As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
– Matthew 20:29-34, NIV
In tonight’s reading Matthew tells the story of two blind men Jesus met and healed. It’s an amazing event… and a wonderful illustration of what Jesus came into our world to do.
In this story Jesus interacts with two groups of people: the blind men, and the crowd. The blind men are trying to get Jesus’ attention. They have heard about Jesus, and they know He is a man who can perform miracles. And these men are desperate. Back in Jesus’ day there wasn’t any welfare or social security, so being blind meant a lifetime of not being able to work, of poverty, and living at the mercy of others. They needed Jesus, and they knew they needed Jesus. They were literally in darkness and needed to see.
And there was one more thing they knew: Jesus was the Messiah. They called Him “Son of David” and only the Messiah could claim that title.
The second group of people in the story is the crowd. The crowd is a mixed bag. They are following Jesus, which is a good thing… but they are trying to silence the blind men, which is not so good. Why do they want them to be quiet? The Bible doesn’t say. Were they embarassed? Did they think Jesus shouldn’t be bothered? Was this the same crowd that tried to prevent little children from coming to Jesus? We don’t know. But it seems all through Jesus’ life the crowds that followed after him liked Him but they were always getting Him wrong. They were blind to who Jesus really was. You could say they were just as much in the dark as the blind men.
But Jesus cared about both these groups of people. To the blind men, he asks, “what do you want me to do for you?” They answer “we want to see”.
Notice they don’t beat around the bush or try to bargain with Jesus. They don’t say, “oh thou great Messiah we beseech thee to consider our words…” They don’t say, “pssst, Jesus… if you heal us we promise to serve you for the rest of our lives and give lots of money to the local synagogue”. They are straight with Him: “we want to see.” This is a great example for us when we need something from God: just be straight with Him. Let Him know what we need and then stand back and let Jesus do His thing.
Jesus had compassion on the blind men and healed them. And when He did that, Jesus showed the crowd that He loves the blind and the poor and the hurting. And now that Jesus’ point has been made, it’s time for all of them to give praise to God. The passage in Matthew doesn’t say this, but the other gospel writers tell us the crowd continued down the road giving glory to God.
Notice one more thing. These two groups of people are now one. They no longer oppose each other. They are all moving in the same direction, praising God together.
This is what Jesus came to earth to do: to bring light into our darkness, to bring sight to our blindness, to forgive our sins, to make it possible for us to be one, united with Him… so that together we can celebrate the goodness of God. May this Advent season be a time of remembering all that God has done for us and celebrating His goodness. AMEN.
Homily for Candlelight Compline, Church of the Atonement, Carnegie, Saturday November 25 2011