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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Sight for the Blind
Text:Matthew 20:29-34 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Unto God Our Savior 
That Man Is Blest
Amazing Grace
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Sight for the Blind”
Matthew 20:29-34
The passage before us has come under criticism by those who try to discredit the Bible and point to its so-called many “errors.”  The reason why is that this account is also recorded by Mark (10:46-52) and by Luke (18:35-43). However, both of them record just one man being healed, whom Mark describes as a beggar by the name of Bartimaeus. Furthermore, Luke and Mark record the miracle as happening when Jesus was approaching Jericho and Matthew says it happened when Jesus was leaving Jericho.
Numerous explanations are given by biblical scholars. Many of them point out that neither Mark nor Luke said that there weren’t two men, but they focused on one of the blind men while Matthew focused on both of the blind men. There is no contradiction in that. 
As far as leaving or approaching Jericho goes, many commentators point out that there were two towns named Jericho. There was the old original town of Jericho, and then there was a new section, also known as Jericho, yet adjacent to the old Jericho. Jesus may have been leaving what we today might call “Old Town” to go to “New Town,” yet both are properly called Jericho by all three writers who address this circumstance by saying he was approaching Jericho, or in Matthew’s case, leaving Jericho.
The skeptics who try to discredit the Bible do so to their own destruction. By contrast, those of us who believe in the inspiration of the Scripture see a passage such as the one before us, not as controversial, but rather as a passage teaching many important truths.
Recognizing Our Need
The healing of the blind men teaches, first of all, that before asking for mercy we need to recognize our need. These two men recognized their dire need for mercy. To be blind in the first century meant to be utterly helpless. Those who are blind today have some resources. They have guide dogs, the system of braille for reading, and the respect of societies that recognize that those who are blind often have increased perception in other areas and are gifted people with potential to be a great asset to any community.
But in the first century to be blind meant that you were on the bottom of the totem pole. You weren’t as bad off as a leper; at least you weren’t quarantined, but you were virtually guaranteed to be a beggar, an outcast of society. These men realized that because of their blindness they were in dire need. They realized that apart from the work of Jesus Christ they were in a totally hopeless situation. Thus they cried out to the Lord twice, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Yet, their blindness was actually a blessing to them. There are multitudes of people who have eyesight, yet don’t see how hopeless they are apart from Christ. For instance, the skeptics of Christianity who would twist this passage into another reason not to believe the Bible, fail to see their spiritual blindness. 
These men recognized their need for sight to their eyes, so they called out for God’s mercy. In the same way, when we see, by the Spirit’s regenerating power, that spiritually we are unclean, that we were born dead in sins and trespasses, and that we are by nature objects of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1-3), then we, too, will cry out for mercy as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our great need and gives us new birth from above.
Often that conviction of the Holy Spirit isn’t realized until God allows us to hit bottom. As John Flavel, one of the great Puritan theologians, put it, “Christ is not sweet until sin is made bitter to us.”  Consider the prodigal, or lost, son. His father’s house held no interest to him until he hit bottom. It was after he spent his inheritance and ended up in the pigsty that he recognized how wonderful his father’s house was. He saw his great need. Jesus said, in Luke 15:17-19, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’
Many Christians have hit rock bottom before seeing their need and crying out for mercy. Many of you are familiar with John Newton’s tragic life before God graciously had mercy on him. The author of the hymn Amazing Grace also knew, as God’s providence allowed him to reap the miserable repercussions of a drunken life, his dire need. Then he called for mercy and acknowledged God’s amazing grace.
Seeing Our Savior
When we recognize our need – when we see the bitterness of our sin – then we must see our Savior as the only One who can give spiritual sight to the blind.
There are people who see their need, but they don’t see Jesus as the cure. Many are caught up in the concept of humanism, that man is the measure of all things, and man can solve his own problems just fine without the Lord. Perhaps it will take millennia longer but we will continue to evolve to that place of perfection, they reason.
Other religions and their leaders – Allah, Buddha, and a host of other false gods – are sincerely sought by people who recognize a need, but they look to a false deity to cure that need. Those of us who live in Oak Lawn are keenly aware of how many people recognize a need, but look to the wrong god to correct that need. We live close to a mosque. Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of being near the mosque on Friday afternoon. The traffic jams are long and painfully slow as a flood of people leave the mosque after their Friday afternoon prayers. There is a great crowd of people who recognize a need, and they seek to fill it, not by saving faith in Jesus Christ, but in noon day prayers at the mosque to Allah.
Many other people see a need but are sidetracked by the cults. The cults tell them, “We believe in Jesus. We are Christians.” But the Jesus they believe in is not the Jesus of Scripture. He is not truly God, truly human, the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). 
But by God’s grace, these two blind men weren’t sidetracked; they weren’t calling out to Zeus or any other false Greek god that so many people worshipped in the first century. Instead, hearing the commotion of the crowd as Jesus approached, they called out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
In that call for mercy they acknowledged two crucial truths. They acknowledged that Jesus is both Lord and the Son of David, that is, the true Messiah. They first recognized his lordship, that he is one with the Father, truly eternal God. But they also recognized that he is the Son of David, that is, the Messiah, the Christ who came in human flesh as the man Jesus.
Although they undoubtedly did not know all the theological implications of the incarnation, they knew the true identity of Jesus. They recognized what the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism would write about centuries later in Lord’s Day 5: “What kind of Mediator and Deliverer should we look for then?” Answer: “He must be truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, he must also be true God.”
The Compassion of Christ
A third truth that we see in this passage is that Jesus is not only all-powerful, but also deeply compassionate. Verse 34: Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”
Often, those who are granted great power seem to lose their compassion for others. Power, when given to fallen human beings, often brings self-centered pride which looks past the needs of others because of a fixation on oneself.  But Jesus, perfect in every way, is yet so very compassionate, even though he holds all the power of heaven and earth in his hands.
We see his compassion as he stopped to talk to these men, even though the crowd had rebuked them and told them to be quiet. Verse 32 describes how Jesus stopped walking and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. He was concerned for them and their need. 
That same compassion is extended to us when we call out to the Lord in prayer. He invites us, indeed, commands us, to call upon him, and he willingly listens to us, giving us what is best for us, even if it may not seem that way at the time. The Great Physician not only has the perfect cure. He also has the perfect “bedside manner.”  He is all-powerful, yet deeply compassionate.
As we read of the Lord’s compassion on these men, and as he heals their blindness, we are reminded by way of further application, that it is by God’s grace that we see our need for him. Without the work of his Spirit within us, we would be no different than those who “seeing, do not see; though hearing, do not hear or understand.” (30; Matt. 13:10-17)  
If it were not for God’s grace and his Spirit at work within us, we would still be spiritually blind.  In Matthew 13 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9, 10 as he explains to his disciples why he spoke in parables. The context is that the disciples were perplexed by the parables. They could not clearly understand them. So they asked, Matthew 13:10, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
Jesus replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
    In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.
(Matt. 13:11-15)
If your eyes are open to the gospel, if you can sing from the heart along with John Newton, “I once was blind but now I see” it is because of God’s amazing grace in giving you – and giving me – the gift of saving faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. 
Another application: When the world puts obstacles before us, we must continue our pursuit of Christ. In the first part of verse 31 we read about the opposition of the crowd: The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet.” We live in a culture that increasingly rebukes those who call out to Jesus. The first part of the rebuke today is that Christ is for weak people who need a crutch. Christianity is for people who are too weak and mindless to navigate life as the great multitude of people do, so Christians are rebuked.
Increasingly, in our culture, we are also told to be quiet, just as these blind men were told to be quiet. And when Christians speak up, there are consequences. Some time ago, Janet Parshall, in her program In the Market on Moody Radio, asked listeners to write to Fox News to protest the firing of Craig James. Craig James had played football for the New England Patriots but now lives in Texas where he ran for a Senate seat in 2012.
What led to his dismissal? He was highly regarded. He had reported sports for ESPN for some time before being recently hired by Fox. What could he have done that was so wrong that it caused him to be fired?
According to news reports:He made…remarks in a debate in Texas during his failed run at the Senate in 2012… He said in the debate that being gay ‘is a choice’ and that people who ‘choose to do that’ will ‘have to answer to the Lord for their actions’.”  You see, in our culture, speaking the truth of God’s Word, even in love, is grounds for being fired.
In our politically correct environment the great crowd tells us, first, that we are weak and foolish – essentially blind. And then the crowd of our culture tells us to be quiet. And increasingly there are consequences when we are not. But like the blind men in this passage, we are to continue to call out to the Lord for mercy, for ourselves and for our culture, as we continue to spread the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Gratitude for God’s Grace
Third, our lives are always to reflect gratitude for God’s grace as we follow him. Did you notice what the blind men did, when Jesus healed them? The chapter ends by saying, They received their sight and followed him.” We are to follow Jesus and, as we do so, we are to reflect our gratitude for what he has done for us to others.
I can only imagine how grateful the blind men were. Their lives were totally transformed! In the place of darkness there was light. They could now associate sound with sight. What an amazing change had swept into their lives!
But how grateful we should be. By nature we are spiritually blind, indeed, in the words of Ephesians 2:1, dead in our sins and trespasses.” But God, in grace that surpasses our ability to comprehend, has given us new birth. He has opened our eyes to see spiritual truth, to see the bitterness of our sin and the preciousness of our Savior’s redeeming love. In the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
If by his grace and Spirit’s power your eyes have been open to see Jesus as he is: truly God, truly human, the only Mediator between God and man, your Redeemer and Lord, then may you and I also follow him, even when the great crowd in this world rebukes and scoffs. May we faithfully follow him, living always to the praise of his glorious grace. Amen.
bulletin outline:
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!”
                                                                                           Matthew 20:30
                                   “Sight for the Blind”
                                     Matthew 20:29-34
I.  The healing of the blind men teaches:
      1) Before asking for mercy, we need to recognize our need (30, 31)
      2) The only One who can give spiritual sight to the blind is Christ,
           who was recognized by the blind men as Lord and as the Son of
           David, that is, the true Messiah (30, 31) 
      3) Jesus is not only all-powerful, but also deeply compassionate (34)
 II. Further applications:
      1) It is by God’s grace that we see our need for Him. Without the
          work of His Spirit within us we would be no different than those
          who seeing, do not see; though hearing, do not hear or under-
          stand” (30; Matthew 13:10-17)  
      2) When the world puts obstacles before us (31a) we must continue
           our pursuit of Christ (31b)
      3) Our lives are always to reflect gratitude for God’s grace as we
          follow Him (34d; Ephesians 1:5-6, 11-12)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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