want to come to church and a friend, or spouse might discourage you from going. Or you think of all the housework you need to catch up on. On you start thinking, there is no point. But true faith is determined. When it meets obstacles, it will keep going until it meets with Jesus. Think of the paralysed man and his 4 friends. When they are unable to enter the house full of people, their determined faith causes them to make a hole in the roof. Determined faith finds a way to meet with Jesus. This man seizes the opportunity to meet with Jesus. Make sure you do too. Don’t be put off. ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ (Jeremiah 29:13)
3. A test of faith
I love the way that Jesus signals his clear concern for the blind man by stopping to meet with him. Those in the crowd who told him to be quiet and to ‘pipe down’ were wrong. They acted as if this man was unimportant to Jesus and didn’t really matter. But nothing could be further from the truth. The question Jesus asks in verse 41 is a fascinating one: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus knows full well what the man wants. However, he gives the man an opportunity to publicly express his belief that Jesus is powerful enough to open the eyes of the blind. Can he really do that? In effect, the man says, ‘Yes Jesus, I believe you can do the impossible, and open my eyes’. This is indeed great faith.
If you’re not yet a Christian, do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? Will you pray to him and ask him to give you spiritual sight, and to forgive you and transform your life?
But this passage speaks powerfully to Christians also. Jesus passes us by when he’s preached in church, and when we read his Word and listen to his voice in the Scriptures. He asks us each and every day: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ How do you reply? Do you believe he is powerful enough to help you overcome sins that have been a part of your life for ages? Can he help you with your lust and selfishness and materialism and pride? Can he forgive your sins? Can he give you patience in your relationships and replace bitterness and hurt with love and compassion? He can do all of these things and more.
The question is, how are you answering this question: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ In Mark chapter 10, Jesus asks James and John this question and their answer is very disappointing. They want honour and prestige. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ (Mark 10:36-37) It would have been better to ask Jesus for the heart of a servant, so that we would look to the needs of others.
Dale Ralph Davis: Don’t you find you have to raise this cry for mercy again and again – because of doubt and fears in your own soul or because of matters in your family or marriage or because of the press and load in your work or calling or because of reverses in your or a loved one’s health… Do you ever get beyond this? ‘Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me?’ We never get beyond the need of Jericho grace.
And when we do cry out to Jesus for mercy, know that Jesus will listen to your prayer with the same attentiveness with which he heard the cries of the blind man. He is now in Heaven, but his ears are ever open to our cries. He loves to hear our cries for mercy, and will answer our prayers. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28)
4. Saving faith
What is a Christian? It is someone who realises their need of God’s forgiveness, who then cries out to Jesus for mercy and goes on to follow Jesus. We see all of these elements in this man. ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Romans 10:13)
Verse 42 Could easily be translated: ‘Your faith has saved you’. This man is healed of his blindness, but the biggest transformation has taken place in his heart. He has become a follower of Jesus Christ.
It’s a strange thing that his blindness, which had been a source of so much suffering over the years, was the very thing which led to his encounter with Jesus Christ. Such are the mysterious ways of God. Blindness turned out to be a blessing.
If you’re not yet a Christian, please understand that Jesus is passing you by right now, as we consider this wonderful passage of Scripture together. You don’t need to earn his mercy: you cannot. It is free. All you have to do is cry out to Jesus in prayer right now. And when we turn to him – Jesus the Saviour – our blindness becomes sight.
The life of discipleship is one where we constantly need the mercy of Jesus. So, let’s pause, and hear Jesus’ question one more time: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Why not answer Jesus now, by crying out to him from the depths of your being.