A Blind Man Meets a Healer

Luke 18:35-43

April 2, 2000 | Brian Bill

Stevie Wonder (the singer) and Jack Nicklaus (the golfer) are sitting around the pool talking. Inevitably the conversation turns to golf and Nicklaus is surprised to find out that Stevie Wonder, who is blind, has been playing golf for years.

The golf pro can’t believe it. He wants some details so Stevie Wonder explains how he does it: “My caddy stands out in the middle of the fairway and calls out to me. I listen for the sound of his voice and play the ball towards him. Then when I get to where the ball lands, the caddy moves further down the green, shouts out and I hit the ball again.

Nicklaus is obviously impressed but then asks, “But how do you putt?” The famous singer replies: “Well, I get my caddy to lean down in front of the hole and call to me with his head on the ground and his mouth just over the cup. I just play the ball towards his voice.”

Nicklaus finds all this very amazing and then asks Wonder if they can play a round sometime. Stevie agrees but says that because people don’t take him very seriously he only plays for money – and he never plays for less than $10,000 a hole. Nicklaus thinks about it for a minute and then says, “OK, that’s serious money, but I’m up for it. When do we play?”

To which Steve Wonder answers, “You name the night.”

This morning I want to talk about another blind man. Instead of being a professional golfer or a famous musician, this guy was wiped out by life. Because he was not able to see, he spent his days sitting by the fairways and highways, just waiting for someone to give him a shekel or a piece of bread.

Before we meet this blind man, I want to first set the context for you. Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 18:31-34. Here we read that Jesus is walking to the Cross in order to accomplish what He came to do:

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. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him, spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. On the third day He will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about.

This is the third time in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus predicted His impending death. And, each time He told them about what was to come, He got more explicit. If you were to read through the Gospel of Luke, you would notice that beginning in chapter 9, there is a major shift in Jesus’ orientation. We’re introduced to a “travel motif” that permeates the remainder of the book.

9:51: “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” We see here that His approaching goal is not only His death and resurrection, but also His ascension. The phrase, “resolutely set” out for Jerusalem means that He “set His face towards” the place where He was going to die as the final sacrifice. And so, He begins His walk to the Cross.

10:38: “As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village…”

13:22: “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem.”

13:33: “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”

17:11: “Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.”

18:31: “…we are going up to Jerusalem.”

Without a doubt, Jesus is on a mission. He’s headed to Jerusalem. And the caravan of people that are following Him is growing at each rest stop. We see in Luke 18:35 that Jesus is now approaching the city of Jericho, which is about 15 miles from his final destination.

Since it is about 800 feet below sea level, Jericho has a climate that is tropical and at times very hot. The town is known as an oasis because of its fresh water spring and is called, “the city of palm trees.” In fact, I’m told that Yassar Arafat is building a summer home in Jericho. It was in Jericho that the pilgrims gathered to make the final leg of the journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Passover feast.

As I try to understand this incredible encounter between Bart and Jesus, I see four different stages that Bart goes through.

1 – His Blindness

The first stage is blindness. We see this in verse 35: “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.”

Blindness was a very common problem in Palestine. Generally, one who was blind was never healed. In the city of Lydda, the saying was that everyone was either blind or had only one eye. In Jaffa, there were 500 blind people out of a population of 5,000.

While Leviticus 19:14 establishes that God’s people were to care for those who are blind, there was also a cultural and religious stigma against blindness. We see this especially in the account of another man who was healed of his blindness in John 9. There, as Jesus and the disciples are out walking, the disciples ask Jesus a question in John 9:2: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

And so, there’s a sense in which those who were blind deserved their blindness. Many people thought this disease was a consequence of sin, either by the individual himself, or because of something the parents did. As a result, blind people were often ignored or even castigated.

Because this man was blind, he was relegated to a life of begging. In the Gospel of Mark we learn that this man was wearing an old garment, which was a sign that he was a beggar. He’s just sitting there, waiting for something to happen because there was nothing he could do to improve his condition.

This is really a word picture for our spiritual condition, isn’t it? 2 Corinthians 4:4 states that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel…” We are spiritually blind and there is nothing we can do to change that on our own.

Just as Jesus gives sight to those who are physically blind, so too He grants spiritual insight to those who are in moral darkness. This man knew he was blind, and so did everyone else. Are some of you trying to act like you’re not spiritually blind this morning? The first thing you need to do is to admit that you are just as blind in a spiritual sense as this man was in a physical sense.

Now, take a look at verse 36: “When he heard the crowd going by, He asked what was happening.” This man was smart. He knew that there would be a mass of people in Jericho that day preparing to make the final journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. That’s why he was sitting by the side of the road with his hand out. He couldn’t see what was happening, but he could hear the commotion and excitement. And so he’s curious. He wants to know what was happening. Perhaps he heard some unusual comments about a Healer who was headed to Jerusalem.

Verse 37 gives us the answer to his question, “…Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Bart’s heart begins to race. Could it be, that the person He had heard of before was right here in front of him? It was almost too good to be true.

2 – His Belief

The first stage is Bart’s blindness. The second thing we notice is his belief. Notice how Bart addresses Jesus in verse 38: “…Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd referred to the earthly heritage of Jesus – He was from Nazareth. That just lets us know where He grew up. That’s like someone saying that I’m from Wisconsin. That tells you a lot — I like brats, cheddar cheese and the Wisconsin Badgers — but it doesn’t tell you everything about me.

Instead of calling on Jesus as the guy from Nazareth, Bart expresses His messianic heritage. He is the Son of David, the one who the Old Testament has been pointing to as the Savior of the World. This blind man can see that Jesus is more than just a man from a small town in the north; He’s the God-man, sent from Heaven to be the Savior of the world.

Related to this, I wonder if Bart was aware of what the Son of David had accomplished in the lives of other people? Maybe he had heard of Jesus giving sight to other blind people. Perhaps he heard what Jesus said in Luke 4:18, when He stood up in the temple and read from the book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind…”

When Bart called out for the Son of David to have mercy on him, he was expressing his belief that Jesus was the Messiah, and that He could heal his blindness. He knew who Jesus was and He also knew what Jesus could do for him. Do you know what Jesus can do for you? If He can restore sight to the blind, He can grant you the deepest longing of your heart. We need to cry out for mercy just like Bart did.

Do you know who Jesus is? He’s much more than just a good teacher. He is the promised one, the Messiah, the Savior of the World. If you are just beginning to get to know Him, I encourage you to join us each week as we walk together with Him to the cross. Our journey will culminate on Easter Sunday morning as our choir presents, “At the Name of Jesus,” which will be a wonderful way to end this series. This cantata does a masterful job of communicating who Jesus really is – you won’t want your friends and family members to miss it!

Bart was aware of his blindness, and his belief in Jesus was right on. But, he did more than just believe – He acted on what He knew to be true by his boldness.

3 – His Boldness

Bart knew that he needed mercy because there was nothing he could do on his own. And so, he called out to Jesus, the Son of David, for mercy in verse 38. In the first part of verse 39 we see that the crowd of people is bothered by the blind and believing Bart: “Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet…”

The people who were leading the way may have been important city officials in Jericho. They wanted Jesus and his followers to see how beautiful their community was. They were probably embarrassed and even irritated when they heard Bart cry out for mercy. They wanted to shut him up and so they told him to knock it off and to be quiet.

It reminds me of what the city of Atlanta did when they hosted the summer Olympics. Before the games began, they removed all the homeless people who lived under an overpass because they didn’t want their city to look bad. These officials from Jericho probably wished they had done the same.

I love the second half of verse 39: “…but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” This guy was really bold and courageous! He chose to not listen to the crowd and shouted out even louder than the first time. He broke all the cultural rules of etiquette. He didn’t want Jesus to get away. This was his chance to receive some mercy and perhaps his sight.

I wonder if you and I have this same kind of boldness and courage when it comes to calling out for divine help. Maybe we don’t because we don’t really understand our condition of blindness. Or maybe we don’t because we don’t believe Jesus can really do anything about it. What about you? Do you think of yourself as more enlightened than you really are? Or, do you think less of Jesus than you should? If you saw yourself in the dark and in need of mercy, and if you saw Jesus as Bart did, you too would shout out for Jesus to change you.

Friend, don’t hold back or be afraid to give yourself to Jesus

Hebrews 4:16, in the King James Version, tells us to “…come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in our time of need.” Friend, don’t hold back or be afraid to give yourself to Jesus. Come to Him boldly and with confidence. Let Him know what you need. That’s what He’s waiting for – and He’ll reward you with mercy and grace to help in your time of need.

As a result of Bart’s boldness, verse 40 says that, “Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him…” Mark 10:50 tells us that Bart threw his cloak aside and jumped to his feet. Can you imagine how the crowd must have felt, especially those who had rebuked Bart? I picture everything getting real quiet. People are looking at Bart and then at Jesus. Jesus orders some guys (maybe the same ones who rebuked Bart) to help him walk through the crowd so that he is face-to-face with the Messiah.

The question Jesus then asks Bart is very interesting. Look at verse 41: “What do you want me to do for you?” Isn’t it obvious what Bart needed? Jesus knew what Bart wanted but He asked the question for Bart’s sake – and for the crowd of people who had gathered around. He wanted Bart to verbalize what it was that He wanted. I love Bart’s answer: “Lord, I want to see.”

What do you want Jesus to do for you? Have you ever put into words the cry of your heart? Have you ever verbalized your deepest needs? Have you ever shouted out for mercy to have Jesus save you from your sins? If not, Jesus is waiting for you to exhibit some boldness and to ask Him for what you need. James 4:2 says that we have not because we ask not. Just as Oscar Lopez told us that he has been asking God for a BMW, maybe you and I are not asking God for enough. At the very least, my guess is that some of you have never asked Jesus to demonstrate His mercy to you by saving you from your sins.

This ties in to the last point from the passage. Once we admit our blindness, and place our belief in Jesus as our only Savior and Lord, we can then be bold in our requests. That then leads to the fourth thing that happens: we receive a blessing.

4 – His Blessing

In verse 42, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’” Here’s a spiritual principle that you should never forget: Jesus always responds to faith. Because Bart believed and put his faith in Jesus, he received his sight back. Jesus is looking for more Barts today – people who will exhibit some faith, no matter how small it is, and cry out for mercy. Jesus loves to answer prayers like that by healing us from the inside out, granting us spiritual insight as he moves us out of darkness.

Verse 43 tells us that, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

When Bart got his sight back, he couldn’t help but break out into praise. He was thrilled! A couple weeks ago, I read in the paper about a man from Madrid, Spain who had been blind for 40 years and just had an operation on his eyes that was successful. For the first time he was able to see 4 of his 9 children and all 22 of his grandchildren. He was also able to gaze at his wife’s face. He liked everything he saw except for the image in the mirror. Here’s what he said, “I thought I would look better. I look really ugly and old!”

Now we don’t know if Bart had any grandkids or even if he was interested in looking in a mirror, but here’s what happened: Bart received, then he followed, and then he praised. Those who saw what took place also were led into a time of praise. Let me put it into different terms to help us see how this applies today: Conversion leads to Discipleship, which leads to Worship, which spills over into Evangelism. Bart went from darkness to the light, from begging to following, and from crying to praising. His blessing then led to the blessing of others as they were led into worship. This is exactly what Oscar Lopez taught us last week from Psalm 67: We are blessed in order to bless others so that all the nations will worship God.

Bart the blind man became Bart the believer. He recognized his blindness, exhibited his belief by crying out with boldness and then received a blessing, which spilled over into others’ lives.

Bart experienced four things:

God wants us to recognize our blindness and beef up our belief in who Jesus is

A change of focus: from darkness to the light – that’s conversion
A change of direction: from sitting to following – that’s discipleship
A change of purpose: from begging to praising – that’s worship
A change of scope: was blessed in order to bless others – that’s evangelism

Friends, God wants us to recognize our blindness and beef up our belief in who Jesus is. He then wants us to exhibit some boldness by asking Him for mercy so that we can receive a blessing that can be passed on to others.

From Darkness to the Light

I remember vividly an experience I had when I was about 8 years old. My bedroom was down in the basement, which was really cool because I got to be away from my sisters and have some privacy. The only thing that was tough about this was that it was really dark at night. I was normally pretty adept at finding my way around in the dark and used to like the challenge of finding the bathroom in the middle of the night by just feeling my way past my dad’s workbench, the furnace and the woodpile.

One night however, I woke up and got out of bed in order to use the bathroom. But, without realizing it, I had gotten out of the wrong side of the bed. Instead of finding the door, I was on the other end of my room, frantically searching for the light switch or the door. I was starting to panic. I couldn’t figure out who moved the door on me – it must have been one of my sisters! The more I searched the more upset I became. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I started screaming at the top of my lungs for my mom and dad. Eventually they came running down the stairs, opened my door and turned the light on. I’ll never forget how glad I was to see them!

I was in the dark and I knew it – I was blind. I couldn’t get out on my own. Do you recognize that you’re in the dark and trapped in a room full of sin with no way out?

I knew I needed some help and I knew my parents could help me – I had belief. Do you know you need some help? Do you believe that Jesus can help you? Do you have faith in who He is and in what He can do for you?

I knew I had to scream and shout in order to get some help – I was bold. Are you willing to boldly ask Jesus for the help you so desperately need? Are you ready to go against the crowd, and against your peers in order to find what you’ve been searching for?

I experienced the joy of finally being able to see and hugged my mom and dad profusely – I was blessed. Have you experienced that same kind of joy and are you sharing it with others? Are you praising God with your walk and with your talk so that others are drawn to Jesus? Are you using your blessing to bless others?

The blind man seized the moment. Jesus is passing by right now in our lives. This is the moment! If you don’t take it, you’ll miss something extraordinary and your spiritual blindness will continue. Just as the crowds tried to keep Bart from Jesus, so too the crowds in your life are trying to keep you from Him. Don’t listen to them. Stand up. Be bold. Go against the grain. Cry out for mercy and healing. Boldly express your belief in Jesus by recognizing your blindness so that you can receive a blessing that will spill over to others.

What do you need to do next?


Jesus is asking you a question this morning: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?