"Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' He said, 'Lord, that I may receive my sight.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God" (Luke 18:35-43).
This is one narrative where it is especially intriguing to compare the parallel accounts in Matthew 20:29ff, Mark 10:46ff, and Luke 18:35ff. According to Luke's account, as Jesus "was coming near Jericho" there was a certain blind man who was begging on the side of the road. Although Mark and Luke only mention one beggar, Matthew states that there were two. Also, Matthew and Mark declare that the healing was performed "as they went out of Jericho." How can these details be reconciled?
First, let it be stated that it does not seem reasonable to suggest that these were two separate occasions due to the similarity in much of the wording and dialogue. It is safe to understand that there were two blind beggars, since neither Mark nor Luke affirm that there was only one. As to the matter of where the healing took place, it must have occurred as Jesus was leaving the city. Thus, it should be deduced that there is a break in the narrative chronologically between Luke 18:37,38. The blind men must have learned that Jesus had passed them by after He was already in the city (and perhaps too far ahead for them to chase Him down in their current condition). Some have suggested that the two men then made their way around the city wall to the place where Jesus and the multitude would exit on their way to Jerusalem, and there they waited. This explanation is certainly possible, and it eliminates what would otherwise be a contradiction in the text. If this is the proper understanding, it is another indicator of the determination and great faith of these men (e.g., Luke 18:39,42).
When Jesus left Jericho, He did so with His disciples and a great multitude. Because of the fact that the Passover was near, great crowds would be making their way to Jerusalem. Few would leave Jericho by themselves when they could have the opportunity and excitement of traveling with a large group, especially one that Jesus was a part of.
Bartimaeus is introduced by name in a rather unique way in Mark 10:46. Mark didn't state that the blind man's name happened to be Bartimaeus. He instead declared that "blind Bartimaeus...sat by the road begging." It appears that Bartimaeus was well-known to those who would be reading Mark's account of the gospel. It seems reasonable to suggest that his name was known by many because of his zeal and efforts in God's kingdom after he was healed. If Bartimaeus was well-known at a later time, this may explain why Mark only mentioned him and not the other blind beggar.
The two blind men cried out to Jesus - "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" (Matt. 20:30). The title "Son of David" was a popular Jewish designation for the Messiah, though it wasn't used exclusively in that sense (cf. Matt. 1:20). It very well may be that these blind men believe Jesus to be the Christ. They are evidently not satisfied in referring to Him simply as "Jesus of Nazareth," as some in the multitude had done (cf. Luke 18:37).
According to Matthew 20:31, the men were warned to be quiet. The people of the multitude were thinking of their own comfort and dignity instead of sympathizing with the unfortunate. They either didn't enjoy the interruption to their conversations or didn't think that Jesus should be bothered with men like this. Perhaps some, believing that Jesus was about to be crowned king, thought that it was time for Him to stop paying so much attention to beggars and start assuming the dignity of royalty.
"But they cried out all the more" (Matt. 20:31). Bartimaeus and his companion possessed a spirit like Jacob's-- the more resistance they encountered, the more vigorously they wrestled to obtain the blessing (cf. Gen. 32:24ff). It is always a wonderful thing to see a soul learn about God and pursue Him excitedly. It is a tragedy that there are so many others who discourage such a pursuit, sometimes even those who profess to be in the "triumphant procession."
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.