We just wrapped up a series entitled ORIGINS, where we looked at some of the Old Testament prophets who’s job it was to let people know that they were not living up to the expectations of God and, so He wasn’t happy with them. In fact, he’s pretty ticked off and he is about to drop the hammer; he’s going to crush them like a bug and it’s not going to be pretty.
And then they go on chapter after chapter describing God’s judgment and wrath being dumped on them. And if the story ended there, we’d be left with this sadness and distaste in our mouth because there’s just no hope and no glimmer of God’s goodness. We want more. There’s got to be more.
But in the midst of all of this judgment and devastation, a promise emerges . . . it’s the promise of God’s restoration and redemption.
It’s a promise that one day there would be a Messiah, an anointed one, who would usher in the Kingdom of God and makes things right again.
Isaiah, another Old Testament prophet, foretold the coming of a child who will be named wonderful, counselor, mighty God, and the prince of peace. And that this child would come from the branch of David, and He will rule the earth with justice and equality.
Descriptions such as these hinted that the coming anointed one, would be God himself. But no one really knew what to expect.
- Some thought that it would a conquering king, who would come to destroy the enemies of God’s people and restore the nation of Israel. And that this kingdom would never end.
- Others thought it would be a spiritual experience; the clouds would be pulled back and the heavens would burst forth with God’s warriors charging the way as they ushered in God’s king and his kingdom.
All these ideas. All the anticipation and expectation but then, nothing; No spiritual experience, no conquering king. For 400 years God was silent.
And what happened next, I don’t think anyone expected . . . a baby was born. Jesus, the word become flesh made his dwelling among us.
Over this Advent season, we’ll consider what scripture has to say about the birth of Jesus; born a man, born a son, born a savior, born a king.
Let’s listen to our text for this evening; READ Luke 18:35-43
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem during the season of Passover, an annual feast where God’s people would travel, usually by foot to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate their story of deliverance from Egyptian slavery and to offer sacrifices so God’s judgment would pass over them.
Like Advent, this is a momentous holiday for God’s people.
As they are traveling, Jesus pulls the disciples aside and he says, “You know all of that stuff you learned in church over the years; the torah and the prophets . . . yeah, well, that was about me”
All of that was to prepare the way for my coming.
And then predicts what is going to happen when they get to Jerusalem; that he will be arrested and mocked and spat upon and flogged and after they have flogged him, they will kill him but on the third day, he will rise.
In other words, he’s telling them that they are going to Jerusalem during the season of Passover to be the final sacrifice so that the wrath of God would pass over us and we would be restored.
But they didn’t get it. They have no idea what he’s talking about.
So they continue their journey and they pass through the town of Jericho, and there is this blind, poor beggar on the side of the road whose name is Bartimaeus. Now he is not the only beggar there. In fact there are beggars everywhere because this was a strategic place for those who begged for their survival.
What better place to be than on the side of the road where a bunch of religious guys are heading to Jerusalem to meet with God.
But this particular beggar cries out, saying something that no one else says . . .
He shouts “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”
And when they tell him to be quiet because Jesus is busy and he's very important and doesn’t have time for people like him, he just kicks it up a notch and yells louder. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”
Now, we can easily miss what he is saying because honestly, this guy is kind of annoying . . . but it is very important. He says, Jesus, Son of David.
They would have heard that as a very significant, theological statement.
- This blind beggar is making a declaration that Jesus is the king of kings
- And he’s making this declaration during another low point in the history of God’s people when they were once again no longer free. They were back under foreign oppression.
- But this time it wasn't the Egyptians, now, it was the Romans. And they wanted liberation and deliverance and freedom from Roman oppression. They wanted their Exodus.
And so when this blind beggar cries out, “Jesus, Son of David” he was saying . . . “There's someone above Caesar, and here he is, Jesus, the Son of David.”
This was a very dangerous thing to say because David was a what? A king.
Now throughout the history of God’s people they had good kings and they had bad kings but the best king they ever had was David. He brought peace, protection and prosperity.
However David was not a perfect king and so over time his kingdom completely fell apart.
God came to David and said, "There will be a day when I raise up from your family line another King. And he's going to bring peace and prosperity and the presence and protection of God. In fact, it'll be God himself and his kingdom will endure forever and ever.
And from that point forward, God’s people were aching and yearning and waiting, “Where is this king? The one who brings peace, protection, prosperity and the presence of God . . . where is he?”
And the blind beggar said, “He’s right there. Jesus, Son of David.”
This is how Jesus is proclaimed as king of kings, God among us, and fulfillment of prophecy. This blind beggar was able to see what Jesus’ own disciples were unable to see.
Isn't it amazing that God would choose to do that through the homeless, poor, unkempt, blind beggar on the side of the road?
He got it . . . in his blindness, he saw who Jesus was . . . and he proclaimed it. And as the people tried to stop him from proclaiming, he just shouted all the louder. “Jesus, Son of David . . . have mercy on me”
And Jesus heard him, and he stopped and he tells him to come to him.
Bartimaeus springs up and throws off his cloak. And in this gesture, he is casting off his old life – that of the beggar, huddled by the side of the road, wrapped in a protective garment and he reveals who Jesus is calling him to be . . . a free man.
Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”
I love this question and here’s why . . . just because someone cries out to Jesus, doesn’t mean that they actually want what Jesus has to offer.
People can become very comfortable with their condition and the amount of caring that their condition has created for them and they are not willing to give that up, even if Jesus has something better to offer.
An ordinary beggar would have demanded money but instead, Bartimaeus asks that his sight be restored . . . and again, this is important.
You see, he is not blind from birth: and he is asking for the restoration of sight and the restoration of a place in the sighted community . . . this is restoration of God’s people into God’s kingdom.
And when he opens his eyes . . . the first thing he see’s is the face of Jesus, Son of David, the king of kings the one who has come to bring peace, protection, prosperity and the presence of God.
Jesus replies with his usual formula: “Go, your faith has made you well.”
But Bartimaeus doesn’t go . . . he wants to follow Jesus. I don't even think he took time for a shower.
It’s like; Jesus has got a huge posse and one really stinky homeless guy, but he just wanted to follow Jesus and shout out his praises.
And his praises were infectious . . . it says that the whole crowd started praising God with him as they walked along the road to Jerusalem.
And I can just picture Bartimaeus continuing to shout praises to Jesus the Son of David 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 as people shouted “Hosanna blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”
I think it could well be that the shouts of praise 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 recognize Jesus for who he is
This man was blind, and then he sees. He trusts and then he is delivered. And he experiences two miracles in one. He experiences a physical miracle, where his eyes are opened. He experiences a spiritual miracle, where his soul is also opened and able to see and he can’t help but shout out praises.
This is a story that’s part of a big story, and I hope would be your story because here’s the truth . . . we are the blind man, trying to make our way around in a dark world.
- And like this blind man, we have to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the king, and call out to him.
- Stern voices may try to shut us up, tell us we don’t deserve his attention, tell us not to waste his time, tell us we’re unworthy – but we ignore them, redoubling our effort to get his attention. “Jesus, have mercy on me”
- And – we are rewarded: he stops and calls us to him
- In answer to the call, we throw off our cloak –and even though we can’t really see where we are going, we take the risk, we approach him in the best way we can.
- What do you want me to do for you? He asks.
- We don’t beg for some temporary band aid – like alms. Instead, we open up the deepest need in our being to him, whatever it may be:
- “Lord, accept me as I am; grant me a full place in your Kingdom; let me serve and follow you.”
- And he grants our prayer.
So, God . . . open our eyes that we may see. Heal the blindness in our souls that keep us from you. . . . Let us not be comfortable with our condition but restore us into your kingdom, a kingdom that lasts forever and ever. AMEN