April 9, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 10:46-52.
They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
I love the way this story ends. Jesus told Bartimaeus to go his way. And what does Bartimaeus do? His sight restored and the choice to go any anywhere he pleases now, he chooses to follow Jesus on the way, the way to Jerusalem, the way to suffering and death and resurrection. Bartimaeus is a contrast to the disciples at this point on the journey. They continue to remain in darkness, in blindness to their own inability to understand Jesus’ teachings, denial of his final destination on the cross, and squabbling for first place in Jesus’ affection and esteem. Mark has drawn special attention to this contrast by having Bartimaeus call Jesus the Son of David, a messianic title.
How did Bartimaeus come to believe this? It would seem that he likely overheard the stories of the miracles Jesus performed or perhaps a friend or family member had related them to him. Sitting day after day in his darkness he mulled over these reports and concluded that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited messiah who would relieve suffering. No wonder that he raised such a ruckus when he learned that Jesus was approaching and sprang us, jumped up eagerly, to make his plea.
What gives me pause, though, about this story is that Bartimaeus’ petition for compassion, to be shown mercy, was granted. His faith had saved him as Mark repeatedly tells us in his gospel. Why does this give me pause? Over the years I have in full faith asked for the granting of a specific petition for something to be changed in me just as Bartimaeus did. Why wasn’t it granted to me? Was it because I didn’t have enough faith or ask in the right way?
I like the way John Shea in Eating With the Bridegroom answers these questions, “In spiritual traditions blindness is the inability to notice, understand, and integrate the spiritual dimension of life….In this condition of not knowing we are sons and daughters of the Living One, we become beggars….We cry out to Jesus as the Son of David because Jerusalem is the City of David, where God’s covenant of unconditional love will be carried out. This is the light that will cure our blindness.”
After many long years I finally “saw”, I finally understood. Jesus did indeed take pity on me; he had compassion for me and showed me his kindness, his benevolence, his blessing. He knew that what I needed was to be able to accept and love myself as God had created me. I wasn’t deformed, a mistake to be repaired. God created me as I am for a purpose, to be used for His purpose, to be Jesus’ disciple. It was only in receiving this insight that I could take up my cross and follow him. It was only in being able to truly receive God’s unconditional love that I could love myself and then to be a channel of His love for others as He has always wanted me to do. As Jesus called Bartimaeus, so he is calling me into new life, into his love so that I, too, may call him Master.