I happened to reading Mark chapter 10, out of the Bible, this morning. It almost looks like a patchwork of stories scampering together to make it too the next chapter, but there is definitely a pattern in this patchwork. The chapter starts out with some theologically impressive people asking Jesus what is acceptable in the case of divorce or is it acceptable at all. Strangely, all this time later we’re still asking this same question.
Next we have Jesus showing that he cherish children and they aren’t a waste of his short time here on Earth.
After that is the rich young ruler who follows all of the commandments but still wants something more, but yet choose not to follow Jesus because he already has many things he does not want to leave behind or give away. This paragraph ends with Jesus saying, “many that are first will be last, and the last first.”
Then Jesus tries to tell his disciples what lies ahead for Jesus’ own future on this Earth, but instead of deeply contemplating this, we find two disciples asking Jesus to sit at his right-hand & left-hand when Jesus sits on his throne (as a Messiah would be expected to do in the nearby future).
And the last paragraph in Mark chapter 10 is this story about someone they call “Bartimaeus the beggar” or ” Bartimaeus the blind beggar”. This is one of those stories that, at first, it seems like its just in there to fill out the chapter, but then… I get it. This maybe my favorite part of the chapter, because it really ties it all together at the end.
And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.” And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
– Mark 10:46-52
Now there’s all kinds of cool details in here. One, we get the impression that maybe Bartimaeus has heard the name “Jesus of Nazareth” somewhere before, and maybe he’s heard about some of the miracle Jesus has done. Two, we get the impression people think of this guy as just another beggar, maybe a blind beggar as opposed to a crippled beggar, but nothing much beyond that. You know people only think of him as a beggar because they told him to be quiet! Yet Bartimaeus cries out all the louder, which gives us two more things to notice. One thing to notice is Bartimaeus, when he finds out Jesus of Nazareth is passing by with his disciples & crowd, he cries out “Son of David” because the promised Messiah was to be the son of King David. Bartimaeus believed! Second thing to notice about Bartimaeus crying out all the louder, is Bartimaeus did not just see himself as a hopeless beggar, there was something more to him that others did not notice at that time. Those who were trying to silence Bartimaeus weren’t necessarily mean people, but the didn’t want a beggar interrupting their processions. Yet Bartimaeus knew both that he was more than beggar, and that this moment was so sacred that he couldn’t let it pass by know they he had the knowledge of what was right in front of him. At the risk of pure foolishness, he cried all the louder.
Also when Bartimaeus was called to come to Jesus it says he threw off his “mantle” or “cloak” or “coat” depending on the version you read, but this actually is referring to his prayer shawl that any religiously practicing Jew would wear. In his hurry to get to his feet, he threw it off his shoulders and ran without it to Jesus. Oopps! How’s Jesus going to know he’s a good Jew without his prayer shawl upon him? Somehow, this never crossed his mind, he just ran at this one in a lifetime opportunity.
Then came the great moment, right? Well sorta.
When this man comes up to Jesus, Jesus says the profound statement “What do you want?”
….for real Jesus? A blind beggar comes up to you and you want to know what he wants? Well actually, this is a fair statement. He’s both blind and a beggar, which need does he want be fulfilled?
“Master, let me receive my sight!”
I can hear the excitement in his voice, as I read it, it pours out like those moments that you hear yourself talking before you think about how to cordially respond to someone. In one quick blurt out of his mouth, with no hesitation or question.
Then Jesus heals him and says, “Go your way; your faith his made you whole”
And this man, who knew he was more than a beggar; this man who wore his prayer shawl everyday and believed God could/would take care of him, this man went his way after being healed. Ironically, the way this man was going just so happened to be every step that Jesus takes from here on out. This man Bartimaeus, knew what it was to be a beggar, he knew what it was to be blind, but what he really wanted, I think, was to see the Messiah.
It’s too beautiful to put aside as a mere cute story. It’s powerful.
Jesus own disciples argued about their future. The rich young ruler couldn’t change his path. But the “blind beggar” named Bartimaeus, knew his identity beyond his circumstance, and he knew a God who is faithful to his promises, and he knew an opportunity of a lifetime. The blind man, could identify all these things so clearly, because inwardly his heart loved God and God’s word. Only outwardly was he blind and poor. “many that are first will be last, and the last first”
No Messiah or Christ or God can make a difference in our lives if we believe who other people say we are, and therein also don’t believe God to be who God says he is. If we have hard hearts and hold on to traditions that can only take us so far, then we might miss the real thing, the Messiah who’s passing right by. We must know the heart of God and love as he loves. or we will be nothing but poor and blind.
God save us.