Sometimes those closest to Jesus understand nothing, while someone with no ‘Jesus history’ comprehends immediately. It has always been so.
Jesus explains to his disciples that Jerusalem, their portentous destination, holds out for him no obvious good:
And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ (Luke 18:31–33 ESV)
The disciples’ response to these ill winds is captured with unusual psychological precision:
But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:34 ESV)
They were not simply incredulous, capturing the point but imagining that things could not possibly be so dire. Rather, they understood nothing.
By contrast, a blind beggar on the outskirts of Jericho asks what all the commotion is about as Jesus and his entourage pass by. The man, entirely dependent on information passed to him by strangers, cannot see. Yet he sees.
And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ And he cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Luke 18:36–39 ESV)
The man’s faith is embarrassingly noisy. More proper people strive in vain to make him dumb as well as blind. But he’ll have none of it, so passing boisterously into that list of anonymous heroes who are read about these twenty centuries hence.
And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him,’What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. (Luke 18:40–43 ESV)
Unlike the blind man’s impatient neighbors, Jesus is not bound by propriety. Perhaps annoyed by the incomprehension of his closest friends, Jesus is drawn to this sightless, loud beggar.
We poor beggars in these latter times are fortunate that this is Jesus’ way. Otherwise, we’d remain behind, sightless, silenced and without hope as Jesus and his crowds trudge on to their appointment in distant Jerusalem.