See Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43; Luke 19:1, where this account of his restoring to sight two blind men is also recorded. “And as they departed from Jericho.” This was a large town about eight miles west of the Jordan, and about 19 miles northeast from Jerusalem. Near to this city the Israelites crossed the Jordan when they entered into the land of Canaan, Joshua 3:16. It was the first city taken by Joshua, who destroyed it to the foundation, and pronounced a curse on him who should rebuild it, Joshua 6:20-21, Joshua 6:26. This curse was literally fulfilled in the days of Ahab, nearly 500 years later, 1 Kings 16:34. It afterward became the place of the school of the prophets, 2 Kings 2:5. In this place Elisha worked a signal miracle, greatly to the advantage of the inhabitants, by rendering the waters near it, that were before bitter, sweet and wholesome, 2 Kings 2:21. In point of size it was second only to Jerusalem. It was sometimes called the city of palm-trees, from the fact that there were many palms in the vicinity.
A few of them are still remaining, 2 Chronicles 28:15; Judges 1:16; Judges 3:13. At this place died Herod the Great, of a most wretched and foul disease. See the notes at Matthew 2:19. It is now a small village, wretched in its appearance, and inhabited by a very few persons, and called “Riha, or Rah,” situated on the ruins of the ancient city (or, as some think, three or four miles east of it), which a modern traveler describes as a poor, dirty village of the Arabs. There are perhaps fifty houses, of rough stone, with roofs of bushes and mud, and the population, two or three hundred, in number, is entirely Muslim. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. ii. p. 443) says of this village, that there are some forty or fifty of the most forlorn habitations that I have seen. And this is Jericho! These houses, or rather huts, are surrounded by a special kind of fortification, made of nubk, a species of bush very abundant in this plain. Its thorns are so sharp and the branches are so platted together that neither horse nor man will attack it.” The road from Jerusalem to Jericho lies through what is called the “wilderness of Jericho,” and is described by modern travelers as the most dangerous and forbidding about Palestine. As recently as 1820, an English traveler, Sir Frederick Henniker, was attacked on this road by the Arabs with firearms, who left him naked and severely wounded. See the notes at Luke 10:30. Jesus was going to Jerusalem from the east side of the Jordan Matthew 19:1; his regular journey was therefore through Jericho.
As they departed from Jericho - Luke says, “As he was come nigh unto Jericho.” The original word used in Luke, translated “was come nigh,” commonly expresses approach to a place, but it does not of necessity mean that always. It may denote nearness to a place, whether going to it or from it. It would be rendered here correctly, “when they were near to Jericho,” or when they were in the vicinity of it, without saying whether they were going to it or from it. Matthew and Mark say they were going from it. The passage in Luke 19:1 - “and Jesus entered and passed through Jericho” - which seems to be mentioned as having taken place after the cure of the blind man, does not necessarily suppose that. That passage might be intended to be connected with the account of Zacchaeus, and not to denote the order of time in which these events took place; but simply that as he was passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus sought to see him, and invited him to his house. Historians vary in the circumstances and order of events. The main facts of the narrative are observed; and such variations of circumstances and order, where there is no palpable contradiction, show the honesty of the writers - show that they did not conspire together to deceive, and are in courts of justice considered as confirmations of the truth of the testimony.
Two blind men - Mark and Luke mention but one.
They do not say, however, that there was no more than one. They mention one because he was probably well known; perhaps the son of a distinguished citizen reduced to poverty. His name was Bartimeus. Bar is a Syriac word, meaning “son;” and the name means, therefore, “the son of Timeus.” Probably “Timeus” was a man of distinction; and as the case of his son attracted most attention, Mark and Luke recorded it particularly. If they had said that there was only one healed, there would have been a contradiction. As it is, there is no more contradiction or difficulty than there is in the fact that the evangelists, like all other historians, often omit many facts which they do not choose to record.
Heard that Jesus passed by - They learned who he was by inquiring. They heard a noise, and asked who it was (Luke). They had doubtless heard much of his fame, but had never before been where he was, and probably would not be again. They were therefore more earnest in calling upon him.
Son of David - That is, “Messiah,” or “Christ.” This was the name by which the Messiah was commonly known. He was the illustrious descendant of David in whom the promises especially centered, Psalm 132:11-12; Psalm 89:3-4. It was the universal opinion of the Jews that the Messiah was to be the descendant of David. See Matthew 22:42. On the use of the word son, see the notes at Matthew 1:1.
And the multitude rebuked them because - They chid or reproved them, and in a threatening manner told them to be silent.
They cried the more - Jesus, standing still, ordered them to be brought to him (Mark)
His friends then addressed the blind men and told them that Jesus called (Mark). Mark adds that Bartimeus cast away his garment, and rose and came to Jesus. “The garment” was not his only raiment, but was the outer garment, thrown loosely over him, and commonly laid aside when persons labored or ran. See the notes at Matthew 5:40. His doing it denoted haste and earnestness in order to come to Jesus.
And touched their eyes - Mark and Luke say he added, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” Thy “confidence, or belief” that I could cure, has been the means of obtaining this blessing.
Faith had no power to open the eyes, but it led the blind men to Jesus; it showed that they had just views of his power; it was connected with the cure. So “faith” has no power to save from sin, but it leads the poor, lost, blind sinner to him who has power, and in this sense it is said we are saved by faith. His “touching” their eyes was merely “a sign” that the power of healing proceeded from him.
Here was an undoubted miracle.
1.These blind men were well known. One, at least, had been blind for a long time.
2.They were strangers to Jesus. They could not have, therefore, “feigned” themselves blind, or done this by any “collusion or agreement” between him and themselves in order to impose on the multitude.
3.The miracle was in the presence of multitudes who took a deep interest in it, and who could easily have detected the imposition if there had been any.
4.The people followed him. They praised or “glorified” God (Mark and Luke). The people gave praise to God also (Luke). They were all satisfied that a real miracle was performed.
Remarks On Matthew 20:13. He will give to every one of his followers all that he promised to give. To him entitled to the least he will give everything which he has promised, and to each one infinitely more than he has deserved.
3. On some he will bestow higher rewards than on others, Matthew 20:16. There is no reason to think that the condition of people in heaven will be “equal,” any more than it is on earth. Difference of rank may run through all God‘s government, and still no one be degraded or be deprived of his rights.
4. God does as he pleases with his own, Matthew 20:15. It is his right to do so - a right which people claim, and which God may claim. If he does injustice to no one, he has a right to bestow what favors on others he pleases. In doing good to another man he does no injury to me. He violated none of my rights by bestowing great talents on Newton or great wealth on Solomon. He did not injure me by making Paul a man of distinguished talents and piety, or John a man of much meekness and love. What he gives me I should be thankful for and improve; nor should I be envious or malignant that he has given to others more than he has to me. Nay, I should rejoice that he has bestowed such favors on undeserving people at all; that the race is in possession of such talents and rewards, to whosoever given; and should believe that in the hands of God such favors will be well bestowed. God is a sovereign, and the Judge of all the earth will do that which is right.
5. It is our duty to go into the vineyard and labor faithfully when ever the Lord Jesus calls us, and until he calls us to receive our reward, Matthew 20:4. It is not that we deserve any favor, or that we shall not say at the end of life that we have been “unprofitable” servants, but He graciously promises that our rewards shall be measured by our faithfulness in His cause. He will have the glory of bringing us into His kingdom and saving us, while He will bestow rewards on us according as we have been faithful in His service.
7. People may be saved in old age, Matthew 20:6. Old people are sometimes brought into the kingdom of Christ and made holy, but it is rare. Few aged people are converted. They drop into the grave as they lived; and to a man who wastes his youth and his middle life in sin, and goes down into the vale of years a rebel against God, there is a dreadful probability that he will die as he lived. It will be found to be true, probably, that by far more than half who are saved are converted before they reach the age of 20. Besides, it is foolish as well as wicked to spend the best of our days in the service of Satan, and to give to God only the poor remnant of our lives that we can no longer use in the cause of wickedness. God should have our first and best days.
8. Neither this parable nor any part of the Bible should be so abused as to lead us to put off the time of repentance to old age. It is “possible,” though not “probable,” that we shall live to be old. Few, few, of all the world, live to old age. Thousands die in childhood. The time, the accepted time to serve God, is in early life; and God will require it at the hands of parents and teachers if they do not train up the children committed to them to love and obey Him.
9. One reason why we do not understand the plain doctrines of the Bible is our own prejudice, Matthew 20:17-19. Our Saviour plainly told his disciples that he must die. He stated the manner of his death, and the principal circumstances. To us, all this is plain, but they did not understand it (Luke). They had filled their heads with notions about his earthly glory and honor, and they were not willing to see the truth as he stated it. Never was there a more just proverb than that “none are so blind as those who will not see.” So to us the Bible might be plain enough. The doctrines of truth are revealed as clear as a sunbeam, but we are filled with previous notions - we are determined to think differently; and the easiest way to gratify this is to say we do not see it so. The only correct principle of interpretation is, that the Bible is to be taken “just as it is.” The meaning that the sacred writers intended to teach is to be sought honestly; and when found, that, and that only, is religious truth.
10. Mothers should be cautious about seeking places of honor for their sons, Matthew 20:20-22. Doing this, they seldom know what they ask. They may be seeking the ruin of their children. it is not in posts of honor that happiness or salvation are certainly secured. Contentment and peace are found oftenest in the humble vale of honest and sober industry - in attempting to fill up our days with usefulness in the situation where God has placed us. As the purest and loveliest streams often flow in the retired grove, far from the thundering cataract or the stormy ocean, so is the sweet peace of the soul; it dwells oftenest far from the bustle of public life, and the storms and tempests of ambition.
11. Ambition in the church is exceedingly improper, Matthew 20:22-28. It is not the nature of religion to produce it. It is opposed to all the modest, retiring, and pure virtues that Christianity produces. An ambitious man will be destitute of religion just in proportion to his ambition, and piety may always be measured by humility. He that has the most lowly views of himself, and the highest of God - that is willing to stoop the lowest to aid his fellow-creatures and to honor God has the most genuine piety. Such was the example of our Saviour, and it can never be any dishonor to imitate the Son of God.
12. The case of the blind men is an expressive representation of the condition of the sinner, Matthew 20:30-34.
(1)people are blinded by sin. They do not by nature see the truth of religion.
(2)it is proper in this state of “blindness” to call upon Jesus to open our eyes. If we ever see, it will be by the grace of God. God is the fountain of light, and those in darkness should seek him.
(3)present opportunities should be improved. This was the first time that Jesus had been in Jericho. It was the last time he would be there. He was passing through it on his way to Jerusalem. So he passes among us by his ordinances. So it may be the last time that we shall have an opportunity to call upon him. While he is near we should seek him.
(4)when people rebuke us and laugh at us, it should not deter us from calling on the Saviour. There is danger that they will laugh us out of our purpose to seek him, and we should cry the more earnestly to him. We should feel that our eternal all depends on our being heard.
(5)the persevering cry of those who seek the Saviour aright will not be in vain. They who cry to him, sensible of their blindness, and sensible that he only can open their eyes, will be heard. He turns none away who thus call upon him.
(6)sinners must rise and come to Jesus. They must cast away everything that hinders their coming. As the blind Bartimeus threw off his “garments,” so sinners should throw away everything that hinders their going to him everything that obstructs their progress and cast themselves at his feet. No man will be saved while “sitting still.” The command is, “Strive to enter in;” and the promise is made to those only who “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock.”
(7)faith is the only channel through which we shall receive mercy. According to our faith - that is, our confidence in Jesus, our trust and reliance on him so will it be to us. Without that, we shall perish.
(8)they who apply to Jesus thus will receive sight. Their eyes will be opened and they will see clearly.
(9)they who are thus restored to sight should follow Jesus. They should follow him wherever he leads; they should follow him always; they should follow none else but him. He that can give sight to the blind cannot lead us astray. He that can shed light in the “beginning” of our faith, can enlighten our goings through all our pilgrimage, and even down through the dark valley of the shadow of death.
In all the highways of life there are souls to be saved. The blind are groping in darkness. Give them the light, and God will bless you as His laborers.—Letter 60, 1903. Ev 553.1
Plans for the High Classes Will Reach All—Bring your minds up to the greatness of the work. Your narrow plans, your limited ideas, are not to come into your methods of working. There must be reform on this point, and there will be more means brought in to enable the work to be brought up to the high and exalted position it should ever occupy. There will be men who have means who will discern something of the character of the work, although they have not the courage to lift the cross and to bear the reproach that attends unpopular truth. First reach the high classes if possible, but there should be no neglect of the lower classes. Ev 553.2
But it has been the case that the plans and the efforts have been so shaped in many fields that the lower classes only are the ones who can be reached. But methods may be devised to reach the higher classes who need the light of truth as well as the lower classes. These see the truth, but they are, as it were, in the slavery of poverty, and see starvation before them should they accept the truth. Plan to reach the best classes, and you will not fail to reach the lower classes. Letter 14, 1887. Ev 553.3Read in context »
The following is from an article I wrote for the Review, published January 10, 1856: 2SG 202.1
“We have felt the power and blessing of God for a few weeks past. God has been very merciful. He has wrought in a wonderful manner for my husband. We have brought him to our great Physician in the arms of our faith, and like blind Bartimaeus have cried. ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on us;’ and we have been comforted. The healing power of God has been felt. All medicine has been laid aside, and we rely alone upon the arm of our great Physician. We are not yet satisfied. Our faith says, Entire restoration. We have seen the salvation of God, yet we expect to see and feel more. I believe without a doubt that my husband will yet be able to sound the last notes of warning to the world. For weeks past our peace has been like a river. Our souls triumph in God. Gratitude, unspeakable gratitude fills my soul for the tokens of God's love which we have of late felt and seen. We feel like dedicating ourselves anew to God.” 2SG 202.2Read in context »