Notes on Luke 18:35-43

Luke 18:35‑43  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The final scene approaches. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and to present Himself in the flesh to the Jews for the last time. Our evangelist slowly traces this journey (chap. 9:51; 13:22, 31, 33; 17:11; 18:31; 19:28, 29, 37, 41), with the infinite consequences which flow from that cross which, to human eyes, was His rejection, but which faith knows to be the glorifying of God forever, as well as the only possible ground of salvation for sinners.
Jericho held a remarkable place as the way to Jerusalem from the Jordan, and of old, when it stood in its might, the key of the position. Hence its solemn destruction under Joshua; hence the curse pronounced on him who should dare to rebuild it. But there Elisha, after the translation of Elijah and his own crossing through the miraculously parted river, healed the waters. So here the Lord, drawing towards the close of His long and last journey, after the transfiguration, performs a miracle of mercy on the blind man. It was an especial sign of His Messiah-ship; and rightly therefore, led of God, did the blind man call, on Him as Son of David: so the three synoptic gospels carefully record.
It is to be observed however that not Mark or Luke but Matthew records the fact that two blind men were healed at this time. Further, Mark, who as usual adds details of the most graphic description, lets us know that the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, was thus healed as the Lord was going out of Jericho, Matthew also intimating that it was on leaving, not entering, the place. Luke on the other hand has been generally supposed to say that the miracle was performed on entering Jericho. So all the old English translations, Wiclif, Tyndale, Geneva, Cranmer, the Rhemish, as well as the authorized: so the Latin, Syriac, and other ancient versions, with most moderns.
But it appears to me that the Greek phrase is so constructed as to avoid any such conclusion, and that the genuine unforced meaning is “while he was near to Jericho,” ἐν τὦ ἐγγίζείν εἰς Ἱεριχώ. According to the usage of the New Testament there might have been ground for the objection raised, if Luke had employed the genitive absolute, ἐγγίζοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ, or ὡςἤγγισεν (or ἤγγιζεν) εἰς Ἱ. In strict grammatical nicety there is nothing to tie the sense to the entry into Jericho; it means equally well, as far as language is concerned, while the Lord was in the neighborhood.
I cannot doubt that what weighed with translators in general is the fact that chapter 19 opens with the Lord's entering and passing through Jericho. Hence it was assumed that the previously mentioned circumstance must have preceded this in time. And it must be owned that if Luke, as a rule, adhered to the order of occurrence in his account, it would be most natural to translate chapter 18:35 as in the authorized version. But it has been shown throughout our Gospel that he adopts another and. deeper order than the mere sequence of events, and habitually groups the words, works, and ways of our Lord in moral connection, whenever it is needful to this end putting together what may have been far apart in time.
In the present case it seems to have been the mind of the Spirit that all three who dwell on the Galilean ministry of Christ should mark Jericho and the healing of the blind there, as a common starting-point before His last formal appearance in Jerusalem. We can understand therefore why Luke, even if the incident of Zacchaeus occurred after the miracle, should according to his manner postpone his account of it till he had told us of the blind man healed. But there seems to have been a yet stronger reason of similar character in the fact that, if the healing had been introduced after Zacchaeus, when (I have no doubt) it really took place, adherence to the mere chronology of the facts would have spoiled the very impressive order actually adopted, in which we see the tale of Zacchaeus with salvation brought to his house though a chief tax-gatherer, followed at once by the parable of the pounds, which together beautifully set forth the general character and differing objects of the two advents of the Lord, who was about to suffer as the ground of righteousness and salvation for the lost, instead of at once establishing His throne in Zion as others fondly thought. If this were the design of the inspiring Spirit, as I conceive it certainly to be, gathered from the special character traceable throughout its course, it does not seem possible to suggest any other order so admirably calculated to convey it as that which is pursued. Hence the point in verse 35 was to choose a phrase, which, while not breaking the thread of the narrative and of course in words thoroughly consistent with the exact truth, should nevertheless convey the thought of a time or state during which the particular act related took place. This, in my opinion, has been done perfectly in the language of Luke: so much so, that, granting the aim to be as I suppose, no man can desire better words to combine what is intimated or to avoid a false inference for all aware of that design. If on the contrary men, however learned, assume a bare order of fact, this naturally would influence their translation; and so I think we may fairly account for the common mistake.
Accordingly there is no need of resorting to any of the various methods of reconciling Luke's account with Matthew and Mark. We are not driven to the harsh supposition that Luke's blind man was healed before entering Jericho, and that the news of this reached Mark's blind man, Bartimaeus, so that he went through a similar process of appeal on the Lord's exit, as Origen and Augustine supposed in early days, Greswell, &c, in our own time. Nor is it necessary (though undoubtedly quite legitimate, and the fact elsewhere) to suppose that Matthew combined the two instances in one summary. Less reasonable is the view of Euthymius who will have it that all three instances were distinct, and therefore that four blind men were healed at this time near Jericho. Nor is there any substantial ground to argue, as men have done from Calvin to Wordsworth, that the blind man began crying as our Lord approached Jericho but was not healed till another joined him outside, and both received sight as Jesus left the place. Still more violent are the hypotheses of Markland and of Macknight. The truth is that there is nothing in this to reconcile, all being evidently harmonious, when the language of Luke is seen to be such as falls in with the time and place described more precisely by Matthew and Mark. It may be well however to add that Matthew elsewhere names two where Mark and Luke as here speak only of one, as in the case of the demoniacs. (Comp. Matt. 8:28-3428And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. 29And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? 30And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. 31So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. 32And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. 34And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts. (Matthew 8:28‑34) with Mark 6:2020For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. (Mark 6:20) and Luke 8:26-3926And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. 27And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. 29(For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 30And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. 32And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. 33Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. 34When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 36They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. (Luke 8:26‑39).) See also Matt. 9:27-3127And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. 28And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. 31But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country. (Matthew 9:27‑31). This was all right, when the fact (as here) warranted it, in one writing especially for Jews, with whom it was a maxim to demand at least two witnesses. The other evangelists were led to dwell only on the one that best suited the design of his own Gospel.
It is striking also to note that as there was a reason why Matthew, and not Mark or Luke, should record pairs which were healed, so there is the strongest indirect evidence in this against the very poor theory that the omissions of the first evangelist were supplied in measure by the second, and yet more by the third and so on. For it was the earliest who in these instances speaks of the two; which is irreconcilable, on the supplementary theory, with the second and third mentioning but one. The Holy Spirit made them by His power the vessels for setting forth the various fullness of Jesus the Son of God on the earth. Each had his own line given and perfectly carried out, and facts or sayings are recorded by each, whether reported by the others or not, as they bore on his proper object.
“And it came to pass, as he was near unto Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the way side begging; and when he heard a crowd passing, he asked what this was. And they told him, Jesus the Nazarene goeth by; and he called aloud, saying, Jesus, Son of David, pity me. And those in advance rebuked him that he should be silent; but he kept crying much more, Son of David, pity me. And Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, What wilt thou that I should do for thee? And he said, Lord, that I receive sight.1 And Jesus said, Receive sight: thy faith hath healed thee. And at once he received sight, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people saw and gave praise to God.” (Ver. 35-43.)
The Lord is still the rejected One, not understood even by His disciples, yet with a heart towards the most lowly and wretched in Israel who cried to Him in faith. The blind man near Jericho was one of them, and seized the moment of His presence, made known to his sightless eyes by the heedless noise of those who seeing saw not. Blindness in part had happened to Israel in good sooth, blindness most of all to such of them as least acknowledged it. Here was one who, near the city of the curse, dared to confess Him to be the Messiah whom the religious chiefs had long desired to destroy and sooner than they hoped were to be allowed it to the full—dared to ask of Him that sign of opening the eyes of the blind peculiar to the Son of David, as even Rabbinical tradition confessed. The story of His gracious power was not lost on the blind man. Now was his opportunity: might it not be the last? He called aloud; and the more rebuked, the more by far he cried. If to others Jesus was but the Nazarene, to him none other than David's Son. “Son of David, pity me.” And never in vain goes forth the appeal of distress to Him. How pleasant in His ears the persistent call on His name! Jesus stops, commands him to be brought, inquires into his want, and gives all he asks. So will He in the day of His power when Israel (the remnant becoming the people) shall be made willing, shall call on Him and find sight, salvation, and every other good thing to the praise and glory of God.
But it was still the day of His humiliation, of Israel's blind and willful unbelief; and Jesus steadily pursues His sorrowful path to the holy city about to perpetrate the most unhallowed deed of this world's sad history.