Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet, but they cried out all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" So Jesus stood still and called them and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened." So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.
- Matthew 20:29-34
In yesterday's reading, Jesus, as He began going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again." Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom." But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said Him, "We are able." So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father." And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many."
Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet, but they cried out all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" So Jesus stood still and called them and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened." So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. Of today's reading, my study bible notes, "This last miracle before Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem reveals the arrival of the messianic age. For this reason, the two blind men greet Him as Lord, the common name for God, and Son of David, a title deeply rooted in popular messianic expectation. Jesus knows beforehand what they want -- and what we want. But He calls us to ask freely that He might answer us in mercy. Matthew reports two blind men; Mark mentions only one (Mark 10:46-52)."
We might consider two blind men from various angles. Why two? Matthew has focused his Gospel as an approach to the Jewish community of believers, but there are various points where we encounter a concept of "two" -- and this is one of them. The first thing to consider is that enlightenment comes from Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. This messiah may be a Jewish messiah, but He is for all the world, both Jew and Gentile. This is a very consistent message throughout this Gospel, a powerful focus, such as when Jesus encounters the Canaanite woman, and the fact that Matthew reports two miracles of feeding thousands in the wilderness: one among a Jewish crowd, and another in territory of mixed Gentiles and Jews. As my study bible has pointed out, today's reading differs from a similar incident in Mark's Gospel because there are two blind men here. In both, there is a persistent cry to Jesus for attention, to which the crowd responds by telling the persistent petitioner(s) to be quiet. Another common point is the occurrence of this scene in passing out of Jericho. Jericho is the place where the great shout of the Israelites shattered down the walls of the city, so that they could enter into the promised land. But here in this Gospel, and in the story of Jesus, the focus of the promised land has shifted. It's not land as in the territory of Jerusalem that is to be conquered, but the great story of triumph will take place in Jerusalem. It's a story that is meant for all people, both Jews and Gentiles, and the promised land is focused on one thing, the Kingdom of God as understood through this Gospel, the one that is among us and within us. It is the Kingdom of God that is coming into this world to take power away from "the ruler of this world" and to liberate us all, Jews and Gentiles. It's the triumph over death on the Cross that will be enacted through Christ's Passion, and death and Resurrection, and Pentecost that follows. This passing through Jericho is the first scene in a new kind of conquest, a new type of sacrifice and ransom to free a people, and this time the people is really the whole of the people. It's a gift for the whole of the world. So, this time, the cry in the outskirts of Jericho is an essential one to that mission, one we may hear in every worship service and which shapes every prayer: "Have mercy on us, O Lord." In the Greek, it's very short: Kyrie, eleison eimas (Κύριε, ελέησον ημάς). You may have heard the shorter phrase in Greek "Kyrie eleison." In the Greek, this word "eleison" (mercy) is used as a verb; it's like saying, "Lord, mercy us." This may be the shortest prayer of all, besides simply the word "Jesus." It is the most useful one to remember, and suits all occasions, whether we pray for ourselves or others, for any situation. We call on this verb of "mercying." In Greek, it emphasizes the action in showing mercy, and invites us to consider the ways in which mercy may be felt, understood, effected. His mercy is for all the world, and, we remember, for each one of us to practice actively as well, however and wherever we find His way to do it. This most useful prayer is answered by a specific sort of question; or rather, one that invites us to get specific: "What do you want Me to do for you?" Mercy is also linked to our inner lives, as Jesus is moved with compassion (in the Greek, akin literally to feeling it in the gut). Let us consider the ways in which mercy may be active in us, in our lives, and this very short prayer that is most effective in all times and circumstances. It's the shout for the new promised land.