Back in the 1990s, a new craze called stereogram art became popular. A stereogram is a picture hidden within a picture. Initially, you just see a pattern of some sort. But hidden within the pattern lies a three-dimensional image, which could only be seen by refocusing one’s vision.
Outside my hometown in Livingston, Montana is a beautiful mountain range. If you stare at it awhile, you can see the figure of a giant man lying down. The natives call it “The Sleeping Giant”. When I point it out to people, they often cannot see it. So I try my best to help them see the sleeping giant that they can appreciate it.
Our story for today is about seeing. An adage goes: “Seeing is believing.” However, the story in Luke 18 could very well be entitled, “Believing is Seeing.” The Gospel writer, Luke, has written the story to help us see Jesus.
Jesus is approaching the city of Jericho. He is only 18 miles from Jerusalem, and His journey is almost completed. A crowd is gathered around Him talking, making requests, asking Him questions, trying to get His attention. It is rather loud and raucous. They are traveling to celebrate the Passover, a commemoration of when God set His people free from slavery in Egypt.
Jesus’ popularity is growing. He’s become a celebrity of sorts. The stories of His teachings and healings are floating around the towns and villages of Galilee. People are wondering who He is, so they go out to see for themselves.
Along the roadside outside of Jericho, people are lined up to welcome Passover pilgrims and wish them well. Many are trying to get a glance at Jesus. At strategic places along the way, beggars ask for alms from folks who pass by. It is a typical sight.
Our focus for today is on one particular beggar on the side of the road who is about to have his life changed. He would have an eye-opening experience, for he is a blind man. Because of his blindness, he is unable to work. Having been rejected by family and society in general, he has to beg to survive. He is overlooked and ignored, looked down upon by people, considered riffraff – about as low as you could go on the social scale. But it is all about to change in our story.
The blind man notices the loudness increasing around him. A loud group is approaching ahead, making all kinds of noise. People are talking loudly. He hears people around him saying, There He is! I, I think I can see Him!
What’s all the commotion? he asks no one in particular.
Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. In the popular perception, He was simply “Jesus,” an amazing man from Nazareth. The jury was still out on His faux identity.
When the blind man hears this, he starts yelling something we haven’t heard yet in Luke’s Gospel. “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me.” He is expressing an insight others haven’t had. Though he is physically blind, he sees a lot more than most people when it comes to Jesus.
Notice he doesn’t cry out, “Jesus of Nazareth! Have mercy on me,” but “Jesus, Son of David!” These are words of faith! His heart sees the light before his eyes could, and he recognizes Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the promised One of God, the Savior. So he cries for an audience with Him, Have mercy on me! Help me! Show compassion on me!
People in front of the beggar, as they heard him cry for an audience with this Savior King, turn around and rebuke him. Shhh. Be quiet. Jesus doesn’t have time for people like you. Just shut up. You’ve got a lot of nerve. Don’t bother Jesus. But the blind man desperately continues to shout even louder: SON OF DAVID. HAVE MERCY ON ME.
Then an amazing thing happens – Jesus stops. Amid all these people talking, the cacophony of noise, and the steady flow of the crowd, Jesus stops. He’s heard the blind beggar, and He recognizes faith. Someone in this crowd has faith and needs Him in some way. So Jesus commands a couple of His disciples to find this individual and bring him forward so He might meet him. Suddenly this invisible beggar has become very visible. Everybody’s watching. He is the center of attention. When they bring him, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Don’t you find this to be an amazingly delightful question? The high King of heaven, the creator God of the universe, wants to be the servant of this lowly outcast. This is mercy! Grace! He is giving the man further opportunity to publicly display his faith toward Jesus. And the man doesn’t disappoint Jesus. He says “Lord, let me recover my sight.” You can fix this.
Notice the second title he uses now. Declaring his faith in Jesus all the more, he calls Jesus “Lord” as he expresses his sense of Jesus’ deity, dominion, power, and authority.
Jesus responds in the affirmative to the request. One last time, He confirms His deity before the crowd to show the fulfillment of the anointing He received at His baptism. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (61:1).
“The blind can see” (35:5).
Jesus says, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” With a simple word, the man immediately recovered his sight, and his life was changed. He can see! Imagine what it would be like to see colors, light, brightness, people’s faces, and, most importantly, the face of Jesus who was probably smiling at him as He stared into his eyes. Imagine the freedom that suddenly becomes his, the rescue, the new possibilities that lie before him.
Jesus’s words, “Your faith has saved you,” are salvation words. He will use them to a tax collector named Zacchaeus: “Today salvation has come to this house” as Zacchaeus repents and expresses faith in Him. This is the word of truth for us – Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
What does the man do in response? He doesn’t run into town and tell his family. He doesn’t run around looking for friends to tell. He doesn’t go dancing down the road away from the crowd. Instead, he follows Jesus and glorifies God in his newfound relationship with the Lord. This is the mark of true conversion. He leaves behind the begging business and goes with Jesus into the giving business. He becomes a disciple and follows Jesus, showing a willingness to obey and surrender to His leadership. The people who witnessed this scene gave praise to God for the miracle.
As a preacher and student of God’s Word, I’ve learned it is quite important to always ask what the takeaway of the story is for you and me. Several truths jump out at us.
Jesus has a heart for the helpless and the poor. They are precious in His sight. Jesus has the power to do amazing things.
Jesus is the Son of David. The big idea of this story is about faith. Jesus affirms the blind man’s faith recognition. He is not only Jesus of Nazareth, an ordinary man and a good teacher, but also the ONE Israel has been waiting for since Old Testament days. This is the Son of David who was promised to King David way back. He is the Messiah, the King whom Israel has been looking for.
The title the blind man used in his loud cries to Jesus is first mentioned at the very beginning of Luke’s Gospel but not in the same way. The angel announced to Mary that she would have a baby. God would give this baby the throne of His ancestor David, and He shall rule over His people forever. Of His kingdom, there shall be no end. Just as God promised King David in II Samuel 7, this baby is the Messiah, the King, David’s son whom Israel has been waiting for and will serve.
The beggar, even in his blindness, sees this, while others who could see physically couldn’t see Jesus for who He really is – the Son of David. The eyes of his heart saw the Savior who could change his life, and so he calls to Him for help. Jesus recognizes the man’s faith and affirms it.
I wonder if Jesus smiled when He heard the man’s words. Did He thank His heavenly Father as He waited for the man to be brought to Him? Was the beggar’s gift of faith also a gift for Jesus from His heavenly Father to inspire Him and keep Him going as He headed toward Jerusalem to complete His mission and be crucified for the sins of the world? We don’t know, but we do know a miracle occurred affirming that God’s kingdom has come. It is a sign of the kingdom. Jesus is the Son of David. He is the King of His kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises to His people. He is, in fact, THE Savior King to be trusted and followed. This is the big idea.
When you, in your mind’s eye, see Jesus, what do you see? One may see a teacher. Another may see a great philosopher. Still, another may see a scam artist. The Muslim might see a prophet. Many others, like the blind man – myself included – see the Savior of the world who rescues us and gives us a new life with Him.
As we follow Jesus, we come to realize we are all beggars in the sight of God. We have nothing to offer except the empty hands of faith to receive His riches and His salvation.
This story is appealing to us to see Jesus for who He really is – the Savior – and follow Him the rest of our lives. We can live with absolute certainty that we have access to a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Some folks ask how we can know for sure all this is true. A commentary I was reading about this story said this is Jesus’ last miracle in Luke’s gospel. But the commentator is not quite right, for one more miracle has yet to be seen – an empty tomb! Jesus, who died on a cross, is not in the tomb. He is not there! The miracle of His resurrection from the dead is the grand finale!
The message proclaimed on Easter morning is this: This is the Son of David who created David. He is worthy of your trust and your praise.
Dear friends, the risen Jesus is still passing by. Do you see Him? He is ready with His gracious mercies for your life. He loves you. He died on the cross to pay for your sins and make you His own, to move you from darkness into His marvelous light. Call upon His name in faith for His mercy. And remember, He will not pass you by.
As we conclude our worship today, I invite you to let the words of this hymn, written by a blind hymn writer – Fannie Crosby – be your prayer.
♬Pass me not O gentle Savior,
hear my humble cry . . . ♪
Pastor Steve Kramer