When Love is not Blind
Let’s see what this particular blind man, Bartimaeus says and does when he learns that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Immediately he gets up and begins to yell, “Yeshua, Son of David, have mercy on me”! And as the people tried to calm him down, he would not abate and he cried out even more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
How could he miss such an opportunity to meet his Savior, and as we mentioned earlier, the other blind man, for there was another, yelled the same words, as if they knew that only Yeshua could heal them from their blindness. No one was able to quiet them down. But see what they ask for: mercy. This is quite significant. Let’s remember the rich young ruler who came to Yeshua and asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The poor blind beggar answers the rich ruler’s question by pointing to two fundamental truths: One must recognize the Son of David, and one must confess their deep need for mercy.
By using this word mercy Bartimaeus knew that salvation was found in Yeshua, that faith is a gift granted freely and not by works.
Mercy’s Eternal Benefit
By definition mercy is compassion, it is a forgiveness shown toward someone in whom there is the power to punish or harm. This is what is at the core of the salvation we have in Yeshua: He has the power to judge, but He chooses to impart salvation through mercy to whoever asks for it in faith. We are all given that choice between justice or mercy. They say that justice is getting what we deserve, but mercy is not getting what we deserve. This is something Bartimaeus understood by faith. So, he asks for mercy from the One who desires to give it.
Mercy is one of the most wonderful attributes of God. By asking for mercy, one confesses his sins, his inability to attain salvation by works, being fully reliant on God. Here is the great gulf between the blind man who saw and the rich ruler who was blind to the riches of God.
Now, let’s see how Bartimaeus addresses Yeshua In verse 51 he uses the term Rabboni.
In this form, it is found only in two places in the N.T., here and in John 20:16 when Mary Magdalene recognized her Savior Yeshua at the Resurrection. She addressed Him as Rabboni and held on to Him and did not want to let Him go. But there is something special about this term Rabboni.
In the Targum, the Bible that they used at the time, these names רִבּוֹן (Rabbon) and רַבּוּנִי (Rabbonai) were used almost exclusively as a title addressed to God (Kittel, SB) as in the Lord of the world or Rabboni D’Alma רִבֹּוֹנֵיהּ דְּעָלְמָא or Rabboni Shel Olam רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם. By using this title, Bartimaeus and Mary Magdalene recognized Yeshua as the Divine Creator of the universe.
Notice the contrast. Yeshua did not tell the blind beggar, “Why do you call Me as such for only God is Rabboni”, as he told the rich young ruler in very similar wording. The difference is the heart of the person asking: Bartimaeus knew Yeshua was the Word, the Memra made flesh. He was the divine Messiah incarnate. And so, Yeshua cured him and blessed him with salvation.
And see what happened when Yeshua heard Bartimaeus’ persistent cries from the heart. He immediately came to a halt and called the beggar to him.
When Everything Stops
What a moment that must have been since many people were following Yeshua from behind, and here He suddenly stops, perhaps causing the crowd to bump into each other. They must have wondered, why the sudden stop? The moment of the salvation of a soul was at hand. This is a case of leaving the 99 sheep and going to that one who is lost. The salvation of a soul, we know is so dear to God.
But there is yet another great moment of mercy displayed, with the city of Jericho as its backdrop. The Babylonian Talmud says that this city was a priestly one. Many priests who worked at the Temple lived there. It mentions that there were twenty-four priestly watches in the land of Israel and twelve were in Jericho. (B.Talmud Taan. 4:1). This means that half the priesthood in Israel was there living. So, the roads must have been filled with many of them for it was among the busiest times of the year. It was Passover.
And so here were many holy men, but none of them could heal the blind man. This scene further enhances the fact that their ignorance of God’s Word led to such a blindness that they were unable to point people to the God of Israel. In fact, it is this very priesthood who sold the Messiah to the Gentiles to be crucified.
Removing the Old Robes for New Ones
And notice what happened when Bartimaeus learned that the Son of David was walking by. He threw his cloak aside, as he jumped up and came to Jesus. This certainly depicts the excitement of the blind man but why are we given this information about the cloak? This may remind us of a passage about the image of a High Priest just before the coming of the Messiah as the prophet Zechariah describes for us. This is when the High Priest Joshua was standing before Messiah and Satan was standing at his right hand to oppose him (Zech.3:1-2).
And the LORD said, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”
But this is what Yeshua did to Bartimaeus right in the city of the Levites. And this must have been done in the sight of so many priests who were taking the road to Jerusalem. Surely many of them were called to perform their Passover duties at the Temple and surely they must also have been made aware of the miracle performed on Bartimaeus. And this becomes even more significant when we recall that it was the priests who first entered the land. It was with the touch of Jordon’s shoreline when the waters opened up, as it was with Moses. The priests were also the ones who were leading the procession around Jericho and it was they who blew the 7 trumpets which brought the walls down (Joshua 6).
And once again they are present on the scene, many of them walking in such close proximity to the Lamb of God. But this time, they were so far from God they failed to recognize the Messiah but condemned Him instead. Yet, despite the foreknowledge of their refusing His offer of mercy, Yeshua nevertheless reaches out to them in their own backyard.