"Rabbi, I want to See."

Ordinary 30B

Mark 10: 46 52

Introduction

Jesus has an objective, a target to be in Jerusalem for the great Passover, which is going to be, in fact, his "Pass-Over". Slowly he is making his way there. On the occasion recorded in our text, he is arriving at Jericho which lies about 15 miles from Jerusalem. His general teaching mission is coming to a close. In some respects, the healing of Bartimaeus is a climax. The locals haven't seen him for six months and gather around him with great interest.

(For a brief overview of the incident read The Gospel Story by Ronald Cox)

Some Notes On the Text

Verse 46

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.

We find it best not to get too tied up with working out Mark's sequence here. One moment they are just arriving at Jericho, and the next they are leaving. The various explanations can leave us even more puzzled. Mark chose not to relate anything of the ministry of Jesus in the city except this particular incident.

The key fact is that a blind beggar surnamed Bar (Son of) Timai (or Timaeus) was sitting on the roadside as the large crowd accompanying Jesus started to wander past him. It is probable that we know his name because he became a prominent member of the Christian community. St. Mark paints a picture of misery: we can all feel much sympathy for him.

Verse 47

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

This blind man didn't miss a thing! He listened to every comment people were making. He heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by. He could not see Jesus but he knew, from all the information he had gleaned from passers-by, that this must be the Messiah. At the mere mention of the name of Jesus, he called out with full voice the traditional Messianic title with a traditional petition: "Son of David, have mercy on me".

This petition to Jesus had very clear Messianic tones. It was based on Isaiah 35: 5 and would have been interpreted something like:

"You are the one who can make the blind see.

May I receive God's mercy?"

He kept repeating this until the locals became annoyed with him.

Verse 48

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

We can imagine the kind of rebukes he was given:

  • "Don't embarrass us like this!"
  • "Who do you think you are?"
  • "Remember you are only a blind beggar."
  • "Get back to your corner and be quiet."

But this man although of very low status, was not going to be treated as though he were an animal. He kept on repeating his petition as though it were his only chance to be heard. He was both determined and persistent!

Verse 49

Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."

So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you."

To everyone's surprise Jesus simply stopped still and ordered the man to be brought to him. As is so often the case with people who are trying desperately hard to be noticed above everyone else, first they chided Bartimaeus for causing a commotion; then, on realising our Lord wanted to meet him, they suddenly turned about face and encouraged him.

Verse 50

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

The man's cloak was probably on the ground in front of him to collect donations which he would certainly have received. It was thrust out of the way by this unfortunate man as he jumped up and hastened to respond to Jesus' call.

Verse 51

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

Choosing his moment, Jesus quietly asked Bartimaeus to say exactly what he would like him to do. This was the same question our Lord had asked James and John. The blind man's reply was nothing like sitting beside him on his throne of glory to be above everyone else, but merely:

"Most esteemed teacher (Rabbounei), I ask only to see."

Bartimaeus asked only to be equal to others, and nothing more. There may well have been a few moments of tears, for this man's burden had been almost unbearable: suddenly, without prior warning, he had been allowed to approach his Messiah and present his request.

Verse 52

"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Again, choosing his moment to reply, Jesus spoke not with an abrupt dismissal, but in a quiet matter of fact expression:

"You may go now. Your faith in me as your Messiah has brought the healing you requested."

With that the man received his sight in full, and he wouldn't let Jesus out of it! Jesus had been proclaimed Messiah for all the right reasons, and he took pleasure in responding as Messiah.

Conclusion

Bartimaeus is like a new creature, a new creation. Jesus had said to him, "Let there be light in your darkness and chaos!" And there was light!

At last, someone from the common people of Israel proclaimed him, "Son of David", and he responded as such, demonstrating the promised healings of the Messiah.

Not too strangely, in the spiritual realm, it took a blind man to see that the Messiah was passing through their midst. He had no sight, but he had more insight than all the rest put together.

It does not matter if everyone around us ignores our Lord, or cannot see him for what he is; Bartimaeus has taught us to call on our Lord for the blessings he has promised. He will deliver; but we may need to grow in insight, inner sight, before we can see that he has done so.

For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light we see light.

(Psalm 36: 10)

The Gospel Story by Ronald Cox

Mark 10: 46 — 52

It was probably early afternoon when Jesus and his followers approached the city of Jericho, after a four hour walk down the mountain pass from Ephrem; pilgrims from Galilee and Perea had joined his little company. A new excitement and jubilation swept through the crowd at the presence of the Master who had been away from them for the past six months. In three days' time, this same crowd will shout the same Messianic cries as Jesus rides in triumph into Jerusalem. The blind man by the roadside probably picked up his 'son of David' from the crowd. It was a title used with a definite Messianic meaning.

This is the sixth blind man cured by our Lord in the gospels……

He shares with Lazarus and Maichus the rare honour of being named by the evangelist at the time of his cure: this was probably due to his prominence in Christian circles when St. Mark wrote his gospel………..He is a good illustration of the principle of persistent prayer, taught by Jesus……. He threw his cloak aside, so as to run more quickly. Jesus questioned him, not to find out what he wanted but to obtain a public act of faith; he is always interested in the individual soul, even in the midst of crowds and excitement; with him it is persons rather than people. And the stray sheep recognises the voice of the Shepherd.

Commentary by Mary Betz

Mark 10: 46 — 52

Over the last few weeks, the gospel readings have shown Jesus to be consistently misunderstood by his disciples, especially the Twelve. They mistake discipleship for a sort of fan club, and expect Jesus to be a power-wielding political messiah. They cannot see beyond their own limited understanding of what power is, to know the real empowerment Jesus is offering them.

Today 's gospel is different, because Bartimaeus, though blind, has a special kind of sight which the other disciples haven't yet learned. Bartimaeus knows who Jesus is, and knows that Jesus can heal him. He associates Jesus with David, not because he hopes Jesus will be a political king like David, but because Jesus has shown the compassion and justice that David had been known for.

Bartimaeus persisted in calling to Jesus even though others told him to be quiet (a good thing for us to remember!). Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted of him, sensing that Bartimaeus already had the most important kind of sight. At Bartimaeus' request, however, he did not hesitate to give him full healing.

The story ends with Bartimaeus becoming a disciple of Jesus, and in the context of the chapters to come, following Jesus on the way of his passion. The story leaves us with challenges: are we sufficiently sighted to understand the power of living the values of God's reign rather than the values the world holds dear? Do we embody those values enough to say we are really following Jesus wherever his way leads?

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