• Commentary,  Mark

    Blind Beggars

    The Christian’s path to glory is not in being served on earth but in serving God with an eye toward heaven. It is seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness at all personal cost in every aspect of our lives as we trust His provision. It is a path necessarily paved with humble self-denial — the path our Lord Jesus walked perfectly on our behalf and calls us to follow.

    On this path, there is no self-seeking, no self-confidence, and no self-promotion (10:35-45). Christ denied Himself all the way to the cross and gave His life a ransom to bring His people into the kingdom (v. 45); His people are to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him in kingdom ministry until He returns (Mk. 3:35; 8:34). This is a repeated theme in Mark’s gospel. As the apostle Paul concludes of those who receive God’s mercy in Christ, this is our “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

    Although Christ consistently taught and modeled service to God, the twelve disciples were often blinded by fleshly ideas of personal glory. All but the Lord’s betrayer certainly saw themselves as sinners and Jesus as the Savior, but the humility of their conversion gave way to prideful bickering over who among them was the greatest. Jesus often rebuked this while emphasizing that even He, their Lord, was facing death in Jerusalem as the Father had ordained.

    Mark records Jesus’ encounter with blind beggars at this point in the narrative to contrast humility with the disciple’s pride. Here we must recall the humility which accompanied our changed heart at conversion as the essential attitude in following Christ. Mark 10:46-52 sheds light on the beggar’s condition, his cry, his calling, and his conversion.

    Blind Beggars (10:46-52)
    The Beggar’s Condition (v. 46)
    Jesus and the disciples are now taking the road “up to Jerusalem” (v. 32; i.e. up in elevation). This initially brings them through the city of “Jericho” near the ancient ruins that marked the beginning of Israel’s conquest of Canaan (Josh. 2). It lay some 15 miles NE of Jerusalem where the Jordan River valley continues to drop in elevation to the Dead Sea. From there, the Lord, His disciples, and the pilgrims on their way to celebrate the Passover would climb over 3,000 feet in elevation to their destination.

    Jericho and its location are significant in that the path to glory for Christ and His people is very much an uphill battle from there. As Joshua led Israel into battle to secure the earthly land of promise, so Jesus leads the saints to heaven by first securing entrance for them via the cross in earthly Jerusalem. The disciple’s faith and their understanding of Christ and His kingdom are all tested as they follow Him. It is the perfect place for a miracle emphasizing the need for a humble trust in God.

    While Matthew’s gospel mentions the healing of two blind beggars, Mark and Luke focus on the “beggar” who was perhaps the only one, as we will see, who was truly converted. Mark alone identifies him as “Bartimaeus … son of Timaeus.” The mere translation of the man’s surname suggests how insignificant he was to the crowd — just one of many “blind,” lame, or otherwise disabled persons by “the roadside” seeking alms from passersby. From the Jewish perspective, they were social outcasts surely suffering for their sins (cf. Jn. 9:1ff).

    So, as Jesus’ suffering begins to intensify, he encounters a blind beggar who did not need any more difficulty in his own life. Though less than desirable, it was easier for Bartimaeus to stay in his hopeless condition and rely on what little help he could receive from men. But in his humiliation, this beggar regards Christ as his only hope of healing and real life.

    The Beggar’s Cry (vv. 47-48)
    We are told, “when [Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out.” Though this is the only record of Jesus visiting Jericho, the beggar was aware of this itinerant preacher and healer from Nazareth in Galilee. More than that, he regarded Jesus as the “Son of David” (a messianic title; cf. Is. 11:1-3; Jer. 23:5-6). In other words, he believed Jesus was the Christ of God — the One chosen in King David’s line to fulfill all the covenant promises (salvation, blessing, life, heaven, kingdom, etc.).

    Many in Israel were looking for the Son of David to appear, but the nation did not receive Jesus as such (11:1ff). However, Bartimaeus clearly considered Jesus to be the Christ. The growing crowd, unconcerned with a blind beggar, “warned him to be quiet” (v. 48). To their dislike, he “cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!

    The humble heart cry of one who comes to understand their hopelessness as a sinner, and Jesus as the only Savior, can be nothing less than “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.” It is the cry of the contrite soul whose spiritual eyes have been opened (cf. Ps. 51:1; Lk. 18:13).

    The Beggar’s Calling (vv. 49)
    In verse 49, we see that sinners can cry to God for mercy only because Christ has come to call sinners to repentance (Mk. 2:17). Bartimaeus could call out all he wanted, but unless Jesus gave him an audience, his opportunity to be healed of his blindness was gone. Yet, because God is merciful and His ears are open to the cry of the repentant, “all who call upon the name of the LORD will be saved” (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13).

    Bartimaeus had nothing to offer; he could only receive the mercy of Christ. The compassion and mercy of God are seen as our Lord “stood still,” and obviously rebuking the crowd for scolding the beggar, commanded they tell him that his plea was heard.

    “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you” are sweet words to a blind sinners ears. It is really what we are saying to all people when we proclaim the Gospel to them.

    The Beggar’s Conversion (vv. 50-52)
    Bartimaeus’ response shows that he believed Jesus to be more than a miracle worker. His “cloak” (i.e. outer garment) was not an easily replaceable possession. It was everything to a poor, blind beggar. Yet, “throwing off” this vital garment and leaving it in the crowd was of no account to him if Jesus would show mercy. He saw it as a hindrance in his effort to come to Christ without delay, and so he gladly discarded what stood between him and the Lord. It is a picture of repentance and faith.

    Likewise, everyone who humbly calls on the LORD and desires His mercy does not pridefully cling to anything else, no matter how valuable. As in conversion to Christ so in our service to Christ. We must cast off what keeps us from Him.

    In verse 51, Jesus notably asks Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John (v. 36): “What do you want me to do for you?” Here is the contrast. Bartimaeus responds with the humble faith that James and John failed to display. The beggar pleads for mercy (“Teacher, that I may receive my sight”). James and John, though true believers, all but insist that Jesus grant their selfish request. Humility waned and pride waxed strong.

    Jesus’ response to the beggar could not be more contrasted with his earlier response to the disciples. Bartimaeus’ “faith” is commended, he is healed “immediately,” and without hesitation, he “followed Jesus on the road” to Jerusalem. Jesus uses the healing of physical blindness to also pronounce Bartimaeus’ spiritual sight. The phrase, “made you well” is more literally “has saved you.” The humble beggar knows that his heart was also blind and displays repentance, faith, and a willingness to follow the Savior. Weakened by pride, James and John forgot how much mercy Christ had shown them in their former blindness. Jesus patiently but firmly rebuked their attitude as worldly (vv. 42-43).

    A Christian’s heart is opened to see sin and the need for Christ as Savior, but he or she never rises above the status of a beggar. Following our merciful Lord by faith requires the same humility that brought us to trust Him in the first place.

    A Christian’s heart is opened to see sin and the need for Christ as Savior, but he or she never rises above the status of a beggar.

    The LORD is always merciful, but He has always required that we be humble: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God“ (Micah 6:8)?

    The Scripture says that God will deal graciously with those who humbly submit to His way (Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5-6). This is a theme in the Psalms (e.g. Psalm 25:8-10).

    Humility is a prerequisite to faithful and fruitful Christian service. It is the right approach to living out the Gospel in our lives for God’s glory. Paul asked the Ephesians elders to remember his example of “serving the Lord with all humility” in all his sufferings and trials (Acts 20:19).

    The apostle admonished the Ephesian church “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). There can be no loving communion among believers if pride motivates us individually.

    Recognizing the need to work at humility and other godly attributes, Paul also urged the Colossians to “put on … as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). These are not selfish attitudes.

    Matthew Henry notes in his commentary on this passage in Mark: “It is not enough to come to Christ for spiritual healing, but, when we are healed, we must continue to follow him; that we may do honor to him, and receive instruction from him. Those who have spiritual eye-sight, see that beauty in Christ, that will effectually draw them to run after him” (p. 1802). In other words, if you cannot bring yourself to humbly follow Christ who has humbly given Himself for you, then you have never really seen Him for who He is.

    Humility seems to be at a minimum among professing Christians today. There is a sense of entitlement within the Church that is foreign to the Gospel. Some exalt themselves — their opinions, their ideologies, their preferences, their selfish agenda — over Christ and the kingdom of heaven.

    Paul reminded an increasingly proud Corinthian church that they had nothing of which to boast as those called by God in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).

    Having turned from sin to Christ, do you desire to follow Him? Know that it is an uphill battle requiring the same humility and trust in Him as at the first. To what are you selfishly clinging that is holding you back?

    Remember: Even if your spiritual eyes have been opened to repent and believe the Gospel, you are never more than a beggar in need of Christ’s mercy. That should keep you humble as you follow Him.

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