Lesson 89: The Ambition of James and John / Blind Bartimeus Healed / Zaccheus
Matt. 20:20-34, Mark 10: 35-52, Luke 18:35-19:10
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 89. O.K. Jesus was still on the road to Jerusalem. After the rich young ruler and the parable of the vineyard; Jesus called the apostles aside and told them what was going to happen in Jerusalem. That was our last lesson. Then, somewhere along the way, Jesus was approached by and unusual request recorded by Matthew and Mark. Let's start with Matthew 20:20. We'll read through v.28. Are you ready? Starting with Matt. 20:20. Let's read. "Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Mark's record of this occasion begins in Mark 10:35 and continues down through v.45. So, let's read Mark, beginning in Mark:10:35. Ready? "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great one exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
It's very difficult to UNLEARN something. The wide spread concept among the Jews that the messiah would usher in a temporal kingdom like David and Solomon; had such a grip on the mind of the Jewish community, it simply over shadowed every other thought. This is much easier for us for the simple reason we've had a number of years to digest, deal with and adjust to the spiritual idea. But, you must remember; the spiritual kingdom idea was NEW to those people. The Mosaic law and the Israelite nation were simply not in that class. So, why wouldn't we expect them to have some trouble? Secondly, they WANTED a great earthly government (or kingdom) controlled by the Jews themselves. Some fantasize even today about a 1000 year reign sometime in the future, a rapture (as they call it) and how everything is going to be perfected upon this old earth; but, there
is simply NO scripture to indicate such. However, once that idea is imbedded in the mind; the idea seems to be almost unshakable. So, we see the same forces at work today. But, in the days of Jesus, it seems that they just couldn't think in terms of anything other than a physical kingdom. That's the reason, when Jesus told them he would die in Jerusalem; their mental block simply would not allow them to assimilate such a thought. Jesus had called it a kingdom, repeatedly, because that term described the concept very well and got their attention. But, it was only AFTER THE FACT of Jesus' death and resurrection; that, the spiritual kingdom idea dawned upon them like the sun peeping over the horizon. The mother of James and John visualized something big in a materialistic way, thrones, officers, servants and the works. So, she was trying to take advantage of their close past relationship with Jesus to get her boys IN on the ground floor. Matthew gives the conversation as initiated by Zebedee's wife, the mother of James and John. But, Mark gives the conversation as initiated by James and John, THEMSELVES. Actually, it was both the boys and their mother. They asked Jesus to grant their request before they even told him what they wanted. Jesus knew their thoughts, as John himself wrote many years later, John 2:25. But, Jesus insisted on them stating their request, so he could properly rebuke their ambitions. To sit on the right hand and on the left hand of the Icing was another way of saying: make my two son your two top deputies or aides. Jesus said: "Ye know not what you ask..." And, you and I can see that they had no concept of what they were asking; because, their whole concept of the kingdom was faulty. When Jesus said, "can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" He made reference to his suffering. This is a figurative use of both the word "cup" and the word "baptism." The cup idea meant to carry through with the portion of suffering assigned. The baptism idea meant to be over-whelmed with suffering. James and John said they could. They were familiar with the use of those words; but, they were thinking of some battle or some hazardous thing associated with a civil kingdom that they might be called upon to do. They were committed enough. They were promising to give it their all. But again they didn't know what they were saying. Mark says in v.41, "when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John." Obviously, that's because they were thinking in the same vein as James and John and thus looked upon their action as unfair competition. So, Jesus called the twelve together for a little conference, apparently very much like he had done only recently, when he talked to them about his death in Jerusalem. In Jesus' words he told them the difference between worldly greatness and spiritual greatness. Like everything else; this apparently didn't do much for the apostles' attitude at that time; but, there is a great lesson here for us. In Christ's kingdom, greatness is measured in humility and service. In an earthly kingdom, greatness is measured by glory and power. And we have no less problem with this today than the apostles and disciples had then in keeping this distinction and being obedient to the same. "Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." When we learn to think like that; we can k spiritually.
O.K. let's read some more, on the Jericho road. Glance at your map! Find Jericho! That was in the edge of the plain down in the Jordan valley. That stretch of road up the mountain side from Jericho to Jerusalem was about 20 miles. Jerusalem has an elevation almost 3/4 of a mile higher than Jericho. It's that stretch of road we talked about in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The incident in Matt. 20:29-34 happened as they were leaving Jericho. Have you got that? Matt. ch. 20, beginning in v.29, let's read. "And as they departed form 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, 0 Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, have mercy on us, 0 Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him." Alright, on to Mark ch. 10, the last seven verses. Mark 10:46 beginning. Are you ready? "And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimeus, the son of Tinieus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."
Luke also recorded this occasion at the end of Luke ch. 18. There are nine verses in Luke's account. Let's read. Beginning in Luke 18:35. "And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passed by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God."
After reading all three accounts; I think there is little that I could say that would improve your understanding. Matthew mentions two blind men where as Mark and Luke mention only one man and his name is given in Mark as Bartimeus. The one named Bartimeus stood out in that it would appear that he had made preparation and was waiting for Jesus to come by, i.e. he was expecting Jesus and thus did not want to miss him. He had stationed himself by the gate or roadway hoping Jesus would restore his sight. This fact probably eclipses the second beggar in the last two accounts. Being a beggar AND being blind would be a terrible combination. Bartimeus had decided he was going to get Jesus' attention some way or another. Some tried to silence him, but he simply yelled louder. Some may have tried to silence him because they DID NOT believed in Jesus as the messiah; they didn't want Bartimeus to address Jesus as "Thou Son of David"; which was a common term used for years by the Jews synonymous with the term "messiah." Others who thought of Jesus as an earthly king may have though Jesus should be associating with royalty instead of beggars. But Jesus talked with and treated beggars and rich young rulers with the same honor and respect.
Let's read the first ten verses of Luke ch. 19, the story of Zaccheus. Luke 19:1-10. Are you ready? "And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zaccheus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little in stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him; for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. And he made hast, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zaccheus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
O.K. following the story of Zaccheus there is a parable of about 17 verses. That parable should be connected to this lesson; but, for lack of time we'll save that until our next lesson. Zaccheus was a publican like Matthew. I would assume he was an employer of other publicans, possibly what we would call a contractor, from the fact it says "he was the chief among the publicans." He was a Jew as indicated by the words "a son of Abraham" in v.9. He was very wealthy. Probably a collector of toll AT or NEAR Jericho for the Romans. This is the only instance in which Jesus INVITED HIMSELF to anyone's house. It seems to have been the LAST THING that Zaccheus anticipated. Zaccheus considered it a treat just to see Jesus. This fact along with Bartimeus tells us that the coming of Jesus to Jericho had been well publicized. So, being a short man and having a flair for accomplishment; Zaccheus stationed himself in a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus in the midst of a crowd. The sycamore tree in Palestine is nothing like our sycamore tree that grows along the streams in America. Jesus knew the hearts of all men. V.6 says Zaccheus received Jesus joyfully. You can see from v.7 that the Jews in general, as we've said before, classified publicans as sinners and used the words interchangeably. But, in spite of the fact that Zaccheus had disappointed his fellow countrymen in working for the Romans; Zaccheus was proud of the fact that HIs wealth was not obtained by fraudulent means. The odds he offered for anyone to point out his error, in this respect, seems adequate to establish his point. Some think the wording in v.8 implies that he gave the half of his goods to the poor, day by day, and thus was not a bragging statement. I get the impression from v.9 that Jesus was impressed with Zaccheus and he believed and became a disciple. Jesus went only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:6); but, this man, being a Jew, fit that criteria. V.10 may very well be the clearest statement in the N.T. in defining Jesus' mission upon the earth, "the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost." Again, this shows that Jesus was interested in the hearts of men and made no distinction on the basis of class, rich or poor. We'll get back to the parable that follows in our next lesson. until then, have a good day.