The faith of the vulnerable (Luke 18 v 35 - 43)

Arnaud Weulassagou

If you are a regular attendant here, you know that right now for our sermons we are going through Luke's gospel.

Last week we took a break, because neither Jason nor any of the elders were available to prepare the message. And so, we had the pleasure of welcoming Harry Noël, the pastor of L’Église de la Plaine, in the 20th arrondissement, a sister church in our Acts 29 church planting network.

Today, we’re back in Luke.

Today we’ll be in Luke chapter 18, verses 35 to 43. Let’s read it together.

Luke 18 v 35 - 43 (ESV):

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 

So the text tells the story of a man who was blind. Unable to do anything else, he sits on the edge of the road, and he begs for his living.

One day, he hears that Jesus is coming by the road where he was begging. He knows Jesus’s reputation, so as soon as he learns that Jesus is coming, he shouts with all his strength for Jesus to stop for him. Jesus is paying attention to him - despite the people who stood between the blind man and the Lord - he heals him, and in the end the blind man begins to follow Jesus.

I suggest we divide the text into 3 parts to look in more detail and meditate on what is going on here, and at the same time we will draw from the text three implications for us today.

The three elements that I invite you to observe in the text are the fact that:

1. Jesus passes near the blind man; 2. The blind man goes to Jesus with faith and determination; 3. Jesus saves the blind man because of his faith

But before that, take a moment to look at the more general context in which the story unfolds. (You know it's like in TV shows—to understand an episode, at the beginning of the episode there is a voice that says "in last week’s episode"…)

Luke relates this story of the meeting between Jesus and the blind man just after telling the meeting between Jesus and the rich man, we saw that some verses higher in verses 18 and following.

And the outcome of both meetings is very different:

- At the end of the encounter between Jesus and the rich man, he is not saved, and Jesus says in verse 25: “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

- But at the end of the meeting between Jesus and the blind man, he is saved, and follows Jesus, celebrating the glory of God.

And before the rich man, in verses 9 to 14, Jesus told a parable in which two people were praying in the temple: a Pharisee who felt that he was just and irreproachable before God, and thanking God for his good spiritual state; and a tax collector (a thief and a sinner), who cried out because of his sin and who dared not raise his eyes to heaven ... But he is the one who is saved, and not the Pharisee ... The Lord Jesus sums up the situation in verse 14:I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the [Pharisee]. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

And even before that: we see Jesus talking about the coming of the kingdom of God ... Pharisees wanted to know when the kingdom of God would come ...

The response of the Lord Jesus in verses 20 and 21 of chapter 17: “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”...

And we remember, a few weeks ago when we were meditating on this text, Jason showed us that in fact the kingdom of God had already come in the person of Jesus Christ himself.

So to recap:

1. The kingdom of God has come to men in an invisible way. We see that in chapter 17, verses 20 and 21

2. This kingdom of God is served to men as on a platter. It is not men who go to the kingdom of God; it is the kingdom of God that comes to men ... It is accepting Jesus that determines our belonging (or no) into the kingdom of God. It reminds me of the green card granted to certain people in certain countries.

3. Some men miss their entry into the kingdom of God that was within their reach. This is the case of the rich man, who refuses to follow Jesus, because he is attached to his wealth. This is also the case of the Pharisee who will not enter the kingdom of God because he believes himself to be righteous.

4. Some men enter the kingdom of God which has come to them. This is the case of the tax collector, who considers himself a sinner and not worthy of the kingdom of God, and who is welcomed by God.

This is also the case of the blind man whom Jesus met on his way to Jericho.

Let's examine the text to see how the entry of the blind man into the kingdom of God took place.

I - Jesus passes by the blind man

In the verses which precede the meeting between Jesus and the blind man we read this:

In Luke 18: 31-33:

31 See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

In our city, and even in our church, I often hear people say, "I'm tired." I guess it's because of work: most of the people here are busy and life is very demanding. But I think it’s is also media, relationships, social networks and so on that constanrtly solicits us.

And when one is tired, one tends to postpone the service of God. In my case, I know that when I’ve had a difficult week at work, it's harder to prepare a sermon, or to engage in other activities / services, maybe the evening praise on Friday, sharing the gospel with my neighbors, etc.

But in these verses we see that Jesus is not only tired ... He is weighed down by the suffering that awaits him: He knows that in a few days He will suffer atrocious torture, and be brutally murdered. But never will Jesus let His personal circumstances be an excuse for evading the service of God that He has to fulfill.

So Jesus continues on his way to His destination, Jerusalem, where He must die. And while He is on the way, He continues to be in service. He is focused on the goal he is going to, but he is also attentive to service opportunities while He is on the way.

On his way he meets the blind man, as we read in verses 35 to 37.

Luke 18 v 35 - 37:

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

Notice the phrase "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by" ... In other words, something is whispering to the blind man, "The kingdom of God has come closer to you" ...

Note the double paradox in the story. The kingdom of God, invisible for the healthy around Jesus, is visible to the blind man. He doesn’t need to be told twice that Jesus is coming.

II - The blind man goes to Jesus with determination

Luke 18 v 38 - 41:

38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”

The scenario is strangely reminiscent of the scenario of verses 15 and 16 that we saw a few weeks ago.

Luke 18 v 15-16:

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Just as people had stepped between Jesus and the little children to prevent them from disturbing him, people try to get between Jesus and the blind man.

As for little children, Jesus disapproves of those who try to drive him away from the blind man ... "He orders" that the blind man be brought to him.

Then the Lord asks the man a very strange question. He said, “What do you want me to do for you?” The Lord obviously knows why the blind man wants him. He’s asking the question to allow the blind man to express his faith.

And the blind man replies with simplicity, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”

The circumstances of the blind man have placed him in a state of simplicity and necessity, like a child... He recognizes that Jesus is Lord.

And we find again an echo of the words of the Lord a few verses above:

Luke 18 v 17:

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 

III - Jesus saves the blind man because of his faith.

Luke 18 v 42 - 43:

42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 

The kingdom of God, which come impercetpibly, has been "seen" by a blind man. He is now a full member of the Kingdom of God. And it is the King himself who gives him this affirmation. Not only is he cured of his blindness, but he has gotten more than he bargained for. He is saved, he is adopted into the family of God ... Now, he follows Jesus, he celebrates the glory of God, and praises him.

IMPLICATIONS

Now, what can we take from this? Given everything Luke has shown us so far, we can see three things here.

- Dependence on God SAVES.

Just a couple of examples of areas in which dependence on God is salutary, and for which the feeling of autonomy can make us miss out on the kingdom of God and to go astray:

  • Material: need to eat, dress, financial etc.

  • Ability: feeling competent for a task, feeling mentally / spiritually strong enough to approach a circumstance ...

  • Spiritual: Being right before God (when one is not yet with Jesus), progress in holiness (when one is already related to Jesus, but one must fight against sin)

The kingdom of God is belongs to those who are dependent on him. The kingdom of God is offered to those who receive it as children.

- Jesus closer to us than to the blind man.

Today Jesus is not farther from us than from the blind man; on the contrary he is closer ... "It is better for you that I go away ...":

1. The Holy Spirit gives us access to Jesus who is in Heaven and has received all the powers in heaven and on earth. While He was living and visiting the earth, the Lord Jesus was always God, but He was also a man in the service of God. But now that He ascended to Heaven, Jesus has all the divine powers He had before coming to Earth, and before the world was created.

2. The blind man needed Jesus to be in His geographical perimeter, but now that Jesus has ascended to Heaven he has fully assumed his attribute of omnipresence. The blind man and beggar had to wait for the day Jesus passed ... Today the day Jesus passes us every day ... but we are not going to go to Him.

I remember one of the few times in my life when I saw someone screaming desperately for Jesus ...

It was a woman, a neighbor. His son had swallowed his tongue in his sleep and he was suffocating during the night. Since they lived in a small apartment with her husband and their son, they heard that the child was suffocating. Her husband was panicked and he was trying to call the fire department, but she came out of the building, she was screaming like crazy to Heaven "Jesus, save my son" at the same time as she was trying to catch his tongue, and as they made a lot of noise, it woke many of us living in the building. So some of us went out and we got closer to them outside. While her husband was panicked on the phone and trying to reach the fire department, she continued to shout "Jesus, Jesus," and her son came back suddenly before help arrived and without any additional visible intervention ... Perhaps it is supernatural, perhaps not; in any case her son stopped choking for some time after she cried to Jesus. I was there, and I am convinced that it was the Lord Jesus who saved this child.

While Jesus was on earth, before he resurrected and poured out His Holy Spirit upon His Church, it was when Jesus Himself was approaching that we could say, "The kingdom of God has come closer."

Today, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Church ... Jesus speaks through His Word and through His Church. If you hear the Word of God then the kingdom of God has come closer to you.

- God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud.

Today Jesus is closer to us than he was to this poor beggar, and his help more effective ... Some say "yes that's it! ... They say that to appear spiritual "...

But I think the reason for your doubt - if you doubt it - is that you are closer to the rich man than the poor beggar in your state of necessity ...

Jesus is close to those who deeply feel their misery and who invoke it with all their heart, because they see in Him their savior ...

Jesus is the Savior who strengthens the one who knows he is weak - he enriches the one who knows himself spiritually poor - He just makes him who knows himself a sinner - He sanctifies the one who feels defiled by sin.

But he does not strengthen him who believes himself to be strong - he does not enrich him who thinks he is rich, when in fact he is miserable according to the words of Jesus - He does not justify him who thinks he is just (at his his own eyes), and who runs the danger of dying in his sins and facing the judgment of God - He does not sanctify him who thinks he is holy, and he remains in his sins and in his hypocrisy.

It was in this way that the Pharisee and then the rich young man could not enter the kingdom of heaven, when the kingdom of heaven had come closer to them.

But whoever recognizes his state of sinfulness, Jesus saves him; whoever recognizes his spiritual poverty, Jesus enriches him: He gives him wisdom and strength to live the spiritual life; whoever recognizes his need to be cleansed and healed from his sin, Jesus purifies him.

If you do not feel your need for a savior, you more than ever, and more than anyone, need a savior.

And if you feel the need of a savior, you are invited to come to Jesus who is the Savior.

Isaiah 57 v 15-18:

15  For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, 

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 

“I dwell in the high and holy place, 

and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, 

to revive the spirit of the lowly, 

and to revive the heart of the contrite. 

16  For I will not contend forever, 

nor will I always be angry; 

for the spirit would grow faint before me, 

and the breath of life that I made. 

17  Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, 

I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, 

but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. 

18  I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; 

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners