This blog is the second of four blog posts that consider the four verses in a September 21, 2015, article entitled “Four Prayers for Bible Reading,” Pastor David Mathis. A link to that article is as follows (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/four-prayers-for-bible-reading ). This second post looks at the second verse, i.e., Luke 18:38 (ESV), which reads:
38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
In his article, Pastor Mathis correctly points out our great need for God’s mercy when we read the Bible:
We fail friends and family daily — and even more, we fail God. So it is fitting to accompany our opening of God’s word with the humble, broken, poor plea of the redeemed: … Bible reading is a daily prompt to own our failures, newly repent, and freshly cast ourselves on his grace all over again. Prayer is the path to staying fascinated with his grace and cultivating a spirit of true humility.
If we are to examine this verse in more detail, it is essential to factor in the context of the passage in which it resides. A look at the entire account, i.e., Luke 18:35-43, shows the importance of God’s mercy in our lives, and especially the necessity to pray to God for His mercy when we ask for spiritual sight in our Bible intake. Luke 18:35–43 (ESV) reads:
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
There is the temptation to cross-pollinate the Lukan account of Jesus healing the blind beggar with the Matthean account (Mattew 20:29-34) and the Marcan account (Mark 10:46-52). For this discussion, I will try my best not to cross-pollinate, except to note the correspondence between the three Synoptic Gospels as to what I believe are the significant events in the narrative. We must remember that Luke is a narrative genre, and this fact impacts our interpretation to identify Luke’s intent in reporting (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) this account. Interestingly, Luke himself helps us out in Luke 1:1–4 (ESV):
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke wanted Theophilus to have confidence in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s observe the text and bring out the significant events of this account.
First, a blind beggar was sitting by the roadside Jesus was traveling (Luke 18:35-37; Matthew 20:29-30a; Mark 10:46-47a). Second, when the blind beggar realized it was Jesus coming, he cried out to Jesus for mercy (Luke 18:38; Matthew 20:30b; Mark 10:47b).
Third, those in the crowd rebuked the blind beggar telling him to be silent (Luke 18:39b; Matthew 20:31a; Mark 10:48a). Fourth, rather than be quiet, the blind beggar cried out “all the more” (Luke 18:39b; Matthew 20:31b; Mark 10:48b). It is instructive to note that the ESV translates the Greek adverb mallon as “all the more” to modify his second cry to Jesus. Mallon means:
a degree which surpasses in some manner a point on an explicit or implicit scale of extent—‘more, more than, to a greater degree, even more.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 687). New York: United Bible Societies.
Fifth, in response to the blind beggar’s intensified cries, Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to Him, and Jesus asked the blind beggar what he wanted Jesus to do for him (Luke 18:40-41a; Matthew 20:32; Mark 10:49-51a). Sixth, the blind beggar asked Jesus to let him “recover” his sight (Luke 18:41b; Matthew 20:33; Mark 10:51b). One should note that the ESV translates the verb anablepō as “me recover my sight”, and it means
to become able to see, whether for the first time or again—‘to gain sight, to be able to see, to regain one’s sight, gaining of sight.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 280). New York: United Bible Societies.
Thus, we do not know for sure if the blind beggar was blind from birth or had become blind, but what we do know that he needed Jesus to give him his sight.
Seventh, Jesus granted his request (Luke 18:42-43a; Matthew 20:33-34a; Mark 10:52a-b). Finally, the ex-blind beggar became a seeing follower of Jesus glorifying God (Luke 18:43b; Matthew 20:34b; Mark 10:51c). Note that the crowd praised God for Jesus, healing the blind beggar.
It appears that Luke’s primary intention in reporting this narrative of Jesus healing the blind beggar was to establish that Jesus is the Messiah. In verse 38, the blind beggar used the Messianic title of the “Son of David” to refer to Jesus. To “immediately” heal a blind man on the roadside demonstrates Jesus’ miraculous power, which proves He is the Messiah. The account also shows Jesus’ great mercy. Finally, the report shows the blind man’s gratitude for what Jesus did for him because without hesitation, the ex-blind man followed Jesus giving glory to God. These takeaways are along the lines of what one commentator writes:
Luke’s primary purpose for including this incident in his narrative seems to have been to show that God, through Jesus, can give insight to those who humbly call on Him for mercy. Here was another humble outcast similar to the tax collector (cf. v. 13) who experienced salvation because of his faith (v. 42). Jesus not only saved him but also opened his eyes physically and spiritually.
Constable, T. (2003). Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Lk 18:34). Galaxie Software.
Are there timeless truths we can take out of this account and apply them in our lives, especially in the context of Bible intake? Yes, I believe there are. Let me list them.
At least what I, a Christ-follower, take away from this account, is that before we enter into Bible reading, study, meditation, or listening, let’s (1) recognize our lack of spiritual 20-20 vision so that we always need an increase in our spiritual sight, (2) know that Jesus is the Healer who can increase our spiritual sight, (3) appreciate Jesus’ close presence in our life so He can hear our cries, (4) have the faith to persistently call out to Jesus, even in the midst of opposition, to have mercy and let us “recover” our spiritual sight, (5) be diligent to exercise that spiritual sight Jesus gives us, and (6) apply what God reveals to us through our increased spiritual sight by following Jesus and giving glory to God.
For a practical application, let me suggest the following prayer to pray before Bible reading, study, meditation, or listening:
O, Father God, before I open up Your Word today, I cry out that You give me 20-20 spiritual vision to clearly see Jesus like did the blind beggar after Jesus let him recover his sight. I know You can take away spiritual blindness, and I have the faith to trust that You will do so for me this day.
Heavenly Father, I ask You to give me the perseverance to cry out for spiritual sight even amid opposition such as distractions, strife, and turmoil. Please give me the energy to diligently apply the timeless principles in Your Word You allow me to see through the spiritual insight You give me so that I live a more holy life and more intensely follow Jesus giving You the glory. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
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