Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 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!" So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you." And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
- Mark 10:46-52
In yesterday's reading, Jesus and the disciples were going up the road to Jerusalem. He was walking ahead of them, and they were amazed. Then He took them aside again and told them what was going to happen to Him at Jerusalem. "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again." John and James Zebedee came to Him. They said, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They wanted to sit on His right and left hand in His glory. He told them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They indicated they were able. Jesus told them they would indeed do both, "but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared." Speaking to all the disciples together, He said, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. To my mind, this is a sad picture, one of great pathos. It's not just blind Bartimaeus we might see here, but the connotations of Jericho are important. Jericho is the sight of the great battle of victorious Israel, led by Joshua after the long wandering of Exodus. With a great shout and the blowing of the trumpets -- the heralding of God's kingdom -- the walls of Jericho gave way to Israel. We might think of blind Bartimaeus in a sense as the state of Israel at the time of Jesus' life. The people need help, they need someone who will bring back the true spirit of faithful leadership, they need vision. "Joshua" and "Jesus" are in effect the same Hebrew name (in English we read them differently due to translations over the centuries from language to language). It means "God is Salvation."
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!" Again, we have a hint about Jesus' identity as leader, and His ties to the history of Israel. He is "Son of David" -- in the lineage of the king whose rule would unite the two kingdoms, north and south, Israel and Judah, if only for a time in history. The psalms tell us the whole history of Israel, and even prefigure the story of Jesus' life. The great bulk of them are by tradition attributed to David, who was also a musician and shepherd. They remain the prayers of the Church, in an unbroken testament to their spiritual power for both Jews and Christians.
So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you." And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" This statement, "What do you want me to do for you?" is the same question Jesus asked His closest friends, James and John Zebedee, in yesterday's reading. Blind Bartimaeus, the beggar, is approached in the same way.
The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. In these spare sentences, we have the power of the faith of Christ revealed. He who was prefigured in Joshua, who is the Son of David, has a leadership for a new way of victory. That victory is in faith, in opening our eyes to truly see. It is a restorative faith; "God is Salvation" teaches us what it is to be "well." In this is our salvation, our trust. Blind Bartimaeus, no longer blind, follows Jesus down the road. In Greek here, the word for "road" is the same word used for the "Way."
What does it mean to be "saved?" The salvation history we read in the Bible tells us of the history of Israel, and then the coming of Jesus Christ, His apostles and those who would come afterward to spread this faith to the whole world. In this salvation history there is the constant purpose of God, of YHWH, to which we are always called back. It is always characterized by a message of love. The early Israelites were given a Law that would enshrine the importance of community, in the care even of the stranger (as they were strangers in Egypt), of the widow and the orphan. So often in the Gospels, Jesus will call others back to the true purposes of the Law. Here, blind Bartimeaus is treated even as His closest apostles and friends were treated, with the question, "What do you want Me to do for you?" The "shout" of Israel led by Joshua is now the shout of Bartimaeus, needing help by the side of the road. It is our cry to God, "Have mercy on me!" What does each of us need? What do we want Him to do for us? In this question is everything. David loved the Lord with his whole heart and mind and soul, and we can see that in all the psalms. Let us consider the leadership offered by Christ to everyone, the Son given to us "for God so loved the world." Let us follow in His leadership, His Way, for what must be our own victory, what will truly make us well.