"Have Mercy on Me"
On Sunday mornings in France I would drive to church and my route took me past a Roman Catholic church. There would normally be some people standing outside that building – they were begging. I suppose they thought the type of person who went to that particular church were good targets, people who were likely to put their hand in their pocket and make a contribution.
Beggars normally find the best places – they like a heavy footfall of people who are likely to be sympathetic to their pleas for help.
The main road through Jericho was a good place for beggars in Jesus’ day. Religious Jews travelled regularly to Jerusalem for one of the regular festivals and Jericho was on one of the major routes there. Many of the Jews who travelled to Jerusalem from the north of the country would take a detour to avoid passing through the despised and hated Samaria. They would cross the Jordan and then travel south along its eastern side before crossing back to the west again when they were past Samaria. And as they crossed back to the west Jericho lay on the route ahead of them.
Religious pilgrims going about their religious business were promising targets for beggars. As Luke continued his gospel narrative the event he was about to record most definitely had the ring of truth about it.
Jesus on the Way to Jerusalem
For some time now Jesus had been making his way towards Jerusalem. The time of Passover Festival was approaching and many other Jews were also making their way to the city. Arriving at Jericho it is not at all surprising that we read of crowds passing through. Jesus had his own followers but other pilgrims were on the road too.
A blind beggar had taken his place along the roadside hoping for a good day – it would turn out for him better than he expected. He was about to be forever changed by an encounter with Jesus but he didn’t know that as his day began.
It seems as though he was used to his spot because he realised that this day was not quite the other days.
Perhaps the crowd was larger than usual, noisier than usual, more excited than usual – was there some sort of special buzz in the air? We can’t say but we can say that the blind beggar knew that there was something different about that day, something unusual was going on and he didn’t know what it was. Maybe his hearing, sharpened to compensate for the loss of his sight, picked up some strange sounds or maybe he overheard some unusual conversations. But what was it? He didn’t know but he could and did ask.
How good it is to be attentive and alert! It was factor that day in bringing this blind man to his life-changing encounter with Jesus.
Are you like that when you come to the church service? Are you eager to know what it all means? Are you keen to know how it relates to you and how it might affect you? I wonder, do you come ready for a life-changing encounter with Jesus?
"What’s going on" he asked and quickly he was given the answer:
v.37 "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
It was all the blind man wanted to know. He must already have heard about this man from Nazareth and what he had heard had made a great impression upon him. This blind man knew that this man was special – indeed he was much too special to only be described as Jesus of Nazareth. And he shouted out:
v.38 "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
The Encounter Takes Place
In the reports he’d heard concerning Jesus he would probably have heard talk about a great teacher, a great miracle worker. Maybe he even heard that some were wondering whether or not he might be the Messiah.
And it is as the Messiah that the blind man addressed Jesus, the descendant of the Mighty King David – the one who had been born King of the Jews and who would be crucified with that title written above his head. It was a remarkable cry to come out with but he was in need and here before him was One who could surely help him. He wasn’t going to let his opportunity slip:
v.38 "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
The first response to his cry was not at all encouraging:
"Ssh!" "Be quiet!" "Shut-up"
That’s what he heard those at the head crowd call back to him.
Did the crowd find his cries embarrassing? Did they think he was going too far in addressing Jesus in this manner? Perhaps they didn’t think he was right and found his cries disturbing. Who did they think Jesus was? Who do you think he was and is?
Maybe they simply thought this was an unwarranted and unwelcome interruption – Jesus was too important to be bothered by such a man as this. I wonder whether you think that there are some people that Jesus simply wouldn’t be concerned to help. I wonder whether you think he wouldn’t want to have dealings with you.
Well those in the crowd who told him to be quiet needn’t have bothered. All their efforts to calm him down only led to one thing – he cried out all the more!
v.39 "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
And his persistence paid off! Jesus stopped.
Have you ever become interested in Jesus Christ but perhaps allowed yourself to be discouraged by others from pressing on? Maybe you were nervous about how friends or family might react if you were to become too interested in Jesus. Maybe you allowed discouragements to damage a growing faith and you began to doubt whether Jesus could help you or maybe you began to doubt that he would want to.
What do you think would have happened that day to the blind man had he shut up when those negative voices in the crowd told him to be quiet? I think his chance would have slipped throw his hands and have been lost. Is that what you think too?
But he did keep on calling out and Jesus did stop. Above all the clamour and excitement of the crowd Jesus heard the voice of a man crying out desperately for help. His heart was moved with compassion and he stopped. He issued a command that the man in question be brought to him and as he drew near Jesus spoke to him, just to him:
v.41a "What do you want me to do for you?"
Beggars want money – is that what this fuss was all about? Maybe that was why the crowd had tried to shut him up. Jesus’ question allowed the man to express his deepest desires and the blind man didn’t hesitate:
v.41b "Lord" he said "let me recover my sight."
It is clear that this blind man knew what it was to see. He had once been able to see but for one reason or another he had lost his sight and how he would love to have it again.
Sight is Restored
He had no claim upon Jesus, he couldn’t argue that he deserved to be healed or that he ought to be healed, but he pleaded instead for mercy. But his plea was also a cry of faith. He believed Jesus was able to help him, he believed Jesus was able to restore his sight to him! He had faith and he placed his faith in the One who was indeed able to help him and he asked him for mercy:
And mercy is just what he received!
v.42 "And Jesus said to him, "Recover your sight; your faith has made you well."
With a word, a simple word, the blind man’s dark world was suddenly flooded with light!
v.43 "And immediately he recovered his sight..."
We’re not to imagine that this man was somehow made well because he had great faith and that this great faith healed him. It was not necessary for him to have great faith but he did need to exercise the faith he had in Jesus. And how God loves to give us the faith that we need in his Son! I don’t need a great faith and neither do you but what we both need is a faith in a great Saviour! It was just such a faith that this formerly blind man had!
He had called out for mercy to the One he recognised to be the Messiah, the Son of David, and this One responded by doing what God does:
Ps.146:8 "the LORD opens the eyes of the blind."
By doing what the prophets said the Messiah would do. Isaiah in one of his famous servant songs described how the LORD commissioned his servant:
Is.42:6-7 "I am the LORD; I have called you ... to open the eyes that are blind"
A Complete Transformation
Not only could the blind man see whereas he previously could not he now how a new purpose and direction in life. He had become a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ:
v.43 "immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God."
This is true for all who go to the Lord Jesus seeking his mercy and benefiting from his loving gracious compassion. When we receive blessing and help from the Lord we don’t simply go on as before as though nothing had happened but we become his followers and as we follow him we give glory to God.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a Christian for years or only for the last couple of minutes the way ahead is the same for us all: we follow him, our Saviour and our Lord, and we gratefully return thanks to God for his wonderful kindness. We go on to live our lives in such a way that others too are encouraged to similarly give glory to God.
It is only to those who have not tasted and seen that the Lord is good that this appears a hard and a frightening lifestyle to adopt. But when you meet with Jesus as your Saviour and Lord what a joy it is to follow him and what a delight to praise God for his glorious grace.
Christian, make sure that with God’s help you determine to live this way!
As we close let me sum up what this passage has to teach us.
Mercy has to be sought – why? Because we have needs that we cannot meet ourselves.
Mercy is shown so readily by the Lord Jesus
He stops and has time for us
He invites us to come to him, indeed he commands it
He questions us as to our needs and listens to our answers
He acts in a powerful, healing way
Now I don’t know what God’s plans are for you as far as physical health is concerned but I do know that when Jesus healed people he did so out of compassion. He did not however regard physical health as the greatest need that men and women had – he actually viewed his acts of healing as providing us with proof that he was able to satisfy our deepest needs: the need to our sins forgiven and the need to be given a new start in our relationship with God.
Have you put your trust in Jesus? Will you call out to him today to have mercy on your never-dying soul? Will you look to him to give you a new birth to a living hope?
Mercy produces a response of discipleship and such a life is characterised by praise.
May Jesus, the Son of David, have mercy on us all!