Every person can understand Jesus’ compassion by exploring the reason he could have avoided the blind man.
You know that I have started driving bus. One of my coworkers has been keeping us updated on one of his students. The first day he drove the bus this 10 year old boy threw his backpack to the ground and attacked the driver. Some days the young man will do things like this and other days it has gotten worse. The other day he learned that he could take his shoe off and throw it at his bus driver while he was strapped into his seat. The next step was to take both shoes off, the socks off and his belt and throw them at the driver while the driver was driving.
Many people have heard the stories of this boy and have decided to simply keep their distance. This is the kind of attitude you would have if you were just looking to avoid a confrontation. I would like you to think of the kind of man Jesus would have been if that is how he dealt with people. In this passage the man who had a need could have been viewed in this way. He could have been seen as someone to be avoided. I would like to look at the reasons he could have avoided the man and how Jesus dealt with the man.
Reason I. Destination
A. One of the things we did often when I was young was to go up north. We made several trips to Mackinaw City and the Upper Peninsula. Any of you who have made that trip probably have seen the little building on the side of a hill, with the sign on the outside that says, “Seashell City”. Every time we would get near that place my brother and I would start begging, can we stop there. Now that I am a parent I can imagine my father sitting up front saying, I am not going to waste my time at a place like that. The big reason for not wanting to stop is that we had a destination we were trying to reach. We did not want to stop at a place that might make our arrival time later.
B. I can imagine the disciples being the same way as Jesus is leaving Jericho. They had already been in Jericho, now they were on their way to their next destination. As they are leaving this blind man starts calling out to Jesus. It is as if the disciples are driving the car. They have been given the directions to the next destination and they are ready to go. As they are going this man interrupts them. They could have simply said, we don’t have time to deal with this man. He is not in our itinerary.
C. This could have been the way things happened, but they did not. Instead, Jesus takes time from his trip and deals with this man. The needs of this man were more important than a schedule or a destination. How many times have we denied ourselves the priviledge of helping another person, because did not fit into our schedule, or we had something else we were supposed to be doing. It just was not convenient for us to work with someone else. As much as this is like me, I think that Jesus would have a lot more tolerance for the interruptions that come into our day than a lot of us do.
Reason II. Begging
A. I spent about three weeks in London England when I was in college. Many of the public places you visit you will find people who are begging. They usually include some kind of a performance while they are begging. Some of them are very elaborate. One that I watched was a couple of men who did a very neat juggling act. Sometimes it was a person sitting in a subway with an out of tune guitar playing music. As you might imagine the more elaborate performances brought in more money while the less elaborate brought in less. Some of these beggars were entertaining while others were a bit of a nuisance.
B. This man that is calling out to Jesus is a man who sits along the road day after day and begs. He has no other means of income. So he relies on the generosity of other people in order to make it through each day. Since he is blind he does not have means of making a living. His only recourse is to sit and beg. There is no braile, and there are no red tipped canes. This society had done very little to help the blind. They allowed them to beg. I would guess that just like we might find a beggar to be a nuisance, people felt the same way about this man. It seems that the crowd tries to silence him is an indication of this.
C. Culturally it would have probably been acceptable for Jesus to pretend that he did not hear this man and go on. He might have even been able to just go along and reject this man’s requests. But, that is not what Jesus does. He overlooks the social ills that might have been connected with this man and he welcomes his request. How much have we done do shield ourselves from people in society that make us feel uncomfortable? We would rather pretend that there are not needy people in our city. Jesus seemed to be drawn to people who had needs. This included people who were begging.
Reason III. Uneducated
A. When I have gone to other countries where they spoke another language it has been pretty humiliating because I could not communicate with the natives. Many times I would feel pretty uneducated because I could not communicate with those people. I haave heard that there are some places in the world where the native people realize you are an American and they will do all they can to keep you from understanding. It would be hard to go to those places and try to be pleasant to people like that.
B. This blind man was considered uneducated because his society did not have the resources to teach a person who was blind. So, he would not have gone to school. He would not have learned how to read. His only activity would have been begging. The people who were along the side of the road begging were not educated people. Certainly some would have had compassion on them. Some may have even tried to teach them. They were probably seen as someone to be tolerated. They were not people to be socialized with or to be enjoyed. Like I said before they were more of a nuisance than anything.
C. His lack of an education did not deter Jesus from welcoming him. It did not keep him from carrying on a conversation. This man was different. He was not like the other people in that society. No one would have had a second thought if Jesus would have ignored this man because he was blind or because he did not know how to speak with an authority figure. Jesus welcomed him. Christians today want their churches to be full, but they want them to be full of the right kind of people. They need to be people who can use proper grammar. They want them to be full of people who don’t ask too many questions. They want them to be full of people who know how to behave in a worship service. They should know when to stand, when to sit and when to be quiet and when to sing. Many people who call themselves Christians are excluding people who don’t know these things and they don’t even know they are doing it.
Reason IV. Intruding
A. A few weeks ago I got to meet my boss for my bus driving job. His name is Kellie Dean and he is the man who owns Dean Transportation. It was at an open house and Mr. Dean was given a plaque by the Lansing Firefighters for the help he had given to them in times of need. He was speaking with one of the presenters as I walked by. I thought I would shake his hand introduce myself and continue on, since I would be interrupting. Instead, Mr. Dean asked if I could wait a minute, because he wanted to talk to me. As I approached him I was feeling pretty insignificant since I was a new employee and I had not presented him with a plaque. He made me feel like I was just as important as any other person in that room.
B. As Jesus is walking along this man, who is not a part of the group starts yelling. He does not have the manners or the decency to seek Jesus’ permission to speak. He simply interrupts everything that is going on. Clearly some who were with jesus viewed this as very rude. So, they tried to stop this man from interrupting. Instead of stopping the man actually shouts louder, trying to get the attention of Jesus. This blind man could not see, so he relied on the things that he heard to tell him what was happening. He might have asked someone who all of the people were. When he finds out that it is Jesus he wants to be noticed. This was probably a man who had been ignored by much less important people than Jesus Christ. So, I would imagine that he felt pretty important when Jesus stops and has the man called. This no doubt would have been a great victory for this man.
C. I know that I am not the best communicator in the world, but think of how it makes you feel when you are talking to someone and you get the impression that they are not listening. Then think of how it makes you feel when you know the person you are talking to is completely engaged in what you are saying. Why can’t we make all people feel like that? Even if they are uneducated, or rude. Why don’t we do what we can to make sure that people know they are important enough to us that we will listen to them?
Reason V. Handicapped
A. Handicapped people are people who often times require more time and effort on our part. They are not able to do the things we do, in the way we do. Many times they have to rely on other people to take care of them. Some learn to be very independent in spite of their disabilities. A pe4rson with a handicap can take up some of our time. They can ask us to do things that are somewhat uncomfortable for us to do. I think that in Jesus society it would have even been more so, since they did not have the abilities that we had today. Jesus could have simply avoided this man, because he was likely going to take time from jesus.
B. Clearly this was not the approach Jesus used. Some people are trying to silence this man, but Jesus does something different. He stops and he tells those with him, “Call him.” Jesus doesn’t even take an easy road out with this. He gives the man an open ended question, “What do you want me to do for you?” I don’t know if this required effort on Jesus’ part, or if he was able to say the word and this man received his sight. In spite of any preconceived ideas that people might have had about this man Jesus reaches out to him. I can see that there might be all kinds of prejudices present in this society towards a person with a handicap, but this does not keep Jesus from confronting this man.
C. Perhaps you have people around you who require extra effort. I have heard people call them EGR’s “extra grace required”. I would guess that we all have these kinds of people in our lives. Maybe they are handicapped people, or maybe they are people who want extra attention. Maybe it is just a person who seems to grate you the wrong way. Before you give up on these people I would challenge you to consider what your life would be if Jesus had this kind of attitude toward you? Image if jesus were not interested in offering you salvation, because you are just too hard to deal with? Fortunately, Jesus has not done that to us. He offers us salvation even though we don’t deserve it. He does even do it grudgingly. He freely offers us salvation. He is gracious and loving toward us even though we don’t deserve it.
We live in a society where we tend to shield ourselves from people who make us uncomfortable. Jesus certainly did not do that. He reached out to people who were undesirable.