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!" Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "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, we were told that Jesus and the disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: "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." Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "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 said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory." But Jesus said to 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 said to Him, "We are able." So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 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." And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "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. 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!" My study bible points out that "Have mercy" is a phrase heard often in the liturgical tradition of the Eastern Church. Indeed, it seems to be prevalent through many or almost all traditions of worship. It says, "Mercy is God's lovingkindness, His tender compassion towards repentant sinners."
Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" We have noted often in the Gospels how Jesus praises persistence, and it teaches us our own persistence in prayer and in our relationship to Christ. Here, there's a kind of a struggle; the neighbors are telling him to be quiet, but Bartimaeus cries out all the more. Through all of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, this sort of persistence in pursuit of relationship and dialogue with God is praised.
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?" My study bible says, "Jesus knows all things, and knows this man is blind. Yet He asks, What do you want Me to do for you? The man could have asked, 'Lord, give me grace to live with blindness,' but he asks for his sight. Faith needs to be specific, and Jesus requests him to exercise his faith by asking for a specific need. Rabboni means 'my teacher,' showing the man's affection for Jesus." Jesus' question, "What do you want Me to do for you?" is also repeated in the Gospels, inviting dialogue and specific request from the heart.
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. My study bible says here: "Bartimaeus follows Jesus, becoming a disciple of His (the road is Gr. hodos, the same word used for 'the Way' in Acts 9:2), and is not commanded to silence. Now that Jesus is heading toward an open confrontation with the Jewish leaders in the Holy City, the veiling of His identity (the messianic secret) is no longer necessary."
There is a lot of tension in this story, between silence and shouting out. We remember Jesus' word elsewhere, quoting Psalm 8:2: "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise." Blind Bartimaeus cannot be silenced here in this city of Jericho, on the way to Jerusalem, the place where God's people shouted down the walls to victory. Bartimaeus is told to hush, presumably out of respect for Jesus, but Jesus instead notes his persistence, and invites him to come and tell him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" This reminds us of the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who pestered Jesus like a little puppy, for which she was rewarded and praised, even as Jesus had tried to be hidden in a house. Again, there is the contrast between shouting out and silence. What this gives us an image of is a God, a kind of parent or authority, who, far from being content with our silence and respect, praises us for our troubling, persistent, noisome attention and prayer. This is an authority that would much rather hear from us than receive a kind of distant, cold, routine obeisance. We remember the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel for his blessing. This is a kind of type or image of what is happening in today's story with Bartimaeus. He won't be silenced by custom or courtesy; what he wants most of all is to get to his Rabboni, the One he loves and has faith and hope in. Jesus loves and rewards persistence and dialogue. This is repeatedly true in the Gospels, and He also teaches the disciples that we must endure in prayer and be persistent in our prayer. This will be especially so after He is gone from this world in the flesh ("Watch therefore, and pray always"). (See also the Parable of the Unjust Judge, and Jesus' teaching on continual prayer.) Our God is one who wants His children to be present, active and persistent in relationship, vocal in what we want from Him, but perhaps most of all, in constant communication born of love and true desire in the heart. Christian forms of meditation take on this quality of persistent prayer, with the repetition, for example of what is called the Jesus Prayer, or the Prayer of the Heart. Whatever way we enter into dialogue with Christ, let us remember His praise for our persistence, and that the Lord we worship is one who enjoys and repeatedly praises those who "pester" Him! Our Lord is a God of love, who always wishes from us communion, and love in response, a true dialogue of the heart. Let us recall the words of Psalm 27: "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Christ always wants to hear from us, and mercy is His unfailing love, His steadfast lovingkindness. This is an active relationship, and we're to put our heart and soul into it, so that He may draw ever closer to us, dwelling in our hearts.