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Elijah First Sunday

Seasons of Elijah-Cross-Moses

First Sunday of Elijah: Luke 18:35-43
THE HEALING OF THE BLIND BEGGAR

INTRODUCTION

Besides parables, the miracles the evangelists selected to present in the gospels have spiritual meanings and messages. The blind man, who sought the mercy of Jesus at Jericho, had the conviction that Jesus was the Messiah. He was waiting to meet Jesus to ask for regaining his sight, because only the “Son of David” could do such a miracle. Considering his faith far advanced than those who have physical sight, Jesus offered him sight and salvation by saying, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” The result was that he got sight and became a follower of Jesus. We should seek eternal salvation through the spiritual sight that Jesus, the Light of the World, offers.

BIBLE TEXT

(Luke 18:35) When Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. (36) As he heard the crowd passing by, he asked what was happening, (37) and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Then he cried out, (38) “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (39) The people in front scolded him, telling him to keep quiet, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (40) Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him, and when he came near, he asked him, (41) “What do you want me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!” (42) Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.” (43) At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

INTERPRETATION

(Luke 18:35) When Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging.

A comparison of the three gospel accounts
All the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) narrate Jesus’ miracle giving eyesight to a blind beggar at Jericho (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52). That shows the popularity and importance of the miracle among the early Christian community when the evangelists finished the gospels. There are slight variations in the three presentations.

When Jesus drew near to Jericho
According to St. Luke, the event happened when Jesus was entering Jericho. However, in Matthew and Mark, it happened when Jesus was leaving Jericho. The Bible scholars give different explanations to clarify the difference:

1. There could be two similar events that happened in Jericho. One that happened when Jesus entered Jericho, and another when he left Jericho. This is not a widely accepted explanation.

2. The blind man approached Jesus at the gate of Jericho when Jesus entered the city. Jesus did not heal the beggar at once because Jesus did not hear his cry at first or tested his faith by not answering for a while. The Lord healed the blind man when Jesus was leaving Jericho to go to Jerusalem.

3. There was the old city of Jericho and the new city King Herod constructed. The miracle happened in between the two cities. That means, it occurred when Jesus was leaving the old city and entering the new city. So, both leaving and entering the city could be correct.

Jericho
Jericho was famous in the history of Israel because the Israelites captured Canaan by first conquering the city of Jericho under Joshua’s leadership and with God’s miraculous intervention (Joshua chapter 6). This city had other names: the “City of Palms” and later the “City of Perfumes.”

The Jews from Galilee, while going to Jerusalem, avoided straight journey through Samaria because of their enmity with the Samaritans. So, they used to travel east, crossing River Jordan, and heading south. Again, they used to cross back River Jordan and passed through the city of Jericho to go west 18 miles to reach Jerusalem. Jesus was also passing through this city when the beggar approached him for healing his blindness.

A blind man
While Mark and Luke mention only one blind man, Matthew mentions two blind men. Mark even gives the name of the blind man as “Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.” The interpreters’ clarification is that there might have been two blind men as Matthew presents. However, one of them became a popular disciple of Jesus in the early church. So, the evangelists focused on him and Mark mentioned his name.

Sitting by the road, begging
The blind man had no other provision than begging. He had no family support. The roadside was the best place for him to beg for alms because the Jews were passing through Jericho to go to the Temple for worship. 

(36) As he heard the crowd passing by, he asked what was happening.

As he heard the crowd passing by
The blind man heard an unusual crowd passing by. It is normal that the blind people are sharper in hearing because those who lose one sense will focus more on the other senses. The people were passing to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. So, an enormous crowd used to go during that season. An unusual crowd gathered because Jesus, who performed many miracles, especially the raising of Lazarus on the fourth day after his burial, was an attraction for the crowd to congregate around Jesus.

The blind man wanted to identify who was passing by or what unusual thing was happening. His enquiry helped him to seek Jesus’ attention for his healing. He was waiting for a chance to meet Jesus, who had been healing the blind, to seek healing for himself.

(37) And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Then he cried out.

Jesus (Joshua) was a popular name many Jews used. To distinguish persons with the same name, people supplemented a person’s proper name with other features like the town of origin. Since Jesus lived at Nazareth from childhood, public knew him as Jesus of Nazareth. Philip had introduced Jesus to Nathaniel calling him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” (John 1:45). Since Jesus became popular among the public with that name, the people answered to the blind man that “Jesus of Nazareth” was passing by.

(38) “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus, Son of David
“Son of David” was a Messianic title originating from the covenant God made with King David around 1000 years before Christ. When King David asked permission from God through Prophet Nathan to construct a house for the Lord, the Lord did not allow his wish. However, God promised to David that He would fulfill it through his son (2 Samuel 7:12–17). Who was this son through whom God fulfilled the promises? God fulfilled some through Solomon, the biological son and successor of David. The Lord fulfilled the rest through the Messiah, the seed of Eve (Genesis 3:14–15) and a greater son from the lineage of David.

Though Solomon built the Temple, the promise of God that “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13) did not happen in the life of Solomon who ruled for 40 years. He committed the sin of idolatry, especially during his later age. So, God said, “If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments.” (2 Samuel 7:14). God continued in verse 16: “He shall build a house for my name and I will firmly establish his kingship forever.” God repeated “forever” thrice (verses 13 and 16) emphasizing the everlasting nature of the Kingdom of David’s greater son.

Solomon, like his predecessors Saul and David, reigned only 40 years. Because of God’s promise to David that his son would establish his kingdom forever, the Israelites have been hoping for an everlasting king from the line of David. God revealed this son of David through Angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of the Messiah. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). Matthew starts his gospel stating: “This is a record of the origins of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” The Bible uses “son of David” 17 times in the New Testament for Jesus, meaning that he was the promised and long-awaited Messiah. The people acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah by proclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) during his triumphant entry into the Temple of Jerusalem.

The blind man had spiritual sight to distinguish Jesus as the Messiah. Though the crowd introduced Jesus to him as “Jesus of Nazareth,” he proclaimed Jesus as the promised son of David. In the three Synoptic gospels, the blind beggar addressed Jesus twice saying, “Son of David.” That caught Jesus’ attention.

Have pity on me!
The blind man realized that it was the best opportunity for him to resolve his issue of blindness because only the Messiah could regain sight to a blind person. Isaiah had prophesied about the Messianic times: “out of the obscurity and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” (Isaiah 29:18). Everyone else who had mercy on him gave him money or food. Jesus had no money to give. However, he had the power to heal him and forgive his sins that caused blindness (John 9:2).

(39) The people in front scolded him, telling him to keep quiet, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The crowd that went in front of Jesus tried to stop the blind beggar’s cry, probably because of the following reasons. Many coming from faraway places might not have seen Jesus before, but had heard much about him, especially the unique miracle of raising Lazarus on the fourth day after his burial. They considered the cry as a disturbance for them while trying to listen to Jesus. Some others want to silence the beggar because they were not happy that the beggar was addressing Jesus as “the son of David.” The selfish people had no concern to get help for the beggar from Jesus. They wanted him to get out of the way.

The blind beggar was sure that his last chance to recover sight was near. If he missed that opportunity, he could not regain it. So, he screamed to make use of his rare opportunity for healing. He did not care about what others might think of him. He repeated his faith in the Messiahship of Jesus by saluting him again as the “Son of David.”

(40) Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him, and when he came near, he asked him…

Ordered the blind man to be brought to him.
The crowd was so large and pushing around Jesus that it was hard for Jesus to get out of the human wall around him. So, he requested the crowd to bring the blind man to him. In his public ministry, Jesus did not miss any opportunity to help others in need, especially those who came seeking his help. In our life journey to heaven, we also should not bypass any whom we can help and who need our help. Jesus wants us to bring others to him so he can save them. The people who brought the blind man to Jesus saw a great miracle Jesus performed that made them to glorify God.

(41) “What do you want me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!”

The blind beggar did not specify what kind of mercy he was looking for. Jesus wanted him to express his specific desire. Seeking mercy can be for any benefit. By the beggar’s request for sight, he was expressing his faith in the Son of God, whom he believed could regain his sight. The blind man is an example for us on what to ask in our intercessory prayers. More than material benefits, we should seek the help of God to gain spiritual sight, so we can see how to enter the eternal Kingdom of God.

Since the beggar asked for sight and not alms, Jesus gave him physical and spiritual sight. He became a disciple of Jesus and a popular one among the early Christians. When we ask the Lord for our spiritual growth and eternal salvation, God will supply us with whatever else we need. We need not present an extensive list of material benefits from the Lord.

(42) Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.”

Along with physical sight, Jesus gave the blind man salvation. Salvation is a gift of God that we reach by faith. The blind man proclaimed in public his faith in Jesus as the “Son of David.” He responded to Jesus’ call and followed him as a disciple. Since he became a popular disciple, Mark recorded his name in the gospel. His blindness had turned out to be a blessing for him. Many who had physical sight could not gain salvation from Jesus because of their lack of faith, despite their ability to see Jesus and witness the signs and wonders he performed.

(43) At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

Jesus healed the blind by his words. The man who had seen Jesus only mentally could then see him physically. He experienced the power of the “son of David” in action in his life. The healed man glorified God, who did the miraculous healing for him. He expressed his gratitude by becoming a disciple of Jesus.

This miracle was one of the last miracles Jesus performed because he was on the way to Jerusalem for his self-sacrifice. So, people could see another great miracle. Many people who had heard of Jesus’ miracles, but never saw them, could see it happen with their own eyes. So they glorified God. To glorify God means to acknowledge the splendor of the only one and true God and give Him honor by praising and worshiping Him.

MESSAGE

1. The blind beggar was spiritually far higher than those who used to give him alms. He had the spiritual sight while others were spiritually blind and could not recognize Messiah in Jesus. We shall not underestimate the less fortunate in the society. They might be more pleasing to God and might have a better place in the Kingdom of God than us.

2. The people who walked in front of Jesus rebuked the blind man to keep quiet. Our friends or others might discourage us from approaching Jesus or going to church. The blind man got sight because he approached Jesus with his faith and did not yield to those who tried to discourage him from approaching Jesus.

3. Jesus sought the help of the surrounding people to bring the blind man to him. He wants us to help him bring others to his church so he can save them.

4. During his public ministry, Jesus did not miss any opportunity to help others in need and those who came seeking his help. In our life journey to heaven, let us also make use of all occasions to help others.

5. To Jesus’ question of what he wanted, the blind man replied: “Lord, please let me see.” What do we ask to the Lord for us in our prayers? The beggar could ask for money, house, or any other needs. He asked for a permanent solution to his issue. Our request to God shall be the spiritual sight needed to reach heaven. Our prayers for others also shall be the same.

6. Jesus told the blind beggar that his faith had saved him. Let us also build up our faith for our salvation.

7. When the blind man regained his sight, he followed Jesus and gave glory to God. That encouraged others also to praise God.

8. Like Jesus, let us be compassionate to others and help them materially and spiritually. Let us also teach our children the lesson of mercy and charity.