THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 13, 2019
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
— Luke 18:35-43, ESV
Normally the phrase, “the blind leading the blind,” is interpreted in a negative light. Jesus practically invented the saying to refer to the Pharisees and their followers (ref. Luke 6:39). But this story is about a blind man who was no Pharisee, but rather a true follower of Jesus Christ. It is a gospel story for all, if you will pardon the pun, to see.
Matthew tells us there were two blind men touched by Jesus, and I’m sure there were. Matthew also teaches us there were two demoniacs in the Gadarene cemetery. Of both pairs, Mark and Luke focus on only one, perhaps the one who became a lasting disciple.
Mark tells us the name of this one blind, notable, early Christian. It is Bartimaeus. Luke focuses on him, too, though he leaves out his name. The main point of the story is that this physically blind man can lead spiritually blind people to a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. So let the blind lead the blind!
See the blind man who cannot see.
See the blind man. He is not sitting in a comfortable recliner at home. He is not “sitting by the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away.” No, he is “sitting by the roadside begging.”
Blindness is a bad handicap to have in any generation. I our day, however, it does not necessarily stop a person from making a living and living a comfortable life. I know a blind man named Paul who recently retired from a successful career as an engineer, who now takes Uber rides to stores and restaurants, who enjoys life while listening to sporting events and vintage rock music on satellite radio. Speaking of music, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder are among the many who achieved great success in spite of blindness. One of our favorite hymn writers, Fanny Crosby, was also blind.
However, musical or other career opportunities for blind people in the first century were virtually non-existent. The most common occupation for a blind person would have been beggar. The blind were unable to offer meaningful work; therefore, they were completely dependent upon others for their health and well-being.
A blind beggar is a good metaphor for the depravity (spiritual inability) of man. We cannot find our own way to Jesus. We cannot offer work to satisfy God’s demands. We are completely dependent upon the grace of God and the gracious help of others. In this case, Bartimaeus received both.
Thank God, someone put Bartimaeus on that busy Jericho road, vastly populated by Passover pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. Thank God, God Himself was one of them.
Hear the blind man call upon the Lord.
Panhandlers in our part of the world are polite if nothing else. They will show you their sign, hold out their hand, and let you pass by if you are not inclined to give. I approached one person recently who I suspected to be homeless and offered him money for food, to which he politely declined. Persistence does not seem to be a panhandler trait these days.
But in Jesus’ day, Bartimaeus would not give up. He was willing to humble himself to the point of embarrassment in order to keep on calling out to the Lord. Lacking earthly sight, he received some heavenly insight concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom he was calling.
The blind beggar was Jewish, so calling Jesus the “Son of David” has obvious messianic overtones. The Old Testament teaches us to expect a Messiah who will open the eyes of the blind and set the captives free. Bartimaeus, without natural sight, had some spiritual insight into the messianic identity of Jesus of Nazareth.
When given an audience with Jesus, Bartimaeus addressed his request to the “Lord.” Calling on the name of the Lord is synonymous with dialing a direct line to God. Bartimaeus, without natural sight, had some spiritual insight as to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When given the opportunity to make a wish, Bartimaeus made it count. He asked for “mercy” to relieve the crippling conditions of his inability, and for grace to recover his lost sight. Mercy and grace, to recover what was lost, now that is a most excellent request. The parallel to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is quite obvious.
Do you think Bartimaeus really received what he asked the Lord for? Indeed he did, in more ways than one.
Watch the blind man receive his sight.
“Immediately he recovered his sight …”
The notable, physical, optometric miracle is wonderful, to be sure. But Bartimaeus had been given something greater before he began to see. “Faith” is a gift from God that enables us to trust God to do for us what only God can do.
No surgery or transplant could make a blind person see in Jesus’ day, only Jesus could give sight to the blind. No good works or religion can make a person right with God today, only God by grace gives faith for people to see Jesus Christ and be saved. And the miracle that made Bartimaeus see out of his two eyes is in two ways a perfect parable of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation.
Jesus sovereignly chose His own time table and pathway to travel. Everything He did was cosmically calculated to bring Him to the cross, and bring the benefits of the cross to the elect. Christ did not raise every dead person, give sight to every blind person, or make well every sick person. He chose some so that He could give a gospel message to all. Call upon the name of Jesus, Lord and Christ, and you will be saved.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (ref. Romans 10:14-15)
Bartimaeus could not come, he had to be brought to Jesus. Thank God for those who loved him enough to put him on the road to meet the Lord. Bartimaeus would not have been able to see if he did not choose to cry out to Jesus and ask for his sight. Thank God for his humble courage and great faith. Therefore, because God chose Bartimaeus and because Bartimaeus chose to call on the name of the Lord, Bartimaeus received his sight and his salvation.
But how do we know that Bartimaeus was spiritually saved?
Follow the blind man who follows Jesus.
We recently read of ten lepers miraculously healed by Jesus (ref. Luke 17:12ff). They all received a miracle. Nine of the ten ran off immediately, took their reprieve, and lived life on their own terms. Only one, a Samaritan, showed any spiritual substance in the aftermath of that medical miracle.
So would Bartimaeus be like the ninety percent of people, so blessed by God, who turn their backs on Him and live life on their own terms? Or, would he be like the one, the ten percent (perhaps it is closer to one percent) who realize that life is a gift from God that should be given back to the one who gave it, through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? The text tells us in its conclusion.
He recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. The genuine proof that someone is a true believer in Jesus Christ is that they are a true follower of Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus most famous evangelistic appeal is spoken in two words, “Follow Me.” People who believe that Jesus is Savior and Lord are saved. Saved people obey God’s word. Saved people who love and obey God glorify God. God gives them light and their light shines for others to see.
Bartimaeus was blind and Bartimaeus was lost. He received his sight by a miracle, and received salvation by an even bigger miracle. He could see and he could see, physically and more importantly spiritually. Now he sees with greater vision than any of us can imagine. So follow Bartimaeus as he follows Jesus Christ. Let the blind lead the blind, all the way to Heaven.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org