Scriptures

Did Jesus Heal Bartimaeus When He Was Leaving Or Approaching Jericho?

Introduction

‘Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So, they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.’ Mark 10:46-52

‘As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.’ Matthew 20:29-34

‘As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard, the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.’ Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus passed through Jericho, a blind beggar cried out. The crowds tried to silence him, thinking that the Lord should not be bothered with such unimportant people but Jesus called the blind man to come to Him and healed him. The beggar began to follow Him. Few rich men followed the Lord, Mark 10:17-22, but many of the poor and downtrodden did.

Matthew 20:29-34 mentions that there were two blind men. In Mark’s account of this healing, he mentions only the outspoken blind man of the two who approached Jesus. Jesus, Son of David was a common Jewish term that was used in reference to the Messiah. On His way to the cross, Jesus received this proclamation of who He was.

He was the Prophet, the Seed of woman who was the fulfilment of all messianic prophecies, Genesis 3:15 / Luke 24:44. It’s interesting to note that these blind men recognised who Jesus was, but the theologians of Jerusalem who claimed to know the Scriptures couldn’t understand what they clearly saw.

Though many warned this blind man to be quiet, he cried out even louder his belief that Jesus was the Son of David. He cried out his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. His outcry would be the work of all disciples after the events of Acts 2. Since Jesus fulfilled all prophecies concerning the Messiah, then He is the Messiah. Their plea would be that Israel accept Him as the Messiah.

When did this happen?

According to Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 10:46-52 the miracle took place when they were

‘leaving’ Jericho.

According to Luke 8:35-43 it appears the miracle took place as the Lord was

‘approaching’ Jericho.

At that time, there were two cities named Jericho, the city destroyed by Joshua, Joshua 6:24-26 which was rebuilt and destroyed several times and one subsequently built a little further west by Herod the Great. The ruins of these are still evident. The curing of the blind men could have taken place after the Lord had passed through the tell of old Jericho and before he entered Herod’s Jericho.

Bible critics point out that the accounts of the healing of the blind men at Jericho as recorded by Matthew and Mark on the one hand, and Luke on the other, reveal

‘an apparent discrepancy’.

The verses we should read are, Matthew 20:29 / Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35.

Matthew tells us that as the Lord was ‘leaving Jericho’ there were two blind men sitting by the roadside. Mark’s account also states that, as He was ‘leaving Jericho’ Jesus healed a blind beggar, who Mark identifies as ‘Bartimaeus’. He translates this name for his readers as ‘son of Timaeus’. Luke describes the healing of a blind man occurring as Jesus ‘approached Jericho’.

There are two questions that call for answers, and they are,

1. Were two bind men healed, or only one?

2. Did the healing occur on leaving Jericho or on entering Jericho?

It’s sometimes suggested that in order to resolve the perceived ‘conflict’ in these accounts we should assume that these verses record two separate events, but I believe that this explanation is unnecessary.

How many blind men were there?

I have no difficulty accepting that there were, as Matthew states, two blind men healed. This is stated so plainly that there can be no argument. The reason why Mark specifically names just one of them, Bartimaeus, is that he was apparently well-known in the Jericho region. This is suggested by the fact that the Greek text of Mark 10:46 translates quite literally as ‘the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus the blind beggar’. The naming of the father in this way probably indicates that he was a man of some standing in Jericho.

Notice, also, the use of the definite article,

‘the blind beggar’,

not

‘a blind beggar’.

There would be little point in naming the father and son in this way, if they were unknown in the community. This also suggests that the healing of Bartimaeus was given more prominence than that of his blind, anonymous companion, because he was a familiar figure in Jericho. It was quite common for beggars, whether blind or otherwise disabled, to become familiar figures in the towns and cities in which they lived.

We have examples of this in John 9, which records the healing of another blind man, and also in the account of the curing of the lame man, mentioned in Acts 4. Both were clearly very familiar figures. Again, it may even be that Bartimaeus was the more vociferous, more vocal, of the two blind men in clamouring for the attention of Jesus. This seems to be suggested in Mark’s account.

Where did the miracle occur?

Remember that Matthew and Mark say, ‘leaving Jericho’ whilst Luke says, ‘approaching Jericho’. Now this appears to be a very clear contradiction. Is it possible to reconcile the two accounts?

Well, I suggest that, if we spend a short time looking at Jericho’s history and geography, we shall find it easier to resolve the problem.

‘Old Jericho’

Although this event is one of only two references to Jericho found in the Gospels, we must remember that it was a city which, by that time, had already existed for many centuries. This is a fact firmly established by archaeological research.

The first excavation of the Jericho site was carried out by a team of German archaeologists in the years 1907 to 1909, and their work was followed by an expedition by the British School of Archaeology led by Professor John Garstang, which lasted from 1929 to 1936, and which was followed in 1952 by that of the American archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon.

The latest, and I believe the last, work on what is known as ‘The Garstang Trench’ was done in 1957, after which the political climate in Palestine virtually ended the archaeological work of foreign nationals.

Many Jericho’s

However, the most important result to emerge from this work was the discovery of the earliest stratified levels revealing human occupation, ever found at any archaeological site anywhere in the world. The mound at Ancient Jericho has revealed periods of human occupation down to a level of 45 feet, and scholars now believe that the top, most evidence of human occupation of the site occurred about 1700 B.C., whilst the lowest remains, found on the bedrock of the trench, are thought to date from 7000 B.C.

Remember, that the current site of ancient Jericho is actually a mound that ‘grew’ through thousands of years. It ‘grew’ simply because when the original settlement built on the bedrock, was abandoned, those who later resettled the site did not clear it but merely built upon it. In this way, the level of the occupied site was raised, strata upon strata, until it became the mound it is today. The various levels can be clearly seen on the sides of the 45-feet deep trench.

This means that Jericho was an ancient Canaanite city long before it was destroyed by Joshua, Joshua 4:24 and there is evidence that, after its destruction by the Israelite army, in the course of its long history, the city was destroyed several times.

After the city had been conquered it was given to the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:21. Later, during the time of the Judges, it was occupied by the Moabites, led by their King Eglon, at which time it was known as

‘The City of the Palms’ Judges 1:16 / Judges 3:13

Later still, we read in 1 Kings 6:14, that it was ‘rebuilt’ by Hiel of Bethel, in the time of King Ahab. And it was yet again destroyed at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, and later rebuilt once more.

Between the Testaments

It was during the Inter-Testamental Period that Jericho came under Roman control and was governed by a ‘Captain’, ‘Strategos’, in Latin, and during its time under the Romans, the city was given to Cleopatra, by Mark Anthony, and she ‘leased’ it to Herod the Great for 200 talents.

King Herod then built a new city south of the old one, complete with a castle, an amphitheatre, a hippodrome, and beautiful gardens with various water-features, and Jericho became his winter-residence. In fact, this is where he died in 4 B.C.

This city, known as ‘Herodian Jericho’, later suffered the fate of earlier cities. It was destroyed by the Emperor Vespasian, in 68 A.D. But the important fact is that this city, virtually adjoining the old site, was the city which Jesus knew.

We could continue to follow Jericho’s turbulent history through succeeding centuries, turbulent, because it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Moslems destroyed in 638 A.D. Egyptian soldiers destroyed it in 1840. In 1871, it was destroyed by fire. And after each destruction it was rebuilt.

Jesus and Jericho

But, although it would be interesting to study this later history, what concerns us at the moment is the fact that the miraculous healing occurred when Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem for the last time, after leaving Galilee in the north. Matthew 19:1.

Jericho was the last halt for pilgrims when they travelled to ‘The City of David’ from Galilee and Perea. They came by way of Jericho, to avoid passing through Samaria, and Jesus, descending from the north, would first enter and pass through what archaeologists call ‘Canaanite Jericho’ that is our ‘old Jericho’, where the ‘Garstang Trench’ has been excavated, and he would then enter ‘Herodian Jericho’.

In other words, there was a point at which he left the ruins of the ancient city and passed into the modern city built by Herod. When we take into consideration the geographical proximity of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ cities, it is not difficult to reconcile the statements made by the Gospel writers, He was ‘leaving’ Canaanite Jericho and ‘entering’ Herodian Jericho.

The Gospel records, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, contain no contradictions when we take into consideration such matters as their geographical and historical setting.

Summary

There is no contradiction between the Gospel accounts and don’t miss the thrust of what He is teaching. Jesus accepted the humble, even though the disciples tried to turn them away. He accepted the man who worked for Him but wasn’t in His personal company.

He welcomed the children, He invited the blind beggar, He rejected those we might have accepted, a rich ruler with so much to offer, and all those who sought position and greatness. The great one in the kingdom is the servant.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

2 Timothy 3:16

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