As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 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!”
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
The old Roman road, which was almost certainly the route Jesus took from Jericho to Jerusalem, would have been a tough climb for anyone going up to Jerusalem as it winds its way through a steep canyon, climbing several thousand feet in elevation as it goes. I’ve been up that road in a bus, and I can tell you that many on the bus were afraid as we crept along, many looked away from their windows; even our driver who had taken this route many times before was visibly nervous. As for me, being a little crazy as I am, I moved up to the front of the bus and sat on the step next to the driver for a better view; there are points along the way where the road is so narrow, and turns are so sharp that it appeared as though the front of the bus was protruding out over the edge of the cliff (with a direct drop of several hundred feet) as we slowly negotiated hairpin turns. Oh did I have fun on that trip!
As much fun as I had in a bus that day, I wouldn’t really want to hike up that road, even though the scenery is spectacular, for that would be a hard climb for anyone. This is the setting in which our text takes place. Jesus, the disciples and a large crowd are heading up into the mountains from one of the lowest points on earth, interesting to keep this in mind.
Right away, we have a contrast between the crowd, the blind men and Jesus; the crowd treats the blind men like outcasts, and by the standards of the times, they were outcasts since the prevailing thinking of the day would have been that they must have been serious sinners for God to have made them blind. Thus, the crowd rebukes them for trying to approach Jesus, but Jesus takes compassion on them. The contrast here is greater than just the crowd’s attitude as opposed to Jesus’ attitude, for there is also a distinction between the blind men’s attitude toward Jesus, and the way the crowd viewed Him, for the crowd was excited by the sight of the son of David going up to Jerusalem, for like so many others, they were expecting Him to restore old Israel and destroy the Roman occupation, while the blind men saw Jesus and His ability to give them sight so they might see His truth. Thus, we have two entirely different views of Jesus’ Messianic mission in Jerusalem, views that will come into sharp and definite conflict in the next section starting in chapter 21.
Jesus gives sight to these two, and as the scene closes, what is their response to this? They followed Him, and when we receive our sight, what do we do? We follow Him: “He, who has ears, let him hear; he who has sight let him see.”
As we will shortly discover, when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, He will encounter many who have ears but do not hear, and many who have sight, but do not see.