Luke: Your Faith Has Made You Well

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on April 17, 2011

Luke 18:35-43

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The Lord’s Day Morning


April 17, 2011



“Your Faith Has Made You Well”


Luke 18:35-43


The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 18.
We’re working our way through the gospel of Luke together and I’d like to
direct your attention to verses 35 to 43.
Now for those of you who are very close observers, you will be thinking
to yourself, “Ligon, you are skipping some verses because the last time we
finished in verse 30. What happened
to verses 31 to 34?” Thank you for
being observant! You will find out
next Sunday morning because we’re going to be going back to those verses, 31 to
34, and next Sunday morning you will understand why it makes perfect sense.
But today, we’re moving to the story that’s recorded in verses 35 to 34
about a blind man.

Mark tells us this man’s name was Bartimaeus, probably because he wanted to
enable his audience to go check. “If you don’t think this story is true, well
this story happened to a man named Bartimaeus.
Just go ask him!” Luke’s
concern, however, is to draw our attention not so much to the person of
Bartimaeus, but to draw our attention to what this blind man gives testimony to.
In this passage, it’s very, very clear that what this blind man believes
and says about who Jesus is, is very, very important.
It’s why Luke has the story here, as Jesus is making His way to
Jerusalem, to the Passover. It’s why
Jesus Himself stops in this story and engages in a conversation with this man.
It’s because of who he says that Jesus is.
This story is also important because it draws attention to faith as the
means by which we receive the blessings of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and
person. And so Luke wants to draw
our attention to that — not to the person of the blind man, but to the testimony
that he gives. It’s also clear in
this passage that Luke wants to tell us something about what disciples are like.
In fact, we’ve been seeing this theme run throughout chapter 18.
Disciples do not try to justify themselves, but they trust in God’s
mercy. Luke is giving us a course in
Christian discipleship in this passage.
And in this passage again, he’s showing us what a disciple of the Lord
Jesus Christ is like.

Well, let’s pray before we read God’s Word and ask for His help as we read it.

Lord, this is Your Word, but we ask that You would open our eyes to behold
wonderful things in Your Law. There
are things that keep us from seeing what we ought to see.
Even in Your Word, sometimes Lord, it is the desires of our hearts —
they’re set on other things and we’re not interested in what You have to say to
us. Sometimes Lord, it is our
pursuit after sin in which we find satisfaction, more satisfaction than we think
that we could find in You. Sometimes
it is our own assumptions and presuppositions that we bring to the Word which
blind us to the riches of it. We ask
that by the Holy Spirit You would open our eyes and that we would see what this
blind man saw. In Jesus’ name, amen.

This is the Word of God. Hear it:

“As He drew near to
Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.
And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.
They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’
And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to Him.
And when he came near, He asked him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’
He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’
And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you
well.’ And immediately he recovered
his sight and followed Him, glorifying God.
And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

Can you see what this blind man saw before he could see?
Have you seen what Luke tells us that a man in Acts chapter 9 had to
become blind in order to see? In
this passage, Jesus the Messiah calls the unlikely and the overlooked to put
their faith in Him because they see who He is and what He can do and what He has
done. And in His might and power, He
heals and restores them. I want us
to see three things in this passage as we study it together and as we focus on
that theme.

The first thing I want you to look at is what this passage teaches us about who
Jesus is and what He has done
.
This passage makes it very clear that Jesus is the Messiah; He is the Son
of David. The story is very simple.
There is a beggar sitting by the roadside in Jericho – nothing
extraordinary about that. Just as
today, on many days at the corner of County Line and I-55 or the corner of
Lakeland and I-55 exit, you can find people asking for food or asking for money.
It was a common thing for beggars to be by the roadside asking people who
were passing by to give them food or give them money.
And furthermore, it was considered a pious thing for a godly Jew to give
alms to the poor. And this man is by
the roadside heading up towards Passover season.
And pious Jews avoided going through Samaria to get down to Jerusalem and
so a natural path for them to make their way up to Jerusalem at Passover time
was through Jericho. And so this man
was positioned in a very strategic point.

You know, when Marvin Olasky did his study of poverty many, many years ago, he
found on the streets of the city that he was observing, many law students at Ivy
League schools who would dress as homeless people and go beg on the streets of
the city because they could make more money that way than they could working a
job clerking somewhere during the summer.
Beggars could do very well during Passover season and this man was
positioned in a place where many pilgrims would pass by — nothing unique about
that.

But when this man hears a large crowd going by, he asks to the people around
him, “What’s going on? What’s the
big crowd? Who is this that’s
passing by?” And they say, “Oh, this
is Jesus of Nazareth,” and that’s where the story gets interesting because his
response is not to cry out, “Jesus of Nazareth, give me some money!” or “Jesus
of Nazareth, give me some food!” but “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
That’s what Luke wants us to see and it’s clear that that’s what Jesus
wants us to see because the minute that he says, “Jesus, Son of David, have
mercy on me!” the people up front begin to rebuke him, “Don’t bother Jesus!
He’s busy!” just like we saw earlier in the chapter.
Turn back to Luke 18 verses 15 to 17.
There, parents were bringing their children to Jesus, and what happens?
Verse 15 — “The disciples rebuke them.”
“Go away! He’s busy!”
But this man does not give up.
When he is rebuked by the people that were in front of Jesus, he just
ratchets it up a few decibels and he continues to cry, “Son of David, have mercy
on me!” At that point, after the
second time, we’re told Jesus stops.
And listen to what He does. It’s
even more forceful than Luke 18 verses 15 to 17 where we’re told when the
disciples rebuked the parents who were bringing their children to Jesus to be
blessed, remember what Jesus says?
“No, no, no; allow them to come to Me.”
In this passage, He commands
that the blind man be brought to Him.

Why? Because this blind man saw
something about Jesus. He knew
something, he believed something about Jesus that everybody in that crowd needed
to understand. And it’s actually in
stark contrast to the immediate verse.
If you’ll look in Luke 18 verse 34, after Jesus— and this is the passage
we’re going to look at next week — after Jesus has explained what He is going up
to Jerusalem for, what His going up to Jerusalem will fulfill, we are told by
Luke that “they,” that is His disciples, “understood none of these things.
This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
So in the context in which Jesus has explained the prophecy that His work
will fulfill and the purpose of His going up to Jerusalem and these disciples
who can see, say, “I don’t understand,” this blind man understand something that
Jesus wants to be brought to your attention and to mine.
And what he understands is that Jesus is the Messiah.
Son of David is a Messianic name.
This man is acknowledging that Jesus is not just a great prophet or
teacher, but He is the One appointed and anointed by God, He is the One
prophesied of by the prophets of the Old Testament that God was sending in the
world to have mercy on His people and to save them from their sins.
And he begins to cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

It’s interesting, isn’t it? This
blind man can see before he can see.
He can see who Jesus is even though the disciples, who could see, couldn’t see
what Jesus was going to do in Jerusalem.
It’s one of those ironies, isn’t it, that Luke is pointing us to.
And I can’t help but thing that Luke has this passage in the back of his
mind when he is telling a story about a Pharisee named Saul in Acts chapter 9.
Would you turn with me there?
Just take a peek. In Acts chapter 9,
there’s a Pharisee named Saul who’s on his way up to Damascus to kill people who
believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
They become known as Christians in the book of Acts.
These people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Paul is on a
search-and-destroy mission to arrest them, to imprison them, and hopefully to
execute them. And on the way to
Damascus, Jesus, the risen Jesus, meets him.
And in a blinding light, he loses his sight, we’re told in verse 5.
He’s blinded; he can’t see.
And yet, when Jesus speaks to him, he responds, “Yes, Lord.
What am I supposed to do?”

A few days later, he is in the presence of Ananias, a Christian, who lays hands
on him and he regains his sight. And
immediately after he regains his sight, look at Acts chapter 9 verse 20, you
will see Saul, who is now Paul, you will see his first sermon.
And do you know what Saul’s, who is now Paul’s, first sermon is?
“He is the Son of God.” He
was on his way up to kill people because they believed that Jesus was the
Messiah, the Son of God. He could
see, but he was blind to who Jesus was.
He was ready to kill people because they believed that Jesus was the
Messiah. He was blind that Jesus was
the Messiah. And so Jesus blinds
him! And then a Christian prays for
him and we’re told in Acts chapter 9 that something like scales fell off of his
eyes. And immediately, what does he
say? “Jesus is the Son of God.
He is the Messiah.” He could
see but he couldn’t see that Jesus was the Messiah and so he was blinded so that
he could see that Jesus was the Messiah.
And I can’t help but think that Luke has this story in the back of his
mind as he writes the sequel to his gospel, which is called the book of Acts.

So you see, the point is, disciples of Jesus believe that He is the Son of
David, the Messiah. He’s not just a
great moral teacher; He’s not the most wonderful professor of ethics that ever
lived; He’s not a guy who just went everywhere doing nice things; He is not the
excuse for credibility for whatever Johnny-come-lately social or political
movement wants to use Him in order to gain credibility; He is the Jesus who is
offered in the Gospel. Didn’t you
just hear it in the questions that were asked for membership?
In that second question, we ask, “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
— the Lord Jesus, the Messiah — as the Son of God and Savior of sinners, and do
you receive and rest in Him alone for your salvation as He is offered in the
Gospel?” How is He offered in the
Gospel? As the Messiah, not just as
a great prophet, not just as a moral teacher, not just as a wonderful, ethical
example, but as the Messiah, the Son of God, sent into the world to have mercy
on sinners. That’s how He’s offered
in the Gospel. All of His disciples
receive Him that way. They receive
Him as the Son of David, the Messiah.
That’s the first thing that Jesus wants us to see in this passage.

The second thing is this — notice how Luke, notice how Jesus draws attention to
the fact that faith is the means whereby we receive the benefits of Jesus’
person and life and death and resurrection.

When the man is brought to Jesus, look at verses 40 to 41, when the man
is brought to Jesus, He asked him a question.
He asked him, “What do you want from Me?
You’re calling out to Me; what is it exactly that you want from Me?”
And the man doesn’t say, “I want money” or “I want food.”
He says, “Lord, I’d like to see again.
I’d like to recover my sight.”
Now the very request honors the person of Jesus because look, if you came
up to me after the service today and said, “Ligon, I’d like to see again,” I’d
pray for you, but I couldn’t give you your sight.
But this man believes, because he believes that Jesus is who He claims to
be, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the Son of David, he believes that
Jesus can give him his sight. And
Jesus’ response to this man is, “You’ve got it.
You can see. Your faith has
made you well.”

Now faith-healers love this passage you see, because they can say, “Ah, what
healed this man is having faith. His
faith is the source of his healing.”
Now that is very convenient because that way when you’re at the faith-healing
crusade and you don’t get healed, whose fault is it?
It’s not the faith-healers, it’s yours!
You don’t have enough faith!
That’s not what’s going on in this passage.
That’s not what Jesus is saying.
Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that this man’s faith is the
means, it is the instrument, it is the conduit by which he has received God’s
blessing. It is not his deserving,
it is not his works; it is faith by which he has received the blessing of God.
And of course, the New Testament makes it clear that even faith is a gift.
Do you remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10?
“For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of
yourself; it is a gift of God.” Or
in Philippians 1:29, “To you it has been granted to believe.”
Even faith itself is a gift.
It is not that faith is the source of this man’s healing, but faith is the
instrument whereby he receives the grace of God which has healed him, the power
of God which has healed him. Jesus
is drawing attention to faith. Every
disciple believes on Jesus.

Again, go back to The
Shorter Catechism question number eighty-six which is incorporated
into our question two of church membership.
Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon
Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel.
Did you hear that? You
receive and rest upon Him. You
receive and rest; you believe and trust; you believe who He is and what He has
done and you put all your hope and confidence and trust in Him for your
salvation. That’s faith.
And Jesus is drawing attention to that.
How do you become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?
You receive and rest, you believe and trust on Him.
You recognize Him as the Son of David, the Messiah, the Son of God, and
you believe and trust on Him. And
Luke wants us to see that and Jesus wants us to see that.

There’s a third thing here as well.
Notice how this passage emphasizes, for the second time in Luke 18 at least,
Jesus reaching out to the unlikely to be His disciples.

There were the children back in Luke 18 verses 15 to 17, not esteemed
highly in the eyes of the world in Jesus’ day.
As we said last time, we live in a child-centric world.
That was not the world that Jesus lived in.
Children were to be seen and not heard.
Children were not important.
Shuffle them out of the way and bring the important people in.
And yet Jesus said, “No, no, no.
Allow the little children to come to Me because the kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.” And now,
here’s a blind guy by the side of the road during Passover season and he becomes
a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you catch that? Take a look at
verse 43. After Jesus tells him,
“Recover your sight. You can see
now. Your faith has made you well,”
what do we read next? “Immediately
he recovered his sight,” and did what?
“And followed Him.” That is
technical language; Luke has used it before.
When Jesus called His disciples, He called them to do what?
Leave their jobs and “follow Him.”
That is the language of discipleship.
This man became a disciple.
The people in front of Jesus thought that he was so unimportant, so unlikely,
that they rebuked him for crying out to Jesus, but Jesus, did you notice,
“commanded him” to come to Him, to be brought to Him.
You know, if Jesus is after you, He will command for you to be brought to
Him. Jesus always gets His man or
His woman. He will track you down
and He will command for you to be brought to Him.
Isn’t that glorious? Even
when you’re running from Him, He’ll stop and He’ll command for you to be brought
to Him.

And this unlikely man, this blind man, who saw something about Jesus that so
many other people in that crowd were missing, they didn’t see, that blind man
becomes a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ.
And it’s a picture of the unlikely, the overlooked, the unimportant
becoming followers of Jesus Christ.
And the apostle Paul has this in mind.
Would you turn with me to 1 Corinthians?
In 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 26 and following, Paul is speaking to
the Corinthians. Now the
Corinthians, this is an amazing collection of people in the congregation in
Corinth. They’re all over the map.
Some of them are engaged in gross immorality even though they are professing to
be followers of Jesus Christ. Some
of them are invested with amazing apostolic gifts.
There are people in this congregation who can speak in tongues, really
speak in tongues. There are people
in this congregation who can prophecy.
There are people in this congregation who have words of knowledge.
These people, some of them are possessed with amazing apostolic gifts.
And what would you think that that might have a tendency to do?
It might have a tendency to make some people prideful.
And so over and over in this book, what does Paul say?
We don’t boast in anything but in Jesus Christ.
We don’t boast in anything but in Christ and Him crucified.
We don’t boast in anything but the cross of Christ.
Why? Because we have nothing
to commend ourselves to God with.
There’s nothing in us that could possibly move Him to love us.
He loves us because He loves us, not because we’re better than other
people.

And look at what he says beginning in verse 26.
He says, “Consider your calling, brothers.”
Brothers, think of how the Lord called you to Himself!
“Consider your calling, brothers:
not many of you were wise according to worldly standards.”
Now I love this. You know,
sometimes when Paul is speaking to a congregation he’ll do that preacher thing
and he’ll say, “Not many of us,” and he’ll include him.
It fascinates me that Paul does not include himself in this.
“Not many of you were wise.” Now he
does this to the Corinthians on a number of occasions.
You know, he’ll say, “Oh I know you people have really done some amazing,
spectacular, spiritual stuff. Me on
the other hand, I’ve only been called up into the third heaven and seen God
face-to-face but let’s not talk about that!
Oh and you people are really super-spiritual Christians now. I, on the
other hand, I’m just a Hebrew of Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, according to
the law, blameless, probably the most spiritual person in the history of the
world, but let’s not talk about me!”
He puts them in their place and in this passage he says, you know, he doesn’t
say, “Well you know, many of us, we weren’t very smart.”
No, he says, “Actually, many of you were not very smart.”

And then he goes on — “nor were many of your powerful or of noble birth, but God
chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in
the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world,
even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human
being might boast in the presence of God.
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus whom God made our wisdom
and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption, therefore as it is
written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
Is that not a message we need to hear, First Presbyterian Church, because
we can look around and think that we’re pretty smart, pretty powerful, pretty
noble, pretty well-dressed, pretty socially connected, pretty influential —
frankly a pretty good catch for God.
Paul is reminding us and Luke is reminding us in Luke 18 that actually, actually
we have just as much to commend ourselves to God as say, a homeless drunk that
just wandered into Gateway Rescue Mission last night about 11 o’clock.
That’s what we’ve got to offer to God in and of ourselves.
Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to His cross we cling.
Naked come we to Him for dress, helpless to Him for grace.
Foul we to His fountain fly.
Wash us Savior, or we die. That’s
exactly where we stand. We have
nothing to commend ourselves to God.
In fact, by God’s grace, if you are His child today, if you are a disciple of
the Lord Jesus Christ, if you trust in Him as the Messiah, you are the weak of
the world that God has chosen to confound the wise.

So for non-Christians listening to us today, understand, we don’t think we’re
better than you. God chose us
because He knew you’d look at us and say, “You mean You chose them?”
Right. It’s a picture of
God’s grace that a ragtag group of sinners like us would by the mercy of God be
accepted as His people. And Jesus is
driving that home in this story.
“That’s what My disciples are like — they’re like children, they’re like blind
beggars looking to Me for bread and food and forgiveness and blessing because
I’m all they’ve got. They understand
their need.” So, let me ask you a
question. Do you see what that blind
man saw before he could see?

Let’s pray.

Lord, Your Word blows us away. What
it shows of our self and all of our pride — we’re nothing!
And what is shows us of the Savior — He is everything.
He’s the lover of our souls and we run to Him, we go to Him, we fly to
Him because He has everything that we want, everything that we need.
Grant us, by faith, to go there.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

Would you take your hymnals out and turn with me to 509.
Let’s sing it to God’s praise.

To everyone who is blind but who says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
– Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus, our Lord, the
Messiah.

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