Luke includes in his book the story of Jesus healing a blind beggar on the road to Jericho (18:35-43). I've read this story before, but for some reason I found some fresh things there this time. Three things.
The first is that we followers of Jesus haven't changed much over the years...we're still a mess. When the blind beggar tries to get Jesus' attention,
those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet
Not much has changed in the intervening two millenia. We who follow Christ can be completely out of sync with Him. We think the focus is getting to Jericho. We think the focus is building a huge church building so that we can "be more effective." His focus is the drunk we pass on the way into the church parking lot.
The second thing that strikes me as interesting is that when the blind beggar hears the crowd going by and asks what's going on, he is told that the one passing by is
Jesus of Nazareth
He is given the earthbound identity of Jesus. Of Nazareth. It's a town. Over there. Jesus of Nazareth...there's Fred of Nazareth walking behind him and over there is Susy of Nazareth. So that's who our blind guy has been told is going by. But when he cries out for him, he doesn't call out for Jesus of Nazareth, instead he hollers for
Jesus, Son of David
The guy was blind. But he saw things so much clearer than those who had good eyes. He could see exactly who Jesus was. He identifies Him with His kingly status. I think the blind guy saw that Jesus was indeed the Promised One from the line of David. Doesn't it seem like Jesus always responds dramatically to people who see Him with eyes of faith instead of fleshly eyes. People like this have stepped off the earth and into the kingdom of heaven...and so they see things differently. The Centurion in Luke 7 is another example of this.
The final thing that really strikes me about this story is that this blind guy obviously has a need. His eyes don't work for crying out loud! He obviously would love to have them fixed. So, you'd reasonably assume he'd yell out something like
fix my eyes!
But he doesn't. Instead, it's
have mercy on me!
Blind as bat and yet he sees perfectly. He knows that the ability to see isn't his right (everyone else can see, why can't I?). He doesn't demand that Jesus restore his right to see. I think he understood his rights very well. The text doesn't tell us explicitly, but by his simple cry for mercy, I think this man knew his rights...his sin had purchased him the right to hell. So he pleads not for his sight, not for justice, not for his rights, but for mercy. And that's exactly what Jesus gives him.
And this is exactly what I need. Mercy. As I write this, the sun is filtering through a forest still dripping from an overnight rain. The birds are singing. A woodpecker taps in the distance. Deep in the woods I can hear the brook tumbling down the mountain. I don't deserve to have ears to hear these things or eyes to take it in. This is mercy.
'tis mercy all, immense and free