Have Mercy On Me!
August 15, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. It is about Jesus being on a trip en route to Jerusalem. When Jesus tried to leave the town of Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, a blind beggar [named Bartimaeus] who was sitting along the road had begun to shout all of a sudden. "O Jesus, son of David, please have mercy on me!" Many scolded him and tried to make him quiet down. But, the man did not quiet down. He kept shouting louder and louder, "O Jesus, son of David, please have mercy on me!"
The People Seek For A Powerful King
2. Why would so many people "try to make him quiet down?" Was he noisy? But really, only the loud voice of one man was discovered. I don't think they were all walking in silence and meditation. While chattering and clamoring, the great crowd was in motion. So, it is more of a story than that they should just pass on as is and ignore the shouting beggar, isn't it?
3. The reason the people tried to silence him is that they thought the man was openly rude. For example, when the Roman emperor made a procession, if a beggar who was sitting along the side of the road started shouting out loud all of a sudden and making a direct appeal of "Please have mercy on me!," he would be restrained unconditionally. He would be arrested and escorted by police, or at the least he would surely be taken somewhere else and let go. This scene is not far from that. To the people, the ascent of Jesus' group to Jerusalem was the procession of a king. We can understand this easily enough when we see them entering into the capitol city of Jerusalem. The scripture says, "Many people spread their clothes on the road, and others cut leafy branches from the field and spread them on the road," (11:8). It was truly the entrance of a king into the capitol city, wasn't it?
4. In this way then, Jesus was truly the king to the people. Indeed, to put it more accurately, he was the one who was expected to be king, the one whom they expected to enthrone right about then. The size of the crowd following Jesus at the moment they left Jericho is believed to have gone up to a considerable size. This was not a congregation of mere pilgrims. They were not just traveling together to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. They were all following in groups believing Jesus was going to become king. At that time, the Jews were under the government of Rome. "But, Jesus must surely liberate us from the rule of Rome. And he must restore the great kingdom of Israel, like the time when David used to be king. He must restore the throne of David." That's what they were believing.
5. Of course, the ones expecting this the most were the twelve whom Jesus had chosen; for, they are thinking we are special. They believed that as a matter of course special positions were being prepared for them in the kingdom that Jesus was going to establish. Therefore, a little before the passage that I read to you today, the text has this, "The sons of Zebedee James and John stepped forward and said to Jesus, 'Master, we would like you to grant us what we request of you.' When Jesus says, 'What do you want me to do?,' the two said, 'When you receive your glory, please let one of us sit on your right and the other on your left!'," (verses thirty-five through thirty-seven). "To receive your glory" clearly means "to become king." They are requesting of him, "Please make us number two and number three at that time. Okay?" The men appeared like this [trying] to forestall [the others]. Naturally, the other disciples got mad; because everybody was thinking the same thing.
6. Meanwhile, why in the world did the disciples and the great crowd expect Jesus to become king? How could they think that such a thing would come to pass? Why did they suppose that Jesus would liberate them from Rome and rebuild the kingdom of Israel? They couldn't be thinking sensibly. It must be that the reason they were expecting this was they had clearly seen the power of Jesus. A large number of miracle stories are recorded in the gospels. The sick are healed. The demon-possessed are set free. More than five thousand get their stomachs filled. The people saw the unfathomable manifestations of "God's power" in one miracle after another that Jesus did.
7. The group en masse was expecting power, they followed after the powerful man. The group en masse was looking for salvation in power, they were looking for the fulfillment of great works based on power. What we see in this text is this huge group in this [state of mind]. And then this weak man crying out was nothing but a nuisance to this group such as they were. [That beggar] was only a hindrance to the fulfillment of great enterprise. The majority of the thoughts and the feelings of the people who scolded [the beggar] must have been like this, "Do you know who this is! He is the one who is worthy to become the king. He is the one who will re-implement the Davidic monarchy. Is there spare time to mess with a blind beggar [like you]!,"
The Man Believed The Mercy Of The Monarch
8. But the man did not quiet down. Even though [Bartimaeus] had a check put on him, he kept shouting. Jesus of Nazareth will have mercy on me unconditionally. If my voice just reaches him, he will have mercy on me unconditionally. He will look over his shoulder for me. He had complete confidence that he would. Of course, this man does believe that Jesus is the messiah. He said, "O Jesus, son of David!" Therefore, he also believes that Jesus is the one to become the king. He believes that he is the true king who has come as a descendant of David. Even still though, he believes that that king will have mercy on [me] a blind beggar.
9. Why [does he]? -- Probably because he heard about Jesus and knew it from that. In the first place if he had not known about Jesus, he never would have begun to shout out after hearing "It's Jesus of Nazareth." He had already heard about him and knew. The issue is what did he ask at that time and place? What did his hearing understand? He did not simply ask for a manifestation of the power of God. That's not what he asked, rather he asked for "the mercy" of Jesus. He had asked for "the mercy of God" which had been manifested through the works of Jesus. Therefore, he cried out and sought for "mercy."
10. As I already mentioned, those who could see looked at "the power of God" in the miracles of Jesus. Therefore, they pinned their hopes on Jesus as the powerful king. However, those who can see cannot necessarily always see the true nature of things. Indeed, many times they are unable to see it. Much rather, it was this man who could only ask, he indeed was the one who could see the important thing in the stories about Jesus that he heard about. [The important thing] was not "the power of God," but "the mercy of God." [The important thing] was the mercy of God which this one little person could not let pass by. This man who just asked understood [something]. [He understood] that God's kingdom of power did not make its arrival through Jesus. He clearly saw this truth with his blind eyes. The mercy of God, who fixes his eyes upon one man and has mercy upon one human being who has been groveling in the deepest pit of suffering, has arrived! The messiah, who embodies the mercy of God, has finally arrived! He was already seeing this within his heart.
11. So, he shouted out. He shouted with all his might. "O Jesus, son of David, 'please have mercy on me!'" -- And he was not mistaken. Jesus stopped and said, "Call that man to me!"
I Want To Be Able To See
12. Leaping up he went to Jesus. Jesus says to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Immediately he replied, "Master, I want to be able to see." He had been suffering because he was blind. Also, the reason he had to live begging was he was blind. Furthermore, since he was blind, there were also those who flung heartless words at him, like "[You're blind] either because of your own sins or those of your parents!" So, he wants to be able to see. I'm sure that's exactly how [he felt].
13. But, upon being able to see, what did he really want to see? I'm wondering wasn't it the mercy of God? He must have wanted to see the person of Jesus, the one who is the manifestation of God's mercy. I think that he wanted to see with his own eyes, more than anything else, the arrival of mercy, [that is,] the One he had been hearing about to this very moment.
14. His wish was granted. Jesus said, "Go! Your faith has saved you." Next, the scripture says, "The blind man had immediately started to see." He started to see but he didn't just leave. "The blind man immediately started to see and then he followed Jesus as he proceeded further on the road," says the scripture. With opened eyes he pursued the person of Jesus. Pursuing Jesus, the focus [of his heart] followed after Jesus as he proceeded further on the road.
15. So far in the text that's what we got. But we can easily imagine that for Bartimaeus the story did not end there. With seeing eyes what was he looking forward to in the future in which he was pursuing after the person of Jesus? The very next thing written in the text is the event of Jesus entering into the capitol city of Jerusalem. And, in the same Jerusalem, the Lord would be hung upon a cross and murdered. In brief, because this [ex-blind] man had been following right behind Jesus, he had to see with his own eyes the events of Jesus being hung on the cross and murdered.
16. "Why did I ever have to start seeing! It would have been better not to! I never wanted to see [this]!" When he witnessed the scene of Jesus being arrested and executed by the state, he must have felt it deep down within. If it had ended with that, then what he had experienced could not possibly have been the mercy of God or any thing close to that, and this story of his eyes being opened would never have been told and passed on [to posterity].
17. Why was this story passed on? When we read it again and think about it, there might be some unease over the fact that the name of this blind beggar was recorded. It is highly unlikely that everybody knew the name of this beggar in the beginning. In spite of that though, the fact the scripture has his name in it means that, about the time this gospel was written, Bartimaeus was a character who was well known as a Christian in the church. Other names are written besides, like those of the twelve. He followed Jesus. And the name of Bartimaeus, the son of Timeaus [the son of a man of honor], would come to be left behind in the history of the church.
18. In brief, it means that the sorrow he witnessed in Jesus as he was crucified did not end there. Before long he would find out that this cross of Christ was a sacrifice of atonement for sin, the cross was none other than to bring forgiveness of sin. And he would find out that his eyes were opened so that he actually would see that cross. That's right. With his opened eyes he clearly saw the mercy of God. He saw the mercy of God as perfectly revealed in the crucified Christ. He saw the unfathomable mercy of God, who handed even his own son over to death as a sin atoning sacrifice, for the pardoning of our sins. With those opened eyes of his, he saw that the kingdom of God's mercy had surely arrived in Jesus Christ.
19. In consequence, the story of this man has come to be passed down along with the prayer, "Have mercy!" And generations of people as well have been believing the Lord the same way this man did, and have been trusting through out all times and seeking in prayer for his mercy. "Lord, have mercy!" Over and over again, they have repeated these words. "Lord, have mercy!" -- "Kurie, eleison!" We too should pray in this manner. Like Bartimaeus did, we should pray believing the Lord will surely have mercy upon us.