Mark 10: 46-52
by Melody Kroeger
October 25, 2015
Now what do you imagine Bartimaeus did after his eyes were opened?
Did he have a family – a father or mother whose faces he longed to see for the first time? Was he stunned by the beauty of clouds shifting softly against a clear blue sky? Perhaps his breath was caught up by the colorful chaos and hustling of the marketplace. Or, was Bartimaeus disappointed in what he saw – his rags, misery and filth? Once the sharp edges of poverty and deprivation have been revealed, they cannot be hidden again.
What did Bartimaeus do after his eyes were opened? All we are told is that he turned and followed Jesus along the road.
The story of Bartimaeus is not just a story about a miraculous healing – something most of us will never experience. It is also a story about something altogether common to our lives; for we are all, by our very human nature, poor and blind. Oh, we believe we can see clearly enough – but it’s only a deception. Our spiritual blindness deceives us into thinking we see the world clearly and perfectly. We are all Bartimaeus.
Some context is helpful here. Jesus is passing through Jericho – in Judea – because he is on his way to Jerusalem. It is his last trip. His earthly mission is coming to a close. Suddenly, the narrative shifts to a blind beggar sitting by the roadside. Beggars were common in Jesus’s day. But what was uncommon was what Bartimaeus says. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He isn’t asking for money, but for something much deeper.
What was the origin of Bartimaeus’s faith – for it was surely faith that gave him the courage to call out? Perhaps his faith was of such a character that it could feed on any sliver of hope, regardless of how thin, when our weak and wavering faith would wither and starve. Mark doesn’t tell us, and we’re left to ponder once again, how the blind are able to see the identity of Jesus better than anyone else, including those who have been traveling with Jesus all along.
The crowd in Jericho tries to silence him, but Bartimaeus only shouts louder. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” You can feel his desperation. Or perhaps it is hope that gives Bartimaeus the strength to call out.
Over the cries of the crowd, Jesus stops and says “Call him here.” In response, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak – his most valuable possession – leaps up and stands before Jesus.
What confidence it must have taken for the blind man to do this! Two thousand years later, Bartimaeus’s hope and enthusiasm still leaps out at us! A blind beggar recognizes Jesus’ identity, calling him “Son of David” when everyone else seems not to see. He refuses to allow the crowd to prevent him from getting close to Jesus, and he asks, not for money, but to see.
“Go,” Jesus tells him, “your faith has made you well”. His sight restored, Bartimaeus follows Jesus.
Listening to this text, we might well ask what we’ll do after our eyes are opened by Christ. Will we be disappointed in what we see – poverty, war, suffering, environmental destruction, and indifference? Once the hard edges of power and corruption, inequality and injustice have been revealed, they cannot easily be hidden again.
No doubt about it – it’s risky to face the world as it really is. It’s easy to avert our eyes, looking at the road ahead instead of the beggar with a sign standing at the side of the road. It’s tempting to turn the channel when images of desperate refugees flicker across our screens. We can simply turn our heads away from scenes of systematic injustice rather than stare down those who trample over the rights and dignities of the poor.
Seeing clearly will inevitably change the way we think about wealth and scarcity, oppression and justice, war and peace. And, those in power may mock and condemn us for seeking out, standing with and lifting up the poor and blind, because they know that if we do – then they too may be invited to have their eyes opened. And that frightens them. But if we risk calling out and standing up as Bartimaeus did, there will be a healing – for us and for the world.
So, once again, what will we do after our eyes are opened?
More to the point, “Do we have the courage to act on faith; to throw off our most valuable possessions and follow the Risen Christ?” Like the persistent faith-filled man from Jericho, will we too seize the opportunity to live the life of discipleship? For it is God’s grace that moves us from having blurred vision to embracing the clarity of a faith filled people who can see that discipleship involves following Jesus to the cross. After all, we are all blind beggars telling other beggars where to find life-giving bread and the cup of salvation.
In the words of my favorite hymn:
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.