The story is goes like this…
Bartimaeus, blind and begging by the roadside outside of Jericho, calls out to Jesus for mercy (Mark 10:47-51). Jesus gives him sight and commends his faith. Bartimaeus then leaves Jericho to follow him “on the way” to Jerusalem (Mark 10:52).
The crowd’s dismissal. Mark tells us there is a “large crowd” (Mark 10:46), who “sternly ordered him to be quiet” (Mark 10:48). Like the disciples who have not understood Jesus or his mission, the crowd is more annoyed by the presence of Bartimaeus than they see an opportunity to help, listen, learn, connect or befriend him. They seem to have not heard Jesus just say, ‘whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first must be slave of all, for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). The crowd would prefer Bartimaeus not to be there at all, to be docile and quiet, or to blend in to the shadows and become invisible so they can go about their business. We can be just as dismissive as this crowd to people in need or suffering from injustice in our own time. It is much easier to be cruel and/or indifferent than it is to meet people in their struggles, acknowledge they exist, listen, learn from their experiences and do something to help.
- Who do we overlook, ignore, or hope would just go away in our own time and context?
Persistence as faithfulness. From his position of powerlessness, Bartimaeus refuses to be ignored and silenced. Mark has him interrupt the journey to Jerusalem on purpose. This is the last scene before Jesus enters the holy city on the donkey to fulfill his Messianic vocation. Only blind, begging Bartimaeus ‘sees’ that this Jesus is “Son of David” (Mark 10:47, 48) – a clear link to Jesus’ Messianic role. He will call out to Jesus until mercy comes. Jesus (unlike the crowd or the disciples) reminds us the reader/hearer that mercy is what the kingdom is all about – bringing God’s amazing grace to the places that call out for it which includes outcast, blind, beggars – just like Bartimaeus. The time to call upon God’s grace — is now. The time find our voice –is now. The time for us to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8) — is now.
- What keeps you from calling upon God’s mercy, and acting upon it for others?
Leaving our old life behind. Bartimaeus left not only his blindness, but his old life behind to follow Jesus. He left his cloak – likely his only earthly possession – in order to participate in the Kingdom of God. He left everything he knew for the unknown. He left what was safe for uncertainty. He left fear for faith. He left limitation for possibility. He left silence for proclamation. He left worrying what others said or thought of him for doing what he believed to be right. He left his exclusion for community. He left being stuck for “the way.” (Early Christians called themselves ‘the Way.’)
- What is holding you back from following Jesus? What might happen if you left it behind for a whole new life?
In Bartimaeus our blindness is revealed. In Bartimaeus we see courage, faith and hope in action. In Bartimaeus we catch a vision of the joy of following Jesus to the cross and the new life that awaits us all.