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Seeing Without Sight
“Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So, they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus” (Mark 10: 49-50 NIV).
I am grateful to have good vision, but yet I wonder how much I don’t see. I am often reminded of the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) who sits by the roadside hopefully calling out to Jesus to pay attention to him and heal him. Some of the people in the crowd tried to hush him up. (Probably they felt, as we so often do, that he should set his mind on “higher things”). The more they tried to silence him, the louder he shouts.
Jesus turns to him instantly and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Within each of us is that which cries out, begging to be heard. Often the manner of its crying out is expressed through
grumbling, negativity, irritability, and anxiety. To shout down the cry, to put it out of the room, to breathe it away, or to shake it off is not how we should show God’s love.
In verse 52, Jesus names faith as what has healed Bartimaeus. We see his faith in what Bartimaeus does.
- He understands who Jesus is. No one else so far in the Book of Mark has been able to perceive so much about Jesus from so little information. For Bartimaeus, the title he uses to address Jesus, Son of David, obviously indicates that Jesus is God’s designated agent, and it introduces the notion of Jesus as a royal figure Bartimaeus, despite his blindness sees the divinity of Jesus.
- He persists despite hindrances. Faith does not come easily to people in Mark; it must surmount obstacles to obtain what it seeks (see 2:4; 5:27, 35-36; 7:27; 9:18b). Others in the crowd rebuke Bartimaeus, demanding he be silent. This detail reminds us that blind beggars dwell near the bottom rung of social privilege in ancient (and contemporary) society. The people shout Bartimaeus down because they probably think he deserves to be who he is Bartimaeus knows better, and so he yells “even more loudly” until his words penetrate Jesus’ ears.
- He expects a transformation. Jesus could have walked to Bartimaeus to talk with him. Instead, he tells the onlookers to summon Bartimaeus to him. Now those who sought to inhibit the beggar are engaged in Jesus’ ministry to him. Scripture tells us that Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak. Clearly, he expects to regain his sight because a blind beggar would ordinarily keep his possessions close at hand. When Bartimaeus casts off his cloak, he expects that he will no longer sit on it as a blind beggar.
- He asks for the right thing. Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” His reply is simple request voiced with confidence and brings honor to Jesus. “That I would see again,” is the response. Bartimaeus seeks no special privileges. This reiterates that Jesus has not come to bestow power and honor but to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
In Mark, Bartimaeus is not the first person seeking a miracle who approaches Jesus in faith, but he is the only one who winds up following him, presumably straight into Jerusalem and His ultimate crucifixion. He is also not the only one who was told by Jesus “your faith has made you well” (Matthew 8:13, 15:28 9:22; Mark 5:34; Luke 17:19, 18:42).
How many times have we tried to quiet or ignore someone who was in need? How many times are we that person in need that keeps shouting out? I think throughout life we will all find ourselves in all of the roles in the story of Bartimaeus.
Prayer: Dear God, As we go through life and encounter others that are in need of your love, please give us the courage and conviction to approach them and ask “what do you want me to do for you?” We know that whatever we do for the least, we do for you. Amen.
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