The Gospel Mark 10:46-52
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.
After the Gospel:
For many Christians, it’s a favorite gospel,
because it’s not just a blind man story – we know his name, which means he was well-known, perhaps important, to the early church,
and because, even though he was physically blind, he had spiritual vision,
and because he didn’t just ask for a healing – stop there – but first of all he asked for something else more important.
And lastly, because he stayed with Jesus.
Jesus was leaving Jericho, on his final trip to Jerusalem, where He would die and rise.
Which makes Bartimaeus one of the last miracles, and the last follower who joined Jesus along the way:
someone who went from being a beggar along the road to Jericho, to a disciple who walked right alongside the others on the way to Jerusalem, and waved palm branches with them.
This story has echoes of the Good Samaritan, portraying Jesus as The Good Samaritan who stopped and helped and healed on that famous road from Jericho to Jerusalem.
The gospel begins with Bartimaeus sitting on the sidelines, blind, no one listened to him;
when he tried to speak, they got angry, told him to keep quiet.
Why would you “Hush!” a disabled man asking for help?
Because he was a nuisance to their plans, an obstacle to whatever designs they had for Jesus as King. Their thoughts were different from God’s thoughts.
But Jesus heard his plea, called for him to come close, and let him speak, asking “What do you want me to do for you?”
His first words were: “Have mercy on me.” In fact, he repeated it.
Only later he asked, “let me see again.”
But twice: “Have mercy on me.” He was sufficiently in tune with himself to know that what he needed most was deeper than restoration of sight.
You don’t need 20/20 vision to be lustful or envious or covetous,
you don’t need good eyes to be angry
or build up your hatreds over the years little by little,
or see only the worst in people.
You can do all that with or without good vision.
But you can be blind and see that your deepest need is for spiritual healing, something far deeper than a need for physical healing.
Grace had somehow convinced Bartimaeus that Physical blindness will not keep you out of heaven, but spiritual blindness will.
He knew himself well enough to ask for spiritual healing, mercy for his sins,
and he no doubt received it, since he also received physical healing.
Notice how Jesus acted … as a neighbor. He didn’t sidestep the beggar, didn’t throw him a coin to shut him up, didn’t delegate someone, but He stopped, and got personally involved. “What can I do for you”
His actions showed He cared, it communicated His love, and changed Bartimaeus’ life.
Jesus brought new life to a broken man.
Before his eyes were fixed, Bartimaeus heard Jesus say, “your faith has saved you.”
Bartimaeus must have been more than a person who prayed only in a crisis to get what he wanted from God, he must have had a relationship with God, been a person of faith.
He considered his need for salvation the deepest need of his life, something he needed far more than restoration of sight, and he heard Jesus’ assurance: “Your faith has saved you.”
What peace he must have felt!
Mark mentions one last thing about Bartimaeus:
Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.
When the Gospel says someone followed Jesus, they became a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus had twelve apostles and many more disciples, all of whom listened to his teaching and allowed it to change their lives.
Bartimaeus didn’t just pray to have his sight restored and then disappear.
His healing marked the beginning of his journey following Jesus, his becoming a disciple of Jesus and learning from Jesus.
Afterwards his whole way of life was such that it revolved around Jesus,
and what Jesus stood for, and what He taught. That’s what a disciple, a follower, does.
This gospel also answers the question:
“Why should we pray for what we want, when it’s obvious, when God already knows what we want?”
It’s because praying for what we need is only part of our relationship with God.
Our whole life has to be a prayer to God, has to be about following Jesus, being a disciple of Jesus, listening to his teaching and allowing it to change our lives.
If we pray only when we are in crisis, or need something, are we really Christian?
Prayer isn’t some magic formula to be recited, which magically brings about the desired results.
It’s a way of living, a way of following Jesus on the road.
Jesus taught the crowds: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things will be given you as well.” Bartimaeus sought the kingdom of God first – God’s mercy – and the other things, including restoration of sight, were given him as well.