Today, we read Luke 18. I have to say I’m really liking the days when there’s less to read. I can spend more time meditating on the scripture and less time scrambling to make sure I get all the chapters read.
The first parable in this chapter is about praying and not giving up. It recounts the tale of a widow who goes to a judges, over and over, day after day, looking for justice from her enemy. The judge, worn down with her entreaties, gives in. He admits he doesn’t fear God or care about people (Luke 18:4). He decides to help her because she bugged him so long and he wants her out of his hair.
Next is the story of the Pharisee, praying and praising himself that he’s not an adulterer, cheater or a sinner “like everyone else” (Luke 18:11). He reminds God of his obedience. The tax collector merely beats his breast and pleads with God for mercy. Jesus tells his disciples the tax collector, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). That particular story didn’t necessarily reflect persistence, but it did show the Pharisees’ general viewpoint of themselves versus the rest of the Jewish community and the world.
After that is the story of Jesus blessing the little children. The parents brought them to Jesus. The disciples, concerned with Jesus’ greater mission and perhaps his endurance, scold them. Jesus gives the disciples what for. “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (Luke 18:16-17).
And what are kids known for? Stubbornly, persistently asking for what they want, believing they will get it. They trust.
I’m skipping over the story of the rich man who asks Jesus about inheriting eternal life, and Jesus predicting his death, in the interest of time. More on those later.
I only summarize these stories because they build up to the last one, Jesus healing a blind beggar. We pick up the narrative again in verse 35. Jesus is approaching Jericho and encounters a blind beggar, panhandling by the side of the road. The man heard a crowd going past and asked what was happening. The people told him – Jesus the Nazarene was going by. The blind man, seizing an opportunity, calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Why did he choose that particular phrase – son of David? He recognized Jesus’ lineage, traced through his father, Joseph. Did he perhaps recognize that the Messiah would come from David’s line? And what of this mercy?
The people in front of him yelled, “Be quiet!” The audacity of the blind man, calling out to Jesus! As if!
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Undeterred by the crowds’ jeering and anger, he pressed on. After all, what did he have to lose?
Jesus heard him (v. 40) and ordered that the man be brought to him. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“Lord”, he said, “I want to see!”
And Jesus answered.
“All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you” (v.42)
The Bible says instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too (v.43).
In this one man, we see a childlike quality. He heard it was Jesus and his heart leapt within him. Jesus could offer healing! He wouldn’t have to beg anymore, be looked down on by everyone. He called louder and kept hoping. He was not deterred by the hordes of people telling him to be quiet. I admire his chutzpah. If Jesus was the Messiah, he wouldn’t turn his back on a blind man. He planned to wear Jesus and his followers down, if need be, in order to be seen to. He asked. He sought. He knocked!
He received what he wanted. And, he increased the faith of others, too. Maybe he didn’t need his physical eyesight to “see” what was right in front of him. His heart was open for a miracle; he humbled himself to receive it, willing to do whatever Jesus asked. His faith gave him spiritual sight.