12.04.05 Mk. 10:46-51; Lk. 18:42-43 (See also Mt. 20:29-34) Jericho
BLIND BARTIMAEUS HEALED
Mk. 46 They came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” 48 Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; He’s calling for you.” 50 He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
51 Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
“Rabbouni,” the blind man told Him, “I want to see!”
Lk. 42 “Receive your sight!” Jesus told him. “Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly he could see, and he began to follow Him, glorifying God. All the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
The ministry of Jesus was filled with ironies. The rich young man did not perceive the identity of Jesus, but the blind man did. In this case, Jesus again fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah (35:5) when He said that the eyes would be opened. In fact, this miracle has been called a doublet because of the similar account in Matthew 9:27-31. In that narrative beggars were permitted in limited areas of the temple. Usually they were near the entrance of a “holy place” such as the temple gate, on along the road leading to the temple or a synagogue. But in this case, it appears that Bartimaeus may have been waiting for Jesus to walk by on His way to Jerusalem.
While the Bartimaeus passage is generally treated as a “stand-alone” narrative, in reality it should be in conjunction with the famed tax collector of Jericho – Zacchaeus. The reason is that both men were clearly alluded to in Ecclesiastes 4:1, an Old Testament book that is seldom referred to as having any prophetic significance relative to Jesus. Notice that the author, who most likely was King Solomon, made a reference to the tears of the oppressed and the power of the oppressor – and there was no one to comfort either one. Fast-forward a thousand years and Jesus meets Bartimaeus, who is oppressed by his blindness, and Zacchaeus, who is the oppressor agent of Rome. Now for the words of Solomon:
Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them.
Bartimaeus had spiritual sight, Zacchaeus was spiritually blind; Bartimaeus was physically blind, Zacchaeus had physical sight. Jesus healed them both.
Into this paradox steps Jesus. He did what only He could do – touch the point of need for both men who were at opposite ends of life. Blindness vs. health; poverty vs wealth; weakness vs. power; but both needed Jesus. Zacchaeus was hated for being a tax collector and Bartimaeus was among the downtrodden of society – both were despised by their fellow Jews; but both received the gift of Jesus. Both had their lives radically changed.
“Son of David, Jesus.” This was a profound statement because Bartimaeus recognized Jesus as the true messiah. There were many descendants of the famous king, even the great Hillel was a Davidic descendant. But he spoke specifically of the expected Son of David who would bring freedom to Israel. He also knew the prophecies of Isaiah that the messiah would bring sight to the blind. So when he called Jesus by the biblical title, “Son of David,” he sent fear into the leading Pharisees and Sadducees. The irony is that those who were ordained to represent the people before an eternal God chose to remain blind. Bartimaeus chose sight and vision.
Jesus and His disciples arrived at Jericho either in the evening of Thursday, Nisan 7, or Friday morning, Nisan 8. This beautiful city was located at an oasis about two miles from the ruins of a smaller city of the same name that was destroyed by Joshua. The new Jericho was known for its fragrant roses and palm trees. The springs that gushed forth a constant stream of water were in stark contrast to the surrounding hot Judean Desert and the near-by Dead Sea. Jericho was an import-export city situated inland from the Jordan River. For centuries water from the Jericho springs had been distributed by irrigation ditches to nearby palm groves, vineyards and farmlands that included the best balsam trees used for medical purposes. Traveling caravans stopped at Jericho, paid the required toll tax, and continued on to their destinations. Since it was much warmer than Jerusalem, the Hasmoneans built a winter palace there in the second century B.C. that was later remodeled by Herod the Great. The temple Sadducees, who were descendants of the Hasmoneans, also enjoyed luxurious winter homes near the desert springs. Many beggars congregated along the main street to beg for money as pilgrims in festival caravans went to Jerusalem. And it was in this opulent community where Jesus met a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus, who welcomed Jesus to his home (Lk. 19:9).
12.04.05.Q1 How does one explain the two discrepancies (two cities of Jericho and two blind men) in Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-51, and Luke 18:42-43?
There are two issues to consider in these passages:
- Matthew and Mark record that Jesus was leaving Jericho while Luke said He was entering it. Clearly, someone has to be wrong? Right?
- How many beggars were there? Luke recorded that Jesus met the blind man as He approached Jericho, while Matthew said He met two blind men as they left the city. Mark, on the other hand, simply stated that the name of the blind man was Bartimaeus. Some critics have said there is an obvious conflict.
Concerning the number of cities: This issue is resolved by understanding that there were two cities by the name of Jericho. The first one was destroyed centuries before Jesus. The second one is located about two miles from the first. It was built in the second century B.C. by the Hasmoneans and later expanded and enhanced by Herod the Great. He made it into a city of surprising beauty, creating the ideal vacation destination and travel rest area. The answer to the question, in what some have called a biblical error, was explained by the Jewish historian Josephus. He made reference to “the old city” that was destroyed by Joshua, but was near the new town of the same name.
“… Notwithstanding which, there is a fountain by Jericho; that runs plentifully and is very fit for watering the ground. It rises near the old city which Joshua, the son of Nun, the general of the Hebrews, took the first of all the cities of the land of Canaan by right of war.”
Josephus, Wars 4.8.3 (459)
The gospel writers presented their accounts from two different perspectives, so there is no conflict.
Concerning the number of beggars: Matthew, being the former accountant and tax collector, would have been more detail-oriented in this matter, whereas Mark and Luke would have presented the story of an individual named Bartimaeus. In essence, Matthew gave the legal accounting of two blind men Jesus encountered, while Luke and Mark simply referenced the encounter of the most prominent person.
In the modern legal system, such differences are not acceptable. However, in the biblical era, reporting an account in this manner was deemed normal and accurate. The ancients focused on the theme or purpose of the encounter, not as much on the details as is common today. An alternative view is that the blind man met Jesus as He approached the ancient city (as per Luke), the two walked together through the town, and as they left the city Jesus healed him (as per Matthew). Consequently, there is no need to believe that there is a contradiction.
Finally, on a cultural side point, blind persons were given special clothing to wear, which identified them as being blind. This permitted people passing by to offer aid when needed, and chariot drivers took extra precaution when approaching them. When Jesus healed him, “he threw off his coat,” a signal to the public of his healing, and he rejoiced in Jesus.
. A few examples are: 1) The impotent man of Acts 3:2-10 was near the Gate Beautiful, also known as the Nicanor Gate. 2) The blind and lame people in the temple who asked Jesus for a healing were probably in the Court of the Gentiles (i.e., Mt. 21:14). 3) The man who was blind from birth probably met Jesus at one of the two southern temple gates (Jn. 9:1-8). 4) Jesus also met a blind man at the Pool of Siloam, another place considered to be “holy.”
. Babylonian Talmud, Juchas. 19.2; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:35.
. There were four kinds of people that were considered as good as dead, and it was believed that in all four situations their illness was a divine judgment. They were the blind, the leper, the poor, and the childless.
. The messianic title “Son of David” appears in the following three groups of passages in the gospels where it is always reflective of the Davidic Covenant: 1) In various healings by Jesus – Mt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mk. 10:47-48; Lk. 18:38-39. 2) In connection of the harassment the religious leaders gave Jesus – Mt. 22:42-43, 45; Mk. 12:35, 37; Lk. 20:41, 44, and 3) The praise the crowds gave Jesus at His entry into Jerusalem – Mt. 21:9, 15; Mk. 11:10. See Rogers, “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels,” Bibliotheca Sacra. Part 1 of 2. 158-78.
. Josephus, Antiquities 15.4.2; Wars 4.8.2-3.
. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 59; Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 2:278; Farrar, The Life of Christ. 364.
. In this desert oasis in centuries past the Chaldeans captured King Zedekiah (2 Kg. 25:5) and during the Maccabean Revolt the Syrians attempted to established a military outpost there (1 Macc. 9:50). The military stronghold came under Hasmonean control at the end of the Revolt, but was destroyed by the Roman General Pompey in 63 B.C.
. Byers, “On the Jericho Road.” 43-44. See also Zondervan’s New International Version Archaeological Study Bible. (2005 ed.). 1646.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 715; The new Jericho was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. For more information, see Josephus, Antiquities 15.3.3 and Wars 1.22.2.
. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 364.