Sight for the Blind  – Matthew 20:29-34

(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)

Faith Bible Church, NY

September 4, 1994

Sight for the Blind

Matthew 20:29-34


Blind. Webster’s primary definition of that word is “sightless,” one who cannot see. But there are many other definitions that can be given to the word other than just the lack of the physical ability to receive, process and comprehend the images produced by electromagnetic radiation, or in short, light. We are going to look the miracle Jesus performed when He restored the sight of two blind men, but we also find that there are spiritual applications to us within the story. Turn to Matthew 20:29.


As you turn there, let me remind you of the context. Jesus has been steadily traveling toward Jerusalem where, as He has repeatedly told His disciples, “the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (20:18,19). Jesus has been traveling from Galilee toward Jerusalem for some time and He has been ministering to the people along the way. His plan is to be in Jerusalem for the Passover. He and the disciples have now crossed over the Jordan river from Perea (the modern day country of Jordan). As Jesus has passed through different areas more people would start to follow Him. In addition the roads are full of other pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for Passover. When they find that Jesus is near, they also join up with the crowds that are following Him, so there is a great multitude around and following Jesus. They are happy and festive for the Passover season is a cheerful one. We pick up our passage.

And as they were going out from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And the multitude sternly told them to be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Before we go any further in examining our text I need to address the critics who claim that Matthew must be wrong in describing what he does by the accounts because Mark and Luke mention only one blind man and both say that it occurred as Jesus was going in of the Jericho rather than going out of that city. Critics have held this up as yet another claim of the Bible contradicting itself and why you cannot trust it. The critics, however, fail again on several accounts.

First, they again fail to understand that Bible does not record everything. John wrote at the conclusion of his account of Jesus’ life, And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written. It is very simple to conclude that Jesus could have healed one blind man, whom Mark names as Bartimaeus, as He entered Jericho, and then healed two other blind men as He left Jericho. When you consider that blindness was common in the ancient world, much as it still is in undeveloped countries, there were plenty of blind people to be healed. People were blinded by accidents or battle wounds, and there were several infections that could blind a child at birth including gonorrhea from an infected mother, or trachoma, a very severe form of conjunctivitis. Also, In Jericho there was a balsam bush that grew there that was used to make a medicine to treat blindness. Many more blind people come to Jericho in hopes of being cured. After Bartimaeus was healed, he could have easily positioned his blind friends in a place where they could meet Jesus and be healed too.

There are other possibilities too. If all three books record the same event, then it will not be the first time that the writers have differed in details from one another as each one picks and chooses from the events to emphasis their point. The same thing still occurs today by those who report on events. Pick up several newspapers and read about the accounts of the same event and you will find that they often will differ because each writer is emphasizing a different perspective. Mark and Luke are putting the emphasis on the man who spoke out, whom Mark names as Bartimaeus. Mark & Luke put more emphasis on the blind man, what he did and his response. Matthew places more emphasis on what Jesus did than on the blind men themselves.

As for the difference in whether Jesus was going into or out of Jericho would depend on which Jericho was being referenced, the old Jericho (apparently Matthew’s perspective) or the new area that had been built up where the contemporary Jericho stands (apparently Mark and Luke’s perspective).

Be careful when someone claims that the Bible is contradictory or does not report the truth. There are some things that are difficult to understand and need explanation, but nothing in history or Archeology or anything else has yet shown the Bible to be wrong, but instead the more research that is done only proves the skeptics wrong and the Bible correct.

We find that these two blind men are sitting by the side of the road. This would be a common place we would expect blind people to be since they usually had to make their living by begging, unless their families were taking care of them. The road through Jericho was well traveled with people going to and from Jerusalem, people that were likely to have some extra money in their pockets to give to a beggar. And here we find these two blind men begging money from the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. Suddenly they realize that the size of the crowd passing by has gotten much larger. There is a lot of talking, shouting, and singing. Mark and Luke tell us that Bartimaeus started asking what was going on. Upon hearing that Jesus was passing by they start shouting. They did not just raise their voices, they were screaming as loud as they could. The Greek word used here indicates that. “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Think about it a bit and you understand why they would have screamed so loudly. They could not see where Jesus was at, all they knew was that He was nearby, and if that was so, they wanted to make sure that He heard them. They also had to make themselves heard over the noise of the crowd, so they screamed as loud as they could. They wanted Jesus to hear their plea, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” They understood that Jesus might be their last desperate hope to regain their sight, and there was little chance that they would be so close to him again. So not caring whoever else might hear them or what anyone else might think, they wanted Jesus to hear. “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

The crowd was in a festive mood. They did not want in interrupted by such screaming. Though the crowd was much better off physically, economically, and socially than these two blind men, the crowd was unconcerned about them. That is the way people are apart from the working of God in their lives. They are often callous to those around them only caring about themselves, their own selfish needs. In their resentment to the intrusion of these two blind men screaming so loudly our text tells us that the “multitude sternly told them to be quiet.” Some how I can not picture this with the crowd saying, “Will you please be quiet!” I picture it more with the crowd saying something like, “Shut up you beggars!”

But as one commentator put it, the two blind men “refused to be bludgeoned into silence by the indifferent crowd.” Instead they “cried out all the more, saying “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Would Jesus hear them? Would Jesus respond? Would Jesus grant their request?

There is a lot to learn about Faith from this story. These men had not met Jesus before, they had only heard about Him. Yet they applied what they heard from what they knew from the writings of the prophets and came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They then acted upon what they had come to believe, that is faith. What have you heard about Jesus? Do you know what the Bible says about Him? What do you believe about Him? Have you acted upon that yet?

We also see that these men were persistent in their faith. There were certainly obstacles for them to overcome. If they had become filled with self pity and blamed God for their blindness, they would have never sought Him out and would have remained in their blindness. In trying to find Jesus they could not see Him to know where to find Him, but when they heard that He was near they did everything possible to get His attention. In trying to get His attention they found that the crowd was against them, but they did not let that stop them in their effort. They were persistent in using what ever means was available to them to seek out the Lord, and they were rewarded for it. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:13 that “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Are we persistent in our pursuit of God?

Some of you do not yet have a personal relationship with the living God. You have not yet received the salvation from sin that God offers through Jesus Christ. Let me commend you for being here as you do seek after Him, but at the same time let me challenge you that you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart. Are you being that diligent in striving to know and understand God? Those that come to God must first believe that He is, and that He rewards those that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

Others of you know God to some degree, but you still struggle with understanding Him and submitting to Him. How persistent are you in your search for God? Is your faith of the same type as these two blind men, or do you continue to want to put God in your own box, insisting that He do things your way?

You see another lesson we must learn here is that of spiritual blindness. These two men could not see the world around them. They were blind, yet they could see much better spiritually than those who had their eyesight and could read Moses Law and claimed to follow it. It is no wonder that Jesus called the hypocritical, unbelieving scribes and Pharisees “blind guides leading the blind” (Matt. 23:16, 24). They had no perception about what was true and what was just their own will at work. John 1:9 says of Jesus that He “was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. he was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” These false religious leaders of Israel could not see that Jesus was the light. What Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3 applied directly to them, “This is the judgement, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” They were spiritually blind because they did not want to see God’s truth. The same is true today.

Are you spiritually blind? Certainly part of the reason is the fact that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4), but part of the reason must also be found in your own refusal to see what God has revealed. This is what makes you remain as an unbeliever who can continue to be blinded by the devil. You will remain in your blindness until you come to Jesus Christ in the same way that these two blind men did when they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” You have to admit your sinfulness and need for God’s mercy. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to be persistent in calling out until you hear from Him? Remember the promise of the Scripture is that if you will seek Him out will all your heart, you will find Him. And when you find Him, you will find compassion, grace and mercy.


Consider now Jesus’ position. He has been steadily heading to Jerusalem where He knows that He will suffer many things at the hands of the chief priest, scribes and Pharisees, be condemned to death by them, then turned over to the Romans who would flog Him, humiliate Him, and then crucify Him. All these events are now just a few days away. He is about to make the final ascent up the hill to Jerusalem where all this suffering would take place. In addition, Jesus is still having trouble getting His disciples to understand what would happen. They are still fighting among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus only has a few days left to prepare them. At the moment He has a large crowd around Him. Would Jesus hear the cry of the two blind men? And if He did hear them, did He really have time to stop? Where not the needs of the crowds and even more so the needs of His disciples who still seemed to have so much more to learn more important? Did He not have needs Himself? Did He not still need to prepare Himself for lay ahead? Verse 32 tells us of the savior’s response.

And Jesus stopped and called to them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Jesus was never is so much of a hurry that He failed to hear those who cried out to Him. Despite all that Jesus was currently facing Himself, He was still attentive to the needs of others, He still paid attention to the outcasts of society. Jesus did hear the men and He responded to them.

The Gospels of Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus sent for them with Mark, the Gospel of Mark even saying that Bartimaeus cast aside his coat and jumped up to come to Jesus. Apparently he was so sure that Jesus would grant his request that he felt he could come back and get his coat himself once he had his sight. These men had faith in Jesus. This is again one of the reasons that he screamed so loudly in order to get Jesus’ attention. They believe that if Jesus heard them, then He would help them. Obviously they had heard about Jesus and His ability to heal people. They may have even heard about Jesus from some of the other blind people that Jesus had healed. They called out to Jesus because they believed He would help and they had faith that He could help.

Their use of the title, “Lord,” does not necessarily indicate they understood who Jesus was, for it is a term of respect used for a variety of people, but the title, “Son of David” does. The use of that title clearly indicated that they understood that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all told of an heir of David’s that would sit on his throne forever. That title was part of the prophecy of the Angel in Luke 1:32 that Jesus would be given the “throne of his father David.” In addition, the manner in which they approached Jesus tells us about what they believed. They were both determined to get His attention, and yet humble. They were persistent in calling to Jesus despite the crowd, and they called out for mercy. They also understood that the y were not worthy of Jesus paying attention to them, much less deserving of being healed by Him, so they did not demand from Him, but cried out for mercy. While we can not be completely sure about the extent of faith the men had, we can be sure that they understood Jesus’ messiahship and His supernatural ability to heal.

When they arrived before Jesus, He asked them what they wanted Him to do for them. The need may seem obvious, but Jesus consistently has people articulate what they wanted before He grants their requests. They said, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” From the grammar used in the passage we understand that these men had not been blind from birth, but had lost their sight sometime later. They knew what they had lost when they went blind, and their anguish over being blind increased by that much more. Our text tells that Jesus was moved with compassion.

Compassion characterizes Jesus’ response to people. Over and over again we find that Jesus was moved with compassion and healed people of their diseases and sickness. Moved with compassion he raised the dead. Moved with compassion He forgave people their sins. Here again He is moved with compassion over the suffering of mankind and we find that He touched their eyes and they immediately regained their sight and began to follow Him.

Notice that Jesus healing was immediate. Jesus’ miracles were always complete, usually instantaneous, and often defied any possible natural explanation. Jesus simply touched their eyes and they were healed. The power was within Him to restore their sight. There was no operation, no medicine, just a touch. The apostles later healed the same way. Since we live in a day when there are many who claim to have the gift of healing, I am often questioned as to why I do not believe that gift is operating today. There are two simple reasons.

The first is my study of Scripture tells me that those “sign” gifts were not permanent, but only for a short time to attest to the authority of the apostles as the Scriptures were being written.

Second, I find no one who uses their supposed gift of healing in the same way that either Jesus or the Apostles did. They could heal apart from the faith of the individual. Some had faith, some had little faith, some had no faith. The centurion’s servant, the demoniac’s father, Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, etc. They also healed completely through a variety of different methods. They did not have to have a healing service or go through any sort of ritual. Sometimes Jesus had the person do something like wash in a certain pool (John 5), sometimes he did something like make a salve of mud and applied it, sometimes he simply touched the person, and sometime he simply spoke and healed the person even if they were not in His presence (the Centurion’s servant). Jesus and the Apostles did things that defied any possible natural explanation. Among the many self-acclaimed faith healers of history and our own day there is a marked absence of blind people regaining sight, of missing limbs growing back, and of the dead being raised to life. Many of the things faith-healers claim can be faked and many others the product of the power of suggestion working in a desperate mind giving temporary improvement. And again, the faith-healers place the burden of the healing on the faith of the sick individual. If the person is not made well, it is because that individual did not have enough faith.

Let’s be clear, God can do anything He wants, and at times He does miraculously heal. In no way should be limit God. But at the same time let’s also be clear that the modern faith healers are not operating in the same manner as Jesus or the apostles. Jesus has compassion on these two blind men and wonderfully and miraculously healed them.

Jesus’ compassion is another spiritual lesson we find. God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). That is the starting place of His compassion. His patience in enduring our sinful rebellion against Him. We should never ask God to be fair or just with us. What we deserve is judgement and everlasting punishment. What we want from God is patience, grace, and mercy. If we search the scriptures we will find that He grants those things. God’s grace and mercy will be granted to anyone who will humbly ask for it. Jesus tells us in John 6:37 that He will not cast out anyone that comes to Him. The offer of salvation from sin and its judgement is to all who will believe. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) In His compassion Jesus will grant the request of those coming to Him to be forgiven of their sins and seeking eternal life. Have you sought out God’s compassion? If not, why not? What delays you? What Jesus did for the eyes of these two blind men, He desires to do for the spiritual blindness of your soul which is of infinite more importance. Will you call out to Him as they did?

There is on more spiritual truth we must apply from this story, and that is to follow Jesus just as these two previously blind men did. After they were given back their sight, our text tells us that they followed Jesus. Mark and Luke tell us that not only were they praising God, but so was the crowd. If you have come to God to have your spiritual blindness removed so that you can now truly see, then following Him is the only reasonable thing that can be done.

Consider for a moment the world that would greet a person who had been blind for so many years and now can see. Would you even know what you are looking at? You could get around on your own if you wanted to. You wouldn’t understand everything you were seeing at first. You would need someone to explain to you what all the different things around you were, and to teach you about them. It would seem sort of silly for a person who had been blind but who could now see to go continue to try to find their way around by feeling for things or using a cane. Yet that is the way many people continue to try to do things even after they come to Christ. Old habits can die hard, but they need to be put to death so that the new habits which taken into account new capabilities can be built.

One other thing we should take notice of in this story is that Jesus now accepts the Messianic title, “Son of David” without hesitation and does not restrict the men. Earlier in Matthew (9:27) there had been two other blind men who had been following Jesus saying basically the same thing, “Son of David, Have mercy on us.” And when Jesus healed them He also charged them sharply not to tell anyone else. Here we do not find any such restriction. Jesus is now approaching Jerusalem. It is now time for the fact of His Messiahship to be proclaimed. As we shall see next week, that is exactly what happens when Jesus does enter Jerusalem, the people cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David…”. Jesus’ time had come.

Jesus did not come and die on the cross to give you a fire insurance policy. He died as your substitute. It should have been you and me on that cross for that is the just payment for your sin. Instead, because of His everlasting love, because of His compassion for people, Jesus took our place and paid the price for us. He did it to break the bondage of sin and its effects, one of which is hell. You were not saved from sin so that you could continue in it, but so that you could be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29), and so that you could walk in the good works (Eph 2:10). If you have come to Jesus to receive mercy and be given spiritual life, then you need to follow Him.

If you do not know Jesus personally, you are spiritually blind. However, you can receive a spiritual blindness cure today. You can know Jesus this morning as your personal savior if you will seek Him as did the blind men. Ask Him for mercy. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Ask Him to come and take control of your life right now as your Lord and God. The Bible tells us that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…” (John 1:12). “He who has the Son has the life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

For comments, please e-mail  Church office