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When this story starts of the healing of the healing of the blind man starts, Jesus is heading towards Jerusalem for the final time. It is the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ life and he is heading towards crucifixion – and he knows that. And this is the last miracle Jesus performs during his life on earth.
Jesus and his disciples were coming near Jericho, which was 15 miles from Jerusalem. And the streets were packed with people, which is not surprising because everyone was getting ready to make the journey to Jerusalem for the Passover.
And here, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, sits a blind man begging for money at the side of the road.
I suppose that, just as with beggars on our streets today and the Big Issue sellers, most of the people were just passing him by thinking of him as an inconvenience, getting in the way of their busy day. But he is listening to the conversations of the passers-by and hears that Jesus is there and he is desperate to escape from his world of darkness and he shouts out, ‘Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!’
The crowds are annoyed by him, annoyed that he should presume to engage with city life; perhaps in the same way that people today treat the homeless and beggars on our streets as somehow less than human and without any rights or dignity. And the crowd tell him to be quiet: to get on with his begging in the anonymity of his marginalised position in society.
But the blind man has a greater sense of self-worth than that and he keeps calling out. And in the end, we read that Jesus stops and calls the man over.
And so his encounter with Jesus begins and the healing is received.
So what do we have to learn from how the blind man approached Jesus? What can we learn about how we should approach God if we want to receive healing and new life from him? There are 4 things to note from the passage:
1. We must be persistent with God
There is a persistence at the heart of receiving from God.
The truth is that Christian discipleship is hard work and demands a life of discipline. And part of that discipline is to come to God in prayer in a consistent and persistent way.
Too often, we treat prayer like a Lottery Ticket. We want to receive something from God, so we will pray about it maybe once or twice and then, when we don’t receive it, we think, “Oh well, that’s that, then…”
The blind man knew that persistence was at the heart of receiving from Jesus. He calls out to Jesus but the crowds tell him to be quiet. But we are told, “But he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, take pity on me!’”
Encountering Jesus was no Lottery for Bartimaeus: he was persistent until it happened.
If we want to receive from God, we must develop persistence: not because he is unwilling to give to us and needs to be worn down but because, as we develop persistence, so we develop strong, spiritual character and we grow into spiritual maturity.
So firstly, we must be persistent with God.
2. Our response to God must be immediate
I wonder if a lack of urgency is sometimes evident in our relationship with God? We know what God wants for us – but we put it on the back burner. We know that we should be praying more – so we will start tomorrow…maybe.
Our spiritual lives too often reflect a lack of urgency.
But the blind man was different. As soon as Jesus called, the man went to him. His response was immediate – Jesus called and he jumped up and went to him.
If we want to receive from God, we need to develop that same sense of immediacy; to jump up and run to him when he calls.
And he is calling, isn’t he?
So firstly, we must have persistence if we want to receive from God.
Secondly, there must be a sense of immediacy in our response to him.
3. We need to know exactly what we want from God
If I asked you over coffee today, “What has God done for you this week?”, would you be able to give a reply?
We might be tempted to pray on a Monday, “Lord, help me to have a really good week”. But what does that mean? How do we measure that?
When it gets to Friday, some things will have gone well and some things won’t. Sometimes, we will have been happy, other times we will have been a bit miserable. What does ‘a good week’ look like? So it is impossible to know whether or not God has answered that prayer
But more tangible prayers are more meaningful:
“Lord God, I have an important meeting on Monday. I am nervous about it – please give me the confidence and the words to say”
“Lord God, I want to get into Bible reading more this week. Help me find 20 minutes each day to read, so that this week, I can get through the whole of Paul’s letter to Galatians”
Tangible prayers, more specific prayers, are a great encouragement to us because we more easily recognise God’s acting in our lives.
And the blind man knew that.
Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” and he replied, “Lord, let me see again”.
Now that is a tangible request: he was going to leave Jesus’ presence either still blind or seeing again. And he knew that Jesus had answered his request when he was healed.
If we want to receive from God, we must be persistent, we must respond with immediacy, we must be specific in our requests…
4. We don’t need to wait until we are sorted in our faith to receive from God
God doesn’t wait until we are sorted in our faith before responding to our prayers. We don’t need to reach a certain level of holiness or dedication or service before he is willing to give us some of his precious time.
God responds to you and me with the same eagerness and intimacy as he will respond to the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The blind man knew that too.
He called out to Jesus, “Son of David…” That was an old Jewish title reserved for the one who would lead Israel to national greatness. So it was partially true of Jesus – but not the whole truth, or even close to it. It was an inadequate idea of Jesus - but that didn’t matter. Because the blind man had faith and that was enough for Jesus to act on.
None of us fully understand all the truth about God. We all have a weak understanding and we all have so much to learn: all of us are beginners in the faith.
But, that doesn’t matter to Jesus: he does not ask for knowledge and learning.
He asks only that we are persistent, that we respond to him when we hear him call and that we ask his involvement in our lives in a direct and tangible way.
If we join the blind man in approaching Christ like that then, like him, we will receive healing and peace and grace and our lives will be transformed.
Jesus said to the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”
He asks us the same question this morning.
What do you want Jesus to do for you today?