In my travels in Europe, and more particularly in Central Asia, one of the saddest sights ever is that of the preponderance of destitute people who are beggars. Of all ages and health conditions, they are sometimes predominantly in abundance along busy thoroughfares surrounding popular sites and locations.
The gospel accounts make it rather clear that there was no shortage of destitute people in the time of Jesus, folks who were squeezing out a minimal living through begging. And it very imaginable that their plight was often quite deleterious, given the lack of social systems to render basic aid, along with primitive medical understanding.
Without the caring support of a family member, a blind person such as we encounter in today’s passage was destined to have a terribly difficult life. Sitting along the roadside coming into Jericho, the blind beggar is able to audibly discern that a sizeable crowd was passing by. We can image him reaching out and grabbing the first person he gets a hand upon, asking what is happening.
Being told that Jesus of Nazareth was just then passing by, he yells loudly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Though a simple statement, we can surmise several things from it.
There was no need for this beggar to ask for a clarification as to the identity of the featured person in the passing crowd. He not saying, “Jesus who?” He has somewhere, somehow heard about Jesus.
Beyond having heard of the Nazarene preacher, he had come to believe that Jesus is the messiah – the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Though unable to see physically, he had great spiritual sight. His response was what the nation was to have believed, but the religious leadership and the masses of the people were blind. They were content with their lives and with the systems in place.
John summarized this in 1:11-12 … “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
This statement of his faith evidenced his spiritual sight, with Jesus then giving him his physical sight as well.
The crowds told the beggar to shut up, to quietly drop back into the shadows. But the man would have none of this. Here was his opportunity to connect with the messiah, seeking divine mercy.
This man stands as a model for those who have little in this life, yet who have come to have everything of eternal importance is finding Christ. From my experiences and exposure to the minority churches, this story is a favorite scriptural passage. They particularly relate to this man, quoting him often in sermons, etc.
But we should all find ourselves drawn to this individual in terms of spiritual identification. We are, by the curse of original sin, a blind beggar. It is only by the divine “fortune” of God coming across our path that we have the ability to call out to him in faith for salvation.
Luke 18:35 – As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.