Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 21, 2012
 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.  And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
-- Mark 10:46-52, ESV
There are some things in life you just have to see to believe. If someone reports to me that aliens from outer space have landed on earth, or when my teenage daughter tells me her room is clean, then I will just have to see it to believe it. On the other hand, there are greater mysteries in this world, particularly spiritual truths, which you just have to believe in order to see.
During the three year ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, He gained quite a reputation for being a miracle worker. Most people, like one of the twelve disciples named “Doubting” Thomas, had to see them to believe them. On the other hand, some people came to Christ believing before they could see. One of them was named Bartimaeus, and his story is told in Mark 10:46-52.
Seeing is Believing
This is the last event Mark records before taking us on Jesus’ walk to the cross. By my informal account, it is the eighteenth miracle story in Mark and it occurs eighteen miles away from Jerusalem in the city of Jericho. If you had been there, whether you believed in Jesus or not, this story records what you would have seen.
First of all, you would have seen a blind man begging. Blindness exists, and in Jesus’ day there were no remedies, no special training, and no economic safety net for the blind. A blind man had to beg, because he was not able to do any meaningful work for himself. Bartimaeus was legally, organically, obviously, and verifiably blind. If you had seen it, you would have believed it.
The next thing that happened is something you would have seen and heard. Above the noise of the crowd, Bartimaeus shouted so loud that everyone could hear him. The peculiar thing, however, about Bartimaeus’ shout, was that he was shouting out loud to God. Jews, even blind beggars, did not cry out for mercy to any mere man. “Son of David” and “Have mercy” were obvious messianic cries made to Almighty God. That’s why people rebuked blind Bartimaeus, they thought he should be called blaspheming Bartimaeus as well. Yet, Bartimaeus would not stop. It is said that the blind have their other senses heightened. Certainly Bartimaeus had a heightened sense about Jesus Christ, that He was more than a man. He sensed that Jesus could do what no one else on earth can do. If you had seen him, you would have believed that Bartimaeus was a physically blind but spiritually determined person. And what you would see next would be hard to believe.
Jesus stopped, called Bartimaeus front and center, and asked him an obvious question, but one that required foresight if not real sight. Though Bartimaeus could not see, he believed that Jesus was sent from God and imbued with the divine power to perform miracles, even to give sight to the blind. What you would have seen and heard was Jesus calling Bartimaeus to Himself. What you would have seen and heard was Bartimaeus calling upon the name of the Lord (literally Rabboni, which is Aramaic for my Rabbi, my Teacher, my Master, my Lord). What you would have seen and heard is a blind man recovering his sight through the miraculous ministry of the Messiah. You would have seen it and you would have to believe it.
The last thing you would have seen, by the way, is formerly blind Bartimaeus following Jesus on the road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem. This is the road that led from the last days of Jesus’ life to His death upon the cross. This is the road that leads from life to death and from death to life. But that is another miracle entirely. And the latter miracle is greater than the first. The first miracle you have to see to believe. The greatest miracle is one you have to believe in order to see.
Believing is Seeing
I often like to point out that in the Gospels, every parable is a miracle and every miracle is a parable. This miracle is a parable about the greatest miracle of all, the salvation of a soul by grace (and mercy) through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the good way and good works that God has chosen for His children. Look at the story again and, if you believe it, you will see it.
Believe that human beings are totally depraved. On one hand, depravity sounds worse than it is, for it actually means inability. On the other hand, no word can do justice to the desperate spiritual plight of the entire human race. Just like Bartimaeus could not see physically and perform meaningful work, no human being can see nor seek God and do any work that could earn us a right relationship with Him. Consider Romans 3:11, “No one understands, no one seeks for God,” and Ephesians 2:1 which notes lost people are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Blind people can’t see nor seek and dead people can’t do anything. If, by grace, Jesus does not choose to pass our way, or put us in the way of parents or preachers or people to tell us the gospel, we will take our spiritual blindness and death into a Christ-less eternity with no hope of salvation.
Believe that grace imputes faith. When Jesus passes by and we effectually hear the good news of God’s compassionate love, faith beckons us to beg. Beggars would not cry out to God and say, “Reward me God for being a great person.” However, “Have mercy of me, God, for I am a sinner” will do the trick. Beggars would not cry out to God and say, “I don’t need Your help.” But, “I need you, God, only You and you alone can save me” are true words, indeed. Beggars would not shun God and say to Him, “Leave me alone.” But by grace through faith a beggar would say to God, “My Lord and my Savior, forgive me of my sins and give me abundant, eternal life.” Such beggars are believers, and believers can see the promise of Romans 10:13 is “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Believe that believers become followers. When grace enables you to see the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is and what He has done, when faith calls upon the Lord and the Lord saves, you cannot just sit there. You cannot remain in spiritual blindness and death. You rise up, you see and understand, and you follow the Lord Jesus Christ on the road, carrying your own cross, all the days of your life. “Follow Me,” is Jesus’ oft repeated general call of salvation, and those who believe can see the way to follow the Lord in worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and missions.
The greatest biblical, theological explanation of salvation states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, crated in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ref. Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace brought Jesus to Jericho to face Bartimaeus, and grace brings God into your life and mine. Faith is the gift of God that enabled Bartimaeus to believe before he could see, and faith causes us to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah of Israel and Lord of the church. And grace through faith restored Bartimaeus’ sight, and gives sight and life to any blind and dead sinner who trusts in Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation. Then we become a workmanship or masterpiece of God, regenerated and restored in the image of God to be His worshipers and workers on earth now, and in Heaven forever.
Can you see this, or are you still blind? Please don’t think that you can wait until you have more visible evidence. Please don’t say to yourself, “If I see Jesus coming back like all the Christians say He will, then I will believe.” If you have to see to believe, I promise you it will be too late. Believe now, and you will see. Jesus Christ is all this story says He is and so much more. Love Him, believe in Him, then you will see. Believing is seeing.