The Jericho Road, by Charles S. Price
(This sermon stenographically reported.)
You will find the text for tonight in the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke. I shall begin to read at the 35th verse and read to the end of the chapter.
We have in this remarkable story an account of the healing of a blind man by the matchless man of Galilee as he happened to come upon him on the Jericho road that day. I want you to notice that it was a personal Christ who went into Jericho, and a personal Christ who left Jericho with a great number of people following in His steps. In the days when Jesus was here among men the people followed Him wherever He went in spite of the maledictions of the Pharisees, and the criticism of the Scribes. The common people heard Him gladly, and wherever Jesus of Nazareth was found, great throngs of people were listening to His words and drinking in the power of the message that fell from His lips. It must have been wonderful indeed to have been able to sit at the feet of Jesus; wonderful to have listened to the messages that satisfied every hungry heart, and brought peace and joy and understanding to the lives who had received his teaching.
Unstintingly He gave Himself. No task was too great, no journey too severe, no work too hard; nothing could deter the Son of Man from going on His errands of mercy and His missions of love. If Jesus were to preach in the days in which we live multitudes would still follow in His train. If the old, rugged cross upon which the Prince of Glory died was to be lifted up before the eyes of men the world would discover that it had not lost its magnetism and the irresistible drawing power of Jesus would still be felt in the hearts of the worldly.
On this particular occasion Jesus was leaving the City of Jericho and I presume the crowds were thronging around Him eager for a touch of His hand or to hear the whisper of His voice. How they must have loved Him; how they must have revered Him! Something in their hearts must have told them that verily this was the Son of God and that He had power on earth to forgive sins and heal disease.
By the roadside that day Bartimaeus, a poor, blind beggar, was sitting in his filthy rags. Nobody loved him; nobody cared for his soul; just a despised outcast, a beggar, homeless, friendless and forsaken! His blind eyes could not behold the strange sight of the crowds that were thronging the road, but as he heard the steady tread of the feet of the multitude he inquired of the passerby what this strange commotion meant. “What means this eager, anxious throng that moves with busy haste along?” What means this crowd of people that was stirring up the dust of the narrow winding road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem? Poor Bartimaeus! Little did he know that the only One who could help him was coming close to his side. Little did he understand the reason for the gathering of the throng. Let me say here that I do not believe this was one particular case that Jesus, the Son of God, picked out a demonstration of His power to heal. I rather choose to believe that Bartimaeus just happened to be there and that if it had been some other beggar, blind and friendless and forsaken, he too would have received healing from the hands of our gracious Lord. “Who is this,” cried Bartimaeus, “What means this noise on the Jericho road this day? Why all this strange commotion and the stir of busy treading feet?” “Oh,” cried somebody by his side, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” The name went into the heart of Bartimaeus like the shot of an arrow from the bow. That name he had heard before; for strange stories of the miraculous power of the Christ had evidently come to the ears of the poor blind man. Somebody had told him undoubtedly that away in the north country, by the rolling tumbling waters of Galilee, Jesus had healed the sick and spoken peace to other troubled hearts! There was a logic in the reasoning that went through the mind of the poor blind man as he said within himself, “What He has done for others He can surely do for me. If He loved others enough to heal their broken bodies and to open their blinded eyes, will He not do the same for poor blind Bartimaeus? If He has brought joy into the lives of others will He not do the same for me?” In a flash that thought went through his mind. Into the darkened night of this poor beggar’s soul, there came just the gleam of starlight. It was not the sun in the meridian height, beaming upon him its full glory and power and majesty. It was merely the shining of a ray through the darkness of the night that had enveloped him. Just a little ray of hope, but, oh, the joy it gave! Hallelujah!
If Bartimaeus had kept his peace, if no cry had been heard proceeding from his lips, this story would never have been told and the healing of this blind man would have never been recorded. But Bartimaeus was wise enough to walk in the light he had. I would not call it faith that entered his heart at the moment he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. I would rather say that a ray of hope flooded the darkened recesses of his soul. Suddenly a cry could be heard ringing sharp and clear through the air,—a cry that must have sounded above the noise and hubbub; a cry that reached the heart of Christ Himself,—busy though He was, leading and teaching the multitude. Sometimes I have heard that cry! I have heard it as I have thought of the story that I now relate and have endeavored to picture the scene on the Jericho road that day. And then again I have heard it in the meetings when some poor wayward wandering sinner had come, sick and weary and searching for the Savior.
“Jesus!” How the name rang out. “Jesus!” Listen to the appeal in it, the throb in it, the petition in it. “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” Oh, brother of mine, if you forget everything else I have told you tonight, let this thought settle deeply into your consciousness, that no man ever utters that cry but what it is heard by the Man of Galilee. No soul ever cries out to the Lord like that and finds that the Lord turns a deaf ear to that piteous entreaty. Cannot you hear it tonight? Perhaps it is sounding in your own heart at the moment in which I speak. “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”
The multitude thronged around the crying blind man and to the best of their ability endeavored to stifle his appeal. “Why, Bartimaeus, He will never stop for you! The best of the citizens of Jericho are traveling with Him this day. The elite of Jerusalem are following in His steps. He has stopped for others, but He will never stop for you. You are too degraded, too depraved, too low, too despicable! He will pass you by, Bartimaeus. Stop that noise. Let that racket cease, Bartimaeus!”
Oh, the persistency of the cry of the blind man. The rebukes of the crowd could not stop him. The criticism of the scornful could not deter him. Jesus was passing by and that was enough for blind Bartimaeus. Louder and louder came his call, and then as if gathering final appeal, he shouted again. “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Then occurred the three sweetest words in the whole of this wonderful incident. The three words that you find at the opening of the 40th verse. “And Jesus stood.” Yes, praise His name, He stood for a poor blind beggar and one day He stood for me. He stood listening eagerly to the call that came from the heart of that man on the Jericho road. He stood in the days of long ago whenever a cry went from a heart that was broken or emaciated for a life that was distressed and He will stand today. The motto of this campaign is “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever.” He never changes. As He sympathized with and loved the poor blind beggar on the Jericho road so He sympathizes with and loves the people who need Him in the day in which we live. To be robbed of your physical eyesight is an awful thing. My heart goes out in pity and sympathy to the people who grope their way through a darkened world, who can never see the beauty of the flowers and who can never know the glory and the majesty of the eternal mountains. Bad as that may be, spiritual blindness is a thousand times worse. Some men have eyes for the world and naught but the world. Some men look to self and to self alone. Some are clothed in the rags of iniquity and, like Bartimaeus of old, sit in the dust and the dirt and the filth that we can too on every hand and side as over life’s pilgrimage we travel. It seems to me that if Jesus listened to the cry of the blind man then He will certainly hear the cry of the blind man now. Oh, brother of mine, with your heartaches, your perplexities, your problems, your sins and your woes, do you know that Jesus of Nazareth passes by? Oh, sister of mine, with the crosses of life heavy upon your shoulders and the burdens of life weighting down your back, with a load that is grievous and heavy to be borne, do you know that the great Burden Bearer is traveling on your road tonight? Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, and Jesus stood,—great, glorious, wonderful words. He who holds the oceans in the hollow of His hand. He who stood on the pedestal of His own eternal glory and from His finger tips divine flung out millions of flaming worlds like ours into space. He who put the color in the petals of the rose and the song in the throat of the feathered warbler. Jesus, the Creator of the universe, stood for a poor blind beggar! That is part of the heart of the Gospel. No matter how needy we may be the Bible says, “My God shall supply all your needs.” No matter how low we may be the Lord will raise us up. Just as far as the blighting effects of sin can take a man, just that far will the tender loving hand of Jesus of Nazareth reach down to bring him back to the ways of purity and of peace and of joy. So it was that Jesus heard the cry and commanded the poor old beggar to be brought to Him. All eyes were centered now upon the object of the pity and the love of Jesus. Their rebukes were silenced, their criticisms ceased. They approached the blind man and with encouragement in their tone they said, “Be of good cheer, rise, He calleth thee.”
Do you get the significance of that statement? Have you ever applied it to your own hearts? How I wish I could come down among you and take every one of you by the hand and say as the messengers of old were commanded by Jesus to say, “Brother of mine, sister of mine, be of good cheer, rose, He calleth thee.” That was the message Jesus sent to the poor blind beggar. That is the message He sends to you tonight. That is the appeal of the Gospel, including everybody in this great building. Rise, He calleth thee. No matter your difficulty, rise, He calleth for you. No matter what your problem, rise, He calleth thee. No matter what your heartache, no matter how strong your habit of how deep your sin, rise, He calleth for you.
Blind Bartimaeus would have been very foolish if, having had a little ray of hope shining through the darkness of the night into his soul, he had persisted in sitting by the roadside and not obeyed the word of the Lord. If he had not come to Jesus when the Master invited him to come I doubt greatly if Jesus would have gone to him. The Lord gave him the opportunity to approach the Throne of Grace. He invited him to kneel at His blessed feet and Bartimaeus would have been making the greatest and most foolish mistake of his life if he had not obeyed the word of the Lord. Mark you, he was not healed when Christ extended the invitation. He did not receive the blessing merely because Jesus invited him to come. He obeyed the word of the Lord and because he obeyed the word of the Lord he ultimately found the desire of his heart. How foolish it is for anyone have heard the gracious invitation to still sit by the roadside in the dirt and the dust and in rags, blind, unable to see or to appreciate any of the beautiful things of life when Jesus has invited you to come. The moment those glad words fell on the ears of poor Bartimaeus, that moment he was stirred into action. Casting aside his filthy gowns, he rose to his feet and started to follow Jesus, led undoubtedly by the throng that surrounded him. His sightless eyes were staring vacantly into space. His heart was beating with suppressed excitement. Perhaps he was praying as he came, but the big thing to me is that he came. Bartimaeus stopped in the presence of Christ. What a picture! The Son of God, who left the ivory palaces of His Father’s Kingdom, who had been co-existent with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit for the very beginning. The Creator of everything beautiful and everything good on the one side and on the other a poor blind beggar.
We do not know whether or not Bartimaeus had been blind all his life or not. We do not know whether of not it was sin that caused him to lose the sight of his eyes or perhaps in might have been some misfortune that had made him go through the days as if the brightest hours were the darkest hours of night. We do know that he was blind. We do know that he needed Jesus. No word of criticism left the lips of the Lord; no unkind cutting sentence left the heart of the Prince of Peace. That was no standing in judgment over the cringing figure at his feet, but just simply a plain, practical and necessary question. “What wilt thou that I shalt do unto thee?” Have you ever heard the voice of the Lord saying that to you, my brother? Have you ever heard that voice that is sweet as bells at evening pealing, echo that question through the corridors of your heart? Glory to Jesus!! What is it you want, my brother? Deliverance from the power of the enemy? Rise, he calleth thee. The breaking of the chains of some vile and sinful habit? Listen! The lion of the tribe of Judah is standing near. Do you need the pain and anguish and physical suffering that you have endured during the past to melt like snow before the rising sun? That Man of Galilee is close by your side. Do you need the peace that passeth all understanding to enter your heart and rule in your life? Then let me tell you as the blind man was told in the days gone by, Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. He is calling to you tonight. What wilt thou that I shalt do unto thee? Oh, what will you answer me? Asking you what is the desire of your heart,—what are you going to say to Jesus? The blind man cried, “Lord, that I might receive my sight!” What else could he reply? That was what he wanted. That was what he needed. Sometimes people wonder why their prayer requests are not granted. The scripture has promised “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus our Lord.” Notice, my friends, it doesn’t say “your wants,” it says “your needs.” Sometimes people want things that they do not really need, but one thing I am going to promise you tonight. One thing is sure as that day follows night and that Jesus is coming again. One thing as sure as the eternal hills, sure as the grand and glorious mountains and that is “My God shall supply all your needs.” So cannot you hear His voice tonight? What wilt thou that I shalt do unto thee? When blind Bartimaeus asked the question of the Lord, Jesus replied as he always does reply, “Receive thy sight; thy faith hath made thee whole.” The joy bells were ringing in the heart of the blind man. The bells of heaven were pealing in his rejoicing soul. Suddenly the scales rolled away. A shout of rejoicing left his lips. It was taken up by the multitude. It echoed and re-echoed along the Jericho road that day. A shout of victory, a shout of triumph, a shout of glory, the blind man could see. Jesus Christ, the carpenter’s son, of Nazareth, could do and would do just what He said He would do. “Receive thy sight, they faith hath saved thee.”
In conclusion, my friends, let me state that Jesus never fails. Oh, if you knew the tender loving appeal in the heart of the Man that died for you, not one of you among these assembled thousands would turn away from the Son of God. There is not a broken heart in this city that He cannot heal. Not a life, stained and marred and spoiled by sin but what He can redeem it. Not a lost soul but what He can find it. Not a broken body but what He can heal it. Praise the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. Look up, sister, cannot you see Him? Reach out, brother, can’t you touch Him? I implore you, I entreat you to obey the call of the Master tonight. Rise. Come unto this altar, break away from the old life and the old ways, He is calling for you. Hallelujah!!!
Charles S. Price is considered one of the best Pentecostal preachers from the early twentieth-century. His works have always been among our most popular with our readers, and he was the first author that we took to print.