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 20:29-45
The crowd objected to the two blind men stealing (or at the very least, delaying) their blessing. “Your need is interrupting our blessing!” What worried them so much? Was it that they thought Jesus only had so much to give, so much in his bag of blessings, and if he stopped to give something to these derelicts, it’ll take something away from them? Or was it that the atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation of what he was going to do for them, like participants on a TV game show, they were waiting to see if they’d won the daily double? And the game show host was distracted from his job of handing out the prizes to them!
By the way, I called the blind men “derelicts” because in their day, just about the only way a blind person could survive was to beg, like these two “on the roadside.” They were like the person we see on the city sidewalk or at the traffic light holding a sign that says, “Fell on hard times, anything helps!” I for one am annoyed when the driver in front of me is holding up traffic while digging through her purse trying to find something to give that “derelict!” I’ve got places to go, people to see, things to do – for God!
Is that what the American church is saying when challenged to know and serve and love the poor? Have you heard about the pastor of a megachurch in So Cal who, when discussing the plans with the church board about building a huge campus for the thousands who attended on Sundays? They had saved millions of dollars for the project and were finalizing their plans for an impressive (and expensive) complex. The pastor, known for his radical compassion for the poor, spoke up: “Hey, instead of buildings, why don’t we construct a much less expensive amphitheater, and give the rest of the money to the poor?!” A shocked pause followed, which lasted until one of the board members with a incredulous look on his face said, “Well… what will we do when it rains?!” The pastor also paused, looking for the right words, and then replied, “Uh… get wet?” The need of the poor was interrupting their blessing!
Jesus, in contrast to the blessing seekers, had “compassion” on the two hurting men. To the annoyance of the riders, he stopped the blessing bus, climbed down and transformed the reality of two forgotten travellers. Oh, and when they received their sight, is it any surprise that they also “followed him”? It says at the beginning of the passage that the large crowd (of blessing chasers) “followed him” too, but I suspect that their “following” was drastically different than the following of the two formerly blind beggars. The one followed hoping something would fall out of his pockets (so to speak) and into theirs. My guess is that the other followed out of gratitude, most likely hoping to actually become familiar with the man of mercy. Crowds of people gather on Sundays, a portion of which are “followers” of the former sort – blessing-mongers many, annoyed by the interruptions to the acquisition of their comfort and contentment. Another portion are thankful followers, grateful for any mercy falling on them from the compassionate one, who stopped the bus long enough for them to get on.