Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning from the Blind

It was to be Christ’s last trip to Jericho, for His time was soon approaching. By now the news of Jesus had spread far and wide, and everywhere He went, there was a crowd that followed Him everywhere. As Jesus was coming near Jericho, and the multitude along with him, there was a certain blind man named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus who sat by the road begging. It would seem that Bartimaeus was well known by the people of Jericho and the surrounding communities, because they had actually given him the nickname ‘blind Bartimaeus’.

Today I would like to explore this encounter between Jesus Christ, and blind Bartimaeus, and see what we can glean from their dialogue and the subsequent after effects of having met the great healer. I would however like to discuss Bartimaeus not in the context of the man who was saved, but rather in the context of the man who saw. He was a man who knew what he wanted, and a man who was practical in his faith. Bartimaeus was a man who needed something, knew how to go about getting what he needed, and once he got what he needed, he knew what to do with it. Bartimaeus knew what he needed, and as we will see in this teaching, he let nothing stand in the way of getting his need met.

Jesus often said that the blindness of the mind and the blindness of the soul are greater than physical blindness. He said to the Pharisees that they had eyes and did not see, calling them blind to the spiritual reality standing before them. Oddly enough because they were spiritually blind, the Pharisees wondered among themselves what it was that Jesus meant when He called them blind, for surely they saw as well as any other, they had eyes after all, surely Jesus had been mistaken.

There is something about blindness that tugs at the heart of even the coldest among us. When we see a blind person we can’t help but feel empathy, even though we can never truly understand what it is to be blind. As tragic as we might consider physical blindness to be, spiritual blindness is all the more tragic and horrible.

Today I submit to you that those with perfect vision, who cannot see the spiritual truths of God, are more lamentable than those who suffer from physical blindness. Spiritual truths cannot be seen by the physical eyes; they must be viewed through spiritual eyes.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting those who were physically blind, and though they do not possess the gift of sight, they possess an insight that is far more profound than the average person. By the very tonality of one’s voice, by the pitch and the cadence, some who do not possess the sense of physical sight, are able to tell without seeing the facial twitches, or expressions, whether someone is telling the truth, or lying; By touching someone’s face they are able to get a mental image of what the person looks like, using their fingers as their means of gaining insight.

There was even one young man who was blind with whom I played chess on a regular basis, and while he played by touch alone, and I had eyes to see, more often than not I would lose. He would take his time in considering every move, he would analyze the boards with his fingers, until he would make his choice, while I, seeing only what was before me and not taking into account what would happen three or four moves down the line would fall into his well conceived and well concealed plans.

But back to Bartimaeus; Jesus was leaving Jericho, after having had dinner with a tax collector named Zacchaeus, after the people murmured that He had gone to be a guest with a man who was a sinner since Zacchaeus was a tax collector, when the blind man sitting by the side of the road saw his last chance to reach out, to cry out, to get the attention of the one known as Jesus.

Surely Bartimaeus was not the only blind man in Jericho. Blindness was very common in the Middle East during the time of Jesus, but among all the blind of Jericho only one had grace on that day, because he knew what he wanted.

Some sit in the house of God for years on end and are still unable to see great truths. Some attend church service regularly for most of their lives, and yet do not perceive the greatness of the gospel, the sacrifice of Jesus, the debt that was paid on their behalf, and the eternal life that awaits us. I could not say with any specificity, what the percentage of those suffering spiritual blindness might be in the church today, those souls who have no need of glasses, or contacts, who have perfect physical sight yet do not see the miracles of God, do not see Jesus Christ, and do not see the eternal life to which they have been called, but what I can say definitively is that the percentage is much higher than most would have imagined it.

By the lights of the crystal chandeliers, countless souls sit in abject darkness within the house of God. These are souls whose eyes are shut, souls whose spiritual eyes are blinded, and souls who do not see, who do not perceive and who do not understand.

But Brother Mike how can you make such a statement? What do you mean men and women within the house of God are spiritually blind?

In simple terms, when men refuse to see the hand of God, the providence of God, the leading of God, and the influence of God in their lives, they are spiritually blind. All of us have been guilty of this at one point or another, where we do not acknowledge the presence and the power of God in our lives. If the doctor was able to treat a pain, well it was because the doctor was good; if we were shown favor at work, or got a promotion, well it was because of our intellect; if we haven’t gotten sick, and we have our health, well it’s because we take such good care of ourselves; if we have when others are lacking, well it’s because we made provision; we refuse to acknowledge the goodness and blessing of God, we refuse to give God the glory for the health, and the raise, and the promotion, and the provision. We do not see God in every sunrise or sunset; we do not see God in every brother, in every thought, in every good decision. We do not acknowledge God in our tears or in our sickbeds either. No, when things are going well we take the credit; we take the glory, when things are going bad however, we are quick to blame God.

We have become a generation that needs to see the spectacular. We need to be amazed and shocked. We need to see grand and majestic miracles, all the while dismissing all of God’s miracles in our lives. We are a generation that is led by its sense of sight, and we go where we see the most audacious and amazing thing; forgetting that these eyes of flesh deceive, and they do so with great regularity.

I see an example of this more often than I would like when counseling young people who want to get married. No matter how much you emphasize the fact that they should choose their mate by their character, and their relationship with God rather than what they see with their eyes, that the spirit of a man or a woman is more important than the outwardly appearance, the advice is brushed aside, and foolish choices are subsequently made. What do you mean the heart is more important than the appearance? That’s not what the world focuses on! No, the world does not focus on the heart, but the children of God ought to. While we’re on the subject, and this has turned into a teachable moment, what you see with your eyes today, will not be what you see five years from now, or ten years from now. The picture will shift, the image will change, and if you choose your partner due to the lust of the eyes rather than because of their inner character, you will end up a statistic, one of the over fifty percent that couldn’t make their marriage work. Pretty and handsome, isn’t always good and wholesome. Just a thought!

So what did Bartimaeus do in order to see well, to have not only his physical eyes restored but his spiritual eyes as well?

First of all, he found his appropriate place. The word tells us that Bartimaeus was sitting by the road. The great multitude that followed after Jesus was on the road, walking with Him hoping to see a miracle, hoping to witness something out of the ordinary, but Bartimaeus did not walk with the crowd, he didn’t care for the multitudes, he was separate, sitting by the road, just begging. As blind as he was, living in a world of perpetual darkness, Bartimaeus knew that his problems, the big issues in his life, could never be remedied in the midst of the crowd. He had to separate himself, and be alone with God. If you have not seen, and experienced God, alone, you will never experience him in the crowd. The beauty of our relationship with God is that it is intimate, and personal, not part of a collective.

The crowd is not conducive to intimacy with God. The multitudes are there for their own reasons, and most that were following after Christ did not desire to know Him, but to see what he could do. The crowds are noisy; they have a certain mindset, and God is telling His children, not to see through their eyes, not to perceive the spiritual through the prism of the crowd’s eyes, but see through His eyes.

Every profound moment of spiritual insight in my life, every memorable moment of the presence of God, was experienced alone, in intimacy with Him, not amidst the multitudes.

It is not sin if you cannot find your peace amidst the crowd, because the crowd cannot offer peace. We have adopted a flock mentality and this is to our detriment. We often go along because of the multitudes rather than a sincere desire to experience God.

Bartimaeus was sitting by the road, because he knew that the multitude passing by could not offer him what he desired. God is discovered in our quiet time, in our prayer closet, in those moments when it’s just us and Him. Upon meeting another blind man in the midst of the city, Jesus actually took him by the hand and led him outside the city, because spiritually speaking, we can only have a true, meaningful, and deeply rooted relationship with Him when we learn to experience Him personally, one on one, absent of the noise of the crowd distracting us.

You know what your prayer closet is, you know that place where you go before God and unburden your heart, where you weep, where you laugh, where you allow God to fellowship and minister to you. It could be by the side of your bed, it could be your kitchen table, it could be that wooded area behind your house, you know where your secret place is, your quiet place, that place where you go just to be alone with Him.

When we are alone with God, away from the multitudes we can be ourselves. Unhindered by the thoughts of what the person in the next pew will think if we pray a little louder, or we shout a hallelujah, unconcerned with whether the makeup is running if we shed a few tears, when we are alone with God, we are uninhibited.

To Bartimaeus the crowd was inconsequential, it didn’t matter. He was sitting by the side of the road, most likely caked in dust, he wasn’t trying to put on a show, he wasn’t trying to seem like something he wasn’t; he was just waiting for Jesus, and when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he laid all civility aside, and cut to the front of the line. He didn’t wait until everyone else’s problems were resolved, Bartimaeus didn’t take a number and patiently wait until it was called, he had a real, and pressing need, and when he got his chance, he cried out.

The second aspect of Bartimaeus’s experience that we cannot overlook is that he heard only what he needed to hear. He heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Now we’ve all been in a crowd, we know how a crowd can be, and here were hundreds of people walking down the road. Everyone’s talking about something; everyone is offering an opinion, sharing the gossip they heard concerning Christ. We all know how people can be.

‘Yeah, I heard he’s a friend of Lazarus. Of course He’s a friend of Lazarus, he’s there all the time, and what about Mary and Martha, two sisters, is He really as holy as He says?’

‘I heard He let a sinner wash His feet, and then dry them with the hair upon her head, did you hear that? I could never have done that. That’s just unbecoming.’

‘What do you think about this casting out of demons? Yeah, I don’t know either; you know the Pharisees say he casts them out because he’s one of them?’

All these snippets of conversation that Bartimaeus might have heard as the multitude was passing by, but the one thing he locked upon, the one thing that he needed to hear, was that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. If he would have received everything he heard as the multitudes were passing by, if he would have believed the gossip and the slander, surely he would not have desired Jesus anymore.

May we be as wise as Bartimaeus and brush aside the gossip we hear about our brothers and our sisters, and concentrate upon the most essential truth of all, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. As Paul so aptly put it so long ago, I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The third thing that Bartimaeus did, was he cried out, he prayed. As he began to cry out the crowd tried to silence him. “Jesus has more important things to do, leave him alone; he’s too busy for you.” But Bartimaeus didn’t care, he was not deterred. His prayer was not long or elaborate, but his prayer was fueled by faith. Blind Bartimaeus knew what he needed, and he was not ashamed of crying out to Jesus and asking. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” That was the extent of his prayer. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

He could have started a long winded prayer that stretched on for ages beginning with asking the Lord’s blessing upon the land, then upon the missionaries, then upon the farmers, and the teachers, and the firemen. He could have pointed to his own condition, saying, “Lord you know that I am sitting by the side of the road, blind, and unable to provide for myself, but my heart is pure before you”, and so on. Bartimaeus got to the point, and in the eight words that his prayer entailed, he told Jesus everything that was on his heart.

By the length of his prayer it may not seem like it, but Bartimaeus was a man of prayer. He said everything he needed to say, in eight words. A sincere prayer, a heartfelt cry, is what gets God’s attention, it is what caused Jesus to stand still, and call on Bartimaeus.

The fourth thing that Bartimaeus does is he obeys Jesus. All he needed to be told is that Jesus was calling him, and Bartimaeus threw aside his garment, and rose, and came to Jesus. Why would he throw aside his garment? Because the attire of the time was a long tunic, with a sash, and whenever someone needed to run they would tuck the tunic in the sash. Bartimaeus was blind, he knew he would most likely trip on his own tunic if he tried to run to Jesus and so rather than keep Him waiting Bartimaeus threw aside his garment. The Lord called, and Bartimaeus obeyed.

In the context of this teaching, I must ask a question. What is the garment that is keeping you from running to Jesus? What is that thing that is inhibiting you from coming to Him when he calls? Whatever it might be, it is not worth keeping it on. Whatever is hindering your pursuit of Christ must be thrown aside like Bartimaeus’s garment. All of us want a closer walk with God, all of us want greater revelation, all of us want more intimate fellowship, but few are willing to throw aside their old garments, those things which hinder them from walking in the fullness of what God has for them.

When he heard Jesus had called him, realizing that it would be quicker to just disrobe than to get tangled up in his tunic, or have people step on it has he made his way toward the Savior, this man wasted no time. Bartimaeus was not afraid of looking ridiculous, having thrown aside his garment, he didn’t care what the multitudes thought, he just wanted to go to Jesus when He called, and would let nothing slow him down.

So what if others think us ridiculous, so what if others think us mad? So what if the world doesn’t understand that it was worth giving up the vices, the addictions, the pleasures of this world, those things which hindered our walk for the glory that would be revealed in us? By throwing aside our garment, by throwing aside that which would hinder our walk, we have achieved the most noble and desired pursuit of human existence, that of knowing God, and having God call us His friend.

There are some who choose to keep their garment on, and take their time getting to Jesus, and today becomes tomorrow, tomorrow becomes next week, next week becomes next year, and they never get to meet Jesus face to face while on this earth. Do not terry, do not delay; quicken your pace toward the saving grace of Jesus.

Bartimaeus also knew to ask for something of value. I cannot say when he had the inward revelation, because up until then he simply had the right to beg, by law. The blind in Israel were allowed to beg, and so he would sit and wait for people to throw a shekel his way.

All his life his expectation was a little coin, until he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, then his expectations changed. He no longer desired the trifles of this life, he no longer desired fleeting temporal things, but with the cry of his heart said, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

He did not ask for the worthless, but the priceless, he asked for that which he knew only God could give him. Bartimaeus asked for his sight, and once he received his sight he followed after Jesus. Oh that we would learn from blind Bartimaeus who by his willingness to be ridiculed by others, and cry out to God, received true sight. Oh that we would learn to ask for priceless things, rather than worthless things. Oh that we would desire the glories of God rather than the things of this earth.

The steps that this blind man took are as simple as they are profound: be where you need to be, hear what you need to hear, say what you need to say, obey when Jesus speaks, and ask of Him only those things that He can give you, and no one else!

Bartimaeus received his sight, and Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ Rather than going his own way however, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road, because he knew there was no place he would rather be than in the presence of the one who can heal, restore, make new, and reconcile us unto God.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

The Hunter said...

Thanks for taking the time to write.I look forward to every post you put out.These words hit home,I cannot deny that at times I am spiritually blind.Their are also times I see perfecty with spiritual vision on something and do not not act upon it,this is something that really bothers me.Not acting when I know I should always makes me feel like I let down god.The last time I did this I Felt Like such a worthless schmuck,that night when I prayed and was asking why I am such a let down I really wanted to crawl under my bed(Kinda like wanting to crawl under a rock when you feel like a worm because of youre actions).Please keep writing,youre words help me open my eyes spiritually.May we have eyes that see and ears that hear in the spiritual.Thank you,you are in my prayers.