Two men in Jericho. Two very different men. Both were outcasts of sorts. Both had a unique need to “see” Jesus. Both men didn’t let the crowd stop them from getting to see and experience Him.
Mark 10:46-5246 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Luke 19:1-10-1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Silent Prayer (Ask God to speak directly to you through this message and ask Him to give you the grace and courage to respond.)
Let’s begin with the passage about Bartimaeus. Unlike Zacchaeus who was rich, Bartimaeus was poor. I love the fact that these two stories take place in Jericho because these two men, being polar opposites, but both encountering Jesus, speaks to the reality that everyone needs Jesus and Jesus wants to meet everyone.
On his way to Jerusalem, heading towards His final days before the crucifixion, Jesus went through Jericoh. There was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside. Beggars often waited along the roads near cities, because that was where they were able to contact the most people.
Bartimaeus believed before He saw.
Did you catch the nuance in our text? Bartimaeus heard Jesus of Nazareth was coming by, but he didn’t call him “Jesus of Nazareth.” Our text says he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Son of David” was a messianic reference. Though he never had read them due to his blindness, for years, Blind Bartimaeus had heard the Scriptures about the coming Messiah recited. Bartimaeus believed based on what he had heard about Jesus and based on what he remembered from hearing the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. He called Jesus “Son of David” twice in this passage. Bartimaeus even went beyond calling Jesus the Messiah. He actually called Him his Messiah.
You see, in verse 51 when Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabbi,” he literally was calling Jesus “Master.” The only other person in the Gospels who used such a title was Mary in John 20:16. “Son of David,” was a national messianic title, but the word used by Bartimaeus and Mary translated “Rabbi” was an expression of personal faith.
Bartimaeus expressed great faith and Jesus took notice of it. In verse 52, “”Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” It is a great faith that can believe before the whole picture is seen. If we are going to come to Jesus, if we are going to be touched and healed and saved, we will have to express faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
I’m reminded of an illustration I heard several times growing up about a great acrobat and entertainer who walked a tightrope across Niagra Falls. His name was Charles Blondin. His greatest fame came in 1859 when he accomplished one of his greatest feats for the first time walking a 1100 foot tight-rope suspended 160 feet above the waters of Niagra Falls. Blondin went on to walk across the falls several times each with a different theatrical flair.
On one such high-wire walk Blondin crossed over the falls pushing a wheelbarrow. When he reached the other side he asked the spectators if they believed he could do it again. Everyone cheered. Blondin then asked if they believed he could again cross the tight-rope with someone in the wheelbarrow. Everyone cheered believing that he could do it and wanting to see this incredible stunt. Blondin then asked for a volunteer to ride in the wheelbarrow. No one stepped forward. It was one thing to believe Blondin could do what they had all seen him do, and another to put your life in his hands letting him push you across the falls on the high wire.
If you are going to have a life changing, transformational encounter with Jesus, you’re going to have to express faith. You’re going to have to get into the wheelbarrow. Bartimaeus did. When the blind man heard Jesus finally respond to him and call him to come, what did he do? Verse 50 says, “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” How is that an expression of faith? What was so significant about the cloak that Mark thought he should comment on it? What did that cloak represent?
In many ways, the cloak represented self-reliance and security. It was all the man had. In cold weather it was his coat. At night it was his blanket. He spread it out underneath him to catch the coins that people would throw his way during the day. It represented his way of life. It was all he knew. And yet, we see that when Jesus acknowledged the beggar’s call, the blind man quickly, wasting no time, throwing caution to the wind shed the cloak and came to Jesus. He exercised faith instantly. He believed Jesus, the Messiah, would provide more than he had known. He wouldn’t have to rely on his past forms of support. He believed an encounter with Jesus meant he would be leaving behind his old way of doing thing.
How many of us exercise such faith so quickly? Oh, we want to follow Jesus, but we like to bring our security blankets with us. We want what Jesus can offer, but we like to have a back-up plan. We want to go with Jesus, but we want the option of hanging out with our old way of life once in a while. And we wonder why we don’t encounter God in a miraculous way? We wonder why things aren’t as exciting or adventurous or supernatural as they are for the characters in the Bible who had dramatic experiences or for other Christians who seem to be on fire? I’ll tell you why. They left it all to follow. That is an intense faith.
Zacchaeus also expressed faith. Though it doesn’t appear to be the “blind faith” with the kind of intensity as the blind man, he had a measure of faith. We’ll call it “curious faith.” John Calvin wrote, “Curiosity and simplicity are a sort of preparation for faith.” This is often the case, and it was certainly true of Zacchaeus. Why the big crowd? Who is this Jesus of Nazareth they are following? What am I missing? Why is TVCOG’s parking lot crowded? What is up with this church that does so much for the community? Why are over thirty men meeting in a weekly men’s group? Why are my co-workers fasting? A church developing a community park? Why are people in orange and blue t-shirts washing windows at Speedway? That’s strange. A church that offers Taekwondo? What’s that about, and what in the world is up with the woman pastor? (God will use almost anything to raise someone’s curiosity! J)
Do you know we all start somewhere? Even if there is someone in this room today who doesn’t even believe God exists, you are at a starting point. You’re at a pre-curios point. That’s alright! Perhaps something I say this morning will peak your curiosity. Luke 19:3 tells us Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. Bartimaeus had heard and believed, but Zacchaeus heard and needed to hear and see more. Perhaps the life he had lived put him on the defense when it came to considering Jesus as the Messiah. Bartimeaus was blind when Jesus met him, but Zacchaeus was robbing people blind. Bartimaeus was receiving people’s pity. Zacchaeus was taking people’s money. He was a tax collector. How many people are working for the IRS this week? On second thought, put your hands down! 🙂
The problem wasn’t that he was just doing his job, but that in the process, he was lining his pockets by collecting more than was required. Nobody wanted to be Zacchaeus’ friend. He wasn’t on anybody’s guest list for a Passover Party. People wanted nothing to do with him. Perhaps Zacchaeus wondered if it would be the same with Jesus. Would someone like Jesus ever want to be his friend? Whatever the case, he had heard enough about Jesus to know he wanted to know more.
Does that describe where any of you were in your spiritual walk at any time? How many of you, by a show of hands would say that you are a Christian today and that journey started with just curiosity about what the whole Jesus thing was about? From that curiosity, your faith grew to the point where the light bulb went on and you could accept Jesus whole-heartedly. Curiosity is a great tool in the hand of God.
However, if we never move from curiosity to engagement or exploration of that curiosity, we may get stuck in the curios phase and find ourselves just hanging out, up a tree, at a distance as a spectator rather than as someone who moves to becoming a disciple of Jesus. Zacchaeus could have let his anxiety about a potential relationship with Jesus-, what it would look like, what it would cost him, what he might have to listen to if Jesus got to speak to him one on one—he could have let all of those insecurities and unknowns keep him up the tree. But he didn’t!
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. Do you know what it feels like when you are spotted by Jesus? Have you ever been there? You tried to keep a safe distance. You tried to fly under the radar. You got close enough to check Him out, but you didn’t think He could see you. And then, it was like you were the grand opening for a new store and the spotlight was on you. Boom. There was Jesus, staring at you face to face. He came to the tree you were hiding in and called you out. Does anyone know what I’m talking about this morning? Has anyone here ever been “called out” by Jesus?
Zacchaeus didn’t hesitate. This was an altar call and he knew he couldn’t stand in the pew hoping they wouldn’t sing one more verse. He came down at once. It was a joy for Zaccaeus to make the move. The Scripture says he welcomed Jesus gladly. It was a day of rejoicing, not a day of embarrassment, guilt and shame. Even though the text said there were whisperers and people with opinions who wanted to comment, Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus gladly. Any anxiety about being accepted by Jesus was gone. Now Zacchaeus was more than curious. He was excited to get to entertain and spend time with Jesus.
In addition to expressing faith, Bartimaeus made himself vulnerable in order to obey.
Follow the text with me. Bartimaeus had called out to Jesus three times when Jesus called for him to come to him. I wonder if the man thought, “Jesus, could you cut me some slack? I’m blind! Couldn’t you come to me?” After all, if the blind man was going to make it to Jesus someone was going to have to help him. Someone would have to take him by the hand. He would have to have help, in order to answer Jesus’ call to come. I can see Bartimaeus jumping up, ready to get to Jesus and then having to turn to someone to say, “Would you take me to Jesus?” “Will you hold my hand?”
Sometimes it is necessary, to move forward in our journey with Jesus that we ask some people around us for help. Sometimes we need someone to hold our hand. We need to ask for prayer. We need to make ourselves accountable. Why do we encourage you to come to a Wednesday night Bible study or a Sunday School class? Because we all need a little help from time to time. We want you to be in relationship with other Christians in a small group setting. You can’t get to know 340 people on a Sunday morning, but you can learn to relate to 15-20 in a small group setting. Scripture teaches us that we are the Body of Christ and within the Body God has placed people with different gifts and life experiences on purpose in order that someone else’s gifts, wisdom or life experiences will intersect yours just when you need them. But if you aren’t vulnerable enough to let someone know you have a need or a question, your ability to get to Jesus may be stunted or stifled. Getting to Jesus is a journey we are all on and all of us need assistance from time to time with getting up and moving towards Him.
Zacchaeus demonstrated vulnerability in a different way. How many of you know that tree climbing is a child’s activity? It’s not only childlike to climb a tree, but it can be risky to do so. Children don’t seem to be daunted by the potential danger. Let me see the hands of any adult who climbed a tree this last week. Exactly. Now think back to childhood, how many of you scraped your hands and knees on a tree climbing adventure? Anyone here ever fallen out of a tree? Anyone who would admit it anyway? It can be a dangerous thing to do. But Zacchaeus was so curious to see Jesus that he was willing to appear childish and was willing to go out on a limb to do it. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17). Perhaps more than anything else, it is pride that keeps many “successful” people from trusting Jesus Christ.
When Jesus said, “Come down, so I can go to your house,” Zacchaeus’ response was immediate gladness. It wasn’t “Give me time to clean my house up and make it presentable,” but rather “I’m an open book. Come on in. I see that you accept me just as I am!” That’s vulnerability. That’s the transparency that opens the door for Jesus to come in and do a major renovation of your house and mine.
Listen, the tallest person among isn’t tall enough to get to Jesus on his or her own. Like Zacchaeus, we are all too short. We all have to have help. We all have to become as children in order to see Jesus for who He really is. It is a child that will accept someone’s word at face value without all the doubts and hang-ups and need for reassurance. It is a child who will believe Jesus can deliver that which He promises. Make yourself increasingly vulnerable as you journey with Jesus and the deeper you will go. I’ve learned that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know anything! But I’m on an amazing journey with Jesus and I can’t wait to see what I don’t know next!! J Oh that we would have a “whatever it takes to see Jesus” attitude.
Both wanted to be changed by Jesus.
Bartimaeus had been blind until he encountered Jesus. When he was healed of his blindness, he could have thought, “I can’t wait to take a trip to see the sights of the then known world.” He could have thought, “I’ll use my sight to search for a wife.” He could have been inclined to go to school to learn to read or become skilled in some kind of trade. After all, having his sight would give him the opportunity for a better position in life. But it’s interesting that Bartimaeus used his sight to follow Jesus. Seeing Him, he followed Jesus.
That’s how I know Bartimaeus was changed. He used his sight to follow Jesus. Many people want an experience with Jesus but have no intention of following Him. Many people want the benefit of Jesus who but no desire to become like Him. Many people want to encounter Jesus, but far fewer really want to change into a disciple who actually follows Him.
I’ve known many people who, after a power encounter with Jesus, after they have gotten the miracle they want, gotten the answer they want, turn and walk the other way. Some of those are people who have even offered this kind of prayer: “God if you just heal my family member,” “God if you just give me this job,” “God if you just work out this situation,” “God if you’ll just get me out of here, I’ll follow you, serve you and obey you the rest of my life.” And after praying that prayer, a few weeks or months later, they are back in a tight spot, back in their old way of life, back relying on themselves and are out of fellowship with the church and who knows where they stand with God?
I tell you this in love this morning. God can and will heal you. God can and will transform your relationships. God can and will help you through financial crises. But Jesus didn’t die on a cross and rise from the dead so that you could get a promotion or a healing. He died so that you could be saved and walk in newness of life as you are totally, radically changed through a life of discipleship as you follow hard after Him! What do you want? Do you want an answer to prayer or do you want a new life, the best possible life that Jesus offers? Use your sight to follow Him.
Luke 19:8 tells us just how drastically Zacchaeus was changed after going out on a limb to see Jesus. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Money no longer meant anything to Him because Jesus meant everything to him. Notice that nowhere do we read that Jesus sat Zacchaeus down and said, “Now, Zacchaeus, there are a few things you need to understand. You have hurt people and financially crippled families by robbing them of their hard-earned money. Therefore, I am requiring you, in order to be my disciple, to go to your bank and take out enough money to start repaying everyone you have cheated. Beyond that, it’s obvious that money is a god to you, so you just need to start getting rid of it. Let’s start with giving half away and move on from there.” No. No heart to heart is recorded. But we see that because Zacchaeus’ heart was changed, he instinctively knew what to do in order to live out his discipleship. Make it right with everyone he wronged. Take money out of the equation. Discipleship requires simply that we live in a right relationship with God and a right relationship with others. It’s not something heavy-handed that God demands or requires from us, but it is the result of what happens supernaturally when we are truly changed by God. That’s our desire. It’s what we want to do.
I tell you, money people are sometimes the hardest people to win for Christ. They can’t fully trust Christ because they are still holding on to their possessions, still holding on to their cloak, afraid that if they follow Jesus wholeheartedly it will result in some kind of financial loss or loss of security. You’ll never hear me preach a wealth/prosperity gospel, but hear me clearly. Jesus isn’t asking us to follow Him in hopes that He can make us poor. He is hoping that we will recognize our spiritual poverty and trust Him fully so that He can bless us with more. As we trust Him more, He can trust us more with His blessing because He will have the confidence that we will use what we have been given under His Lordship to benefit His Kingdom. But you’ll never know the incredible blessing of God if you have to hold on to your stuff. God can’t give more to someone whose hands are already full.
But money people don’t seem to understand that principle. By the way, you don’t have to be a person with a lot of money to be a money person. You’re a money person if God isn’t in control of your money. If you buy what you want just because you want it and God hasn’t been consulted or given you the green light, you may be a money person. If you aren’t tithing which is God’s mandate for His children in His Word, that is, giving ten-percent of your income back to Him whether you make 15,000.00 a year or 150,000.00 a year you may be a money person. That paycheck becomes your cloak. You wrap it around you to keep you warm, rely on it to meet not only your needs, but also your wants, and keep it to yourself lest you have to share with someone and live on less.
Zacchaeus was willing not only to cut his income in half but to take the second half and start paying people four times what he had taken from them. Do you know what that means? He was heading towards having nothing before it was all said and done. It’s not because Jesus sat Him down and demanded anything, but because Zacchaeus realized that having everything meant having Jesus plus nothing else. Nothing else was needed if he had Jesus. Is there anyone here this morning who has given God control of their money who says they regret it? I can’t imagine so. Because when God has control of everything, you will worry over nothing!
Zacchaeus’ act of repaying what he had taken was an act of repentance. He was sorry for the way he had done people. His life had been built on money. His goals, his purposes, his very identity as a person were built on the importance to him of wealth and material success. But suddenly Jesus came and brought life. And Zacchaeus responded; he chose. Yes, he was still going to need money to live on, and I’m sure Jesus took care of him and blessed him. But, the core of his personality, the values that had given him direction in life, had suddenly shifted. Shockingly, people became more important than dollars. Honesty became more important than gain. Zacchaeus had become a different, new man!
Do you believe God has something more for you than you are currently experiencing? Are you following Him with a blind faith? Are you just dabbling in Christianity out of a curios faith? Follow Him. Are you vulnerable in your relationship with Christ? Can you admit you don’t know it all? Are you connected to the Body of Christ in a meaningful way through Bible Study and Christian friendship? Do you want to be changed so that you can experience God’s best? Leave the cloak behind. Come down out of the tree. Quit hiding. He sees you and He wants to come to your house and heart today.