The only thing worse than having a terminal disease for which there is no cure is having a terminal disease for which there is a cure, but refusing to acknowledge you’re sick and therefore won’t go to the doctor to be healed.
While Jesus walked this earth He frequently healed people of a variety of physical illnesses and handicaps. Among those illnesses and handicaps was blindness. There are two stories in the Bible about Jesus healing two different men from their blindness. He heals both of these men, but there was a group of blind men He didn’t heal, not because He couldn’t, but because they didn’t know they needed healing; they didn’t know they were blind, so they wouldn’t seek healing from Jesus. Seems ridiculous doesn’t it? How can someone not know He’s blind? Actually, it happens all the time. In fact, it’s pandemic in our world today.
To explain this I’m going to go into depth about these two stories and what I believe the Lord wants to teach us today to lead us out of darkness into His light.
The first story is told in John chapter 9. The second story is told in Mark 10 which we will discuss later.
The first story begins when Jesus notices a blind man as He passes by Him and His disciples ask Him an interesting question.
“As he (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:1-7 ESV).
He who was born blind was now able to see. That’s wonderful. But that’s not the end of the story. Though this man who was once blind, who once lived in a world of personal darkness, could now see and experience life not only in the light of the sun, but experience Life in the Light of the Son, soon came face to face with a blindness that was willfully embraced by others, a blindness that was far darker than the darkness he had lived in since birth; for this blindness that he now became aware of after having been healed by Jesus, was a blindness of the soul and spirit. The man born physically blind came face to with the spiritually blind, those who experience life only in the light of sun, but will not allowed themselves to be healed to experience Life in the Light of Son. They are comfortable in their darkness to the point of being oblivious to their blindness and resenting anyone telling them they are in need of healing. Such were those this man who now walked in the Light came face to face with.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees – the pastors, preachers, teachers, priests, bishops, and so forth of our day – hated Jesus. They refused to acknowledge that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. They were jealous of Him because so many people began to follow Him and believe He was the Messiah, coming into the Light of Truth. That meant, among other things, that they began to lose their positions of power and influence with the people. So, they did whatever they could to discredit Jesus so people would quit following Him and follow them again.
But they had a problem; a big problem. Jesus healed the blind, the deaf, and the lame. He controlled the weather and cast out demons with just a word. They couldn’t. So, when He performed a miracle they tried to convince the people that He was demon possessed and performed the miracle by the power of Satan, the Prince of Darkness.
And some people believed that because many of His miracles occurred on the Sabbath, which was the case with this particular man born blind, He couldn’t be the Messiah. So, the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:16 NASU).
And they tried to get this man born blind, who was now completely healed to believe that the One who healed him (he didn’t know it was Jesus at that point) was a sinner. He refused to believe that and told them so. He said,
“If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:21 NASU).
That took an incredible amount of courage because the Pharisees and Sadducees had the power to excommunicate anyone from the Temple that displeased them. That may not sound like a major threat, but to be excommunicated from the Temple in that culture during Jesus’ time was much more serious than being excommunicated from a church or denomination today. Your life would be completely changed and even your family was likely to disown you. You would be ostracized from society, an outcast.
And that’s exactly what this man found out. His parents began to distance themselves from him when the Pharisees began to question them about their son’s healing. Instead of rejoicing with their son, they basically made it clear he was on his own. They were afraid they would be excommunicated along with their son if he were excommunicated. And because this man, who had come out of the darkness, had the courage to confront these blind religious leaders he was excommunicated.
Jesus heard about this and went to find the man again to introduce Himself. The man had lost the privilege of worshipping in the Temple and being a part of the community, but he had won the right to be called a son of God and entering into the Kingdom of God where he would worship in Light and Truth.
There was still a crowd around the man when Jesus found him, including some of the Pharisees, and as the man worshipped Jesus (noticed Jesus didn’t stop him from worshipping Him which implies Jesus was God in the flesh and no mere man) He said,
“‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, “We see,” your sin remains’” (John 9:39-41 NASU).
The Pharisees and Sadducees were blind to the truth, but refused to acknowledge that fact and because they refused to acknowledge their blindness they refused to seek out the One who could and would heal them. They had a terminal spiritual disease – sin – but their pride wouldn’t allow them to admit that. Instead they told themselves and others they clearly saw the truth. But it was a lie, a lie Satan used to keep them from being healed. They refused to come out of the darkness and tried to frighten him into denouncing the One who had healing his blindness so that even if he could see with his physical eyes, the eyes of his spirit would remain blind. But the man born physically blind now walked, not only in physical light, but in the spiritual Light of the Son. The cost to him personally was great, the loss of friends and family and fellowship on this earth; a temporal loss. But his gain was immeasurably greater, the family of God and fellowship with the Lord God for all eternity.
Let’s now look at the story of another blind man. Our first story was about a man born blind and Jesus took the initiative to heal him. The second story is about a man who likely could see at one time, but through unknown causes became blind. Having once experienced living in the Light, but now living in darkness, he was desperate to regain the Light and boldly took advantage of the opportunity given to him to do so. His name is Bartimaeus. His encounter with Jesus is described in Mark chapter 10 as follows…
“And they (Jesus and His disciples) came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:46-52 ESV).
As much as the story we just heard about the Pharisees being blind and unwilling to admit that and seek help was a story of despair, the story of Bartimaeus is a story of hope. And it’s a story of hope because Bartimaeus recognized he was blind, took advantage of the opportunity presented to him as Jesus came near by crying out to Him, refused to let those around him, including those who followed Jesus, silence him, and believed that Jesus was the One who could heal him.
It seems like a simple, straightforward story, and in one way it is. But I want to dig a little deeper into it so we can see how Bartimaeus is representative of backsliders, of those who once saw the truth and walked in the Light, but for whatever reason turned away from the Truth, accepted the lies of Satan and found themselves unable to see the Truth and sitting in the darkness.
You may wonder why I think that Bartimaeus represents backsliders or those who have turned away from following Jesus. So, let me try and explain.
Names have meaning and in the Bible the names of the persons involved can often convey a deeper sense to what’s being told. And this story bears that out.
Bartimaeus is a Hebrew name that’s made up of two parts: “ben tame”. “Ben” means “a son as builder of the family name”. That’s important considering what “Tamaeus” (“tame”) means. It means “foul in a religious sense, defiled, polluted; to be foul ceremonially and morally”. Therefore, Timaeus, Bartimaeus’ father, by definition of his name, was religious, but defiled and polluted. That means his worship of God was foul and morally corrupt. And spiritually speaking that’s what he passed along to his son when he named him Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus built up the family name. Timaeus was defiled, Bartimaeus would be more so; Timaeus was polluted, Bartimaeus would be more so; Timaeus’ worship was unacceptable to God and morally corrupt, Bartimaeus would be more so.
You see, Bartimaeus was religious and at one time walked in the light he had been given, but eventually that light was snuffed out because he began to believe lies, just like us when we refuse to walk in the light given to us. He now sat in darkness, but there was still a flicker of light within his spirit. We know that because of his response when Jesus walked by and because of where he was sitting.
We are told Bartimaeus…
“…was sitting by the roadside” (Mark 10:46).
Why is that important?
Remember the parable about the Sower? In Matthew 13 Jesus tells of a sower who went out to sow seed. What I want to key in on right now is the seed that fell beside the road because that’s exactly where Bartimaeus was sitting – beside the road.
Jesus began the parable by saying…
“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up” (Matthew 13:3-4 NASU).
After Jesus told the parable His disciples asked Him to explain it. Concerning the seed that fell beside the road – remember that’s where Bartimaeus was sitting – He said…
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road” (Matthew 13:19 NASU).
This describes Bartimaeus exactly. Here was a man who once could see, who was religious, who had the seed of Truth spread upon his heart, but as his worship became corrupt because the truth that was given to him never found a place to take root; thus, giving Satan the opportunity to rob him of it. The result was spiritual blindness which was reflected in his physical blindness.
But Bartimaeus was about to get a second chance. In God’s mercy and sovereign grace Jesus just “happened” to be walking along the road Bartimaeus was sitting alongside of.
Hearing a commotion Bartimaeus asked what was going on. He was told the crowd was following Jesus of Nazareth. When he heard that he cried out with a loud voice…
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47 ESV)!
The crowd following Jesus responded to this by trying to shut Bartimaeus up. I wish I had time to go into their reaction more fully, but I don’t. So, I will just say their actions were despicable. Here was a man who was crying out to Jesus for mercy and these followers of Jesus tried to shut him up. May we, as followers of Jesus Christ, never be guilty of such evil.
What I what you to notice next is what Bartimaeus did when Jesus called him.
“And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50 ESV).
He took off his cloak. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but I believe it is for two reasons. First, it’s likely this cloak was ragged and worn and probably had very little value. But for Bartimaeus it was all he had to wrap around himself and keep him warm. Chances are if someone had tried to take this cloak from him he would have fought with everything he had to keep it. But now he willingly gives up his cloak.
The second reason I believe this is significant is because I believe Bartimaeus laying aside his cloak and leaving it symbolizes us laying aside the old man – that old fallen nature that we have wrapped around ourselves to keep us as safe and warm as possible living outside of Christ. The cloak represents safety and security.
Does that make sense? Paul tells us in Romans 13:12-14…
“Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:12-14 NASU).
And this is exactly what Bartimaeus was symbolically doing when he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and ran to Jesus. He was ready to leave his sins behind so he could be healed, so he could be brought out of the darkness into the Light of the Son.
What we are to learn from this is that we must repent of our sins and lay them aside when we approach Jesus to be saved or to establish a broken relationship with Him.
Unfortunately, too many people want to be saved in their sins rather than from their sins. Too many people come to Jesus asking Him into their hearts – in essence being clothed with Him, but want to keep their “old cloak”, their old way of life. And that’s one of the reasons many don’t experience deliverance over the sins in their lives or the power that is available to them through the Holy Spirit.
But Bartimaeus was ready to leave his old life behind. Because of this when Jesus asked him what he wanted Him to do for him; Bartimaeus revealed he knew what his need was – to see again.
Listen carefully to what Bartimaeus said to Jesus…
“Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51 ESV).
This response implies, as we have suggested, that there was a time when Bartimaeus could see, when he wasn’t blind because you can’t recover your sight if you never had your sight. In other words there was a time when Bartimaeus wasn’t blind.
I believe this is also symbolic of one who had once had an encounter with Jesus and had his eyes opened to the truth, but eventually rejected it and became blind. If we don’t live in the truth God has already revealed to us we are in danger of not only not receiving deeper truth, but forfeiting the truth we do have.
Bartimaeus’ response also reveals that he knew what his need was. Jesus didn’t ask Bartimaeus what he needed from Him so He would know what to do for him; Jesus knew. He wanted to know if Bartimaeus knew what his need was. Remember, the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first story we discussed didn’t know what their need was. That is the crucial difference it takes between coming out of the darkness to walk in the Light: knowing you are blind and knowing Who can and will heal you.
That may sound trivial, but it isn’t. In fact it’s one of the most important lessons we can learn from this story.
Do you know what your most important need is? If you haven’t repented of your sins, renounced your old way of life, and asked Jesus to be Lord and Savior of your life your greatest need is salvation. And if you have done that, but fallen away from following him, in essence becoming spiritually blind, your greatest need is to repent of your sins and ask Jesus to rule and reign once again in your life.
The rent may be due next week, the kids may need shoes, the car may need fixing, there may be no groceries in the fridge – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking God to provide for those needs – but are they your greatest need?
If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or if you have fallen away from following Him, and He physically appeared before you and asked you what He could do for you, what would you say? Think about that.
Notice how the story ends…
“And immediately he (Bartimaeus) recovered his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52 ESV).
He began to follow Jesus “on the way”. He was no longer sitting alongside the way. He began to follow the One who once said…
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 NASU).
Today, you have a choice as to whether you will continue to sit alongside the way, spiritually blind, wrapped in your sins, or throw them off, run to Jesus, and receive a new life and spiritual eyes. You have the choice to come out of the darkness and follow the One Who is the Light of the World.
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