The Evensong, from Matthew’s gospel: Part 4: Cry out!

In this series I have been going through the last few days of Jesus’ public ministry. Once he knew his time had come, he set off toward Jerusalem with his disciples to precipitate the fulfilment of his mission. Soon a large crowd was following along, with a very different idea of what was about to happen in Jerusalem. What would it had been like to be there?

Matthew 20:29-34 And as they went out from Jericho a great crowd followed him. And lo, two blind men, sitting by the wayside, having heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out saying, Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David. But the crowd rebuked them, that they might be silent. But they cried out the more, saying, Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David. And Jesus, having stopped, called them and said, What will ye that I shall do to you? They say to him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. And Jesus, moved with compassion, touched their eyes; and immediately their eyes had sight restored to them, and they followed him.

Every time I read this passage, I have to pause at that verse that says, “But the crowd rebuked them, that they might be silent”. And I wonder, why? Or worse, would I have been one of them?

Here we are following Jesus, and the crowd is only getting bigger. If the rumors that He is the Messiah are true, then this could be the time. Finally, we will have God’s power on our side again… and finally we will get rid of the Romans.

So, why am I bothered by those blind men? I know that this procession is not about me. It is about Jesus. We are all here together because of Him. I doubt He even knows who I am in this whole crowd… So, why am I bothered by those blind men crying out?

Why am I offended by them?

Do they embarrass me? Or am I embarrassed for Jesus? I mean, He is such an important person, how dare anyone distract him now just to deal with their personal problems?

Or is it that I envy their boldness, that they so dare to cry out, and let the whole world hear their need, their pain, their powerlessness… their sin?

Yes, their sin… For, remember, many people in those days looked at blindness and other disabilities as a sign that God had somehow rejected that person. But then, Jesus stops, and calls to them! How would that have made me feel? How should that make me feel?

If we read this passage in the other gospels, we find out that some of the people in that crowd suddenly changed their tune and cheered the blind men on. And so, they come running to Jesus. And He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I know the thought that would have crossed my mind then: Oh, that He had asked me that question. There is so much I would ask. But in that moment that I have wasted thinking about what could have been, the blind men have replied and received their miracle: they can see.

Missed Opportunities

I wonder if anyone else in that crowd felt that way too. I wonder if Jesus stood there for a moment and looked around at the people, to see if anyone else was going to come forward.

I wonder… because I remember another day when He was teaching at Peter’s house and, again, a whole crowd was surrounding Him, including Pharisees and Scribes. And the power of God was present for healing. And yet, the only people who seemed to know it were those four men, friends of a paralytic.

If those blind men of Jericho crying out were undignified, what do you call four strangers climbing onto the roof of your house to tear apart the tiles and dig through? That’s what they did, so they could lower their friend on his cot, right in front of Jesus. Scandalous? No… Desperate.

It was Jesus who made it scandalous when He, seeing the faith of those friends, told the paralytic, “Don’t worry child, your sins are forgiven.” And, just as there were those who tried to silence the blind men of Jericho, here it is the Pharisees that are offended at this whole scene. Why are you bringing up sin again? Who are you to know what my sins are? How is that any of your business? Besides, only God can forgive sins.

You see, it wasn’t just that He claimed to be able to forgive sins… The scarier thought was that He knew them. What right, indeed…

But Jesus had every right, because He came to be the cure for everything that is wrong with our lives. That paralytic man learned that, that day. He left that house walking on his own two feet.

And, again, I wonder, if I had been there, would I have dared to cry out to Jesus: I too am a sinner! I too need your help… desperately. Please, would you help me?

How many felt that way too? How many never spoke up?

Missed opportunities.

Even the rocks know when to cry out

Soon, after the healing of the blind men, the whole crowd was off again. His disciples had gone ahead to Bethany, to get some donkeys and then the moment everyone had been hoping for, came: Matthew 21:4-5  …that that might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek, and mounted upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass…

Matthew 21:6-9 …the disciples, having gone and done as Jesus had ordered them, brought the ass and the colt and put their garments upon them, and he sat on them. But a very great crowd strewed their own garments on the way, and others kept cutting down branches from the trees and strewing them on the way. And the crowds who went before him and who followed cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed [be] he who comes in the name of [the] Lord; hosanna in the highest.

And Luke adds: Luke 19:39-40 And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And he answering said to them, I say unto you, If these shall be silent, the stones will cry out.

Matthew 21:10-13 And as he entered into Jerusalem, the whole city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the crowds said, This is Jesus the prophet who is from Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus entered into the temple [of God], and cast out all that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those that sold the doves. And he says to them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but *ye* have made it a den of robbers.

Matthew 21:14 And blind and lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.

Matthew 21:15-16 And when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders which he wrought, and the children crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, they were indignant, and said to him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus says to them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

The King entered Jerusalem but instead of raising an army to overthrow the Romans, He cleansed the Temple of people who had forgotten why that Temple was there, people who in the midst of tumultuous praise could find no joy but only offense at the fact that Jesus would accept that praise. Their hearts had turned to stone.

No, harder than that… for if they had been of mere stone, they still would have cried out.

Steeped in all their knowledge, they had become so foolish that they missed what even a baby could not miss. The Sun of Righteousness had appeared with healing in his wings – as Malachi had prophesied – and they missed it. They missed their opportunity.

Just like me?

Is it too late?

No. Praise God!

Because the One who healed the blind and the lame that day did not just happen to pass by, never to return. On the contrary, He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us, no matter how many opportunities we have missed or squandered.

He is still here at the corner of our Jericho, watching with joy as those blind men, now seeing, praise His Father; and then He lingers there, hoping that at least one more will come forth, one more who though seeing still knows in his heart that he is blind.

He is still here preaching at Peter’s house (you know, at Church, every Sunday) hoping that one more heart will willingly open up to His loving eyes… eyes that, yes, see the sin, but more than that see a beloved child whom he wants desperately to come home.

He is still here, as King, ready to cast out all the useless pride and every stumbling block that I have allowed to harden my heart… He is here, more than able to cast all that out of the Temple of my heart, so that He can take His rightful place there, as Lord of my Life.

All I have to do, is cry out.

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