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The Opening of the Eyes of the Two Blind Men Near Jericho

by Richard Chenevix Trench
Chapter 30 from The Miracles of our Lord
Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-42


The adjusting of the several records of this miracle has put the ingenuity of harmonists to the stretch. St. Matthew commences his report of it as follows: “And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.  And behold, two blind men, sitting by the wayside, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us O Lord, Thou Son of David.’  Thus, according to him, the Lord is departing from Jericho, and the petitioners are two.  St. Luke appears at first sight to contradict both these statements; for him the healed is but one; and Christ effects his cure at his coming nigh to the city.  St. Mark occupies a middle place, holding in part with one of his fellow Evangelists, in part with the other; with St. Luke in naming but one who was healed; with St. Matthew in placing the miracle, not at the entering into, but the going out of Jericho; so that the three narratives curiously cross and interlace one another.  To escape all difficulties of this kind there is the ready suggestion always at hand, that the sacred historians are recording different events, and that therefore there is nothing to reconcile.  But in fact we do not thus evade, we only exchange, our embarrassment.  Accepting this solution, we must believe that in the immediate neighborhood of Jericho, our Lord was thrice besought in almost the same words by blind beggars on the wayside for mercy;--that on all three occasions there was a multitude accompanying Him who sought to silence the voices of the claimants, but only caused them to cry the more;--that in each case Jesus stood still and demanded what they wanted;--that in each case they made the same reply in very nearly the same words;--and a great deal more.  All this is so unnatural, so unlike anything in actual life, so unlike the infinite variety which the incidents of the Gospels present, that for myself I should prefer almost any explanation to this. 

The three apparently discordant accounts of this miracle, no one of them entirely agreeing with any other, can at once be reduced to two by that rule, which in all reconciliation of parallel histories must be applied, namely, that the silence of one narrator is in itself no contradiction of the statement of another; thus the second and the third Evangelist making mention of one blind man, do not contradict St. Matthew, who mentions two.  There remains only the circumstance that by one Evangelist the healing is placed at the Lord’s entering into the city, by the others at His going out.  This is no sufficient ground to justify a duplication of the fact; and Bengel, as I must needs believe, with his usual happy tact, has selected the right reconciliation of the difficulty; namely, that one cried to Him as He drew near the city, whom yet He cured not then, but on the morrow at His going out of the city cured him together with the other, to whom in the meanwhile he had joined himself.  St. Matthew will then relate by prolepsis, as is not uncommon with all historians, the whole of the event where he first introduces it, rather than, by cutting it in two halves, and deferring the conclusion, preserve a more painful accuracy, yet lose the effect which the complete history related at a breath would possess. 

In the cry with which these blind men sought to attract the pity of Christ there lay on their part a recognition of His dignity as the Messiah; for this name, ‘Son of David,’ was the popular designation of the great expected Prophet (Matt. 9:27; 21:9; 22:42; cf. Ezek. 34:23, 24).  There was thus on their part a double confession first that He could heal them, and secondly, not merely as a prophet from God, but as the Prophet, as the one at whose coming the eyes of the blind should be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5).  In the case of the man blind from his birth (John 9) we have the same confessions, but following, and not preceding, the cure, and with intervals between; so that first he acknowledges Him as a prophet (ver. 17), and only later as the Christ (ver. 38).  Here the explanation has been sometimes found of what follows: ‘The multitude rebuked them, because they would not hold their peace;’  as though they grudged to hear given to Jesus titles of honour, which they were not themselves prepared to accord Him.  We should then have here a parallel to Luke 19:39; only that there the Pharisees would have Christ Himself to rebuke those that were glorifying Him, while here the multitude take the rebuking into their own hands.  But while it was quite in the spirit of the envious malignant Pharisees to be vexed with those Messianic salutations: ‘Blessed be the King, that cometh in the name of the Lord;’ these well-meaning multitudes, rude and in the main spiritually undeveloped as no doubt they were, were yet exempt from such spiritual malignities.  They for the most part sympathize with the Lord and His work (Matt. 9:8).  While others said that His miracles were wrought in the power of Beelzebub, they glorified God because of them.  And here, too, I cannot doubt but that out of an intention of honouring Christ they sought to silence these suppliants.  He may have been teaching as He went, and they would not have Him interrupted by ill-timed and unmannerly clamours. 

But the voices of these suppliants are not to be stifled so.  On the contrary, ‘they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David.’  Many admirable applications of this little feature in the narrative have been made.  Is there not here, it has been often asked, the story of innumerable souls?  When any begins to be in earnest about his salvation, to cry that his eyes may be opened, that he may walk in His light who has the light of life, begins to despise the world and objects which other men desire, he will find a vast amount of opposition, and that not from professed enemies of the Gospel of Christ, but from such as seem, like this multitude, to be with Jesus and on His side.  Even they will endeavor to stop his mouth, and to hinder any earnest crying to the Lord.  And then, with a picture from the life, Augustine makes further application in the same line, of what follows, when Jesus, arrested as ever by the cry of need, ‘stood still, and commanded him to be called.  And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, arise; He calleth thee.’  This too, he observes, repeats itself continually in the life of God’s saints.  If a man will only despise and overbear these obstacles from a world which calls itself Christian; if, despite of all opposers, he will go on, until Christ is evidently and plainly with him, then the very same who at the first checked and reprehended, will in the end applaud and admire; they who at first exclaimed, ‘He is mad,’ will end exclaiming, ‘He is a saint.’ 

‘And he, casting away his garments,’ to the end that he might obey with the greater expedition, and without incumbrance, ‘rose and came to Jesus.’  In this his ridding himself of all which would have hindered, he has been often held forth as an example for every soul which Jesus has called, that it should in like manner lay aside every weight and every besetting sin (Matt. 13:44, 46; Phil. 3:7).  The Lord’s question, ‘What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? is, in part, an expression of His readiness to aid, a comment in act upon His own words, spoken but a little while before, ‘The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister’ (Matt. 20:28); is in part intended to invoke into livelier exercise the faith and expectation of the petitioner (Matt. 9:28).  The man, whose cry has been hitherto a vague indeterminate cry for mercy, now singles out the blessing which he craves, designates the channel in which he desires that this mercy should run, ‘Lord, that I might receive my sight.’  Only St. Matthew mentions the touching of the eyes which were to be restored to vision (cf. 9:29), and only St. Luke the word of power, ‘Receive thy sight,’ by which the cure was effected; while he and St. Mark record nearly similar words passed over by St. Matthew: ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’—‘Thy faith hath saved thee’ (cf. Matt. 9:22; Mark 9:23; Luke 17:19).  The man, who had hitherto been tied to one place, now used aright his restored eyesight, for he used it to follow Jesus in the way, and this with the free outbreaks of a thankful heart, himself ‘glorifying God’ (Luke 13:13; 17:15), and being the occasion also that ‘all people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God’ as well (Matt. 9:8; Luke 13:17; Acts 3:8-10).