Christ began His final trip to Jerusalem after Peter’s great confession (Matt. 16:13–23). In all likelihood, He traveled mostly along the eastern bank of the Jordan River as He and His disciples moved southward from Caesarea Philippi. This was a common route for Galilean pilgrims in His day, and the crowds that we have read about during this trip are those Jews who, while traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover, have seen the deeds of Jesus and are hoping that He is the Messiah (17:14–18; 19:1–2). These men and women are among those who will hail our Savior’s triumphal entry into the Holy City (21:1–11).
Today’s passage indicates that Jesus will soon arrive in Jerusalem to complete His messianic work, for He has been in Jericho, located fifteen miles or so from the Holy City, about a day’s journey in first-century Judea. Leaving Jericho, Christ and His followers begin the ascent 3,000 feet up to Jerusalem, but they do not get very far before meeting two desperate men in need. These blind men, one of whom is named Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46), beg Jesus to heal them, confessing Him as the “Son of David” (Matt. 20:30), a title loaded with messianic assumptions. Knowing that the Messiah is present gives them hope that He will fulfill His call to work miracles and give them sight (see Isa. 35).
Yet the crowd is displeased with these blind men, rebuking them as they cry out to Jesus (Matt. 20:31). They probably feel the beggars are unworthy of the Messiah’s attention since many first-century Jews thought blindness was God’s punishment for sin (John 9:1–3). It is also likely that they do not want Jesus to “waste His time” on these blind men. Those who believe Jesus might be the Christ would be looking for Him to enter Jerusalem immediately so that He might overthrow the Romans and set Israel over the world.
For Jesus, however, it is not a waste of time to pause and heal the blind men, so moved is He by compassion (Matt. 20:32–34). This healing is against the people’s idea of what the Messiah should do, and it portends stronger opposition to come. The crowd that now does not want Him to help a fellow Israelite will later call for Jesus’ head when He does not live up to their expectations (27:15–23).
When we do the work of ministry it can be easy to get so caught up in the big plans and programs we have going that we miss the needs of certain individuals among us. As followers of Jesus, we must imitate His compassion and take the time to minister to hurting individuals even if it may sometimes get in the way of our own plans and purposes. What are you doing in your church to make sure people are shown compassion and not forgotten?
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