A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight
35As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
This event also appears in Mark 10:46-52. See my post on that passage here. Mark identifies the beggar as Bartimaeus. In Mark’s version, Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by and begins to shout to him, but Luke gives us the detail that Bartimaeus asked what was going on. According to Matthew, there were two blind beggars healed by Jesus at the gates of Jericho that day (Matthew 20:29-34), so apparently Bartimaeus was not the only beggar there. I think he asked the other beggars around him what the commotion was about when he heard a large crowd passing by. City gates were often populated by beggars asking for alms. Bartimaeus’ cry was the same as the ten lepers in 17:12-13, with one important difference.
38He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39Those 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!”
Beggars would cry out for mercy, using the Greek word eleeo, the same word group as the word for “alms” that the ten lepers used. This cry was as familiar to passers by in Jesus’ day as people holding cardboard signs asking for help on street corners are to us today. But Bartimaeus prefaced his cry for mercy by calling Jesus “Son of David.” This was the title given to the Messiah, the promised descendant of David who would sit on the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 7:11-13, 2 Chronicles 13:5, Isaiah 16:5). Other than in the geneology of Jesus in Luke 3:23-38, this is the first time in the Gospel of Luke that the phrase “Son of David” is used, and it’s significant. By calling Jesus that, Bartimaeus was recognizing who Jesus is. That demonstrated faith, and it was persistent faith. Jesus had just taught twice about the importance of persistence in our prayers (11:5-13, blog, 18:1-8, blog), and here was a living example of that. Even though “those who led the way” tried to shut him up, Bartimaeus shouted all the more. The Amplified Bible says he screamed and shrieked. Sometimes those of us who lead the way in the church are so concerned about our program that we don’t want to be interrupted by inconvenient people and their needs. But Jesus heard faith and persistence in Bartimaeus’ voice, and he stopped to answer the blind beggar’s cry for mercy.
40Jesus 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.
42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus may seem like he’s asking the obvious, but I don’t think he is. As I said earlier, the cry for mercy and the cry for alms were indistinguishable. I think Jesus was asking Bartimaeus “Do you just want some coins, or do you believe I can do more for you? How big is your faith?” Do we have enough faith in God to ask for what seems impossible? Bartimaeus didn’t hesitate. He told Jesus that he wanted to see, and he called him Lord. Mark says Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabboni”, which is more personal and powerful than simply “Rabbi”. Rabbi means teacher, but Rabboni means my teacher, my master, my lord. Bartimaeus was recognizing who Jesus was when he called him “Son of David”, but when he asked Jesus for his sight, he called Jesus his teacher and Lord. That’s why Jesus told him, “your faith has healed you.” Faith begins with recognizing who Jesus is, and most importantly, who he is to us.
Bartimaeus immediately received his sight, and immediately started following Jesus, praising God. His worship was infectious, and the whole crowd started praising God along with him as they walked along the road to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus’ faith was in God, and when God healed him, God got the credit.
The crowd that was following Jesus on the road to Jerusalem grew by at least one that day. Bartimaeus, so far as we know from Luke’s gospel, was the first to call Jesus “Son of David” during his ministry, and the crowd that followed Jesus witnessed a great miracle when Jesus was called by that title. In a few days, the crowd at the Triumphal Entry would call him by that same title.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[a] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Hosanna[c] in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, NIV)
This is pure speculation on my part, but I think Bartimaeus started the crowd calling Jesus “Son of David.” After his miraculous healing, he joined the crowd that followed Jesus to Jerusalem. I think this crowd must have been at least the core of the crowd that shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem. I can just picture Bartimaeus continuing to shout praises to Jesus, the Son of David after he joined the crowd around Jesus, and the others in the crowd picking up on it as they traveled. For the next few days, I imagine that “Son of David” became the new catch phrase in this crowd, and that carried through to the Triumphal Entry. I think it could well be that the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” on Palm Sunday can be traced directly back to one blind beggar with enough faith and persistence to cry out to Jesus for mercy, and call him the Son of David.