There is a book in my house that I’m absolutely sick of reading. I’m sure a number of you have read it too: Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? It is advanced reading, I know.
Well, today’s sermon is going to be called, “Blind man, blind man, what do you see?” This passage is an interesting one because it is all about man’s blindness. It is actually ironic because the only one who can really “see” in the passage is the blind man. Despite the fact that he can’t see anything, he has the clearest perception of where things stand.
Then, we noted what Jesus meant when he said, “What is impossible with man, is possible with God.” We said that man’s condition is so bad, his sinful nature is so debilitating, that it is impossible for him to come to a state of salvation on his own. Salvation is only possible by God’s sovereign doing.
Well, in our passage today, our Lord wishes the press that home again. As we look at this passage, I think it will become apparent that man, because of his sin, is completely blinded to the saving work of God. There is no possibility to overcome this blindness on our own.
Our passage begins by describing the blindness to us.
I. The blindness is described
In verses 31 and 32 Jesus predicts what is going to happen to him in a few days. He says, “See we are going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
Now, notice how the disciples react. Actually, notice how the disciples didn’t react. Verse 34 says, “They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
Did you notice the repetition? Luke takes up some extra space on his papyri to let you know that what Jesus just said didn’t sink in. It wasn’t that they were a little fuzzy on the details. They had absolutely no comprehension what Jesus meant.
Understand too that this is at least the third time that Jesus has predicted his death. If you go back to chapter 9 you can read of two other instances where Jesus said that he was going to be handed over and killed.
Now, how many times do you have to say something to get it to sink in? Some of you parents have probably asked that yourselves. You’ve said to your kids, “How many times do I have to tell you to pick up your toys?!” But that’s different isn’t it? It’s not that your kids don’t understand you. They hear you. They know what you mean. They have perfect comprehension. They just don’t do it.
This isn’t like the disciples heard Jesus and simply chose to ignore it. They are not tracking at all. They are completely blank. Their eyes are glazed.
Look at it again. Look at how specific Jesus is. Jesus says, “Guys, I’m going to be handed over, spit on, mocked, shamefully treated and killed.” He’s pretty specific here about what is going to happen. He’s not speaking a parable or hiding anything from them.
And he says that everything that has been foretold in the OT by the prophets is going to happen.
But look at what it says in verse 34. It says that “they understood none of these things.” Actually, the original language says that they couldn’t put 2&2 together. It says “they could not put these things together.” They couldn’t connect what Jesus said with what was going to happen. It was like a puzzle piece that just didn’t fit into their brain.
Now, I wonder if this is referring to their preconceived ideas of what a Messiah was supposed to do. You know, they were expecting a warrior and a political figure. But how do you get that? Where did that come from? It was from the OT. In particular, it was from the way they read the OT.
Now, we do this too, don’t we? When we read Scripture, this is the way we do it: We see verses that talk of God’s love and we highlight them. If there is a passage that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, we underline it and put little hearts beside it. But when we come across a passage that talks about judgment, we kind of skip over that. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,” Let’s put that on facebook. Psalm 137: “Happy is he who dashes their babies against the rocks.” Well, that’s weird. We’ll skip over that one. “God is love.” Now that’s a good one. That deserves to be highlighted.
That’s likely what the Jews did when they read the Scriptures. They looked at the political stuff; they saw what they wanted. They didn’t see things like Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant. That just didn’t fit with their construction of things. So, when Jesus came and started talking about suffering, “they couldn’t put it together.” It was a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit in their brains.
The next thing it says is really interesting too. It says, “The saying was hidden from them.” Now, who hid it? Did Jesus hide something? No. We just pointed out, he couldn’t be any more clear on the matter. He’s very open and specific.
It was hidden because they needed the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Their minds, being darkened by sin, could not allow them to understand it. They needed the Spirit to reveal it in order to comprehend it.
Then finally it says, “They did not grasp these things.” Literally it says, “They did not know” these things. This is a statement of simple knowledge. Jesus spoke and gave them knowledge. But, without the Spirit’s illumination, they couldn’t even pick up that. They were not tracking at all. It was basically bouncing off of them.
All this shows that men are deadened to the things of the Lord. We are completely blind to the gospel and have no ability to embrace it in even a cognitive way, let alone a true spiritual comprehension—a believing way, without the working of God within us.
We are described as being completely powerless to gain even the slightest bit of insight.
And this becomes even more clear in the next portion. In the verses we just looked at our blindness is described. But in verses 35-39 we see how our blindness is demonstrated.
II. The blindness is demonstrated
In verse 35 we read about a blind man who is sitting by the roadside begging for money. Now, recognize that he is in a strategic place here. We are coming upon the Passover Celebration and there would be thousands of people crowding through these streets on their way to Jerusalem. This was the hay day for beggars. You have all these people on pilgrimage and he plants himself right where he is bound to make a killing.
Verse 36 tells us that the blind man hears this crowd going by and he asks what is going on. Now, notice what they say. In 37 the tell him that “Jesus of Nazareth” is passing by. And how does he respond? He cries out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Two things to note here. First of all, it is interesting that the blind man calls out for mercy. He didn’t call out for a healing of his eyes. This blind man recognizes that his problem is not primarily physical. He isn’t struggling with bad case of glaucoma. He recognizes that his eye problem is symptomatic of something deeper. His blindness is just a periphery thing. He understands that his real problem is his relationship with God. His real dilemma is his sin and his need of salvation. He recognizes that he needs to get right with God. He understands that he is under the wrath and curse of God and needs to be forgiven and restored. And the only way he can get that is through God’s mercy.
But there is something more important to see here: This blind man has more perception than the any of the other people of the crowd. Keep your eye on how the people talk about Jesus. The blind man asks what the ruckus is. They say, Jesus of Nazareth is coming. He says, “Jesus, Son of David.” The crowd just refers to Jesus as an ordinary guy. But this blind man confesses as king; Messiah! They say, “It’s just Jesus;” he says, “The long awaited Deliverer is here!”
And it goes on in verse 39 to say that the people tried to hush him up. “Settle down you! You keep your mouth shut. We’ll have no more of this nonsense!” But what is his reaction? It says that he cries out all the more. The word there actually means to scream or screech. In other words, he kicks up the volume until the decibel level is ear piercing.
The blind man sees who Jesus really is. No one else does. And this blind man is essentially preaching to this crowd. Every time he cries out, he is proclaiming the gospel: the King has come, mercy is at hand!
But the crowd just wants him to hush up. What should they have done? They should have said, “You’re right!” and everyone should have fell at his feet. They all should have cried out for mercy. But they are too dense. They are the blind ones. They don’t see that their messiah is standing right there.
That’s the thing about our sinful estate. It doesn’t matter what language you use. It doesn’t matter how loud you shout. It doesn’t matter how good your argument is. It can be the most eloquently stated gospel presentation with the most airtight argument. You can have every detail exact, but it won’t make any difference if the Spirit does not bring with it light and life.
This event right here is not so much about the blind man’s faith as it is about Israel’s faithlessness. What we have here is a dead people. They are a blind. The blind man sees much more than all Israel put together. Every cry is a sermon. But he is preaching to people who have absolutely no interest in what he has to say.
Back in Isaiah 59 the Isaiah talked about how depraved the people of Israel were. One of the ways he described them as being blind. It says that they hope for light, but there is only darkness. He describes them as groping for the wall and stumbling about despite it being noon (the brightest portion of the day). Really, that’s what we have here.
And I think that is a good way of describing much of the church today. Perhaps you heard how one of the members of the Christian rock group “Jars of Clay” has come out in support of homosexual marriage. How can he do that, despite the clear testimony of Scripture on the subject? Well, one reason is because he could probably care less about the clear testimony of Scripture! But it is mainly because he is groping for truth. He’s blind.
The sad part is, I highly doubt that his statement is going to affect his record sales. I wouldn’t even doubt it if his albums start flying off the shelf! Most of the people in the church today probably won’t see anything wrong with what he said.
Men today are just as blind to the truth of God and the revelation that he gives of himself as they were here in this passage. No matter how clearly Christ is revealed, men are going to remain numb to his Lordship until it is broken by God’s power; which brings us to verses 40-43.
We’ve seen how this blindness is described and demonstrated. Now, in verses 40-43 we see how this blindness is destroyed.
III. The blindness is destroyed
In verse 40 Jesus commands that this man be brought over to him. Now remember this is in front of a great crowd of people. So understand that the stage has been set. This has become more than a lesson to this blind man. Jesus put this guy right in front of this huge mass of people to make a point.
And look at verse 41. Jesus asks him again, “What is it you want me to do?” Jesus knew what he wanted! The man had just cried out for mercy. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted. But he’s setting it up.
And notice how the man responds, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” The man asks that his sight might be restored. In other words, he had it before, but he lost it. He now wants to recover it. He had once been able to see, but he became blind. Now he wants to recover his sight so he can see again.
Now, think about this: Isn’t that what has happened to Israel? They had once been devoted to God, but they lost their sight of that devotion. In their apostasy they lost sight of God and now they needed to recover it.
How is that possible? Well, the miracle says it all. Jesus responds by saying, “recover your sight, your faith has made you well.” The way that this blindness is overcome is through a miracle of God.
That is the beauty of redemption. That’s what makes salvation really the God glorifying thing that it is. This is what makes our salvation all of grace. God, in his loving-kindness, extends his saving grace to us when we were blind; when we were helplessly lost and reeling around in the darkness.
Again, we could go back to Isaiah 59. For 15 verses Isaiah talks about how rebellious God’s people are. And by verse 12 or 13 you start to wonder, “Is there any hope for these people?” And in verse 15 it says that God’s stretched out his arm and brought them salvation. They were saved, not by any power of their own, but by the direct intervention of God.
That’s what is being described here in this healing. This healing is (ironically enough) a visible sermon. It is a visible expression of what God does in redeeming a man.
Now, before we finish, there is one more thing that you need to see about this blindness. It is important that you see that this blindness is decreed.
IV. The blindness is decreed.
We would not be doing justice to this passage or the GOSPEL if we did not see how God is sovereign in all of this. I don’t want you walking away from here thinking that sin is just running amuck and there is nothing God can do about it. You have to understand that even as man is groping around in the darkness is still part of the divine plan of God.
Look back at verse 31. Our passage began with a prophecy. Jesus predicted his death. And, it wasn’t just a vague horoscope where he predicted that somehow, somewhere he was going to die. He predicted how everything was going to happen, even down to the most precise detail.
So Jesus knew exactly how things were going to turn out, and that is because he knew the end from the beginning. He knew that this was part of God’s plan. These wicked men were going to treat him shamefully because that was what God had intended from the very start.
And you have to understand it had to be that way.
You see, this blind beggar expressed what we all need. He cried out for mercy. And the Son of David just can’t grant mercy. As a king he has to uphold justice. A king is concerned for righteousness and it wouldn’t be right if justice wasn’t served.
So, you see, this is the predicament: Men are sinful. They’ve broken the law and they deserve to die! How is it they can receive mercy? It is through the cross. The old saying is that justice and mercy kiss at the cross. It is there that we see justice upheld and mercy poured out.
It is awesome to see that man, even in all his blind rebellion, is still doing the work of God. As they were executing Christ they were fulfilling what God had decreed for our redemption.
And this is the wonder of it all: If your eyes have been opened, you can rest assured that Christ has died for you. If God has spoken to you today and you see just how blind you have been—if you today understand that you have been rebelling against him and groping around in your sin, then you can know that salvation may be had. God has provided a way for you to receive mercy in the death of his Son.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.