Jesus of Nazareth passeth by
Rev. Lachlan MacLeod
Preached in Gaelic at Portree, on the Sabbath evening of the
communion season, March 1981,
translated into English by a friend, and edited.
Text: "And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho,
a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude
pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth
passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on
me" Luke 18:35-38.
AT the beginning of this chapter we have the parable of the widow who came
to the unjust judge. He refused to help her but she continued to come to him.
Then he said he would avenge her, not from any compassion he had for her but
because she troubled him. The Lord goes on to show that we should pray without
ceasing. "And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall
not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear
long with them?" (verses 6 and 7). The Lord encourages His people to continue
praying even although He would keep them waiting long, and though He would
appear, as it were, to be refusing to hear them. They must not come to the
conclusion that it is of no use for them to pray. They are encouraged to come
to the throne of grace again, and again, and again. If the unjust judge did
what he did, what will the One do, who is just and holy in all His ways, and
who has love and concern for His people? Though He may keep them waiting long
at times, He is round about them (Psl. 125:2), and in due time shall answer
them. And this is a mark on them: they will be crying to Him in the day and
in the night. If, for example, the state of your soul is troubling you, you
will be praying to Him even in the night – you will be praying when other people
But it is especially to the words at the end of the chapter that I would
like to draw your attention – that is, those about the blind man, Bartimaeus
(as we understand his name to be from the other gospels). This man was at the
roadside begging, and that shows us that he was a poor man – this is
the first thing to which I wish to draw your attention. And the second is
that a very special person was passing by the place where he was seeking
alms. He understood that something unusual was taking place. What was happening?
He was told, "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by." Thirdly,
I wish to point out what the blind Bartimaeus did – he cried to Jesus.
He cried out because he was conscious of his own poverty and of the fact that
this person who was passing by could help him and have mercy on him. The last thing
we shall notice is what Jesus did – He stood. "Jesus stood." There
were many who were telling Bartimaeus to hold his peace and stop crying out,
but he did not cease, and his crying made Jesus stand. "The effectual
fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). There was
such efficacy in the prayer of Bartimaeus that it made Jesus stop and ask him
what he wanted. Bartimaeus told Him. The Lord said to him, "Receive thy
sight: thy faith hath saved thee" (verse 42), and immediately he received
his sight and followed Jesus in the way.
First, we have here a man who was poor and in need. Because
he was blind he could not earn a living. He could do nothing but seek alms – he
had to sit beside the road to beg for what would keep soul and body together.
He was as poor as that, as empty as that, as needy as that.
Now, this is what is true of all of us spiritually, whether we know it
or not. We are all poor in things pertaining to our souls – we are all empty.
Why is this? In one word, it is sin that brought man into this condition,
so that he has nothing as far as the need of his soul is concerned. With regard
to possessing what will prepare us for death, eternity and judgement to come,
you and I have nothing as we are by nature. Whatever worldly possessions natural
men may have, this is the testimony of Scripture regarding them: that spiritually
they are altogether poor, and without any good thing dwelling in them.
Man has nothing that God will accept as satisfaction for his sin. You
and I can be thinking as the Pharisee did who prayed in the temple (verse 11).
He thought he had enough in going to meet God, but he had nothing; he was deceiving
himself. We can be deceiving ourselves, thinking that we have what God will
accept. We may be thinking that we have money, as it were, which will pay our
debts to justice when God will come to deal with us for our sins. Soul, God
is not going to accept your money; you haven’t got one coin that God will receive
from you. You may be quite satisfied that you have enough and that God will
accept it, but if you have nothing more than what you have by nature (though
you would be as rich and satisfied as the Pharisee), you will be empty at last,
and lost for ever.
Bartimaeus was very conscious of his blindness, and concerned about it.
It was something he understood – it was with him every morning he rose. Because
he was blind he could not work as other men; because of his poverty he had
to seek alms. But it was good that he was conscious of his poverty – that he
understood his sad condition and great need, and that this made him go out
begging for alms.
Now, it is a lamentable fact about sinners that few are conscious of their
great spiritual need. According to the Word of God, sin has brought us to be
liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself and to the pains of
hell forever – that is what God’s Book says about you and me; that is how poor
we are on account of having sinned against God. Yet, many in this place tonight
are not conscious of it. The natural man does not see how blind and miserable
and naked sin has left him. He is quite satisfied with himself and with the
things of the world, and his spiritual state in view of eternity is not giving
him any concern.
Soul, is it not sad that men are as poor as that, and yet are not realising
their condition? Is it not sad that this should be true of people in the Isle
of Skye who have been brought up on the truth of the Bible, and also on the
teaching of the Shorter Catechism. There, the facts about your own state as
a sinner, the way of salvation, and the person and work of the Saviour are
set before you in a simple way. (If any of you do not know the Shorter Catechism,
I would advise you to get one and begin reading it. Although you might not
try to memorise the questions and answers, read them, for they contain wonderful
instruction, and are in an easily read form).
How sad it is that people who have the Bible, and so much light given
to them, are still refusing to accept the truth concerning their spiritual
poverty and the grave danger in which they are. How solemn that their danger
is not moving them in any way – not making them reason like this, "I am
empty, I am lost, and I shall be cast off for eternity." But man will
not come to reason like this until God’s Holy Spirit comes to teach him about
his sin and its awful consequences. It is only then that man takes to heart
that he is poor, and empty, and altogether without any good.
Secondly, we see that as far as Bartimaeus was concerned,
he discovered that a very special person was passing by. That
day he heard something unusual which caused him to ask what was happening. "What
is this, what is this?" "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by!" Jesus
of Nazareth was on the way up to Jerusalem – on his last journey before His
death. He was on the way to Calvary, to the Cross – journeying to His crucifixion.
So He and His disciples and the multitude were going by. "Jesus of Nazareth
Now, is there not something unusual happening in Portree today? Is there
not something taking place on this communion Sabbath that is not taking place
on other Sabbath days? The death of Christ was remembered here today, and Jesus
of Nazareth is passing by in the means of grace. Jesus of Nazareth is passing
by, of course, at any time when the gospel is preached in purity, but we can
say regarding a communion Sabbath that in an especial way Jesus of Nazareth
is passing by. Now, this is true regarding this Sabbath evening in Portree.
If any one, who did not understand what was happening here today, asked, "What
is taking place? What is a communion Sabbath?" you could answer, without
being wrong, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by in the preaching of the
gospel; Jesus of Nazareth is passing by in the symbols of His body that was
broken and His blood that was shed." Oh! Jesus of Nazareth comes very
close to men on a communion Sabbath.
Jesus of Nazareth, of course, draws close to men in the reading of His
Word, and when the gospel is preached (whether on a Sabbath or a weekday),
but on this communion Sabbath in Portree, He is in the congregation in a way
that He is not on other Sabbaths. He is passing by not only in the preaching
of the truth concerning His awful sufferings and atoning death for the sins
of His people, but also in the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s
Supper. It is He Himself who gave the authority to His ministers to serve the
table and to say to the church, "This is my body, which is broken for
you. This cup is the new testament in my blood." Soul, Jesus of Nazareth
comes as close as this to us today. But the question is: What effect does this
have on yourself?
The world is unconcerned that Jesus of Nazareth passes by, and it despises
Him. Nazareth was a village of little worth, which did not have a good name.
We find this question being asked, "Can there any good thing come out
of Nazareth?" (John 1:46.) It was to despise Christ that many gave Him
the name ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, as if to say, "Jesus who comes from a place
of little worth." Some who told Bartimaeus, "Jesus of Nazareth passeth
by," were no doubt belittling Him. Certainly, this is what the world does.
It never gives a good report of Christ, and despises Him. When Jesus of Nazareth
is passing by in Portree on a communion Sabbath, the graceless world will not
value it. But as far as Bartimaeus was concerned, he did not think lightly
of Jesus of Nazareth passing by.
Thirdly, we see that when Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of
Nazareth was passing by he did a certain thing: he cried out to Him.
Now, notice this: he did not cry "Jesus of Nazareth have mercy
on me", but "Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me." We
are to understand by this that whatever the world called this blessed person,
Bartimaeus believed that He was Christ. Bartimaeus had obviously heard something
about Him and came to the conclusion that the One whom the world called "Jesus
of Nazareth" was the Messiah, the Christ of God, and that he was the Saviour
that was to come into the world. When the Jews spoke about the "Son of
David" they were referring to the Messiah. And when Bartimaeus cried, "Thou
Son of David," he was admitting that he understood that Jesus of Nazareth
was indeed the Messiah – and the people who were hearing Bartimaeus understood
that he believed that this was so.
When Christ himself asked the disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter
said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and the Lord
said to him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath
not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16:15-17).
It was power from on high that enabled Peter to understand that Jesus of Nazareth
was the Christ, the Son of God. I believe that this was true of Bartimaeus
also. He was taught by the hidden work of the Holy Spirit to understand that
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, was the Saviour – that He was the One
whom they expected down through the ages, and whom they looked for to come
in God’s great name to save. This made Bartimaeus cry out "Thou son of
David, have mercy on me." I believe he would have been saying something
like this to himself: "I shall not be able to get another opportunity
ever again. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, the Messiah is passing by.
I need Him. I need Him greatly. I will have to get Him today. I will have to
get Him now, if I am going to get Him at all!"
There were many who were opposing Bartimaeus, and discouraging him; "they
which went before, rebuked him, that he should hold his peace". You may
be sure, soul, that if you have become conscious of your spiritual need, and
to understand that there is none that can help you but Christ, the Son of God,
the Saviour, you will be opposed. And if you have begun to cry to Him, praying
that He would have mercy upon you, there will be many who will be discouraging
you. You will find also much within and outwith yourself to discourage you.
But we see that Bartimaeus, when he met with opposition, cried out so
much the more. Although there was no man who said to him, "Go on Bartimaeus,
you cry out, and He will have mercy on you," but that on the contrary
there were those who said the opposite, he did not cease pleading but cried
so much the more, "Thou Son of David have mercy on me."
This is what Christ was teaching in the parable of the poor widow who
came to the unjust judge – that we are to keep on praying however hopeless
the matter may seem to be, and however little encouragement we may get from
men, from the Church, or even from God himself. The Syrophenician woman, when
she came to seek help from Christ and besought Him about her daughter, did
not get any encouragement from the disciples – and she did not get any encouragement
from Himself to begin with. But although she did not get encouragement, she
could not, as it were, let Him go. At last she made Christ, as it were, pause
and answer her prayer.
That is the way the church of God is being taught to pray. The Lord is
at times putting off His people so that they will pray more earnestly; so that
they will see their need more and more, and pray more often. The Lord did not
halt as soon as He heard the cry of Bartimaeus. He walked on, and at the same
time Bartimaeus continued crying although people were telling him to cease.
Jacob did not stop crying for the blessing although the Angel of the Covenant
was saying to him, "Let me go." Jacob continued pleading. "I
will not let Thee go" he said, "except Thou bless me" (Genesis
32:26). This is the same spirit as Bartimaeus had. He was saying, as it were, "I
will not let Thee go except Thou have mercy on me; I will not let Thee pass;
I will not stop crying to Thee." Soul, is this the way with yourself?
If you have become conscious of your sins – and of your poverty and ignorance,
is this not true of you: that you cannot stop crying for mercy? Despite discouragements
you continue crying – and crying so much the more, "Have mercy upon me
a sinner. Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." Do you look to
this One who came in God’s great name to save? Are you closed in to this: that
there is no other name by which you can be saved but His name, and none who
can have mercy on you but Himself?
Lastly, we see what Jesus did – "Jesus stood." We
see here, soul, that the fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much. There
was much efficacy in the cry of Bartimaeus. There were others crying too – crying
to Bartimaeus to be still, crying to him to stop crying and to hold his peace,
but his cry rose altogether above the cry of them all. Jesus stood! We see
from the fact that Christ stood that there is mercy and loving kindness in
Him. We see here how ready He is to accept those who cry to Him and plead with
Bartimaeus told Christ about his great need, and Christ met with him in
his need – Christ did for him what he asked. And I say to you soul, be telling
Christ what your need is; be telling Him your condition; be taking your poverty
and emptiness to Christ by taking them to Him in prayer. It is promising when
sinners are led to come with their need to the throne of grace.
Finally, let us note that this was the last time that Jesus of Nazareth
was going up on the way to Jerusalem. He never went up this way again. If Bartimaeus
had heeded the people who were telling him to be quiet – if he had let Jesus
pass, he would have been without mercy for ever. But he did not let Him pass.
Now soul, are you going to let Christ go by? Jesus of Nazareth is passing by
tonight in Portree, Jesus of Nazareth is passing by among us in the everlasting
gospel. Oh, soul, are you going to let Him go? It may be that He will not pass
by again as far as you are concerned. It may be when Jesus of Nazareth will
be passing this way again in the preaching of the Word on a communion Sabbath,
that you will be in eternity. Oh be crying yet the more; be praying to Him,
be saying to Him tonight:
"After thy loving kindness, Lord
have mercy upon me:
For thy compassions great, blot out
all mine iniquity" (Ps. 51:1).
Article Next Article