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And Jesus Stopped

Back to all sermons MATTHEW: Jesus King of Heaven and Earth

Date: September 9, 2018

Speaker: Erik Raymond

Series: MATTHEW: Jesus King of Heaven and Earth

Category: Biblical Exposition

Scripture: Matthew 20:29–20:34

The point I want to persuade you of this morning is simply this: Christ’s glory is put on display when he helps the helpless and exalts the humble.   

To see this we are going to consider a scene out of the everyday life of Jesus. In our Scripture this morning we encounter Jesus walking amidst a growing crowd of people. We often see crowds in the gospel narratives. This is because Jesus attracted attention. Some came because they wanted to hear him teach, others because they wanted to be healed from their infirmities, others sought to trip him up because they were jealous of him, still, others were just attracted to the man because of his radiant goodness. We might say it succinctly: Jesus drew crowds because he was godly. He was worthy of attention. He remains so to this day.

We read that he was leaving Jericho. He is moving toward Jerusalem, which would be the next town on the stop, about 15 miles southwest. This is his last miracle in his ministry and it effectively wraps up his public ministry. He is now moving closer to accomplishing what he has predicted. In a short time, Jesus will arrive in Jerusalem, and will, in fact, be crucified, buried, and rise from the dead. 

This is where he is going. Now on the way there we learn more about this King and his kingdom. We learn more about Jesus by how he interacts with people. To do this we are going to consider two sets of people, first these blind men and second Jesus. let’s think about who he encounters and how he responds. And as we do we’ll see Christ’s glory put on display by helping the helpless and exalting the humble.  

 

(1) The Blind Men

  A) Their Plight

We are introduced here in Matthew to two blind men. In a parallel passage in Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35, only one blind man is referenced. Does this mean there is a contradiction? Not at all. More than likely the other writers chose to focus on one of the men, named Bartimaeus, for a particular purpose. Matthew on the other hand chose to focus generically on the men.

But we also note that they were beggars. They didn’t have any means. They relied upon the generous almsgiving of others in order to survive. And the community around Jericho was relatively wealthy. And at this time of the year, there were many people traveling through making their way in for Passover. The presence of beggars and great crowds would not have been uncommon there. And, for these two blind beggars, this was an opportunity for help. 

I want us to pause for a moment because the I believe the Scripture is calling us to. You’ll notice in verse 30 the exclamation, “And, behold”. These are instructions for us, left by the author, to pause. Behold is calling us to stop, wait, and look. Look at what?

Well, look at the swelling crowds. Hear the noise. See the procession of people marching up to Jerusalem. Think of a busy parade or walking through the platform at Park Street at 5pm. It’s congested and loud. And the author is putting his hand on our shoulders and saying, “Behold...stop...wait...look...see the two blind me sitting down behind that group of people? Do you see them? Focus on them for a minute. You are going to learn something about this king and his kingdom.”

 

  B) Their Perception

 

As we behold them we see something ironic, the blind men see something. They hear that Jesus was passing by and so they call out to him, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David.” 

I said this is ironic because they are blind, but yet they see. But, it’s doubly ironic in the sense that the educated, rich, religious guys with fully functioning eyes can’t get it that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah. And, what’s more, these disciples have been increasingly thick themselves, seeming to trip over the cross every time it’s mentioned. They too have a hard time understanding who Jesus is and what his kingdom is. But these two blind beggars, sitting by the side of the road, they see. 

What is going on here? Matthew has taken this story and is using it to illustrate, in real time, the point that Jesus has been making in the previous section. He has been showing that the first shall be last and the last first. He showed with a child—one who is seen as lowly and insignificant, that they are actually better faces for the kingdom than a rich, religious guy. Why? Because God is attracted to humility and repulsed by pride. He is drawn to the needy because it is needy that come to be seen as trophies of his grace. The disciples were likely stinging from the rebuke over the parable of the laborers, where they were reminded that their standing is all of grace. And if they had gotten over that there is the recent memory of two disciples jockeying for power and influence in the kingdom. They all want the first place. But Jesus says, the first shall be last and the last first. This is why we are introduced to blind beggars calling upon Jesus as Messiah: we need to be reminded that the first shall be last and the last first. 

The disciples' request showed their blindness. The blind men’s request showed their sight. This is intended to instruct us even as we are struck by its irony.

Those who are esteemed in the world’s eyes are often walking in a way that is quite contrary to the ethics of Christ and kingdom. This reminds us of First Corinthians 1 that among the church there are not many wise, not many powerful, not many of great influence. But, among the church, there are a great many who have been shown mercy. We unite based upon our shared mercy and our common experience of grace. We want to make much of Christ and are not concerned with being made much of. 

 

  C) Their Plea

What do they say? Well, they called upon Jesus as the Son of David. But they also call out for mercy. They knew they were helpless and hopeless. They were severely limited in what they could do. Amid a crowd of people they did what all they could do, they yelled out for help. We get the sense with Matthew’s word choice here that they were not using their inside voice. They were yelling or crying out. It’s a word that is used in another place for the attention-grabbing screams of the demons. They are crying out for mercy.

But notice others attempted to hush them up. Look at verse 31, “The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent.” The crowd is telling them, this is enough. They need to simmer down. Be quiet. 

But for those who are seeking Jesus, impediments only increase their zeal. We read, “but they cried out all the more, saying, “Lord have mercy on us, Son of David!” This is a persistent plea for mercy. 

The crowd thinks that they are out of place crying out for mercy like this. They’re making a scene. But Matthew would have us to think otherwise. As we transition to Jesus’ response we see that his heart and ear are drawn to the desperate cries for mercy.

 

(2) The Lord Jesus

 

A) His Pity 

What is pity? The feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering or misfortunes of others. Some familiar synonyms are: compassion, sympathy, empathy.

These are familiar words for us, so it’s not surprising for me to refer to a good and noble person like Jesus as a man who is characterized by pity for others. His compassion is almost expected. But at the time of the writing of the New Testament this wasn’t so. It was so rare that it didn’t exist—there was no word for compassion in the Greek language at the time—it doesn’t appear in the Classics. It first appears in the Gospels to describe Jesus. One has said that the gospel writers could not find a suitable word in all of the Greek language to fit their purpose so they had to make one up. 

Compassion became incarnate. Divine pity became a man.

And it’s an interesting word. It’s visceral and deep with feeling. It gets to the heart of the person. Similar to how we might say that we feel something deep in our heart or in our gut.

We see it explicitly in verse 34, “And Jesus in pity...” Another way of saying this is, “Moved by compassion...” This tells us that everything Jesus does here in this narrative flows from a sense of compassion for the suffering of others. 

How do we see his pity or his compassion here? Let’s look.

First, he stopped. Jesus noticed them. This should be striking to you. If you are reading the Bible straight through you come to Matthew’s gospel. This is the first book of the New Testament. In the previous two-thirds of the Bible you have the Old Testament. These two sections of the Bible are not primarily a reference to time or chronology but of covenants. They are showing two different arrangements or administrations of how worship is arranged and executed for the people of God. In the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, there was a large emphasis upon separation. When Moses received the Law of God he went up to the Mountain himself to meet with God. The worshipers were warned to stay back at the risk of their own life. The Temple was constructed in such a way that there were several barriers that served to provide separation. There was a place where the only the priests could go and another place where only the high priest could go and only once a year. But you need to see that the New Covenant is not so. Where the Old said, “Stay back” the New says, “Come here.” And to make the announcement of come here, we have God himself, in human flesh, Jesus, walking about the dusty streets of Jericho. God dwelling with man and calling people to himself. The sight of Jesus walking amongst men and women should cause us to see that this is something as different as it is remarkable. But what’s more, he stopped. God is here. But, not only his he here, he stops to hear the persistent pleas of the needy. Amid the cacophony of chatter from the swelling crowds, Jesus stops. Friends, this verse has compassion stamped all over it.

Next, he addressed them. Jesus dignifies their cries. He calls out to them. Not only does he stop but he addresses them. Don’t miss the contrast here. The crowd of people hushed the blind men but Jesus heard them. The crowd saw the men as insignificant but Jesus sees their dignity. He speaks to them. I wonder how many years it had been since these two men have been addressed with such kind words. When was the last time someone noticed them? Has it been since their birth that anyone has seen them as anything but liabilities and burdens? With Jesus, we hear words of compassion flowing to their ears. And this pity is not the same as fellow humans who toss them a couple of coins, but rather of their Creator who can make them whole. 

Third, he asked what they wanted. Jesus offered to help them. Here is where we see compassion boil up and over the brim. Jesus’ pity is not limited to empathy but it spills over into action. He not only sees the need but he has the ability to meet it. He speaks here as he is in fact omnipotent. “What do you want me to do for you?” What a statement. Can you imagine how pleasing these words must have been to these blind men? To the helpless he offers help. To the hopeless he is hope. What compassion flowed from Christ’s heart to their ears.

Fourth, he touched their eyes. Jesus extended his hand to their eyes. More than likely Jesus walked over to them. He cut through the swarming crowds. Mercy is on the move. He drew even nearer to them. And, he extends out his arm and touches their eyes. Why did he do this? He was identifying with them. He was showing publicly that what was going to happen was certainly a result of his doing. Imagine the beaming faces of these men in their blindness. Their greatest need still weighing heavily upon them. In their blindness, they cannot see him but the shuffling of feet is getting closer. And at once the hands of Christ are extended precisely the spot of their greatest need. There upon their blind eyes the hands of healing, the Great Physician touches them. But it wasn’t only a touch or a public display of sympathy and pity. No, it was a display of powerful compassion.

Finally, he healed them. Jesus took care of their great problem. We read in verse 34, “And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.” Their blindness was removed. Their greatest problem was dealt with.

 

B) His Power

I want to say a bit more about what Jesus did. He actually made these men to see. This is compassion in action. It was not some type of magic trick or ploy. He gave them sight immediately. It was a real miracle. He gave the blind sight. This is the work of the Creator. The one who made the eye has restored it. There is nothing to difficult for God. He has the power of omnipotence. Jesus himself has said, nothing is impossible with God!

 

C) His Point 

What is the point of this? How are we to understand this? Why did Matthew put this story here at this part of his work on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ?

It vividly makes the point about the economy of the kingdom, the last shall be first.

  • Over the last several weeks we have seen this point being made over and over again.
    • the children
    • The rich young ruler
    • The disciples
    • The parable
    • Jesus has said it
    • He has taught about it
  • The Disciples and the crowds don’t get it
  • But now we have another vivid display of it.
  • This is what the king and the kingdom will be like.
  • This is what the church (1 Cor 1) will be like
  • We as followers of Christ must reflect Jesus himself. We need to help others, like Christ has with such compassion and care. 
  • Is our heart drawn to those who are hurting or who can help us?
    • Church primary responsibility to preach the gospel—a spiritual work
    • There is a place and also priority for us to help those who are need.
      • Here in our church family
      • Outside 
      • There are many opportunities for us to show compassion to those who are in need
    • Compassion demands it.
    • Physical vs Spiritual
    • Physical needs must never eclipse the spiritual need. But this also means that the physical needs are unimportant. Jesus healed and helped people all the time. 

 

 

 

Conclusion  

 

It teaches us about who Jesus is. 

  • Compassionate. He is willing to help those in need.
  • He is powerful. He has power of the curse and its effects. His is able to help those in need.

You must treasure Christ above all else because he’s not only able but willing to handle your biggest problems. Christ is worth it.

It provides an illustration for the drama of conversion.

  • We are helpless and hopeless
  • Moved with compassion Jesus draws near to us
  • We cry out for mercy
  • The Creator gives us eyes to see. He heals us
  • We follow him

 

The point I want to persuade you of this morning is simply this: Christ’s glory is put on display when he helps the helpless and exalts the humble.