And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus…
Eternal salvation depends on right hearing. There are just two kinds of hearing, not three. There is a hearing unto life, and another hearing unto death; but there is no hearing between — none to indifference. You may try to hear merely that you may hear, and let that be the end of it — but that will not be the end of it. The end of it will be life or death! You may resolve that the preaching shall make no difference in you; but it will make a difference in you, and the difference will be salvation or perdition! The gospel leaves no man where it found him. If it be not wings to bear him to heaven, it will be a millstone to sink him to hell. Some of you think it the lightest of pastimes to come to church and hear a sermon.
I. His hearing LED HIM TO ACTION. His very soul seemed to be roused, and he began to do something. Oh, for a pulse of life in those frozen hearts! A flush of blood, even though it were angry blood, in those pale cheeks! "I came to break your head," said a man once to Whitefield, "but by the grace of God you have broken my heart." That was a vile purpose to go to church with, but if he had gone in a complacent frame, and quietly slept or coolly criticised the preacher, it would have been far worse. He would not have carried away that priceless treasure — a broken heart. If what we say is true, why do you not act upon it? If false, how can you bear to be charged with it? If our charges are false, they are also insulting and outrageous. If you believe them to be false, your conduct, in hearing them so calmly, and coming back to hear them again, and even sometimes applauding us for the vehement way in which we assail and denounce you, is perfectly astonishing. Or if you say you believe these things to be true, your conduct is still more amazing. If true, they should concern you infinitely: yet you are not concerned at all. You will call Bartimeus a fool if he does not try to get his eyes opened this very day. But what name will you reserve for yourselves, if, while I this day, as one of these ambassadors of God, offer you pardon and healing and eternal life through Jesus Christ, who now passes by to bestow them, you once more refuse the Saviour, and go on as before toward perdition?
II. This reveals to us the second mark of right hearing — IT FILLS A MAN WITH EARNESTNESS. If he has heard such truth as he ought, he not only acts, but acts with energy. Thus Bartimeus acted. "When he heard he cried out." So it must be with you, O sinners. If you would enter heaven you must be in earnest about it. Let us now see how this earnestness found expression. So shall we have another mark of true hearing.
III. When the gospel is heard aright, IT LEADS TO PRAYER. This was the first thing Bartimeus did, when he was told that Jesus was passing by — he prayed. And this is always the first thing for a lost sinner who hears of Christ — let him pray. A soul truly in earnest after salvation will cry for help. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and when our strength fails, prayer is nature's messenger for helpers. And when did nature fail to pray in her need? Hunger will beg and pain cry out. Though the fever have caused madness, the sufferer will still cry for water. None need teach the babe to clamour for its nurture. Birds can plead for their young, and the dog entreat you, with all the power of speech, to follow him to the forest, where his master lies robbed and bleeding. And has the soul no voice in its sickness unto death? Is the instinct of the brute a sure guide, and do the reason and conscience of men slumber or lie? Or are they quicksighted and honest about bodily wants and earthly things, only to show themselves utterly besotted, when glory, honour, and immortality are at stake? When your souls are in jeopardy, must you be plied with such urgency before you will cry for help? If the voice of grace, sometimes warning, sometimes inviting, cannot wake you and bring you to your knees, God will try the voice of unmixed vengeance.
IV. And do it at once. PROMPTNESS is another mark of a good hearer of the gospel. It is found in Bartimeus. "And when he heard," that is, as soon as he heard, "he began to cry out." But what need of such haste? "Jesus is going slowly," he might say, "and some little while must pass before He is gone. Be sure I will be in time." "Or if He does get a little out of sight," Bartimeus might say, "while I am attending to some little matters, I will run after Him and call Him." "But I only want a little time, and that for most important business," Bartimeus might plead. But if Bartimeus choose to attend to his alms instead of his eyes, see if he has not a still stronger reason. Begging is not only his business, but this happens to be a very "busy season," as we say in the city, or "harvest time," as they say in the country. A multitude was passing! He might go home almost rich — might almost retire from business! And after all has not Providence given him this opportunity, and would it be exactly right to throw it away? So have I heard professors of religion and non-professors reason. So do they put earth's business above all the calls of God.
VI. Two other marks of a good hearer of the gospel are found in Bartimeus. He heard with FAITH AND HUMILITY. He trusted in Jesus and was lowly in heart. His faith even outran the word of the multitude. They spoke of "Jesus of Nazareth," — Nazareth of Galilee — a despised town of a despised province: but he could call Him "Son of David," and "Lord." And how deep was his humility! He hid nothing, pretended nothing. He came as he was. Blind, he came as blind. Poor, he came as poor. A beggar, he came as a beggar. And so it is always. Faith and humility meet in the sinner's experience, not as occasional companions only; they ever walk lovingly together as sisters. They cannot separate. Like the Siamese twins they live in each other's presence alone; should they part, they would die. A sinner cannot believe in Jesus and not be humble; he cannot be truly humble without believing in Jesus.
(Prof. W. J. Hoge.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.