46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
(Mark 10:46-52 NIV)
Jesus had just told His disciples about His impending death and resurrection. Jesus was speaking about suffering; His disciples heard only the glorious ending. James and John wanted front-row seats with Jesus when He began His reign; Jesus told them they did not know what they were asking for – they didn’t understand the suffering required to achieve the glory.
Gathering all His disciples together, Jesus told His disciples again that God’s economy is upside-down compared to the world’s economy. Using His own life as an example, even He (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.
In today’s passage, Jesus and His disciples are on the move again, passing through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples, along with throngs of others, are on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. On their way out of Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus hears the crowd passing by. When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is in the crowd, he begins crying out to Jesus, begging for mercy.
Bartimaeus likely lived under the Jewish assumption that his sin caused his blindness – thus his plea for mercy. Bartimaeus did not want Jesus’ money – he wanted God’s forgiveness and redemption. The crowds told Bartimaeus to be quiet, but that prompted him to call out even louder.
Jesus hears the commotion, stops, and tells the surrounding crowd to call him. The people nearby tell Bartimaeus that Jesus is calling for him. Bartimaeus immediately jumps up, tosses his only worldly possession (his coat) aside, and makes his way to Jesus.
Bartimaeus’ response is completely the opposite of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life (10:17-31). The young man’s possessions were his hindrance to following Jesus; Bartimaeus quickly cast aside his only possession to make his way to Jesus.
Bartimaeus had been calling out to Jesus for mercy in general; when Bartimaeus stood before Jesus, Jesus asked him specifically what he wanted. Jesus knew what Bartimaeus wanted, but made him say it. This was Bartimaeus’ test, to express his faith, to ask for the impossible, to overcome his doubts, his fears and take a bold step of confidence in God’s ability to overcome the permanency of blindness.
What is holding us back from telling God what is on our hearts? Have we done the deep soul searching needed to get beyond our superficial wants to what will really bring us peace and joy and fulfill our inner longings, the desires of our hearts?
Bartimaeus’ answer was simple and from the deep place of his soul – he wanted to see. Jesus acknowledged Bartimaeus’ faith and told him that his faith had healed him and given him sight. Jesus released Bartimaeus, telling him to go his way.
Notice Bartimaeus’ response – he immediately began following Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus did not become one of the twelve apostles, but he did show his gratitude by following Jesus.
Today’s story of Bartimaeus is our story as well. We were without hope, dead in our trespasses and sins, unable to do anything for ourselves. But God, in His mercy, brought healing and redemption through His death, burial, and resurrection. We have only to ask for and accept His gift by faith. May we, like Bartimaeus, respond immediately and follow Jesus in humble gratitude and obedience all the days of our lives.
A cry for mercy and a call for help, responding immediately to God’s offer, experiencing Christ’s redemption, and voluntarily becoming a devoted follower Him.
May we be like Bartimaeus.