What does faith look like? Is it a tool to subjugate God to our wants? In the book “Gone with the Wind” Scarlett O’Hara views prayer as a bargaining tool. “I will be good if you keep this bad thing from happening or make this good thing happen.” That sort of thing. And because that is not what prayer or faith is, she is disillusioned with God and gives up on prayer altogether. And there is a problem here: faith then becomes a means of being superior; a means of saving of self. I am doing better because my faith is just better than yours, don’t you know? God is answering my prayers because I’m a good person, and God is not answering your prayers because, well, you draw your own conclusions. Faith, in and of itself, is absolutely powerless. It cannot heal you. It cannot save you. If you put all of your faith in your ability to fly off of a mountain side without being harmed or killed, that faith, not only will not keep you from harm, it makes it likely. It is what we put our faith in that matters. The power of faith is discovered in the source of our trust. And faith trusts even when that source doesn’t bend to our whims.
Luke 18:35-43 is a story of faith and healing. Jesus was approaching Jericho. And all of a sudden we have an issue. Both Matthew and Mark say that this takes place as he is leaving Jericho. Some have harmonized these accounts by stating that the Old Testament Jericho was a little over a mile to the north of the Herodian Jericho. And it is somewhere between these two cites; one a ruin and the other a city built by Herod; that the story takes place. He was leaving the ruins and approaching the city. Well, maybe, I guess. But it is also true that Luke uses the word “approaching” to remind his readers that this is part of the journeying to Jerusalem story. He may have been more concerned with using the word than the actual order of events. The bottom line is that we don’t know and it really is not that significant. Approaching or leaving, it was outside of the city of Jericho that there was a blind man sitting alongside the road begging. If a blind person didn’t have family to take care of them, their only option was to beg.
This man hears a crowd going by; a larger crowd than he was accustomed to hearing. So he asks what was up. Those near him tell him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Well, that’s exciting. He has most likely heard the stories about this miracle worker. Maybe he even dared to hope that Jesus would pass by his road. Ah, a chance meeting. So he shouts out with a “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” Son of David is clearly a messianic term. The Jewish expectation longed for the Son of David to take the throne of David; to set up the Davidic kingdom that would last forever. Did this man guess that Jesus was the messiah? It seems likely that he at least hoped that Jesus was the one and only Son of David. Those who were at the front of the procession rebuked the blind man and told him to shut up. We can only guess at their motives for shushing the blind man. Could be that they didn’t like this open profession of messiahship being shouted out for all to hear. Could be that they didn’t think a lowly beggar should bother such an important person. This seems likely and we see the disciples making a similar rebuke to parents who were bringing their children to Jesus in verse 15.
But this man would not be shushed. He cries out even louder. The second word “cry” refers to a guttural outcry. It is an onomatopoetic word that is used of the rough and raucous croaking of a raven. It is an intense shout. Jesus stopped and gave orders that the man be brought to him. The man approached Jesus. Oh, and this is the same word that was used for Jesus approaching Jericho. And maybe it is this connection that Luke wanted to emphasize. As Jesus approached, he gives orders that the blind man be allowed to approach. Jesus asked “What do you want me to do for you?” And that seems like a silly question. Hmm, I would like a candy bar. The man answers with “I would like to see again.” He uses a word that implies that he had been able to see before. Jesus heals him and says that it is his faith that saved him. It was his faith that led him to persist. It was his trust in Jesus’ ability that made him keep shouting out.
The man was healed and he became one of Jesus’ followers; glorifying God. This is the source of his healing. If it was his faith, he should glorify his faith. I’ve heard people come close to it. Haven’t you? His trust in Jesus’ ability led him to approach the source of power. And so, when sight was given, he burst out with praise, not of his faith, but of the true source of healing. Faith is a vehicle that draws us near to the source of healing. Without it, we would not approach. So, it is by faith we are healed and saved. Peace.