Matthew 20:17:34 Part 9

Jesus and His disciples, along with the huge crowd, had now crossed the Jordan River and were following the well-traveled route to Jerusalem, which led through Jericho.  It was Passover week in Israel, with all of its festivities, and travelers were beginning to come from everywhere; and so the beggars were out on the roads for the biggest “take” of the year.  But even for Passover the great crowd with Jesus was astonishing!  People didn’t gather like this.  They seemed to be all together; and it was a crowd with a purpose!

Nothing much is said about Jericho in the New Testament, so I won’t take a lot of time with it – except to say that it is one of the oldest cities in what is called the “cradle” of civilization.  Built and well-fortified not too far from the banks of the Jordan River (four miles or so), it is situated near that point at the river where Joshua and several million Jews crossed over from Ammon in 1410 BC (three hundred ninety years before David assumed the throne in Jerusalem).  It was the first city to fall – no pun intended – in the conquest of the land which God had given to His covenant people.

I’m assuming that everyone is familiar with the Biblical record concerning the walls of Jericho falling after this nation of people walked around the city thirteen times.  At the blowing of the trumpets and the shout of the whole nation, the walls fell flat; and the men went in and destroyed every living thing except Rahab the harlot and her family.

Now, although the events of our text happened some one thousand four hundred fifty years later, how could Jesus (or any man of Israel for that matter) walk through Jericho and resist thinking about the captain of the angelic host of God instructing Joshua and leading Israel in the conquest of this great city.  And although there’s a bridge and a paved highway now, I’d still like to walk that four miles from the river Jordan to the city of Jericho.

Our text this morning, beginning at verse twenty-nine, says that Jesus, accompanied by great crowds, was departing Jericho when He encountered two blind people.  The Gospel writer Mark also says that He was departing.  But Luke says He was “drawing (coming) near” Jericho!  Because there are those out there who would use this as a proof-text that the Bible has errors, we need to take a minute to defend.  This is apologetics.  When the inspired Word has critics who seek out inconsistencies in the written record, you and I must do two things:  we must assume that there is evil intent and rebellion against God and His Revelation; and we must jealously and aggressively defend it.

The written record is true in all of its parts, and it all agrees.  Some things are more difficult than others due to the fact that we don’t know the intent and circumstances of the writer well enough, and we don’t know the history and the geography well enough!

But this one’s a “no-brainer”!  And a critic can be easily shamed if he tries to use it!  First.  Matthew’s purpose and intent for the Gospel record is different from Luke’s.  His view is of the King and His Kingdom; and He omitted some events and conversations which, to him, didn’t necessarily further his purpose!  He wasn’t writing a history, he was writing Gospel!

Luke, on the other hand, omits some of what Matthew included, but includes, for his own purposes, some things that Matthew omitted.  His concern, at the instigation of the Spirit, was a little different.  And the same can be said about Mark; and about John.  And so we have a fuller record because of it.  Four Gospels, four different perspectives.

Second.  The fact is that Luke records an occasion, after Jesus had passed through Jericho, that Matthew doesn’t include.  Zacchaeus, who was a tax collector, and who was a “vertically challenged” person, had climbed up into a tree in order to see Jesus.  The crowds were huge, and he couldn’t get close; and he was too short to see Him over everybody’s heads!

We won’t go into the whole event here, but, according to Luke, Jesus, having already gone through the city, ended up going back into Jericho to Zacchaeus’ house!  And it was going back into Jericho that Jesus encountered the two blind persons here in our text.  So Luke says that Jesus was “drawing near” to Jericho.  And since Matthew omits the account of Zacchaeus, the incident with the two blind men happened on the other side of the city!  So Matthew records that Jesus and the crowds were “departing” Jericho.

Like I said, this one’s pretty easy; but those who are predisposed toward discrediting the Scriptures don’t want to take the time to learn the history and the geography – or the intent of the author!  Rather they would gleefully cast aspersions (ridicule) on the intelligence of those who submit themselves to the written Revelation of God!  And, in doing so, they reveal to the entire community of Christ who they really are.

Quickly here, let me also make mention of the fact that Luke and Mark name Bartimeus as the blind man that Jesus met at this point.  But Matthew simply says that there were two blind people.  And it’s not necessary to try to make two separate incidences with blind people here.  The fact is that Matthew was there, and he chose to include the account as vitally important in the Gospel record (as we’ll see in a few moments).

Mark and Luke, on the other hand, were not there.  But in their research to write their Gospels, they came up with the name of one of the blind persons – Bartimeus (as our text says, they both became followers of Jesus).  But Bartimeus probably became well-known (after a fashion), and he was named in the account in order to make it more personal.  But in no way does that make the three synoptic accounts disagree.  Again, our presupposition is that the Scriptures all agree; and a little knowledge of the history reveals, or supports, that they do!

And, now, as we go back to the text itself, we notice, right at the beginning of verse thirty, that Matthew begins the account of the blind persons with the word “lo”.  And we remember that whenever he does that, it is an immediate indication that the event to follow is one of great salvific and eschatological significance!  In other words, beyond the dialogue and beyond the healing and beyond the compassion and beyond any other actions and words in the text – there is further and greater significance!

We’ve already seen this a number of times, haven’t we?  The occasions in which the angels announced the birth of Jesus; the Gentile magi following the star to Bethlehem; the baptism of Jesus; the shaking of the Sea of Galilee; the Roman soldier (Gentile) with the dead child; the healing of the woman with an issue of blood; the healing of the leper – all with far greater significance than just the events themselves!  And all set apart with this little word “lo”.

And so it is with our text this morning.  Even though Jesus had healed blind people on numerous occasions, as He had many other diseases and afflictions, Matthew wishes us to view this one with wider lenses, and with awe and wonder (all of which, hopefully, we’ll see in a few moments).

But two blind beggars, who presumably lived in Jericho (maybe even in some of the ruins of the old city for all we know), had heard all the commotion!  Although Jericho was on a main road to Jerusalem, and Passover week was beginning – with all the travelers on the road, and all the commerce that was brought to the city – never had they heard such as they were hearing this time!

Being blind, and, as with all blind people their sense of hearing was greatly potentiated, these two (maybe friends in their begging operation – maybe not).  Maybe even a man and a woman, or a wife – the text leaves it open for that possibility) but these two heard the sounds of a great throng of people passing through and around the city!

The wagons, the animals; singing, shouting, the many conversations; the excitement.  Even though it was on a main road to Jerusalem, and it was Passover week, Jericho had not witnessed, in all of its long history since Jacob, the teeming mass of people which passed through it that day!  And, since Luke records that Jesus stayed with Zacchaeus, the city must have been overrun with people all night!

And by the time the blind beggars took up their positions by the road, Jesus had already passed by and had already had the conversation with Zacchaeus up in the tree, and was returning to the city!  We can imagine that they were probably thinking about the large amounts of money they might collect from so many people.  But then they heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was the center of everybody’s attention!  This crowd was following Him!

And, having heard the stories for three years about all His healing and teaching, and having spoken to many travelers who told them of God’s Messiah having come – and He was up in Galilee – the two began to vigorously shout at Jesus!  If Messiah, the King of Israel Who had been promised for a thousand years, had finally arrived, then they couldn’t let Him pass without getting His attention!

The people around Jesus didn’t like it… with great deference to the new King of Israel, they tried to quiet them down (verse thirty-one).  But they were so persistent and loud that it was irritating and embarrassing.  But, in their understanding of their situation, the beggars only had (maybe) one opportunity to get Jesus’ attention!  And the crowd noises were great!  They couldn’t see Jesus – didn’t know exactly where he was, since they were blind – so they didn’t know whether Jesus had acknowledged them; so they continued to shout at Him!  “Kyrie, eleison hemas huie Dawid!”  “Pity us, Son of David!”

Now, I’m very sure that, in all His three years of being manifested as God’s Messiah, Jesus had seen every kind of attempt to get His attention.  People were always crowding Him – to touch Him, to be touched by Him, to get their families to Him, to be cleansed and to be healed, and to see His miracles and hear Him speak.  And we can be sure that having people shout at Him wasn’t all that unusual.  After all, they had purposed that He was going to be their king!

But what is so striking – here on the road to Jerusalem and Christ’s suffering and death – is the fact that the two blind beggars are crying out to David’s great Son!  Now, there are two issues here that make this such a vitally significant passage for Matthew – and for the Church; the first being that the nation of God’s people had been the prey of wolves; they had been put in bondage to blindness and sickness and destitution.  The nation was a wilderness of birds of prey and evil things – injustice and hypocrisy and harlotry and idolatry and demonic infestation.

And, in that hopeless condition, these blind beggars were begging God’s Messiah for pity – while He was on the way to giving His life a ransom for many!  And the significance of that can’t be missed, because all people are born into this world in bondage to depravity and the curse!  And all men, women and children, in order to be “loosed” from that captivity, must be brought to an acknowledgment of their condition, and to seek Messiah’s compassion for their release!  Christ Jesus the Lord is the One from Whom pity must be forthcoming, for He paid the ransom!

O God, that men and women everywhere might see their own hopeless estate and become beggars of pity!  For the Christ of God can be moved to infinite compassion for the condition of men!  Splangnizomai – the “bowels” of Jesus are provoked and incited by the cries and pleas of men for pity!

Lord that my sin and guilt might be “covered” by the ransoming blood of Christ; that my life might be “bought” into the family of the Second Adam by that ransom; that I might be loosed from alien captivity into the freedom of the Kingdom of Christ!

The acknowledgement of one’s hopeless condition, and the plea for pity from God’s Messiah, moves the Son of God to compassion towards men and women and children….

The second issue here that makes this event so significant for Matthew, and now for the Church, is that these beggars were crying out to “the Son of David”!  Regardless of Jewish, Pharisaical expectations of an earthy king (which came from extra-biblical writings), these blind men were seeking pity from the Son of David!

From Genesis forty-nine, where the Messiah is prophesied for the nations; to the seventh chapter of Second Samuel, where David is promised a Son whose Throne shall be established forever; to Psalm seventy-two where all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in the king’s son; to Psalm one hundred ten (the most quoted Scripture in the New Testament) – which reads, in part:


“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘sit at My right Hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool….” 


In that Psalm David calls his son to be … His Lord!

Although the Pharisaical writings were there to legitimize their own criteria for choosing the successor to David’s throne, these blind beggars acknowledged that Jesus was David’s great Son and David’s Lord – regardless of any Pharisaical criteria!

And it’s the same confession that Paul writes to the Church at Rome; that the Gospel of God is


“concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who was made of the seed (spermatos) of David according to the flesh….”


And he writes to Timothy with the same confession:


“Remember”, he says, “that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead….”


The apostle John, in writing the Book of the Revelation, chapter five, says that Jesus Christ is the “root” (rhidza) of David and the only One worthy to open the seven seals of the book.  (David Koresh had other criteria for messiahship too, didn’t he?  Just as the Pharisees had other criteria for choosing the Messiah, he chose himself as worthy to open the seals!)

And John also, at the end of the Revelation, quotes Jesus when He said,


“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify these things to you in the Churches:  I Am the Root and the Offspring of David….”


So these two blind beggars, by the prophecy of the Old Testament, acknowledge Jesus Christ of Nazareth to be the Son of David; and by the transfer of the Old Testament Title to this man from Nazareth, it is confessed that all the promises of God are fulfilled in Him.

“Lo”, the King is coming in!  David’s Son and David’s Lord – in the flesh; the One Whose enemies will be made His footstool; the One Whose Kingdom will be everlasting; the One before Whom the nations will bow down.  He is God – David’s Lord; He is man David’s Son.  The only One able to provide the ransom; the only One able to cover the sins of the many; the only One able to “buy” mankind from enslavement; the only One able to loose man from alien captivity!


“What would you have Me to do to you?”


He asked these two.  They didn’t plead their case; they didn’t appeal for justice; they didn’t justify themselves in any way.  They appealed to the pity of David’s great Son.  And they prayed to be loosed from their captivity to blindness.  And Jesus having touched their eyes, they looked up.  (Another judgment on the nation of Israel and its ravaging of the people of God.)


“And they followed Him.”


As we come to worship the Table of our Lord this morning, in obedience to His command, it is David’s Lord and David’s Son – the God-man – Who gave His life a ransom in place of many.  And just like these blind beggars, we must see ourselves as worthy of nothing – and beg for pity.  We have to be stripped of the pride and self-righteousness and self-esteem and recognize that we are impotent except for the “bowels of mercy” that Jesus Christ has for His Father’s people.  And it is under those conditions that we are set free, by His ransom payment, from our sin, our guilt and the curse.  And in His compassion we look up; and we follow Him.


Let me tell you what these two blind beggars did not say!

1)    They did not express anger at the way they were treated.

2)    They did not complain that their rights had been infringed.

3)    They didn’t justify themselves.

4)    They didn’t rail against their parents and friends and government because of the conditions of their lives.

5)    They didn’t blame anybody (especially God!)

6)    They didn’t indicate that they deserved anything!

7)    There was no sulking self-interest regarding their state in life!

8)    And there was no list of hardships under which they lived!


Lo!  Israel!  The nations!  Here is God’s Messiah!  He is here to rebirth human-kind.  Recognize your condition.  Beg for His pity and His mercy, and then follow Him.