Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
When I was 18, I was convinced I needed glasses. I waited for weeks to tell my parents, as I struggled to study and get homework done and suffered from constant headaches. I didn’t tell them because I thought I could cope. I could handle the work and the headaches. I didn’t need any help. I was 18, finally an adult.
I could do it all on my own.
Honestly though, I couldn’t. I went and got my eyes checked, I picked out the frames I wanted (which was difficult because I really don’t suit glasses) and I waited.
Turned out, I don’t blink enough when I concentrate and I was drying my eyes out. All I needed was eye drops. I spent weeks struggling because I couldn’t ask for help.
There are two wonderful things to learn from this passage. One, how to ask for help, and two, how to be a disciple.
Jesus asks blind Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you?” It would have been obvious to all that Bartimaeus was blind. So why doesn’t Jesus simply heal his sight? He would know that this was Bartimaeus’ intention in calling out to him. I believe Jesus is using this question to do more than the obvious. He is giving Bartimaeus a choice. Bartimaeus who is being told to be quiet by those around him, that he isn’t worthy of speaking to Jesus, is being given a chance to speak for himself. Jesus is publicly and profoundly giving him his dignity by acknowledging his humanity.
Jesus doesn’t simply ask the obvious, ‘do you want to see?’ He is giving Bartimaeus the chance to ask for so much more than his sight; to give up begging, to live differently, to work for a living, to finally have no reason to sit on the side of the road, feeling sorry for himself. All things I can imagine feeling if I lived in those times, blind and unable to care for myself.
Jesus is calling us to ask Him for the strength and courage to survive life's challenges, even though sometimes it can be easier to feel sorry for ourselves. Bartimaeus rises to this challenge simply by calling out to Jesus as soon as he heard he was coming. Crying out even louder when others ordered him not to. He could have sat there, hoping the larger crowd would take pity on him and give him more change and instead he called to one he believed in fully, ‘...your faith has made you well.” Instead, he asked for a different kind of change. And he received it.
Secondly, this passage teaches us how to be a disciple. Previously in Mark 9, we see a man who walks away sad because he is told to give up his riches, and here we see the opposite. Bartimaeus was begging on the street when he stood up and called out, leaving all he has gathered behind to follow Jesus. When he threw off his cloak, he risked losing every bit of charity or help he had accumulated. A stark contrast to the wealthy man who leaves. He acknowledges Jesus as ‘the Son of David’ which was a dangerous idea … and an even more dangerous way to live. As Jesus walked the road to Jerusalem, Bartimaeus followed.
Blind Bartimaeus provides us with a beautiful contrast between the rich who walk away and the poor who follow. A contrast between the disciples who had their own expectations of Jesus, but didn’t truly understand who He was, and a man who asks for a new life, calls Him Son of David, and follows him all the way to Jerusalem.
Christina is a music and religious education teacher who was recently made chaplain in East Glendalough School in county Wicklow. She is currently working on an MA in Chaplaincy Studies at Dublin City University in between episodes of The Good Place and the Great British Bake Off.