And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus…
Our Lord stood face to face with men. He said with truth, "I spake openly to the world, and in secret have! said nothing." His life was spent in the glare of publicity. His miracles were not performed among chosen witnesses, who might be interested in the propagation of what was false; nor in the secrecy of some convent or retreat. They were wrought on the mountain-side, in full view of five thousand men, besides women and children; in a synagogue full of worshippers hostile to his claims; or on a public road, crowded with pilgrims going to the Passover. This not only strengthened the evidence of the supernatural, but it was a sign that the blessings signified by such wonders were not intended for a class but for a race. Therefore we must beware lest we, by act or word, should be saying to any earnest seeker, what the crowd said to Bartimaeus, "Hold thy peace!" By our coldness we may tacitly rebuke enthusiasm, and by our inconsistencies we may destroy the desires of the contrite. Christ can save us from this. He can by a word transform us, as he transformed that crowd, so that those who had just been saying, "Hold thy peace," became ready to say, "Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee." Subject - In this miracle we have reminders of some characteristics of our Lord.
I. THE POWER OF JESUS. Its exemplification outside Jericho was appropriate both to the beauty of the city and to its memories. Jericho was an oasis in the desert. There palms flourished and roses grew. Whether approaching it from the robber-haunted road from Jerusalem, or from the Dead Sea valley, it was significant of the Paradise Christ came to restore, which would be beautiful with the flowers of his grace and fragrant with the sweetness of his love. And here Joshua, the Jesus of the Old Testament, had proved the power that was his because the Lord was with him. The angel of the covenant which appeared to him was a precursor of the mighty Conqueror who came now. As the giant walls of the city had fallen by the simplest means, so now the darkness was conquered by light through a single word.
1. This power is manifest if you consider the condition of the sufferer. Blindness then was common, unalleviated, incurable. No wonder that it was used as an emblem of insensibility to spiritual facts and things. There is a sphere of thought, hope, and desire which many never know. Intelligent and active, they ask, "Are we blind also?" and the Lord says, "Because being blind you say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth." Because there is no sense of want there is no cry for a blessing, and because there is no such cry the light is not given. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Tests may be applied to the spiritual condition as to the physical malady which represents it. An oculist is not satisfied with a casual question; he patiently and variously tests the organ, by presenting objects and asking respecting one after another, "Can you see this?" So we may test ourselves by seeing what sin is, and what God is to us.
2. This power appears greater as you contrast it with the weakness of men. Like those in the crowd, we can see the Lord and hear his voice, and as far as sympathy and prayer go may lead others to him. But after all the main issue rests between each man and Christ. If there is no spiritual contact he is left in darkness. Sometimes the most unlikely are chosen. A publican like Zacchaeus is visited in a city of priests, and a blind beggar on the road is invited to join the festal procession.
3. This power appears in the exercise of its Divine freedom. Bartimaeus was not dealt with as were those of whom he had heard. The man born blind had been told to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he of Bethsaida was led out of the town uncured. Yet no one would question the reality of the change in the other. Each could say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." Let us not expect the same experiences, but only the same effects of Divine contact with Christ. He is willing to lead us into light, but each one of us in his own way.
II. THE PITY OF JESUS. Describe the pitiable condition of Bartimaeus. It is sad enough for a rich man to be blind, but it is a terrible aggravation of the privation when he who endures it has to beg his daily bread. Nor did Bartimaeus know, as we do, God's love in Christ. He had not the assurance that "all things work together for good." He had not seen the cross which sanctifies sadness to each believer. In his darkness he cried to the Light of the world, and not in vain. The pity of the Lord always surpassed infinitely that of those around him. The disciples rebuked the children, but Jesus said, "Suffer them to come." Simon the Pharisee condemned the sinful woman, but Jesus let her bathe his feet with her tears. Judas blamed the waste of the ointment, but the Lord said, "She hath wrought a good work on me." The crowd said, "Hold thy peace," but the Lord said, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"
III. THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. A crisis had come in the life of Bartimaeus, when a single resolve would make all the difference to his future. Jesus was "passing," and therefore was within reach; but he was "passing by," and therefore would soon be beyond reach. Such crises appear unexpected to us; but he who knows the heart sees that they are not really so. Bartimaeus had heard of the words and works of Jesus before this, and, shut up to his own thoughts, he had pondered them in the dark; so he was ready now to salute Jesus as "the Son of David." Similar preparation has been going on in your heart. A trouble has solemnized your thoughts; a tender touch at home has aroused new sensibility; a word has startled you to consideration; and now you are nearer Christ than before. "Jesus is passing by." Unseen, as by Bartimaeus, yet able to hear the believing prayer for mercy. See to it that the world's "Hold thy peace!" does not stifle the cry for help. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.