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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Baptist Magazine, 1848
“And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. And behold two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, that they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I should do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."—Matthew 20: 29 to the end.
It is delightful to trace our blessed Lord from place to place, to listen to the applications which were made to him, and to see him continually dispensing blessings. The life of our blessed Lord is filled up with these interesting facts, individuals applying to him in circumstances of the deepest distress, and all made to rejoice in the manifestations of his goodness.
You recollect that he rested the truth of his Messiahship on this. When a message was sent to him by John, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?" he did not return a direct answer. It would have been sufficient if he had said, “I am he.” John would have believed him, but his answer was equally satisfactory to John, and more so to others: “Go,” says he, “and shew John…the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.” (Matt. 11:4-6)
As if he had said, “Let him judge from these circumstances whether he is yet to look for another. John is well acquainted with the prophecies, and he will immediately refer all these displays of the divine power and goodness to me. Isaiah, in speaking of the glorious day of the Messiah, had said, ‘then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.’”
One cannot help being struck with the simplicity with which these narrations are given. Here is no attempt to increase their interest by a laboured description. The events are wonderful, but they are spoken of as every day occurrences, and such they appear to have been in the life of our Lord. Many are related, and the apostle John closes his gospel by declaring that there were many other things which he did, and which if they should be written every one, the world itself would not contain the books that should be written.
The story contained in the words I have read, is in substance given us by two other of the evangelists, Mark and Luke. There are some little circumstances of variety, the principal of which is, that they make mention of only one, and Mark tells us his name was Bartimeus, the son of Timeus. Probably his might be the more remarkable or singular of the two cases, which might induce a particular reference to him, while Matthew refers to the fact of there being another also.
Let us offer a few remarks on the ease of these two blind beggars, for such in truth they were, and secondly, notice the conduct of our blessed Lord towards them.
There are several circumstances in the case of the men themselves worthy of our notice. Their affliction; the mixture of mercy there was in it; the situation in which they had placed themselves; their petition; their perseverance in their petition; and so on.
In the first place, their affliction is worthy of notice. They were blind. The value of sight, like many other blessings, is overlooked by us, because we have never felt the want of it. It not only the avenue of an abundance of natural enjoyments and social comforts but it is the door at which knowledge enters—the door at which the knowledge of God enters. To be deprived of this blessing is an affliction far beyond the conception of those who have never experienced it.
But there was a mixture of mercy in their affliction. Every avenue of knowledge was not dosed, though this was. They had not lost their hearing. There are two instances intimated in the history in which their hearing availed them. They heard the voice of a multitude passing by; they were led to inquire the cause of this; and they learned that Jesus of Nazareth passed by, and this was a great mercy to them. By the readiness with which they began to cry to him, and the nature of their supplication, it is plain that they must have heard of him before that time.
Thus the want of sight was supplied by the hearing, and they had heard to good purpose. No doubt they had heard that the lame, the blind, and the deaf wherever he went were healed, and they had come to the resolution, “Oh, if he should but come our way, if we can but get within reach of him, if we can but once obtain an audience, our supplication shall come before him. Thus we learn from these men the wisdom of looking rather to the circumstances of mitigation than of poring over an affliction; and also of a diligent improvement of the mercies God has graciously granted us; and it will be no excuse to our own consciences for their misimprovement, that God has not committed to us other talents also.
But notice further, the situation in which they were. They sat by the wayside. It was a natural situation for poor men who depended on the alms of their countrymen for support. Their affliction gave them a claim to relief, and hearing that an extraordinary personage passed by who could confer upon them a still more important blessing than they were asking of others, they applied to him for it, and thus we learn from their case that those who need mercy should place themselves in mercy's way.
Let us next notice their petition. This part of our subject calls for our special attention. It was very short, but it was very full, and expressive of an ardent mind, of a tender heart, and of earnest desire. No sooner did they hear that Jesus passed that way, than they began to cry out, "Have mercy on us, thou Son of David." It is a charming example of brief and comprehensive prayer. We have many examples of prayer in scripture, and they are all of this brief, comprehensive kind. We never read of a poor sinner who applied for mercy, standing long to present his supplication. These men poured forth their hearts in a few comprehensive words, and waited for mercy.
But let us look a little more closely at this petition. It carries in it much of the prayer of faith. The evangelist Luke mentions that our Lord told Bartimeus, "Thy faith hath saved thee." (Luke 18:42) This petition then may be regarded as the prayer of faith. It is full of faith in every part of it, but particularly in addressing the object of it as the Son of David. This was merely another way of calling him the Messiah. It was well understood in the land of Judea that to say "the Son of David" was the same as saying "the Messiah." The Pharisees knew this, and when it was asked in respect of the Messiah, "whose son is he?" They could answer, "the Son of David," while at the same time they denied that that character belonged to our blessed Lord.
When the multitude of disciples cried "Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord," and the children cried Hosanna in the temple, they were ready to gnash their teeth with indignation: "Master," said they, "rebuke thy disciples." They felt that it was no less than attributing to him the character of Messiah, the Son of God. No matter how much the scribes and Pharisees might rebuke them, the disciples persisted in calling him the Son of David, and so did these two blind men to whom our text refers.
But this is not all. They beautifully touched on that part of his character by which he should be distinguished—namely, his mercy. It was predicted in the seventy-second Psalm of the Messiah the Son of David, "He shall deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, and him that hath no helper.” Mercy was to be his prominent feature; mercy was distinguish his character throughout his reign; and they most delightfully touched upon that, as if they had said, “Oh thou whose character is distinguished by mercy; thou whose very coming into the world is a display of mercy; thou whose gracious errand is to display mercy of infinite degree; let thy mercy be displayed towards us – let us participate in its benefits.
It is also worthy of notice how they appropriated this general truth to their own particular circumstances, and thus they furnish us with a fine example of the appropriation of faith, converting a general truth to their own particular case. The general truth here intimated is that Messiah, the son of David, is full of mercy and compassion. They that turn that into a prayer – “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” The design of mercy originated in the heart of God. It flows to guilty men through the Mediator; they feel their need of mercy, and they take the encouragement which is thus presented to them.
This is the most prevalent mode of prayer of any that is recorded in the oracles of God; to convert the general truths of scripture into a petition for our own souls. Is he a Saviour? "Lord, save me." Is he an Advocate? "Lord, plead my cause." Is he the Physician of souls? “Lord, cure my spiritual maladies; I am unsound, but thou canst heal me— make me whole." Is he a God, pardoning sin? "Lord, pardon thou mine iniquity, for it is great." This is the prayer of faith; it brings down the truths of God's Word to our own particular case. Faith must be founded on the divine revelation, and the prayer of the contrite sinner founded upon that, will ever meet with acceptance at the throne of grace.
Further, we may remark, that the magnitude of this petition corresponds with the riches of Him to whom it was to be was addressed. These poor men had asked many an alms before; they sat by the way-side for the purpose of obtaining the charity of passengers their daily food, but they had never asked any passerby for sight; it would have been little less than blasphemy to have done so. But when the Saviour came, they never thought of asking him for money; that would have been the most egregious trifling. Their thoughts were turned into an entirely different channel.
They now sought for mercy—mercy such as he alone could grant; a blessing suited to their circumstances, and which they believed he was able and willing to give. It was natural that it should so. If we ask a favour of any creature, we shall ask according to what we conceive his capacity to grant, but in our approaches to God through Jesus Christ, in our approaches to the Son of David, the Son of God, we shall enlarge our petitions. By what rule will he give? "According to the riches of his grace." He gives like a God. While the poor widow gives her two mites, the nobleman, if he acts in character, will give as a nobleman, and the prince as a prince, but none will give like God, he gives "according to the riches of his ; grace, treasured up in Christ Jesus."
Notice lastly, their perseverance in their petition, and this notwithstanding the opposition of those around them. Some rebuked them; some bade them hold their peace. Probably this might be from different motives. There might be some unbelievers among them; scribes and Pharisees, men of the same stamp as those who were displeased at hearing the songs of the children in the temple. They would be confounded at hearing this epithet bestowed on Christ, and they would say, “Let us have none of this which we are pleased to call blasphemy.”
Others might wish to silence them, in consequence of the interruption which it occasioned them. The Saviour probably, as he passed along, would be scattering his divine instructions, and they might wish to hear the precepts he delivered. They had not learned the Christian lesson of making a sacrifice of their own comfort for the benefit of them. Some also might be unwilling that our blessed Lord should be disturbed by the crying of these poor men. If so, they were not aware of all the compassion of his heart.
But however, these men were not to be silenced by any such considerations. It was an urgent case, and they felt it so. Methinks I hear them say, "What, hold our peace? When are we to speak if it is not now, when the Saviour is close at hand? He may never come this way again. This may be the only opportunity afforded us: hold our peace now? No. We will cry the more! Thou Son of David, have mercy on us." They felt themselves under the necessity of doing so, in order to drown the clamour of their opponents by their supplications for mercy. They were determined if possible to reach the ear of the compassionate Saviour, and therefore "they cried so much the more a great deal," as one of the evangelists tells us, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on us."
My friends, have we never seen anything like this? When a poor sinner is made to feel his need of the Saviour, and he begins to sue for mercy, it may be that there are a number of persons presenting obstacles greater than those which the multitude presented on this occasion. Some of his neighbours will be ready to say, "Hold your peace; what need of all this ado about religion” You are good enough already; at all events you have been as good as your neighbours. Hold your peace."
The formal professors of religion will join in the clamour of the multitude. Those who have just religion enough to give them a name among Christians, will not see the necessity for all this anxiety and all this care, and will call it enthusiasm, and take every means of discountenancing it. But if you are truly sensible of your sinful and perishing condition before God, neither the language of the open unbeliever nor of the cold-hearted formalist will silence you; but on the contrary, you will rather cry so much the more; you will be more earnest in your supplications. Nothing will satisfy you till you can obtain the ear of the Saviour.
But you may also meet with opposition from within; secret misgivings of heart, despondency, unbelief, will suggest that it is a vain thing to cry for mercy, either that it is too late, or that you are too great a sinner, or that it is a blessing greater than such a sinner as you have been have any reason to expect. But if you have the spirit of these men, you will not be turned aside by these suggestions of your own hearts, but you will pray so much the more. You will pray against your own heart, like one who cried, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)
We have seen the affliction of these poor men. The mixture of mercy there was in it. The situation they were in, their petition, and their perseverance. Let us next notice the compassionate conduct of our divine Redeemer towards them. This is all summed up in a few words, but there is much contained in them. "He stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I should do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes; and immediately their eyes received sight."
In this brief account there are several things worthy of notice. Here are steps in the progress, and it will be worthwhile to stop at every step. First, our Lord stood still; then he called them; then he put it to their choice what he should do for them; and lastly, he mercifully healed them.
He stood still. Here we perceive the wonderful compassion of the Redeemer. What is this but saying that he was arrested by the voice of prayer? Our Saviour, in the course of his life met with many things which were intended to arrest him. Some of the scribes told him that Herod thought to kill him, but it was not the threat of Herod that could stop him for a moment. "Go ye" said he, "and tell that fox…I do cures to day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." (Luke 13:32)
Once we are told that one of his disciples attempted to arrest him. He had set his face to go to Jerusalem, and had intimated that he should there be cruelly treated, and put to death. The heart of Peter was moved at the very thought, and he desired in consequence to stop him in his progress. But this ill-judging kindness of the disciple could not turn him aside; he well knew what was before him: but he had a baptism to be baptized with, and he was straitened till it was accomplished. (Luke 12:50) Nothing could stop him in his benevolent course. But here, the prayer of two poor miserable men arrests him in his progress and he stands still. Oh, the amazing compassion of the Redeemer!
There is something in this that seems to resemble another case. When the Saviour was hanging on the cross, the chief priests mocked him, with the scribes and elders, but he took no notice. The two malefactors, one on his right hand and the other on his left, reviled him, and spake in the most bitter and reproachful language of him, but he made no answer; slander could not touch him, reproach had not the least effect upon him; still he made no answer.
At length one of them in his expiring moments exclaims, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Immediately the Saviour's attention is attracted, and he replies, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." (Luke 22:43) He is moved, so to speak, by this petition; he is arrested by prayer. Here then is the way of taking the kingdom of heaven by storm. Approach the Saviour with the language of Israel, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me," (Gen. 32:26) and you will prevail. Praying breath has never been spent in vain. The prayer of the contrite soul is delightful to his ear. In this the Saviour realizes the purchase of his dying groans. He "sees of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." (Isa. 53:11)
The next thing which is noticed is that he calls them. His standing still had afforded them encouragement to believe that he would pay attention to their case. Some of the multitude seemed to understand it so, for they immediately went and reported it to the blind men, or as one of the evangelists states it, "Be of good comfort; rise, he calleth thee." (Mark 10:49)
Such was the character of the Divine Redeemer; he never disappointed any whom he called; he never gave an invitation and sent the applicant away unsatisfied. And is it not just to apply this to the invitations of mercy—the gospel invitations which are addressed to us? Has he not called us? Does he not say to us, "Come into me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest?" (Matt. 11:28) Where is the man that needs despair? Where is the sinner that can for a moment despair? In such circumstances despair is a crime. No, "be of good cheer; rise, he calleth thee." He has never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain.
Next, he refers it to their own desire what he shall do for them. "What will ye that I shall do unto you?" If our Lord were to offer a favour for which they had no desire, no choice, it would be mercy thrown away. Salvation is to him that is made willing in the day of divine power, and it is to him who is brought to choose Christ with his whole heart. If this question were put to you and to me,—and may I not say that it is put to each of us,—what would you answer?
Consider the Son of God as present in our assembly that he calls you before him, and bids you state your wishes, what would be your desire? Would your heart dictate this petition, "Lord, that my eyes may be enlightened to see thy glory?" "Lord, that I may find favour in thy sight!" "Lord, that I may have an interest in thy love!" "Lord, that I may be made like unto thee!" "Lord, that I may dwell forever in the enjoyment of thy presence!" Should these be the breathings of your soul, he will answer, "Be it unto thee according as thou wilt."
Finally, we are told that he healed them. He did not disappoint their expectations; he bestowed upon them the blessing of sight. And so will it be to all who feel that they are blind, and apply to him to enlighten their minds, and to cause them to see things as they are. May I not appeal to the experience of some present that they were once in the darkness of nature, and were well satisfied with their state. That they were blind to the glories of the Saviour; that they saw in him no “form nor comeliness that they should desire him;" (Isa. 53:2) that the present world was their idol, and that they had no desire for any other portion.
That they were so shortsighted that they could not look beyond the present transitory state, and their minds were grovelling, and sensual, and devilish, but that the Spirit of God hath shined into their souls, and caused them to see their natural state? Like those of whom we have been speaking, they have sought mercy of the Saviour, and have been enlightened so as to see the malignity of sin, the beauties of holiness, the vanity of the world, the glories of immortality, and to see the Redeemer to be the "chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely."
If this is the case with you, dear friends, you will feel no surprise that these men followed the Saviour. They followed him that they might learn more of him who had displayed this grace on their behalf; they followed him that they might glorify him. The next chapter of our text gives an account of Christ's public entry into Jerusalem, and the great multitude that joined in singing Hosannas to the Saviour.
We cannot doubt that these two men joined in that chorus. It was fit they should be there to bear witness to Him who had mercifully healed them. It was necessary to their own happiness that they should follow him, to convey to others the encouragement which arose out of their own experience of the compassion of the Saviour. Their hearts were too full for them to hold their peace; they must join in the Hosannas to his name; they must tell to others the wonders of that grace and compassion which the Redeemer had manifested to them.
Are there none here whose hearts respond to these expressions, who have felt the love of the Redeemer to be so great that they could not but speak of it to those around? I might rather say, is there any one professing to be a Christian with whom this is not the ease? Surely, if it was fit that these men should follow the Redeemer and show forth his praises, it is more so in the case of those who have experienced his pardoning mercy.
You cannot follow the Saviour in the sense in which these men did, but you may follow him in the ways of his appointment, and by and by you shall be forever with him. But let none of us part with our subject without inquiring how far we are interested in it? Whether we have seen our need of a Saviour, and have sought mercy at his hands? Whether our minds have been enlightened, and we have been saved from ignorance and guilt, and translated into the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God?