This is the word of the Lord,
Matthew 20:29–34 ESV
29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
Let us pray!
Isaiah speaks of Jesus as a man acquainted with grief in Isaiah 53:3, but I consider myself a man well acquainted with healing. I will testify before you today without hesitation that I cannot count the number of times the Lord has answered my prayers for healing, some very explicit and others more subtle.
I have in my mind no doubt or question about God’s ability or his revealed desire to heal and restore this world.
Revelation 21:5 ESV
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Acts 3:21 ESV
21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Colossians 1:19–20 ESV
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Jesus has come into the world, not to destroy it, but to restore it. And none can stay his hand.
He was acquainted with grief so that I could be acquainted with healing. Two verses down we read, Isaiah 53:5
Isaiah 53:5 ESV
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
His chastisement brought us peace. His wounds brought us healing.
As the title of this sermon might have given away my entire intent in this sermon, let me nevertheless reiterate it.
I want to teach you how to pray for healing, and my hope is that all of you will become bold and resilient people of prayer and that the Lord will be pleased in healing the world through your prayers.
Here, in the passage before us today, we see the faith and determined outcry of two blind beggars. We have much to learn from these two men, whose faith and deeds have been written in the pages of God’s word.
But before we dive into it, let me also remind all of you about the purpose behind the healing of sickness and disease.
- All calamities, including the brokenness of our bodies, are a result of our fall. Our sin has corrupted the world and everything in it.
- But Jesus has come to take our sins away.
1 John 1:7 ESV
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
- The healing of sickness and disease is a glorious sign of Jesus’ power to redeem the world. It is a colossal sign of the reversal of the curse.
Praying for healing is not merely commended, it is commanded in Scripture.
James 5:14–15 ESV
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
The New Testament is flooded with narratives, instructions, encouragements and promises of healing and restoration.
However, the tendency of many is to take this encouragement out of proportion, for there are many in the NT who were not healed.
God’s intention to heal does not mean that he will always heal in every circumstance. Because the NT also teaches us not to begrudge suffering.
1 Peter 4:12–13 ESV
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Romans 5:3–5 ESV
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The way I resolve this tension is to see healing as the normative pattern of the NT, and the lack of healing as God’s exceptional purpose in equipping and training his children to depend on him.
2 Corinthians 12:7–9 ESV
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Matthew 20:29 ESV
29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him.
- There is a reason why large crowds follow him everywhere he goes. The desperate need of their bodies and their hearts drew them to him. For here came a man who could heal both body and soul.
- And our kind saviour would tend to their needs repeatedly in laborious service. See how he loves us. Luke 19:10
Luke 19:10 ESV
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- So, in and out of cities, great multitudes would gather to hear him speak and experience his touch.
Matthew 20:30 ESV
30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
- The use of the word ‘behold’ suggests that this incident was quite unexpected. Blind men on the roadside were not a strange sight in those days, and those who would otherwise go unnoticed were not ignored this day.
Because on that day, two blind men in the street knew how to pray for healing.
- While Matthew recounts two men, Mark and Luke only talk about one Bartimaeus. Therefore, we have two men as Matthew details it and Bartimaeus might have been the more vocal of the two.
John 9:32 ESV
32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.
- They were sitting by the roadside. They were begging for money and food for their daily sustenance.
Imagine waking up every morning, waiting for someone to guide you to the busiest streetside so that you have the highest chance of making some money.
They could not see. They could not see the sunrise or the night draws near. They had to rely on all their other senses and the aid of others (whoever would be kind to them) to make their way around every day.
The psychology of this is important. You have to put yourself in their shoes and think about the consequences of such a predicament.
They’re men who are dependent. The disability incapacitates them from so much. They’re resigned to a mat in the corner of the street.
They can’t even tell what kind of expressions people have on their faces when they see them. I wonder how they found shade in the scorching heat. They would have foregone any hope of making up their appearance.
How emasculated would they have felt? Here are men walking the true value of desperation.
- The city of Jericho was known for a special balsam bush that was used for the treatment of blindness. In ancient times, blindness was very common due to the lack of many of the medical advancements and care we have today. However, the city of Jericho would have had an unusual number of blind people because of the medicine and treatment.
So, Bartimaeus and his friend would have probably been two among many within that vicinity as Jesus walked by.
Some historians suggest that the reason Mark and Luke emphasised Bartimaeus (which means son of Timaeus) was probably to get the attention of their readers who probably knew him well. It is possible that this man later became a respectable Christian known to many of them.
- when they heard that Jesus was passing by –
These men weren’t sitting there to meet Jesus. They were there as they always were on the outskirts of the city where they could meet more distant travellers who had the greater chance of carrying money or other gifts.
And as they sat there, they heard that Jesus was passing by. There was probably an unusual commotion since a large crowd was following him, and amidst the noise and confusion, they could make out that Jesus was passing by.
- they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” –
The phrase ‘Son of David’ was used for the promised Messiah who would come and save the Jews, whose kingdom shall see no end. And the Messianic age would bring healing to the blind.
Isaiah 29:18 ESV
18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
Isaiah 35:5 ESV
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
And the question that you and I must ask is this – what made two blind men cry out ‘Son of David’?
- From the many travellers and passers-by had these men picked up on the news of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee? How desperate would they have been from hearing stories of the lame walking, the mute speaking and the blind seeing?
- So, when Jesus passes by they ‘cry’ out to him. The word for cry is not merely to shout but to scream in anguish. It is used as a woman’s cry during childbirth.
- For them, this was their last chance at ever getting their sight.
- have mercy on us – There are several things we see in the prayers of these people along with others Jesus has healed.
Some of which we see so far include,
a. A recognition of who Christ is
b. A hope of restoration
c. A humility that risks humiliation
d. A cry for mercy and not entitlement
Matthew 20:31 ESV
31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
- Is it not strange that at times we are told that the crowds brought the sick to Jesus so that he could heal them, and at other times (like this case) that the crowds rebuked the sick?
This I think strengthens the argument that the large majority of blind beggars in the streets were ignored and disregarded. In the great crowd and noise, the piercing shrills of these two men crying made the situation disruptive and awkward. The crowds were immediately provoked to rebuke. “Stay silent”, they said.
And here we have the fifth sign of a healthy prayer,
They cried out all the more –
They would not be silenced by any other voice other than the voice of the one they called out to.
With the crowds now desperate, unable to ignore the ignorable anymore, the Son of David turns his face toward them.
Matthew 20:32 ESV
32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
• And stopping –
O how I love that phrase! Hear the cries of two beggars in the corner of the streets of Jericho. Hear the city tremble at a familiar sound, familiar not in melody or rhythm, but familiar in the person the cries addressed. The memory of the sound of trumpets, timbral and harp, the sound of Israel shouting and the voice reaching the one who sits on heaven’s throne. The memory of walls comes crashing down.
The shout of these beggars now resounds once more in the presence of God, and he stops cause he’s heard their cry.
- I wonder how the story played itself out on the other end. Here you have Jesus travelling with his disciples in Jericho, the first land that he blessed Israel to conquer after entering into the promised land.
It was the land of Jesus’ ancestor Rahab, the Gentile prostitute who hid the Israeli spies that entered to scout the land.
I wonder if as they walked with the large crowds, Jesus knew that two insignificant men sat amongst many in the streets. I wonder if he passed them by intentionally, awaiting their cry.
He could walk up to them and heal them but how else would their faith be tested and found true?
They begin to cry, and he keeps walking along, speaking in a low voice, “Louder! C’mon, cry louder! Drown Jericho once more in your shout and I will hear you!”
- He turns to face the two blind men and in front of all, he calls out in response, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Matthew 20:33 ESV
33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
- Make your requests known to God.
Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Why make known what God already knows?
Pray as Paul prayed till you are satisfied.
Luke 18:1–8 ESV
1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Matthew 20:34 ESV
34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
- The pity of Christ will fall on those who pursue him