Urgency Arrests Jesus
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 20:31b (Holman) . . .but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have
mercy on us, Son of David!”
No one could keep the two blind men quiet. As far as they knew, this would be their one and only opportunity to be healed. It was now or never. The blind men appealed to Jesus as “Son of David”, a messianic phrase referring to the one who would come and rule a kingdom, as David did.
Matt. 20:32a Jesus stopped,. . .
He who moves the cosmos stopped. I think we can safely assume the whole throng stood still. “It was one of those moments when the universe holds its breath” (Phillips). Jesus froze this moment in time to teach at least two vital truths.
One, Jesus was never too busy to help hurting people. We tend to be too busy. To serve God better, we must develop margin in our lives. If our schedules are out of control, we are sinning in an important area, the stewardship of our time.
Two, the urgent cry arrested Jesus. These men had an advantage; they were desperate for Jesus. People usually don’t realize how badly they need Christ. They don’t grasp the reality of Hell, the seriousness of sin, or the extent of their lostness.
If we want to know God more fully, our comfort from Him must be preceded by discomfort in us. The Puritans said the thread of salvation can be pulled through a soul only by the sharp needle of conviction. This is still true.
Urgent praying is music to Jesus’ ears. This is not to say urgency is a magic wand, receiving all it wants. A wrong request, albeit earnest, always receives a no.
John Trapp said we ask and miss because we ask amiss (JM 4:1). Moses, after being told by God he could not enter the Promised Land, asked to anyway (DT 3:25). God said no. Job and Elijah prayed to die; God denied both requests.
The chief role of urgency is not to be a cure-all receive-all magic bullet, but to rescue our prayers from dying due to an overdose of boredom. Sometimes our praying is glib, thoughtless, monotonous droning plagued with repetition and rote.
If we each compiled all our own personal prayers and wrote down only nonrepeating sentences, we would be hard pressed to fill one side of a sheet of paper with original thoughts. We do need to avoid vain repetition, but I fear our lack of originality is due more to our lazy thinking than to a fear of vain repetition.
Too many of our prayers are a weak, windy string of sentences (Thomas). Why should God be excited about prayers that make us yawn? Cold praying begs God to say no. The cry of a broken heart is the prayer that pierces Jesus’ heart.
The Bible gives examples of powerful effective praying. Jesus commended a publican who smote his own chest, praying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Peter was saved in a storm when he minced no words, “Lord, save me or I perish.”
In our text, urgency marked this moment along the Jericho Road. Another Gospel says a blind man left his garment coming to Jesus, as the Samaritan woman left her water pot. When the French artist Nicola Poussin painted the healing of the blind man, he portrayed the blind man, being compelled by urgency, leaving his cane behind on the steps of a house. He was too urgent to take time to pick it up.
Matt. 20:32b-33 . . .called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for
you?” “Lord,” they said to Him, “open our eyes!”
The crowd wanted them quiet. Jesus had them speak. Wanting bystanders to know precisely what would happen, Jesus set the stage for everyone to be focused on what this miracle was. This will not be about alms. All were to see that the men were asking for sight. Nothing would be done in a corner. All was in public view.
Matt. 20:34a Moved with compassion,
To give is a good thing, but it can easily be a giving from outside ourself, a giving that elicits no sacrifice or concern within. There are less than stellar reasons why people give: to impress others, to soothe conscience, to fulfill a sense of duty.
To give compassion is to give self, one’s own essence, the most valuable gift we can ever give anyone. This is hard to do for long; we easily get depleted. Compassion fatigue is a real problem among believers. Staying soft requires much prayer for God to replenish us as we pour out our life’s essence on behalf of others.
Matt. 20:34b Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see,. . .
Jesus proved He was the commander of the natural laws He created. Being God, Jesus created the current order. Therefore He stands outside it and above it, exercising authority over it, and capability to modify the created order at will. What to us seems hard and incomprehensible, to God is easy and elementary.
Scoffers say miracles, being interruptions unexplainable from normal human experience, are unnatural and thus impossible. To call miracles an interruption is presumptuous. No one can prove our current realm is all there is, or self-contained.
Miracles may simply be a momentary intensifying of unseen natural laws. For instance, all will be healed in Heaven. Thus, it is reasonable to say a sudden healing in our dimension is but an extension of what happens always elsewhere.
C.S. Lewis, whose book on miracles is extremely helpful, said, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” In other words, in miracles God gives us a small taste of what the God-realm around us and beyond us is all about.
Lewis says God’s miracles merge into, rather than interrupt, nature. They do not create new natural laws, but rather are absorbed into the system He previously created. Miracles are additions that become part of. A virgin birth, once conceived, follows laws of nature. Lazarus, though raised from the dead, did what twice?
If we begin our thinking about miracles by considering Jesus’ resurrection, all other miracles are lesser ones, and thus possible. Always begin with the resurrection of Jesus, because everything hinges on it. This is the right place to start, because it gives us a strategic advantage, by rooting the debate in history, and not in a vague guessing-game philosophical argument about miracles. The right question is not, “Do you believe in miracles?” but “Do you believe Jesus rose?”
Even David Hume, a militant atheist, had only nebulous reasoning to stand on. His arguments were nothing more than personal opinion. For instance, “When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived or that the fact which he relates should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other and according to the superiority which I discover, I pronounce my decision. Always I reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates, then and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.” Notice the vain presumption; he assumed, by his own reasoning, to know what miracle to reject.
Jesus’ miracles were not a performance, an effort to outdo last year’s Super Bowl halftime show. They were not ends in and of themselves, but signs, pointing to lessons beyond the deeds. In our text, Jesus used a miracle to teach at least three vital lessons. One, Jesus was proving He truly was the Son of David. People may have misunderstood what that meant, but He is the One nevertheless. Two, giving sight to the blind portrayed Him as the light of the world. In His light we see light.
Three, his healing the beggars made a huge statement about the importance of the downcast and outcast. To the crowd, these men were a nuisance, but Jesus loved them. Sometimes the ones we like least are the ones who can bring most glory to Jesus. Take a good look again at your acquaintances. Who did you write off a long time ago? Who did you give up on? It’s time to redouble your efforts.
Matt. 20:34c . . .and they followed Him.
The first person these blind men saw was Jesus. They liked what they saw, and froze their gaze on Him. They wouldn’t let Him out of their sight. There were lots of different directions they could have gone. Many people to see, places to go, and lots of things to do, but they chose to follow Jesus.
Ivor Powell says they left their livelihood behind, giving up coins for a goldmine. The best evidence of a true conversion is a desire to be with Jesus, to want to be never separated from Him.