Fervent Faith

Posted: November 19, 2012 in Matthew
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Matthew 20:29-34, “Fervent Faith”

“Fervent.”  It seems to be one of those words that people often know and use, but perhaps are rarely able to define.  When used metaphorically, the word refers to great emotion – but the root word comes from the Latin “fervere,” which means “to boil.”  It’s a word that speaks of great heat.  When a child has a “fever,” we mean to say that his/her temperature is elevated…he’s hot.

Christians most use the word when talking about prayer, when we often come to the close of the book of James: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (Jas 5:16)  What kind of prayer is “fervent” prayer?  What kind of faith leads to that kind of prayer?  Faith that heats up & boils over leads to prayer that is passionate and effective.  That’s the sort of faith we need in our own lives, and that’s the sort of prayer and faith we see illustrated with the blind men at the end of Matthew 20.  In their desperate state, they see Jesus & their faith boils over with wonderful results.

There is much in this short little account of the blind men that resembles our own relationship with Christ Jesus.  They recognize their King as well as their need for His power, much like we need to recognize our need for Him.  They resist the discouragement of the crowds, as we resist the discouragement of the world.  They respond to His grace through faith and discipleship, just as we follow Jesus fully in faith. In many ways, they are a model for us. Nothing could keep those men from seeking after Jesus – they were desperate for His saving power.  Unless Jesus acted, they had no hope…and Jesus DID act.  Jesus always responds to those who seek Him in fervent faith.

Matthew 20:29–34
29 Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.

  • Where was Jericho?  There were actually two cities: the old & the new, located within 2 miles of each other.  This helps explain a bit of the discrepancies between the gospel accounts.  Luke has Jesus entering Jericho for the healing; Mark & Matthew have Jesus leaving.  This is easily explained if Jesus is moving from the older minor village to the rebuilt Herodian city.  Of course, the blind men could have just as easily followed Jesus through the town, which would also explain the differences.
  • We need to take just a moment to understand the general context.  Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, which ultimately will take Him to the cross and resurrection.  This is the entire reason of His earthly ministry, and things are about to come to a climax.  This is the last event that Matthew & Mark recount prior to His entry into the city – yet there was much else that took place during these days.  Luke tells us of Jesus’ meeting with Zaccheus the tax-collector, and the parable of the minas (another form of the famous parable of the talents).  John tells us how Mary (the sister of Lazarus) anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, and how the priests plotted to put Lazarus to death because of how Jesus had raised him from the dead.  (The synoptics don’t mention Lazarus at all…it’s possible Jesus had raised him some months earlier, and not all of the disciples had been present for the miracle.)  Whereas the crowds following Jesus had ebbed & flowed in the past, now Jesus was at the height of His popularity and “a great multitude” was following Him.  They had seen the evidence with their own eyes that the King of Israel was among them, and they now followed Him as He moved closer and closer to the capitol city.  In their minds, they thought that the moment had come: the King was among them and the time for freedom from Rome was at hand!  The nation was on the verge of being restored, and they wanted a front-row seat to it all.
  • Of course, what the multitude desired never occurred…at least in the manner that they expected.  The King was among them, and He was instituting His kingdom in a glorious way when He personally sacrificed Himself for the sin of all mankind, and then rose from the dad in power and victory.  But that wasn’t what they were looking for.  They were looking for a temporary kingdom, and they were vastly disappointed when it didn’t come.  Many of those who were in the multitude that day following Jesus weren’t truly followers of Jesus.  They were there for the front-row seat; they weren’t there as actual disciples.  Many who were there would later turn on Jesus and demand His crucifixion (which will be very evident during the Triumphal entry).
    • Being part of the crowd doesn’t make someone a disciple.  Anyone can be a part of a crowd.  Anyone can sit in a church service, or walk forward with a mass of people at a crusade, or do any number of things that people do that make it look like they are following Jesus as their lord.  But just because someone goes through the motions doesn’t make it sincere.  Jesus doesn’t look for motions; He looks for those who will worship God in spirit and in truth.  Jesus looks for the heart that is surrendered to Him.

30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

  • Before we get too far in this, we cannot help but notice some differences between the different gospel accounts (Mk 10:46-52, Lk 18:35-43).  We’ve already noted the apparent difference in location (which doesn’t seem to be an actual difference at all).  There’s also a difference in the people involved.  Mark & Luke both mention one blind man, whom Mark identifies as “Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus” (Mk 10:46). All three accounts note that the crowd tried to quiet the blind men (or man), yet when Jesus called for him, Mark notes how the crowd seemed to encourage him to go to Jesus.  Matthew shows how the men immediately received their sight when touched by Jesus, but neither Mark nor Luke show Jesus touching Bartimaeus at all.  Instead, they show Jesus speaking to him, commending him for his faith.  All three show Bartimaeus (and his friend) following Jesus afterwards, but only Luke show the response of the crowd by giving praise to God. … So which is it?  These accounts can seem so similar and so different at the same time.  Are the different authors contradicting one another?  No.  To be sure, these are natural questions to ask & many people have wondered about the variety of details in the gospel accounts.  It’s OK to ask the questions…just be sure to keep your faith in God in the process.  You can absolutely trust the word of God.  It is wholly inspired & without error.  Whenever we come across something that we have a tough time understanding, we need to give God the benefit of the doubt, and take the time to look at it a bit more in depth.
  • There are indeed differences, but differences are not contradictions.  Two (or three or four) people can provide two totally different perspectives of the exact same events without one contradicting the other.  We see exactly this principle in regards to Bartimaeus.  The fact that Mark and Luke mention one blind man does not exclude the possibility of there being a 2nd blind man present.  One was just more known than the other, and was seemingly the spokesman for both of them.  Perhaps Bartimaeus had a greater familiarity to the original reading audience, which would account for him being shown to a greater extent.  Matthew seems to have been written to a primarily Jewish audience, so it would make sense for him to have pointed out the second man, as a second witness to the healing. None of the rest of the account details actually differ in any significant way – in fact, they fit in easily together to provide a clearer picture of what happened.
    • Give the Bible the benefit of the doubt!  We live in an age in which our faith is coming under increasing attack.  There will be all sorts of supposed experts and intellectuals that attempt to undermine the truth of the Bible.  For thousands of years, God’s word has always stood up under the criticism thrown at it.  God wants you to trust His word, and you can be sure that His word is trustworthy!
  • Back to the text…  There are these two blind men begging by the side of the road when they hear the commotion around them.  This Man of whom so much had been said was now approaching them.  This was the Man who had fed 5000 and then 4000 with nothing more than a boy’s lunch.  This was the Man who had walked on water.  This was the Man who had cleansed lepers and raised the dead.  This was the Man who had healed men who were blind…surely He could heal them, too!  This is their one chance to be forever rid of their blindness, and they were not about to miss their opportunity, and they “cried out” for “mercy.”  They were asking for kindness – help – compassion.  Left to themselves, they were helpless and would remain blind for the remainder of their lives. Jesus was their only hope, so they cried out to Him.  Bartimaeus & his friend understood their need.  If Jesus couldn’t help, no one could…and so they turned to Him.
    • Do you understand your need for Jesus?  Do you (do any of us) understand our desperate straits without Him?  Obviously when it comes to the issue of salvation, those who are in Christ ought to understand that.  We have sinned against Almighty God, and there is no way that we can be forgiven without Jesus forgiving us.  We are truly desperate in our need for Jesus in that regard!   But what about beyond our initial salvation?  What about in our daily lives, past the point that we first come to faith in Jesus?  We are just as desperate for Jesus in those times, as in the first!  We have no hope of being put in a right standing with God without Jesus, and we also have no hope of walking rightly with God without Jesus.  He empower us – He strengthens us – He gives us the Holy Spirit.  There is no way to live as a Christian without Christ.  We need Him desperately!
  • How exactly did they cry out to Him?  As the “Lord, Son of David” – they cried out to Jesus as the King.  This is a full recognition that Jesus is the Messiah – the anointed one – the promised king of Israel.  It’s not certain that they fully recognized Jesus as God with a clear understanding of the fact.  They called Him “Lord,” but that could have been a title of respect rather than a confession of faith in His deity.  But even if they didn’t fully understand the theology, there is no doubt they knew that Jesus is the chosen one of God – the one in whom all the hopes of Israel rested.  To say Jesus is the “Son of David” is to say that Jesus is the promised son of David.  To be sure, David had many sons, but only one line of his children actually succeeded to the throne.  And beyond simply the royal right as king, there was a specific promise for a specific Son of David that would mean much more than a temporary reign over Israel.  In God’s initial covenant with David, God promised to set up David’s seed after him, and that the throne of his kingdom would be established forever. (2 Sam 7:12-13)  Of course, that language might be generic to apply to Solomon, or any of the sons of David who followed in the monarchy.  But God promises more.  Part of the bigger picture is found in Psalm 2.  Psalm 2:7–9, "(7) “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. (8) Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. (9) You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ” []  That is no reign of Solomon!  This is the glorious reign of the Messiah, as the Son of God reigns over all of the earth during the Millennial Kingdom.  This is the Son of David, to whom the blind men cried out: the One with all authority and all power.
    • Jesus is the Lord, the Son of David!  He is God the King with authority over the heavens and the earth.  He has been given every right to rule, and the beginning of His kingdom has already been established.  We simply wait for the day that we will see it in all its fruition.
    • Is this how you see Jesus?  Too often, we get the mental picture of Jesus as the laid-back, mellow, guru-Jesus – almost effeminate in appearance and nature.  But that is not our Lord.  Our Lord is powerful!  Our Lord is glorious!  Our Lord is the King and He has all power and all authority.  The reason your sin can be forgiven is because Jesus (1) paid the price on your behalf, and (2) Jesus has the authority to forgive your sins!  As the King, He has that right, by virtue of who He is.  Is that how you see Him?  When you pray to Jesus, do you pray as if you’re crying out to the God-King – or do you pray half-heartedly, as if you’re talking to someone who can’t really do anything about your situation?  That kind of prayer is done out of obligation & for show.  We know we’re supposed to pray, so we do it – but not because we actually believe anything is going to change.  Practically speaking, that kind of prayer is praying to a helpless Jesus.  Our Lord Jesus is anything BUT helpless!  He is the Living God – the King – the Son of David with authority & might!

31 Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

  • The two blind men cry out to Jesus, but the crowd discourages them.  We’re not told the reason.  Perhaps the crowd thought Jesus was too important to be bothered by a couple of blind men on the road.  Perhaps they thought that if Jesus heard the cries of the men, it would distract Him from His mission.  Perhaps they feared the unexpected.  Who knows?  What is obvious is that the cries of the men offended the crowd for whatever reason.  Jesus wasn’t offensive to them (yet), but the blind beggars were.  They were a bother and an annoyance to the rest of the crowd surrounding Jesus.
    • How careful we need to be not to see other people as bothers in our walk with Jesus.  It can be easy for churches to fall into the same trap as the multitude who followed Christ that day.  People walk into their nice church building to worship with nice people…and then all of a sudden, someone walks in who looks different & smells different, and they start thinking, “Why is he here?  Doesn’t he know what we’re trying to do here?”  Maybe that person is there to cry out to Jesus.  God’s people ought to encourage that to happen; not quiet someone down or discourage someone.  Love brings people to Jesus.  Christians are called to love.
  • Despite the discouragement from the crowd, the men cry out “all the more.”  They were persistent! They never stopped appealing to the King; they would not be deterred by the crowd.  Their focus was upon Jesus alone; not the crowd around them.  The crowd could say and do what they wanted, but at the end of the day, the crowd had no ability to help them.  Only Jesus could do that.  They were not going to be deterred from the one person who actually could help them, so they were persistent & passionate in their call to Jesus.
    • It’s good for us to be persistent in our prayers.  There will be times that we pray for a desperate need, and we don’t experience an immediate answer. Surely Jesus knew of the presence of the blind men all along, any whatever noise that the crowd was making, the omniscient God knew what was going on and could have easily addressed the men after they spoke up the first time.  But He didn’t.  God allowed them the opportunity to continue to call out in faith, asking for mercy.  Sometimes that is exactly the reason God doesn’t seem to answer our prayer the first time.  He allows us the opportunity to have our faith grow and mature, which wouldn’t necessarily happen if all our prayers were answered immediately, exactly how we wanted them answered.  Think about it: a child who always gets what they want never truly matures.  It’s when the child has to wait and trust his/her parents that he starts to grow up.  We’re not too different in our relationship with God.  There are times that God does not answer our prayer the first time because He wants us to mature and to trust Him – and so we continually ask in persistent faith.
    • It’s good for us to be passionate in our prayers.  The word used for “cry” speaks of a loud shriek, or a croak as from a bunch of ravens.  This isn’t necessarily a pleasant sound, but it’s certainly a heartfelt one.  Someone doesn’t shriek if they are perfectly content with their life, and just would like a little something extra on the side.  That kind of shrieking only happens with desperation and passion.  For the blind men, they were absolutely desperate for Jesus to help them.  Our prayers don’t often reach that same kind of intensity.  To be sure, not every prayer needs to be more intense than the last.  But we should be passionate in our prayers.  When we pray, do we really say what we mean?  Do we realize to Whom we are speaking?  Do we realize our desperation without Jesus?
    • Most of all, we need to be focused upon Jesus in our prayers.  It would have done the blind men no good to fervently cry out to Baal or Zeus or some other false god of the day for healing.  They had to cry out to the Living God, which is exactly what they did when they cried out to Jesus.  When we pray to God, we seek Him.  We don’t want to get distracted away from our Lord Jesus.  People will try to tell us that prayer is useless & that it never really accomplishes things anyway.  They will tell us that we believe in a fantasy & try to discourage us from seeking after God.  Don’t let them distract you from Jesus!  Continue to cry out to Him & rejoice in your relationship with Him. 

32 So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

  • Isn’t it interesting that Jesus asked the question?  It seems as if the request should have been obvious.  After all, the Man who had been known to heal with a 100% success rate is talking to two blind men asking for help.  Combine that with the fact that Jesus is the omniscient God, and there doesn’t seem to be any need whatsoever for Jesus to ask the question.  Unless…information wasn’t the goal.  Jesus didn’t need information, yet He still asked the question.  Jesus asked the question, because Jesus wanted them to make the request.  Jesus stops everything He’s doing, and gives them the opportunity to make a specific request.  Not because He needs information, but because they needed to give voice to their faith.
    • It’s good for us to be specific in our prayers.  There’s nothing wrong with a generalized request, but specificity is good.  After all, we don’t walk around talking in generalities with our friends and families all day long.  If all you ever said to your loved ones was “Help me have a good day, and be with me,” that might be rather strange.  We actually talk with our loved ones & engage in specific conversation with them.  Why would we do differently with our Heavenly Father in prayer?  God invites us to come before Him and talk with Him about specific things.  Why wouldn’t we take the opportunity?  Even the pattern that Jesus gives us in prayer (the Lord’s Prayer) is very specific.  He gives us a model of seeking God’s glory, asking for physical needs, asking for forgiveness, help during temptation, etc.  These are specific ways of talking to God, asking for His help and involvement in our lives.  All we need to do is ask.
  • Please note that Jesus did stop everything He was doing.  Everything else came to a standstill, and Jesus gave them His undivided attention.  Question: what are a couple of blind beggars worth in the grand scheme of things?  To Jesus, they were worth everything.  He gave them close attention, and spoke to them directly (while He was on the way to Jerusalem to die for their sins in addition to all the sin of all the world).  God cares for us – which just serves to underscore His compassion and His goodness.

33 They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”

  • Here is the specific request in response to Jesus’ specific question: they ask for sight.
  • This admits two things about their condition.  Admission #1: they were blinded and in need of healing.  This may be obvious, but it was indeed their state.  Were there other needs?  Sure.  They were beggars & were surely hungry, but they didn’t ask for food or money.  They did not ask for respect from the crowd who had put them down.  They didn’t ask for restoration back to their families, from which they were surely estranged (considering they were begging outside of town).  Those were all needs, but they were not the most pressing needs.  The most important need they had was healed sight.  They asked for what was most important, and that which only God could help them with.
    • Do we recognize what is most important?  When we come to God in prayer, do we come with the right priorities, and the most pressing needs?  Do we even understand what our most pressing need might be?  What is most important, and what is that which only God can help us with?  Salvation.  We need to have our sins forgiven, and to be brought into a right relationship with God! …
    • Beyond salvation – the same question applies to the prayer life of every Christian.  Too often, our priorities are mixed up and need to be readjusted.  We look for our comfort rather than God’s glory.  We look for our will rather than God’s.  …  That’s not to say it’s wrong to pray for ourselves and our families.  Of course we do!  To be sure, we are to bring all of our requests to God – but in the process, we also need to pray that God would continue to mature us and mold us so that the things that are priorities to HIM will also be priorities to US.
  • Admission #2: Jesus had the power and authority to open their eyes.  After all, they wouldn’t make the request to Jesus if He couldn’t do something about it.  They had faith that Jesus could indeed heal them.  In fact, Mark & Luke make it plain that their faith was a crucial part of the healing that was to take place.  Luke 18:42, "Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.”" []  If the blind men had not trusted that Jesus had the power and authority to heal, then nothing would have happened.  If they had half-heartedly called out to Jesus because all of the rest of the crowd was calling out to Him, but didn’t really believe anything about Him, then they would have remained blind for the rest of their lives.  They needed faith, and Jesus used their faith to bring healing.
    • This takes us back to the idea that Jesus is the Messiah – the Son of God.  He has the authority and power to address our needs!  Do we have the faith?  There are so many people who claim to be Christian simply because they call out along with the rest of the crowd.  Everyone else calls Him the Messiah, so they do, too.  But without true faith in Jesus’ identity, power, and authority, then there can be no expectation of Jesus’ salvation.  Why would God save someone who didn’t truly believe that He could or would save?  The Bible is clear that God extends His saving grace only to those who truly believe.
    • For the person who is already born-again, do you trust your Savior in faith for everyday life as much as you do for eternal life?  Do you truly believe that He has power and authority in your life, and can intervene according to His will?  That sort of realization can change the way we pray.

34 So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

  • The compassion of Christ.  This seems to have been a favorite word for the gospel writers used to describe Jesus, being the 5th time to use it (12 in all).  Mostly, Jesus showed His compassion when healing people – at other times, it’s when He saw that the people were like a sheep without a shepherd, or to describe the compassion of God in regards to our need for forgiveness.  This is the word that speaks of someone’s inward parts moving towards someone.  We tend to think of compassion as a kind of simple sympathy or minor pity; the NT uses it in a much deeper way.  Jesus truly loves people, and is deeply moved on their behalf.  Part of this is seen simply in His physical touch.  Did Jesus need to touch the men?  No.  Neither Mark nor Luke record it at all – Jesus simply speaks to Bartimaeus and he is healed.  Technically, not even words are necessary for Jesus to heal – His simple will is sufficient.  Jesus chose to touch these men – these blind beggars who sat at the outskirts of the town.  Why?  Because Jesus “had compassion” upon them.
    • How amazing it is that our God is compassionate towards His people!  Certainly God doesn’t have to be.  His happiness does not depend upon us, nor does He have any compelling need to feel this way towards His creation.  Certainly pagan false gods are not often depicted in this same way.  The Greeks often pictured their mythological gods playing with people as if they were toys – other modern religions demonstrate gods who are completely dispassionate apart from their wrath.  Yet the Biblical God (the one true living God, the Almighty Creator) shows true compassion, love, and grace.  From Genesis to Revelation, God is shown as the merciful God, and when God walked among us as Jesus, His compassion is truly seen in vivid description.
    • Our God is good!  As opposed to the crowds, whose disposition towards the blind men was constantly changing, Jesus had a true mercy and compassion with these men.  They asked for mercy, and they could receive mercy because Jesus is the merciful God.  Likewise with us.  When we appeal to God in prayer, we can do so because through His mercy, God has invited us to do so.  God wants to respond to His people, because God is truly good.
  • Jesus’ compassion wasn’t empty emotion – it was backed by power.  He touched the men, and their eyes were immediately healed.  When the King moved, His authority was backed up by His power, to the point of giving sight to the blind and raising the dead.  How good it is to know that our compassionate God is also the powerful God!  If God was compassionate, but impotent, our worship would be meaningless.  If God was all-powerful, but without compassion, our worship would be terrifying (and salvation would never be extended!).  But God is truly good and merciful, AND He has the power to do something with His goodness.  For Bartimaeus and his friend, it was to give them the sight they most desperately needed.  For us, it’s to extend to us our greatest need: salvation and everlasting life. …  And it goes beyond the eventual promise of eternity to the present-day reality of relationship!  Far & away, the Christian’s greatest need is to continue to walk with Christ, empowered by the Spirit, in relationship with God.  And that’s exactly what God does for us!  Our ongoing relationship with Him is not based upon our ability, but upon His power, and God gives it freely and abundantly when we ask.
  • The blind men’s response to all of this? “They followed Him.”  The first thing they did with their new sight was to follow the footsteps of the Man who gave it to them.  The crowd had been following Jesus, and they joined in to follow Him as well.  However, if many in the crowd were insincere, no doubt the former blind men followed Jesus in sincerity and truth.  They had been touched by the compassionate living Messiah – they had personally experienced His power – and thus they followed Him in true faith.

Conclusion:
This short account of two blind men would be easy to pass over.  After all, that’s basically what the crowds did around them.  These were “just” two more men healed by Jesus, in the same way that so many others (told and untold) were healed by Jesus.  This is just one more event on the way to Jesus’ crucifixion, so what’s it worth paying attention to?  Their faith.  The fervent faith of Bartimaeus and his unnamed friend are exactly the same sort of faith we need when we come to Jesus – both in our initial salvation, and in our daily walk with our Lord.

  • They had faith in Jesus’ identity.  They were convinced He is the Lord, the Son of David.
  • They had faith in Jesus’ kindness.  They cried out for His mercy and knew that He is good.
  • They had faith in Jesus’ power.  They trusted that He could heal, and knew that He was their only hope.
  • They were desperate for Jesus to act, and would not be dissuaded by the crowds around them.  They cried out to Jesus persistently, passionately, and specifically.

 

Is this how we approach our Lord Jesus?  Do we have this same sort of fervent faith, and dependency upon Jesus – knowing that unless Jesus acts, nothing changes?  It seems that we can so often fall into a sort of hum-drum routine, going through the perfunctory motions of prayer without truly calling upon Him and trusting Him.  Instead of our faith boiling over, it runs cold.  May God help us get back to a fervent faith!  May God help us trust Him with all the passion that He desires for us.

Maybe you’ve fallen into a rut in your relationship with Jesus.  It’s become something you’ve started to take for granted, simply because Jesus is always faithful.  That’s a wonderful trait about Jesus & something we can always trust Him for!  But it’s also something that can become familiar, and as the old phrase goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.”  God is faithful (PTL!), but we need to remember our desperation for Him.  We are just as dependent upon His grace today as we were the day we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Ask Jesus to remind you of that today.  Ask the Spirit to fill you afresh, and give you a renewed wonder of God.  Ask Him to help you trust Him with that fervent, vibrant faith that He so desires for you.

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Comments
  1. gilbert says:

    God bless His teaching

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