In the Qur’an
The story behind Surah ‘Abasa (chapter 80), according to the later traditions and recorded by Ibn Kathir, is that Muhammad, in his early days in Mecca, was addressing the leaders of the Quraysh, when a blind man, named Ibn Umm Maktum came to ask questions and seek answers.
What was Muhammad’s response?
عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّىٰٓ أَن جَآءَهُ ٱلْأَعْمَىٰ .
‘He frowned and turned away, because the blind man came to him.’ (Surah 80:1,2)
Ibn Kathir explains the verse more fully, saying: “He frowned in the face of Ibn Umm Maktum and turned away from him in order to face the other man.” (Ibn Kathir, http://www.recitequran.com/tafsir/en.ibn-kathir/80:37)
I don’t want to be too hard upon Muhammad, for I have had the very same reaction to being interrupted by someone whom I have judged to be of lesser importance than what I am currently involved in. However, as I look back upon these judgmental reactions, I realise that they are evidence of a selfish and sinful heart within me.
Now as I have been no different from Muhammad in having the same reactions, so I know that Muhammad is no different from me in having the same root problem for those reactions. He is just as much a sinful and selfish man as any of the rest of us.
In the Bible
In Mark 10:46-52, we read of an occasion when Jesus Christ was journeying out of Jericho on His way to Jerusalem. Around him were “his disciples and a great number of people” (v46), and I have no doubt that Jesus was conversing with them as they went.
At this point a blind man, Bar Timaeus, who is begging at the side of the road begins to shout out, “Jesus, son David, have mercy on me”. Immediately, as we have seen above, the people in the crowd, sinful and selfish, tell the man to sit quietly and not disturb them. They are annoyed by the interruption.
Jesus, however, reacts in a very different way.
What was Jesus Christ’s response?
‘And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called … and said unto him, “What do you want me to do for you?”’verses 49, 51
This is just one example, but throughout the Bible we see this response of Jesus repeated over and over again throughout His life. It shows us that Jesus is not one to be selfishly focused on His own activities, but rather is always ready to stop what He’s doing to give time and attention to the needs of others.
This indeed is the heart of God revealed. In the psalms (zabur), we read of David (Dawud) who is ‘poor and needy’ (Psalm 86:1) and who cries to God for help, coming to the following conclusion about who God is:
‘For You, Lord, are good; ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon You.’Psalms 86:5
We, therefore, are able to hope that in our own circumstances of great need, specifically in our spiritual blindness, there is One to whom we can come, who is always ready and willing, not just to listen, but to show us mercy and grace.
This One is God: our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ – for in our passage, we see Jesus not only revealing the gracious heart of God to stop and listen, but demonstrating the power of God intrinsic in Him by healing the blind man.
That day, Bar Timaeus confessed that he believed on Jesus as Lord. That day he received his sight, and from that day he ‘followed Jesus’ (v.52).
I hope you will too!