And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus…
I. What, then, does this healing stand for in the higher spiritual world? Surely, nothing less than regeneration — the new birth of the soul. Of the many images employed by the Holy Ghost to set forth our natural state, perhaps none is more frequent than blindness. Darkness is ever the chosen symbol of the kingdom of Satan, and light of the kingdom of God.
1. That the new birth is from God. If the harp be broken, the hand of the maker may repair it, and wake the chords again to their old power and sweetness. There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud and bring forth boughs like a plant. But who can restore the shattered crystal, so that the sunbeams shall stream through it without finding a flaw, and flash, once more, as of old, in the ever-changing play of their splendour? And who can open the eyes of the blind? Who can restore to that most lustrous and precious of gems, its expression and power, when distorted and blotted by disease or violence? Who shall open again those delicate pathways for the light of two worlds — the outer world shining in and filling the soul with images of beauty, and that inner world shining out in joy, love, and thankfulness? Surely none but the Maker of this curious frame, who, when sin had so cruelly marred it, came in compassion as infinite as His might, to be Redeemer and Restorer where He had already been Creator. Only He can open the eyes of the blind. The power of God is in that work. But if a man die shall he live again? Oh, if the soul be dead, dead in guilt and corruption and the curse of Almighty God, can it revive? Yes, thanks be to God! by reason of the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead (after He had been delivered for our offences), we also may be quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, and children of wrath, we may be quickened together with Christ; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
2. In the light of this miracle we also learn that, whatever activities the sinner may put forth before and after his regeneration, in the great change he is passive. All, the agonies of the blind man, all his tears and cries, all his rolling and straining his sightless balls, had just nothing at all to do with the act of restoration. That was Christ's alone. And so in the new birth — "born of God," tells it all. It is the "unparticipated work" of the Holy Ghost. In this, regeneration is distinguished from conversion. God turns the man, but the man, so moved, turns with his whole heart. It is the day of God's great "power," but also of the sinner's great "willingness." The fire which the sun has kindled mounts toward it at once. The kindling of the heavenly flame is regeneration; its upward motion, conversion. Regeneration is the Divine cause; conversion, the sure effect. Where there is the grace of life, there will be a life of grace.
3. Light did not open Bartimeus' eyes, nor does truth alone regenerate the sinner. Pouring light on blind eyes will not heal them. Flashing truth, even God's glorious truth, on the sinner's mind will not regenerate him. Bartimeus was as blind at noon as at midnight. The sinner is as blind under the blaze of the gospel as amid the glooms of heathenism.
II. Let me now speak of the greatness and glory of this change.
III. As "Bartimeus immediately received his sight," so, in regeneration, the great change is instantaneous. There is some one moment when the vision of the blind man, and the new life of the sinner begins. It may be feeble, but it has begun, and for the faintest beginning the creative act is needed. The main thing for every sinner is, to be able on good ground to say, Whereas I was blind, now I see. If he can say this, and have the witness of the Spirit to its truth, it matters little whether he is able to add, On such a day, in such a place, by such and such means, my eyes were opened. A good ship has been broken by the tempest. Mast and rudder and compass, all are gone. The storm is over, but the wreck is drifting away blindly through night and fog. At length all is still, and the wondering sailors wait for the day. Tardily and uncertainly it dawns, and as the heavy mists slowly dissolve, all eyes are busy trying to discover where they are. At length one descries a cliff which seems familiar, another a pier in which he can hardly be mistaken, a third the old church spire, under whose shadow his mother is sleeping, and now, as the sun breaks forth, they all cry out in joyful assurance, that they are in the desired haven! Mysteriously and without their aid, the Ruler of wind and wave has brought them there, and all are exulting in the great deliverance. Nay, shall we say not all? Can you imagine one poor melancholy man refusing to rejoice, and even doubting these evidences, because he cannot tell the hour and angle of his arrival, nor whether he was borne chiefly by currents of air or ocean?
IV. On the blessedness of this change in Bartimeus — image of the spiritual blessedness of him who is first tasting that the Lord is gracious — I can hardly bring myself to comment. When after long imprisonment in the chamber of suffering, we go forth again, leaning, perhaps, on the arm of a congenial friend, to breathe once more the fresh air, and rejoice in the measureless freedom of nature, she seems to have clothed her green fields and forests, her blue skies and waters, in a brighter pomp of "summer bravery" than ever before, and the strange beauty fills and almost oppresses the soul. In what affecting terms does Dr. Kane describe the almost adoring rapture with which the return of the first sunshine was hailed, after the long horror of an Arctic night — the frozen blackness of months' duration, when he eagerly climbed the icy hills "to get the luxury of basking in its brightness," and made the grateful record, "Today, blessed be the Great Author of light! I have once more looked upon the sun;" while his poor men, sick, mutilated, broken hearted, and ready to die, crawled painfully from their dark berths to look upon his healing beams; when "everything seemed superlative lustre and unsurpassable glory," when they could not refrain; they "oversaw the light." But what was this, what were all these, to the wonder and joy of Bartimeus' first vision of the mighty works of God? They already had the sense of sight, and had enjoyed many pleasurable exercises of it. To him the very sense is new, unimagined before. And now, at the word of Christ, the glorious element comes streaming, suddenly and for the first time, and in its fulness, with thrills of inconceivable bliss, upon the sense and soul buried from birth in utter darkness. And what did he see first? Jesus, his best friend, his Saviour! Jesus, chiefest of ten thousand and altogether lovely; O enviable lot! The first image which the light of heaven formed in his soul was the image of that dear face; O rich recompense for the long pains of blindness! The first employment of his eyes was in beholding Him that opened them; O blessed consecration of his new powers and pleasures! Gaze on, old man! Thou canst not look too ardently or too long. But is the joy which attends spiritual illumination answerable to this? Not always (we have seen) as the immediate result. But it is attainable, and very soon the believer aught to have it, and, unless through ignorance, error, or guilt, will have it, and that abundantly. Moreover, the Bible is the sole Revealer of a conception of joy, in comparison with which every other idea of it, wherever found, is poor, earthly, and already darkened with the taint of death. It is a conception in which every best element of every earthly delight, by whatever name known — all the serenity of peace, all the exhilaration of hope, all the satisfaction of fruition, all the liveliness and sparkle of joy, all the mellower radiance of gladness, all the flush and bound of exultation, all the thrill and movement of rapture, are wrought into one surpassing combination, which, chastened by holiness, softened by charity, dignified by immortality and transfused by the beams of the all-encircling glory of the Godhead, is Blessedness. It elevates the soul to know of such a state as possible for itself; it purifies it to hope for it; strengthens it to strive after it. What, then, must it be to taste it, as we may on earth, and drink it to the full, as we shall forever in heaven!
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.