A Blind Man’s Plea
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Luke 18:38
Some years ago a traveling companion noticed I was straining to see objects at a distance. What he did next was simple but life changing. He took off his glasses and said, “Try these.” When I put his glasses on, surprisingly my blurred vision cleared up. Eventually I went to an optometrist who prescribed glasses to correct my vision problem.
Today’s reading in Luke 18 features a man with no vision at all, and living in total darkness had forced him to beg for a living. News about Jesus, the popular teacher and miracle worker, had reached the blind beggar’s ears. So when Jesus’s travel route took Him by where the blind man was sitting, hope was ignited in his heart. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38) he called. Though without sight physically, the man possessed spiritual insight into Jesus’s true identity and faith in Him to meet his need. Compelled by this faith, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 39). The result? His blindness was banished, and he went from begging for his living to blessing God because he could see (v. 43).
In moments or seasons of darkness, where do you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call? Eyeglass prescriptions help improve vision, but it’s the merciful touch of Jesus, God’s Son, that brings people from spiritual darkness to light.
From the gospel of Mark we learn the blind man’s name is Bartimaeus (10:46). Bible scholar Kenneth Bailey, in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, tells us that Bartimaeus’s story is best understood in the context of what happens next—Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho (Luke 19). With these two men, Jesus is reaching out to the extremes of the social context of first-century Israel—a blind beggar and a wealthy publican. Christ shows profound grace to both by giving Bartimaeus his sight and bringing salvation to the house of Zacchaeus (19:9–10).
A key element that connects these stories is the word son. Bartimaeus calls Jesus “Son of David,” a title identifying Jesus as the Messiah that Israel had longed for. Jesus calls Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham” (v. 9). This was not an ethnic description but an affirmation that Zacchaeus had come to faith (Galatians 3:7). The stories close with Jesus’s self-identification as “the Son of Man”—another title with Messianic implications (Luke 19:10).
On the cross Christ would complete His work of seeking and saving those who are lost—like Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, and us.