Jesus—His Life and Message: Healing the Blind Man
March 3, 2020
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: Healing the Blind Man
The account of Jesus healing a blind man is found in all three synoptic Gospels.1 The Gospels of Luke and Mark tell of Jesus healing one blind man, and in the Gospel of Matthew, we read of two blind men being healed. The account here is taken from the Gospel of Luke, also including points from Mark and Matthew.
As he [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”2
After Jericho was defeated by Joshua (see Joshua 6:1–27), it was later rebuilt a few miles away from the original town. The town held a strategic position, as it was a freshwater oasis in the desert. It was a main crossroads in the road network of Israel, used by merchants and pilgrims. The town is 825 feet below sea level, and while its temperature in the summer was very hot, in winter it was very mild. In Jesus’ day it was a winter resort for rulers and rich people in Israel. It was known as the city of palm trees. Herod the Great enlarged the city and built three palaces where he would spend the winter months because of the warm climate and freshwater springs. This Jericho was eventually destroyed by Titus’ army during the Jewish Revolt in AD 70. The present-day city is about 18 miles from Jerusalem, just north of the Dead Sea and six miles from the river Jordan.
Jesus was just outside of Jericho, likely heading south toward Jerusalem. A crowd of people was with Him. It doesn’t specifically state who made up the crowd, but since it was nearly Passover, He was probably walking among both His followers and crowds of people from Galilee who were making their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival there.
Sitting near the roadside was a blind man begging. Because he was blind, he belonged to the small percentage of people considered expendable, that society as a whole had no need for. As a result, he was destitute, forced to depend on the generosity and charity of others. Someone in his situation would likely have few possessions and would be considered an outcast of society and an embarrassment. Because of the heavy use of this road by traders and people of wealth, poor people and outcasts would line the roadside to beg. This was especially true close to the feast of Passover, as people were traditionally more generous at that time of year.
In this Gospel as well as the Gospel of Matthew, we’re only told that the man was blind; however, in the Gospel of Mark, we are given his name—Bartimaeus, which means bar (son of) Timaeus (his father’s name).3 In response to his question of why a crowd was going by, those around him explained that Jesus from Nazareth was passing by. The man’s reaction to hearing this news was immediate:
He cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”4
His response echoes that of the ten lepers who cried out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”5 Both the lepers and the blind man knew of Jesus’ power to heal, and without caring what anyone else thought, they cried out for help without hesitation. Their request for mercy was a plea for healing, perhaps because of a widespread belief among Jews of the time that being blind or a leper was a punishment for sins.
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!”6
The blind man knew something about Jesus that others didn’t seem to know. The crowds referred to Him as “Jesus of Nazareth,” whereas Bartimaeus called Him “Son of David,” which was a significant messianic confession. This is the only time in this Gospel that this confession is used, though other references are made to Jesus’ association with David.7 However, the other synoptic Gospels use this term for Jesus quite often,8 and in the book of Romans the apostle Paul specifically made the point that Jesus was a descendant of David.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God … concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh.9
Those who were “in front” rebuked the man. While “in front” probably means that they were spatially in the front of the crowd, or at least in front of Bartimaeus, one author has another view:
A different, less benign reading is not only possible but perhaps preferable. “In front” may refer to those regarded as leaders—spatially first perhaps, but only because of their claims to being first in status.10
No matter what anyone said to try and stop him from crying out, it didn’t seem to faze him—rather, it caused him to cry out more persistently.
No reason is given as to why those in front were trying to get him to be quiet. Some think it might be because he was using the title Son of David for Jesus, as this could have caused political trouble with the Roman rulers. Others think it was perhaps because they thought that Jesus didn’t need to be bothered by a blind beggar. Whatever their reason, they failed to silence him. He was desperate to be healed and was convinced Jesus could heal him, so nothing was going to stop him from trying to get Jesus’ attention.
Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”11
The Gospel of Mark states:
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.12
The blind man’s boldness and persistence paid off. Hearing him crying out from within the crowd, Jesus stopped walking and asked to speak with the man. Unlike the crowd, Jesus didn’t reject the request. In response to Jesus’ question about how He could help, the man said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”13 Jesus responded with “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”14
Jesus honored the man’s request and commended his faith—both his faith to confess that Jesus, the Son of David, was able to heal him from his blindness, and his faith to be persistent and not give up even when others rebuked him and told him to be quiet. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, he notes numerous instances where the important role of faith is highlighted in Jesus’ healing. Some other examples are: He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”15 Jesus … said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”16
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.17
It’s hard to imagine how wonderful it must have been for the blind man to suddenly have sight, to instantly see the world around him. The man’s immediate response was to give glory to God. Those in the crowd who witnessed the healing, the same ones who had told the man to be silent, also praised God for this wonderful miracle. This healing miracle was highly significant, as nowhere in the Old Testament is there any record of anyone being healed from blindness.
The man who previously was so marginalized within the community that he had to beg in order to sustain himself immediately joined a new community as a disciple of Jesus. He had passed from darkness into light.
Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” … And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”18
The healing of this blind man certainly was a fulfillment of what Scripture had foretold regarding Jesus.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
2 Luke 18:35–37.
3 Mark 10:46.
4 Luke 18:38.
5 Luke 17:13.
6 Luke 18:39.
7 Luke 1:27; 2:4; 3:31; 20:41.
8 Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30–31; 21:9, 15; 22:42; Mark 10:47–48; 12:35.
9 Romans 1:1–3.
10 Green, The Gospel of Luke, 664.
11 Luke 18:40–41.
12 Mark 10:49–50.
13 Luke 18:41.
14 Luke 18:42.
15 Luke 7:50.
16 Luke 8:46–48.
17 Luke 18:43.
18 Luke 4:18–19, 21.