Luke 18:35–43 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
“Lord, I Want to See”
Here's the background leading up to today's enlightening passage. The subject of the coming kingdom of God has been in view since the question as to "when the kingdom would come" was raised by the Pharisees in chapter 17. In chapter 18, the focus changed from the timing and circumstances of the coming kingdom to "who'd be able to enter into it." Jesus taught that those who'd expected to enter his kingdom wouldn't, namely the self-righteous Pharisee who wasn't justified; however, the penitent tax collector (Luke 18:9–14) was justified to enter it. Jesus next taught his disciples that while the rich young ruler, and those like him, would have much difficulty getting into the kingdom (18:18–27), those who were childlike would possess it (18:15–17).
The rich young ruler sadly left the presence of the living Lord because he clearly understood that his possessions couldn't come before his Lord. Strangely, the disciples continued to follow Jesus without understanding him. Peter, apparently speaking for the rest of the disciples, said to the Master, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed you" (v. 28). The inference seems to be this: Lord, we have left all to follow you. What's in it for us? The Lord's answer was gracious and encouraging. He told them that they wouldn't leave or give away their things as a great sacrifice; instead, they'd indeed gain greatly, not only in heaven, but in the present age. They'd receive a many-fold return, presently and in their eternal life (18:29–30).
Then, Jesus tells his disciples [again] about his upcoming "ultimate sacrifice" (18:31–34), which could very well have been intended to put "their sacrifice" into perspective. Even with such a specific prophecy, the disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about (v. 34) because "the meaning was hidden from them" — God deliberately withheld it; they weren't ready for it; they'd understand Jesus' rejection, crucifixion, and death, only after his resurrection.
A Blind Begging Man (vv. 35–39)
It was common to find beggars at the city gate where people passed in and out. Blindness was a common affliction in the ancient world. In today's passage, the blind beggar, whom Mark has named Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46), was sitting by the road as it led into Jericho. He easily realized that the number of people on the road who were crowding into the city was much larger than usual. Though blind, he heard the tumult and felt much pushing and shoving as the crowd competed to catch up with a very popular prophet who'd come into town. The blind man cried out to whoever could hear him, What's happening? In response, a bystander answered, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
Bartimaeus knew about Jesus, perhaps from what he heard as he sat along the street. You can imagine how the rumors about Jesus would circulate among the sick and the infirm, especially in connection with his miraculous healings. Bartimaeus began to call out to Jesus. He wanted and needed to be healed, and he believed that Jesus was both able and willing.
He didn't call to Jesus by the name that the passerby had told him — Jesus of Nazareth — but rather by the name that identified him far more accurately: Jesus, Son of David. The blind man may have had the physical handicap of blindness, but he knew that Jesus was more than a man; he was Messiah. Thus, Bartimaeus called out to Jesus as Messiah, the only one who could heal the sick and give sight to the blind.
Bartimaeus pled for one thing only! It was that which touched the heart of a righteous God and which came from an undeserving sinner: Mercy. Bartimaeus didn't merit anything, but he did beg for mercy. [Greek word eleeo is from the same word group as the word for "alms," which was the same cry given by the ten lepers who recognized Jesus and sought his healing (Luke 17:11–19). Eleeo means "to show mercy to someone, help someone (often out of compassion)."]
This definitely wasn't a helpless, feeble cry for help. No. It was loud and insistent. The word translated "called out" is Greek boao, meaning "to use one's voice at high volume, to 'call, shout, cry out.'" Bartimaeus keeps on shouting. He won't be shut up, even though the crowd continues to tell him to stop.
Those who were leading the way into town — probably the elders of Jericho — were irritated by the interruption and the unseemly disturbance that Bartimaeus posed. Here he was, yelling at the top of his lungs and being a nuisance, in their opinion. In effect, they therefore told him, Shut up! They sternly warned him to be still. Would they throw him in jail for disturbing the peace? How could Jesus, who was such an important person, be bothered by such interruptions? He wouldn't care to stop for one blind beggar, would he? That man must be silenced!
Let's take a good look at what it was that motivated Bartimaeus to cry out insistently in order to get Jesus' attention. While some people become intimidated and subdued by their handicaps, often feeling overwhelmed and sometimes choosing to give up at trying to get healed, that wasn't the case for Blind Bartimaeus. What motivated his irrepressible clamor for healing? Faith.
To call someone "Son of David" as a title is equivalent to calling someone "Messiah," which signifies to the Jews a person who's the promised descendant of David, the One who'll sit upon the throne of Israel. During most of his ministry, Jesus didn't encourage others to refer to him as Messiah because the political implications of this title would soon prevent him from being able to minister effectively. But now his hour has come. His face is set towards Jerusalem where he'll be crucified, largely because he'd been unwilling to renounce the titles given to him: "Christ" and "king of the Jews."
“How May I Help You?" (vv. 40–43)
Jesus asked the blind man what he needed and wanted. Don't you think that Jesus knew well what the blind man needed? If so, why did Jesus ask that obvious question? Perhaps our Lord Jesus wanted to emphasize the value and importance of strong faith. Perhaps, too, he wanted to help Bartimaeus determine for himself what he wanted from Jesus. Hopefully, Jesus' question, "What do you want me to do for you?" can be useful for us, his disciples, in our own ministry to people. Before we minister to someone, it's prudent to first ask, What do you want Jesus to do for you? Such a brief fact-finding inquiry can help you focus clearly on the specific need(s) of the person you'll help. In the case of Blind Bartimaeus, Jesus might have intentionally wanted to get him to vocalize his faith, since Jesus responded to his appeal with, "Your faith has healed you" (v. 42b).
As we've continually seen, Jesus never seems to conform to human expectations. Here he stopped, ordering that the man be brought to him. At this point, Mark tells us that the man jumped up, threw off his coat, and went to Jesus; he wasn't going to be stopped. When asked by Jesus what he wanted, it did not take Bartimaeus long to speak up: He wanted to see. Jesus immediately healed him, informing him that it was his faith that had made him well (v. 42). Bartimaeus began following Jesus, and he may never have stopped. He also was glorifying God, which he may also never have stopped. All the people joined in, giving praise to God (v. 43).
The result of the healing was immediately apparent. The once-blind man had become a disciple who joined Jesus' band of followers. Bartimaeus was a man of faith who was more than ready to move from begging daily for help from others to directly helping others. Who'd have thought that this beggar would instantly become a giver! When you face your next challenge, ask yourself this question: What can my faith help me to become?
In moments or seasons of darkness, where should you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call out, aloud or quietly? It's the merciful touch of Jesus — God's Son — that brings people out of their spiritual darkness, into divine light.
- Q. 1 What motivated Blind Bartimaeus to call out to Jesus? What motivated the bystanders to try to stop him?
- Q. 2 Why did Jesus ask the blind man, "What do you want me to do for you?"
- Q. 3 Being a disciple, do you ask people, "What do you want Jesus to do for you?"
New International Version (NIV)
[To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 18]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "Healing of Bartimaeus."
A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight
35As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
38He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
39Those 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!"
40Jesus 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.
42Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." 43Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.