Facing the Future With Your Eyes Open

There are different kinds of courage. One kind of courage is seen when someone reacts to a crisis bravely. For example, a soldier sacrifices his own life to save his fellow soldiers, a person throws themselves in front of another to save them or someone races into a burning building to save someone caught inside. This is an instinct, a spur of the moment decision.

Another kind of courage is the courage shown by someone who knows something bad is ahead and instead of running away keeps going. You see this in the person who endures cancer treatments, or one the one who does the hard work of therapy after a devastating illness, or even those of a parent who sits with a dying child and makes those days or hours the best they can be. This is the kind of courage needed by those who must who confront a difficult problem.

It is this last kind of courage we see in Jesus as he heads toward Jerusalem. We will see that He knows what is ahead but continues the journey resolutely.

A Difficult Future

We have reached a transition point in our study of Luke. The days of teaching and ministering are nearing a close. Jesus and the disciples are heading down the home stretch toward Jerusalem and the last week of the earthly life of Jesus. In the first part of our text today Jesus tried to prepare the disciples for what is coming.

31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again.”

34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. (Luk3 18:31-34)

Scripture will be fulfilled. Jesus said that “everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” Jesus wanted these men to know that what was going to happen in Jerusalem was all part of the plan of God that was revealed in the Old Testament.  These things were not clearly seen by most Jews but they are present. Let me give you two examples:

Psalm 22 is a vivid picture of what is ahead. Let me read one small segment

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Psalm 22:14-16)

Isaiah 53 has a similar vivid picture,

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)

Jesus told his disciples seven things were going to happen:

  1. The Son of man would be betrayed by the chief priests and scribes
  2. They will condemn Him to death
  3. They will hand him over to the Gentiles (Rome)
  4. They would mock him and spit on him
  5. They would whip him
  6. They would kill him
  7. He would rise three days later.

There are two reasons this is important. First, it shows that God was not surprised by what happened to Christ, it was all part of his plan. In Acts 2 Paul said that Jesus was handed over to death by “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge”. What happened to Christ was God’s plan to save the world.

Second, this prediction reveals the love of the Savior. Jesus knew what was coming and still went on to Jerusalem not because He wanted to die but because it was the only way to save us.

Third, Jesus gives us a model for facing the trials in our own lives. He shows us that if we keep our focus on the wisdom, love, and sufficiency of the Lord rather than on the problem that threatens us we will be able to keep moving forward. In other words if we keep our eyes on the “big picture” we too will weather the storms.

Luke says, the disciples did not understand. The problem wasn’t that the disciples were “dumb fisherman” or that they didn’t want to understand. The problem was that all their lives they had been taught that the Messiah would be a political figure. The idea of a Messiah that would be rejected, crucified, and raised from the dead caused all the circuit breakers of their mind to blow.

This is why Christianity is hard for some people to embrace. In 1 Corinthians 2 we read,

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

People have created a god of their own imagination and anything that does not fit that image they do not understand. In other words the message of the gospel blows people’s minds! It is a message of a God who is intimately concerned about those He has created; He is a God who is unchanged by the whims of culture; a God who is clear about the way we are to walk and certain to hold us accountable. He is also the God who sent Jesus to save us from ourselves. It is mind-boggling to be sure.   We need God to open our eyes. That leads us into the next encounter.

A Blind Man Who Sees

 35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

His name. In Mark 10 we are told that his name was Bartimaeus. Have you ever looked in a baby name book to see what your name means?  “Bruce” means “woodlands” (not too exciting). Do you know what the name Bartimaeus means? In Hebrew his name meant “son of garbage” or “son of filth”. This man was blind and had to beg in order to survive, and his name meant “son of filth”.

What he says. Like most people who have lost one sense, the others tend to become more sharpened. The man sat at the gate because it was a busy place. He knew that most people would simply walk by him so he needed a large quantity of people if he hoped to find a few who would help him. As a blind beggar, he was familiar with the sound of foot traffic. This was a good time of year for beggars because the crowds were traveling through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem for Passover. Perhaps it was like “Christmas Spirit” during the holidays.

The man could sense if someone was nearby (a potential benefactor).  This day something was going on. The traffic was greater and there was a sense of excitement in the sounds of the day. Perhaps he reached out and grabbed someone going by and asked, “What’s going on?”

The man was told “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Immediately the blind man started to yell, “Son of David have mercy on me!”  Did you get that? He was told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by” yet he responded “Son of David have mercy on me”. That tells us that this man knew something about Jesus. The title “Son of David” was a Messianic title. In other words this man was calling to the One whom He believed was the Savior.

Perhaps he had heard the stories of the people that Jesus healed. Perhaps he had heard of the teachings of Jesus. Maybe he thought to himself, if only this Jesus could pass by my way then I too could be healed . . . I could see. When Jesus passed by he was not going to miss out on this opportunity.

The people all told the man to be quiet. It is likely that they felt he was inappropriate in his yelling. It wasn’t the acceptable thing to do. Why would Jesus pay attention to a man who was “defective”?

The man’s tenacity. This man was not going to be pushed aside. He believed Jesus was the one who could meet his needs. He “cried out all the more”.  Word studies show that the second cry was an “instinctive shout of ungovernable emotion, a scream, an almost animal cry…it showed the utter desperation of the man.”

This man becomes a picture of what real faith looks like.

  1. He recognized that he was blind. There is only one thing worse than realizing that you are blind . . . it is being blind and not recognizing it. That was the case of the Pharisee and the Rich Young Ruler. They believed they could see fine but they were spiritually blind.
  2. He understood who Jesus truly is. He knew Jesus was more than a good man with remarkable talents. He recognized Jesus as the Savior sent by God.
  3. He saw Christ as the answer to his greatest need.
  4. He pursued Him with all of his being. This man was like a little child who knows what he wants and will not be discouraged. He was like the child who keeps saying, “Mom, Mom, Mom”

He was a picture of one who believes.

 The Savior Who Responds

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

The Gospel of Mark adds some information.

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. (Mark 10:49-50)

Jesus not only heard the man crying out . . . he heard the man. He summoned Bartimaeus to himself. Can you imagine? Perhaps the very people who were formerly telling him to be quiet now are told to bring the man to Jesus.

The man didn’t waste any time. We are told that he threw his cloak aside. To you and me this wouldn’t be a big deal. We can always go back and find where we tossed our cloak. This man was blind. He would generally keep his cloak very near to him so he could reach it. Now the man threw off his cloak with a sense of abandon. Perhaps he wasn’t worrying about finding his cloak again because he believed he was about to receive his sight.

Jesus asked him a simple question: “What do you want me to do for you?” The man’s simple answer: “I want to see”.

It’s ironic. In one sense this man could already see better than the rich young ruler in the story before this one. This man saw that Jesus was the One to turn to for new life. He has no doubt at all that Jesus can heal Him. Jesus responded as much to the man’s faith as to the man’s need. Jesus restored his physical sight but I think he also gave him the ability to see truth and to recognize the One who alone gives life.

Try to imagine the flood of emotion. As soon as Jesus said the man would be healed, the man could see. He went from darkness to clarity! He who was isolated now felt he belonged. He who felt discarded now felt loved. There was nothing gradual about this healing! I suspect this guy had a broad smiles and his vision was a bit compromised by tears.

Don’t miss the postscript. This guy does not head off to enjoy the life he could not enjoy before. He praises God and follows Jesus. This blind man understood that Jesus is not a “means to an end” but the end itself.  Once this man met Jesus he knew he had found everything he was looking for. To be able to see, hear, and serve Jesus was the greatest blessing there is. Most likely this man became an eyewitness to Palm Sunday, the horror of the Crucifixion and the joy of the Resurrection. He witnessed the truth and it changed him forever.

Scholars suggest that the reason Mark preserved Bartimaeus’ name was because he became a well-known leader in the Jerusalem church.

Practical Lessons

So what are we to learn from the blind man? First, we see the true nature of faith. Faith is real hunger for a relationship with Christ. It is deep rather than superficial. Saving faith is not casual, it is committed.

It is the question we must keep asking: Do you have this kind of faith? Do you really believe that Jesus is the answer to the deepest needs of your life or is He merely one of the interests of your life? The follow up question is this: Do you believe this enough to fervently seek Him? Will you pursue Him above all else? Will you ignore the crowd that tries to make you conform to the norms of society? Will you refuse to settle for anything less than a real encounter with Christ?

Second, we see again that Christ can meet the greatest need. Jesus has raised the dead, he healed the blind, he has made the lame to walk. He cast out demons and cured the lepers. Jesus is sufficient for every need.

Are you here today as one bruised or battered by life? Are you facing a mountain that is too steep to climb? Does the world around you see your name as “failure”, “weirdo”, “criminal”, “addict”, “abuser”, “immoral”, “mean”, “angry”? Maybe you are considered “too old” or “too young” or “not smart enough”. The world around may tell you that you are not worth anything. However, today Jesus calls to you. He is sufficient and willing to meet your deepest need.

This does not mean that the Lord will give us everything we want. I’m not sure why some requests are granted and some seem not to be. What I do know is that God will give us what we need . . even if it is not what we have asked for. He meets the deepest needs: our need for love, acceptance, forgiveness, purpose, direction, and a new beginning. Jesus is the only One who can help you in these areas.

Third, we are reminded again about what He wants us to do. The unfortunate truth is that we tend to be like those who push people aside because they do not measure up to our standards or expectations. We want people to “fit in”. Jesus wasn’t like that. He embraced anyone who was open to Him.  Jesus shows us that we should be removing barriers rather than erecting them. We should embrace the hurting rather than trying to keep them isolated so we don’t have to deal with them.

Philip Yancey in his book What Good is God writes,

Several times in my writing I’ve referred to my alcoholic friend George, who happens to be here tonight. He told me that when he first stumbled into an A.A. meeting on a bitterly cold night some twenty years ago a group of total strangers welcomed him with open arms and told him to “keep coming back.” George had hit bottom, his life was a mess, and since nobody else was telling him that in those days, he accepted their invitation. George sometimes gets a different response from his church friends. “Aren’t you done with that issue yet?” they ask. And this is what George says: “I realize that for the rest of my life, I can go to A.A. meetings and nobody will ask me, ‘Aren’t you finished with all this talk about your alcoholism?’ They will just say, ‘Keep coming back—glad you could make it.’ ” May the church learn.[1]

It is my hope that we will be a congregation that lives out our faith so consistently that the world sees that we are serious about our faith. We want to be a place where those who feel like they are a “son/daughter of filth” can discover that they are a child of God.

I hope people look at the people of our church and wonder, “How do those people who are so different get along so well?” May this be a place where the socially different, the deeply scarred, those who have failed miserably, or who struggle terribly (which pretty much describes all of us) know that they are welcome to meet and follow Jesus here. May they know that we will welcome them not as charity cases, but as fellow pilgrims who like us were formerly were blind beggars, who now, by the grace of God, can see.

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