Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus, his disciples, and many people were leaving Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that Jesus from Nazareth was passing by, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The people told him to be quiet. But he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him!” They called the blind man and told him, “Cheer up! Get up! He’s calling you.” The blind man threw off his coat, jumped up, and went to Jesus.
Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see again.”
Jesus told him, “Go, your faith has made you well.”
At once he could see again, and he followed Jesus on the road. (God’s Word Translation)
“I’d like to live my life so close to the bottom that when the system collapses I don’t have far to fall.” Dorothy Day
This is one of my very favorite stories in the entirety of Holy Scripture. And I will tell you why….
Because Jesus listens with ears of mercy
Jesus was headed to Jerusalem and had a lot on his mind and his heart. He knew what was coming, that his passion and death awaited him. No one would fault Jesus for not hearing a blind man shouting. But Jesus was listening so that he might hear someone just like the needy blind man. Rather than being distracted and lost in his head, Jesus was just the opposite – being attentive and aware of the humble folk right in front of him.
The Lord is always and continually listening for honesty and vulnerability. His ears of mercy are specially tuned, even today, for those who cry out to him from a place of genuine openness and humility.
Because Jesus speaks with words of mercy
Once Jesus listened, he responded by asking a question. I am impressed with Jesus throughout the Gospels. Christ gave people the gift of choice. He acknowledged people and respected them by not simply and indiscriminately healing, as if he were some fix-it guy. Jesus Christ bestowed on the lowliest of people the human dignity of choice by empowering them to answer a question.
Whereas everyone around Bartimaeus was looking down on him, both literally and figuratively, Jesus granted him the gift of dignity and basic human kindness – which are gifts we can all bestow on one another.
Because Jesus pays attention with a divine appointment of mercy
Our Lord took the time to heal blind Bartimaeus. Jesus could have simply healed him without even stopping his journey. He could have just waved his hand and the man would be healed. What’s more, Jesus could have even started a healing factory where everyone with a need got healed: bring ‘em in, move ‘em out, and keep the line moving!
Jesus was doing more than giving sight; he was giving a man the blessing of time and personal attention. The Gospel is never impersonal, which is why we ought to resist being non-relational in ministry to others. Christian ministry isn’t simply about meeting a need; it’s about blessing other people with the gift of relationship.
Because Jesus reaches out with the touch of mercy
Jesus touched the man’s eyes (included in Matthew 20:29-34). He didn’t have to do that. The Lord of all most certainly could have healed without touching. In fact, it most likely may have been downright gross. A lot of people had eye diseases with runny pussy eyes in the ancient world.
Because the blind man didn’t listen to the crowd
I really love that! Maybe it’s the rebel in me. I just believe it is such a beautiful thing whenever someone refuses to be shamed by another and embraces their need. That is exactly what the blind man did. He not only refused to give-in to peer pressure, but he also responded to them by shouting all the louder. May his tribe increase!
Blind Bartimaeus teaches us that, when we know Love is there, we can freely acknowledge our needs, our wants, and our pain. With Jesus, who is Love incarnate, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks around us; there is no pretense, no propping up a false self to present for others to see. The true self is able to express what is really on the inside.
Because the blind man could actually see
In truth, Bartimaeus already had sight – not physical sight but spiritual eyes which could see better than anyone else in the crowd. One of the great ironies throughout the Gospels is that the sighted crowd seems to never see who Jesus really is, while blind folk see Christ clearly for who he is: the Son of David, the rightful king, the Savior of all.
It matters not how much faith one possesses; but it very much matters in whom that faith is placed. A thimble-full of faith is enough to move mountains, whereas a water tower full of misplaced faith in someone else cannot even provide a single glass of refreshment.
Because the blind man followed Jesus
Throughout the healing ministry of Jesus, there were plenty of persons who simply walked away and went about their lives after receiving what they desired. Yet, Bartimaeus, now given the gift of physical sight, immediately started following Jesus on the road.
This account feels a lot like my own testimony of experiencing the love of God in Christ and not ever wanting to leave it. So, I’ve been following Jesus for over forty years, still profoundly grateful in my heart for the One who loves and heals.
Because one lowly non-descript blind man made a difference
I don’t think Bartimaeus ever set out to change the world. And yet, he did. Here we are reading his testimony all these millennia later. One person, becoming a simple follower of Jesus and living a life of discipleship, changes a crowd from being a group of shushing church ladies to a robust throng of worshipers.
One individual makes a difference. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, heal me, a broken person.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of Man, help me, a lost and lonely individual.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on my love-starved soul and grant me your peace.