The one about bringing the outsider in…
Then Jesus took the Twelve off to the side and said, “Listen carefully. We’re on our way up to Jerusalem. Everything written in the Prophets about the Son of Man will take place. He will be handed over to the Romans, jeered at, made sport of, and spit on. Then, after giving him the third degree, they will kill him. In three days he will rise, alive.” But they didn’t get it, could make neither heads nor tails of what he was talking about.
He came to the outskirts of Jericho. A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts. When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. They told him, “Jesus the Nazarene is going by.”
He yelled, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, “What do you want from me?”
He said, “Master, I want to see again.”
Jesus said, “Go ahead—see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!” The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing—and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.
Last week I wrote about the persistent widow and a persistent faith. This morning we see another example of persistent faith in the story of the blind man.
What I think is really interesting here is how obvious it becomes that he is on the outside of his community looking in. As great as the miracle of “seeing” is, it is really only a small part when we look at the story through the lens of the blind man.
Jesus is rolling into Jericho. At the outskirts of the city, the part of the city that would have left the man unprotected and exposed to all kinds of dangers, the blind man was begging. In so many ways he was sitting outside the life of his society. He couldn’t work and so he was dependent on the alms giving of those entering and leaving the town. He was physically outside of the town so he couldn’t get money from those residents milling about in the town square. This man was physically an outsider.
Once he is told about Jesus coming to town he begins to cry out for mercy from Jesus. What happens? He is told to be quiet. His voice is silenced by those who were not excluded from the community. The blind man’s position in the community was reinforced by the attempt to keep him from receiving mercy. He didn’t deserve it. He was a blind beggar on the outskirts, it would be better for him to be quiet.
Yet, this blind man persisted. He lived out the parable of the widow. We read that he didn’t back down, he didn’t get quiet, he didn’t shut up. No, he cried out all the louder and all the more. The blind man had a faith that persisted in the face of resistance. He kept crying out for Jesus to have mercy.
Did you catch what Jesus did in response? “Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over.” There was a physical change in location for the man. He was brought to Jesus. He was physically moved from the outside to the inside, close to Jesus. This was the beginning of reconciling the man not only to God but also the community. Then, Jesus heals the man.
What happens next? “He looked up, seeing—and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.” He had become part of the community. He was now in the midst of the crowd and following Jesus and worshiping with the community around Jesus.
We cannot miss how what was really going on here was the inclusion of the man into the community as a result of his healing. It was just that he regained sight. It was that he was no longer left on the outskirts of town to fend for himself. He was brought into connection, community, and society. In a very real and clear sense he was redeemed and reconciled.
His persistent faith brought him into deeper connection with those around him.
I keep praying that God will open my eyes to those on the outside who are crying out, “Jesus have mercy on me!” And instead of telling them to shut up I want to bring them close to Jesus. Too often over the last 70 years or so, those who have been crying out, “Jesus have mercy on me!” have been told to shut up.
We need to change that.