A wise person once taught me that we should read the four gospels, looking primarily for what they have to teach us about the main character, Jesus … and not primarily for how the various secondary characters might mirror ourselves. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are theological biographies of Christ, first of all. And so, when we read them, that is what we should expect to learn, principally: about Jesus – about His person, His work, His life, His death, His teaching, and so on. In the same way that, if you picked up a biography of Abraham Lincoln, you would expect to learn mainly about Lincoln. Yes, you’d also learn a good bit about the American presidency, and the Civil War, and the issue of slavery, and so on. But all those things would create the backdrop for the chief portrait the author hopes to present to you – namely that of Abraham Lincoln. And that is a good way to think about our reading of the four gospels. We read them first of all, hoping to see and learn of Christ.
And yet, there are other people who come onto the scene in the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – men and women who interact with Jesus; who believe (or disbelieve) in Jesus; who love (or hate) Jesus. And, while these men and women are not the primary characters in the gospel narratives, they do often have a great deal to teach us – especially in the realm of how we should (or should not) also respond to the same Jesus whom they encountered. And I came across an interesting pair of them (one right after the other) as I read in Loraine Boettner’s A Harmony of the Gospels this week – Bartimaeus and Zaccheus.
Jesus met both men on a trip to the city of Jericho. And it would appear that these two men were from quite different sides of the tracks – one a “blind beggar … sitting by the road” (Mark 10.46); the other “a chief tax collector” who “was rich” (Luke 19.2). Two very different men … outwardly at least! But have you ever noticed how similar they were in one respect? Both of them were all-out in their desire to get to Jesus!
Bartimaeus could hear a whole mass of people going by him on the way into the city. And he began asking what the hubbub was all about (Luke 18.36). And when he found out that it was Jesus making His way down the road … well, Bartimaeus couldn’t contain himself, and began to holler out for Him! And when some good and proper folks began to try and quiet him down, Bartimaeus only increased the fervor of his cries! Because he just had to get the attention of Jesus! He just had to have His help! And he wasn’t going to ssshhh himself until he got it! And what an example he is – what a rebuke to me in my often lackluster prayer life. Why don’t I cry out to Jesus like that? Why am I not so desperate?
And why am I not so eager as Zaccheus, too? Do you remember him in Luke 19? He was ‘a wee little man’ as we sing – "small in stature", as Luke 19.3 tells us, a little less colorfully. And so he couldn’t see over the crowds to get a good look at Jesus. But Zaccheus just had to see Him. Just had to. And so he climbed up into what became probably the most famous sycamore tree known to mankind … and got himself a front row seat! Zaccheus was eager to see the Lord! But why am I not always that eager to see Jesus? Why do I so often leave my Bible shut beside me? Why do I so little anticipate His coming again?
O, to be more like these two men of Jericho – to be as desperate for Christ’s help as Bartimaeus was; and as eager to see Him as Zaccheus! I hope that you will be convicted by their examples, too … and encouraged by how Jesus responded to them both with such mercy! The Lord loves to hear, and meet, and answer, and bless desperate, eager souls. So let’s be eager to be more eager; and pray desperately that we might become more desperate … for Jesus!