The Compassion of the Son of David

We try to make facilities accessible to those who have physical challenges. But in the days Jesus walked on earth there was little that blind men could do except to beg. In Matthew 20:29–34 you are introduced to two of them—and to the One whose heart goes out to them.

Trust Jesus as the Messianic King. Jesus is on a journey. Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Matthew keeps reminding you of the journey, Matthew 19:1; 20:17. Jesus has made the purpose of his journey clear, Matthew 16:21; 17:12; 20:18,19. A large crowd follows Jesus, perhaps hoping to witness the inauguration of an earthly kingdom. Certainly the disciples had been thinking along that line. At Jericho two blind men appeal to him. They were doubtless sitting by the road in order to beg from travelers going to Jerusalem. Harmonistic problems can be resolved. Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43 mention one blind man, Matthew and Mark place the incident as Jesus is leaving the city, Luke as he is entering it. Mark and Luke are under no obligation to mention both—the focus on Bartimaeus. There may have been an old city of Jericho and a newer, active town.

Trust the Son of David. These blind men recognized Jesus as the Messiah. “Son of David” was a recognized messianic title, and was used by the crowds at the triumphal entry, Matthew 21:9. Whatever the blind men understood by the title, Matthew is showing you something of who Christ is. The eternal Son of God is also the Son of David. “To obtain the result that the eternal Son of God would simultaneously be the Son of David, a human being descended from human beings, like us in all things, sin excepted, it was necessary for him to to be supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary. It was the Son of God himself who in this way prepared for himself a human nature in Mary’s womb.” (Herman Ridderbos, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 290) Efforts to silence them brought only louder cries. They cry out with a request for mercy. Mercy is undeserved favor. They recognize that they have no claim on Jesus. Their plea must be yours and mine. Jesus’ question to them elicits an answer of faith. Their plea is not for alms, but for sight. Though blind, they do see something of the power of the Messiah.

Follow Jesus. Jesus shows compassion. He calls the men to himself. Just as he was not too busy to hold and bless the children, he is not too busy for two blind beggars. Compassion lies behind this healing. “[T]he strongly emotional Greek verb… speaks of a warm, compassionate response to need. No single English term does justice to it: compassion, pity, sympathy, and fellow feeling all convey part of it, but ‘his heart went out’ perhaps represents more fully the emotional force of the underlying metaphor of a ‘gut reaction.’” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 373) The compassion displayed in this healing is part of the greater compassion that is taking Jesus through Jericho to Jerusalem to suffer and die. This healing is a display of the power of his kingdom. The infirmities of these men are part of the effects of sin. Where the kingdom is being established, where the King is present, sin and its effects are being defeated. Jesus heals the men.

Follow the Savior. This healing contrasts with the healing of two blind men in Matthew 9:27–31. That was indoors, this was in front of the crowd. Then Jesus commanded silence (which was ignored), here there is no such command. Then Jesus was avoiding a premature confrontation with the leaders of Israel. Now his time has come. The restoration of sight is almost secondary to their action in following Jesus. “Jesus’ miracles again and again suggest to the people, who do not know him as the Messiah, the thought that he might be the Son of David… . A miracle, as much as preaching, in its sense of being a revelation of the kingdom of God, is a confrontation which necessitates a decision: for or against Jesus as the victor of the Evil one and the Bearer of the Spirit of God.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, pages 69–70) As Jesus goes to Jerusalem to suffer and die, he begins the process of gathering his people to himself. That process culminates (in Matthew’s Gospel) in the Great Commission, and the nations hearing the good news and being baptized into Christ. His mercy to the blind men is an anticipation of his mercy to you. And that mercy has a goal. He redeems you so that you can follow him.

Jesus has more than a concern that makes the situation of the handicapped as easy as possible. He has a compassion that deals with the heart of the problems of the blind men, and at the heart of the problems that you and I have as sinners. As the great King who gave his life for you, he calls you to follow him.