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In Luke 18 and 19 we read of incidents that took place as Jesus approached Jericho (Luke 18:35) and again as Jesus passed through Jericho (Luke 19:1). We know He stopped for the night at the house of Zaccheus (Luke 19:5), and then proceeded up the hill toward Jerusalem (Luke 19:11).
From there Jesus “approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet” (Luke 19:29) and then came to the Mount of Olives itself (Luke 19:29). Luke omits the story of Lazarus that is found in John 11. As we will see later, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead on the first day of the first month, two weeks before He was crucified. Therefore it is plain that Luke skipped many details in order to focus on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His verbal conflict with the religious leaders.
To put the timing into perspective, Lazarus was raised on the first day of the month, and Jesus’ triumphal entry occurred on the ninth day of the month. The following day (Mark 11:12) Jesus cursed the fig tree, and then the religious leaders then “began seeking how to destroy Him (Mark 11:18). No doubt they were unaware that they were choosing Jesus as the Passover Lamb, so that He could fulfill those prophecies.
Essentially, Jesus went to Jerusalem, knowing that His time had come to die. He understood that this was His destiny and calling. He understood the prophecies in the law, the prophets, and the psalms which pointed to His death. For this reason, Jesus threw aside all caution and confronted the religious leaders in their own “den of robbers,” forcing them either to accept Him as the Messiah or kill Him as the Passover Lamb.
Luke 18:35 says,
35 And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging.
We are told more details in Mark10:46,
46 And they came to [old] Jericho. And as He was going out from Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.
There seems to be a contradiction between Luke and Mark. Luke says that the blind man was begging as Jesus was approaching Jericho, but Mark says the incident took place as Jesus was leaving Jericho.
The problem is resolved when we realize that there were two Jerichos in that day.
The Old Testament site of Tell es-Sultan is in the distance and is the city Joshua destroyed. In Jesus' day a new center had been constructed on the wadi banks in the foreground by the Hasmonean rulers and Herod the Great.
Hence, Luke was telling us that Jesus was leaving the ancient city of Jericho—the city that Joshua conquered—when He encountered the blind man. But Mark says that the blind man was begging along the road as Jesus approached New Jericho a mile up the road. We may conclude, then, that the blind man was situated somewhere between the two cities.
We also learn from Mark’s account that the man’s name was Bar-Timaeus, which means “son of Timaeus.” In other words, the beggar’s father was named Timaeus. The story is also recorded in Matthew 20:29-34, but with no new details. Between Mark and Luke, however, we are given many different details.
But first, when we view this story from a prophetic standpoint, we see the connection between the two Joshuas, each named Yeshua. When Jesus crossed the Jordan and came to old Jericho, He was following the path taken by His predecessor, Joshua. It was therefore necessary for Him to go directly to the old Jericho that had been overthrown by Joshua.
Israel’s conquest of Jericho was the prophetic type. The healing of Bar-Timaeus illustrates the prophetic antitype. The name Timaeus means “perfect, admirable, honorable.” It is from the Greek word timao, which means “to value, hold in honor.” To honor is to consider something valuable. Jesus valued Bar-Timaeus and came to perfect his eyesight. Hence, in the broad view, Jericho itself represented imperfection, and as long as Bar-Timaeus remained there, he lived in a state of imperfection.
Jericho which was cast down by Joshua as a prophetic act in order to bring that which was perfect. As we will see in the next chapter, Jesus came against the popular beliefs of the people by treating Zaccheus with honor, holding him to be of value for the Kingdom, and in so doing, He metaphorically overthrew Jericho in order to bring forth the Kingdom mindset.
The prophetic significance of this is more striking when we note that in the book of Revelation, Babylon is patterned after the city of Jericho. Hence, Jericho is a type of Babylon and Mystery Babylon, which is overthrown when Yeshua the Ephraimite comes to lead us into the Kingdom. The imperfect is then replaced by the perfect, and those of value (typed by Rahab) are “saved.”
This is, perhaps, better understood when we see Bar-Timaeus as a biblical answer to Plato’s Timaeus, which had been written some centuries earlier. Plato wrote this book as a philosophy of creation, showing the progression from chaos to order. It was then related to the human body, showing the progression from disease to healing. Philosophically, Plato spoke of the world’s body, using individual body parts as illustrations.
This is too large a topic to discuss fully, but one may read a fuller description here:
The connection of Timaeus to Jericho is seen in the fact that the name Jericho is derived from the Hebrew word yerach, “moon.” Jericho is Moon City. The moon can represent different things depending on its context, but in this case the moon is the lesser light, which might correlate with Plato’s “lesser gods” (i.e., mankind). Plato and Scripture share one main theme, for each (according to different viewpoints) present a path to perfection.
Even as the moon progresses from a sliver to a full moon, so also does God use time and history to move from the fall of Adam to the manifestation of the sons of God in the Kingdom.
Joshua’s entry into the Promised Land brought him to Jericho, the full moon being the prophetic type. Jesus’ trip to Jericho heals Bar-Timaeus and brings Him into the Kingdom as a follower of Christ. Even as Plato illustrates creation in terms of healing body parts, so also is this literally fulfilled when the eyes of Bar-Timaeus are healed.
Keep in mind also that Dr. Luke’s overall purpose in his gospel was to heal breaches. As a doctor, he had special interest and insight into the legal and prophetic aspects of the healing miracles that Jesus did. This case, like so many others, was more than just a miracle of healing. It was about the broader issue of healing creation and also about healing the Kingdom itself, which had suffered violence since the days of Moses.
Luke 18:36-38 continues,
36 Now hearing a multitude going by, he began to inquire what this might be. 37 And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38 And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
It appears that the beggar had heard about Jesus from passing travelers on that road, for he recognized Jesus as the “Son of David,” that is, the heir of the throne of David. He called out to Him, asking Jesus for mercy (Greek: eleeo).
The Greek word Luke chooses here is not the same as what we saw in Luke 18:13, where the publican prayed, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” In that case, he used the word hilaskomai, (“merciful”), which had to do with covering sin (Hebrew: kapporeth).
The word eleeo, however, answers to the Hebrew word chesed, “benevolent zeal, lovingkindness, or favor.” The blind man was appealing to Jesus’ compassion and asking Him to show lovingkindness by healing him. Some of the townspeople, however, who were escorting Jesus into the second Jericho, were not so kind and merciful. Instead of taking him by the hand and leading Him to Jesus, Luke 18:39 says,
39 And those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Once again, we see the compassion that contrasted Jesus from many others:
40 And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he had come near, He questioned him, 41 “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well [sozo, “saved”].” 43 And immediately he regained his sight, and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.
By telling the people to bring the blind man to Him, He gave the crowd a verbal slap on the wrist. Jesus recognized the man’s faith and attributed the healing to his own faith. “Your faith has made you well,” or more literally, “your faith has saved you.”
Jesus’ question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” seems tasteless to our Western ears. But in those days beggars were seen as a necessary component of society, giving people the opportunity to give alms. Kenneth Bailey writes of this:
“In traditional Middle Eastern society beggars are a recognized part of the community and are understood to be offering ‘services’ to it. Every pious person is expected to give to the poor… The traditional beggar does not say, ‘Excuse me, Mister, do you have a few coins for a crust of bread?’ Instead, he sits in a public place and challenges the passerby with ‘Give to God!’ He is really saying, ‘My needs are beside the point. I am offering you a golden opportunity to fulfill one of your obligations to God. Furthermore, this is a public place, and if you give to me here, you will gain a reputation as an honorable, compassionate, pious person.’
“When a beggar receives money (whatever the amount) he usually stands up and in a loud voice proclaims the giver to be the most noble person he has ever met and invokes God’s grace and blessing on the giver, his family, his friends, and associates, his going out and coming in, and many other good things. Such public praise is surely worth the small sum given the beggar.” (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 173)
The potential problem with a beggar being healed is that his healing means that he can no longer make a living by begging. Such people would have no skill or education or even the strength to be employed. So Jesus’ question was a serious one. So also was the response.
Bar-Timaeus was then saved and healed of his blindness. What else could he do but follow Jesus? Luke 18:43 concludes,
43 And immediately he regained his sight, and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.
Perhaps this indicates that he followed Jesus all the way to Jerusalem and witnessed the events that occurred about two weeks later. We know almost nothing of him, other than that he became one of Jesus’ disciples.
Bar-Timaeus represents the nation of Israel coming into the Promised Land at Jericho. For this reason, Mark 10:49 includes a detail that connects Bar-Timaeus to Israel.
40 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, arise! He is calling for you.”
Recall that God spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses, telling him in Joshua 1:6, 7,
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous….
What God told Joshua, then, was passed on to the blind man. He did take courage, found healing, and began to follow Jesus from that moment (Mark 10:52).
Recall also that during their forty years in the wilderness, they had been blind. Moses tells the people in Deut. 29:4, 5,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness….
The healing of Bar-Timaeus not only fulfilled the type in the days of Joshua, but it also prophesies of the Church that has been in its own wilderness for forty Jubilees. Once Yeshua leads the Church to Jericho, it too will be healed of blindness. Yet perhaps before this blindness is removed, the Church must first recognize that it is blind. Perhaps that is the implication of Jesus’ question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” If Bar-Timaeus had not known of his blindness, he would not have asked Jesus for healing.
Jesus’ question seems trivial to us, because the answer was so obvious, but physical blindness is far easier to recognize than inner blindness to truth. The Israelites in Joshua’s day probably had difficulty recognizing their own blindness as well, for such blindness is not recognized until the time of healing arrives.
The healing of Bar-Timaeus, though, gives us hope and confidence that the blindness during the Pentecostal Age will be lifted as we come into the Age of Tabernacles.