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 are asleep!
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 havent 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 Gods 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 Gods 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 passeth by!”
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 Lords 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 Gods 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 Gods 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 Him.
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).