In a moment I would like us to go on a journey in our imagination to Jericho, to experience this meeting between Jesus and the blind man. Before we do that, though, I would like to fill in a bit of the background for us. The first bit of background is to do with what the blind man shouts at Jesus. What was that? “Son of David have mercy on me”
So who is this David that the man is talking about, I thought that Jesus’ Dad was called Joseph? David was the second King of Israel, and the one that they all looked back to. His kingdom had seen the glory days of the people of God. It was him who had killed Goliath with a stone, and saved them from the Philistine enemies. God had promised him that a descendant of his would be the King of God’s people for ever. The people had been waiting for hundreds of years for a descendent of David, the Son of David, to come and rescue them and lead them again. The Hebrew word for this person is Messiah, the Greek word is Christ. Both words mean, “the one chosen by God and anointed to be King”.
When the blind man called Jesus, “Son of David” he was declaring his faith that Jesus was the one promised by God to save God’s people and to bring healing and freedom.
What were the crowd calling Jesus? Jesus of Nazareth. That wasn’t a royal title, and didn’t have any particular significance. Even though he couldn’t see with his physical eyes it seems like the blind man had a clearer understanding of who Jesus actually is than the crowd.
The other bit of background to fill in is to do with what had been happening with Jesus and his close friends and followers in the lead up to this encounter. After nearly three years of travelling around the country, teaching people about God, healing people, and demonstrating signs of God’s kingdom, Jesus has turned towards Jerusalem and is heading towards the end of his time on earth. He has started to talk with his disciples about what’s going to happen in Jerusalem, about his death and resurrection.
A little earlier on in the chapter, we’ve been told the story of what happened when some parents brought their children to be blessed by Jesus. Does anybody know what happened? Jesus’ friends tried to stop the children coming, but Jesus was angry with them, and told that the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Just before they went to Jericho, Jesus has been telling his followers about the things that would happen in Jerusalem, and they did not understand what he was saying, that were not able to see it.
So, in the lead up to this encounter in Jericho we see Jesus angry reaction to those who try and stop people on the edges of society getting close to him, and the failure of his closest friends to see who he really is.
Now I invite you to close your eyes, and let your imagination take you where the Holy Spirit leads you. Let’s take a few, long, deep breaths. Get comfortable.
Now imagine the road leading in to Jericho. Jesus walking with a large crowd along this road. Take time to imagine this whole setting as vividly as possible. What kind of road is it? Smooth or rutted? Wide or narrow? Notice the weather and time of day.
Now let the scene come to life. See the people moving along with Jesus. How many are there? What sort of people? How are they dressed? What are they doing? What are they saying? Why are they following Jesus?
It is not enough to observe the whole scene from the outside as if it were a movie. You are invited to be part of it. What are you doing there? Why have you come to this place? What are your feelings as you survey the scene and watch these people? What are you doing? Do you speak to anyone? To whom?
Now notice a commotion on the side of the road near you. A blind man is shouting at Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Everyone is telling him to be quiet and not bother Jesus.
Notice the blind man whom the gospel passage speaks about. How is he dressed? How old is he? Is there anyone with him? Walk up to him and speak with him. What do you say to him, or what do you ask him? What does he say in reply? Spend some time getting as many details of his life and his person as possible. What sort of an impression does he make on you? What are your feelings while you talk with him?
As you are speaking with him you hear over the din of the crowd, Jesus saying, “Call him!” You hear the crowd change its tone saying, On your feet! He’s calling you.” What does the blind man do? You see him stop in front of Jesus. Listen to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for your?” Notice the reactions of the blind man when Jesus says, “Go, your faith has healed you.” How do you react?
There were three things that strike me about this encounter.
The first is the blind man’s volume. It says that he shouted the first time, and then he shouted even more loudly. It seems to me that there might have been a couple of reasons that he would have shouted.
Why do people generally shout? – Because it’s noisy / someone’s deaf. Because of emotion.
Both were there for this guy, Jesus was on the other side of a large, noisy crowd. The man had been blind for a long time and wanted to see. For us, God is not deaf, is not a long way away, and there is no noisy crowd. We do not need to shout to get God’s attention. However, it might be that there is emotion for us that means we feel the need to shout. And that is fine. We seem to have got the idea that proper prayer is hands together, eyes closed, nice little voice. But actually if what we’re feeling, whether it’s joy, anger, or grief, means that shouting to God would be more real, then it’s OK to shout.
The second thing that struck me was the man’s persistence. He called once, over the crowd and they tried to shut him up. But he wasn’t going to be shut up. After a life time of begging, he knew about keeping on asking – it was the only way he ate. Instead he called out all the more loudly. He kept going in prayer despite discouragements. I wonder what discourages us in our prayers. It might be that we’ve been praying for the same thing for a long time. It might be that there are people or things around us that distract us from talking with God. It might be that our pride stops us from asking for what we need. Whatever it is, it seems to me that we can learn from this blind man, from his humble, focussed, persistent calling out to God.
The third thing that strikes me is how few words the blind man uses in his prayer. Count them with me “Jesus Son of David have mercy on me” How many? Eight. And then when he is brought to Jesus, how many, “Lord, let me see again” Five. Even if you count the repeat of the first line, the total number of words that the man says to Jesus is twenty-one. It feels to me like this is worth thinking about carefully, however experienced we are in prayer. For those of us who are still feeling our way with prayer, I think it is a reassurance that prayer isn’t about lots of complicated sentences or religious sounding words. It’s about saying what’s on our minds, simply and clearly. For those of us who are very used to praying, it can be helpful to ask ourselves whether we are still able to pray with that clarity and simplicity, or if we sometimes over complicate things.
God is listening to us, over the noise and distractions, asking us what we want to be done for us. May we be free to call out from the reality of our situation, may we be persistent in our prayers, and may we bring our lives to God with simplicity and clarity. Amen.