Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight – Mark 10:46-52 – Cadet Renée McFadden
You’ve probably heard the saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” My children work this to their advantage as much as possible. They nag and nag to make sure everything is fairly divided and they get equal TV time, equal amounts of snack and the latest bedtime possible. Squeaky wheels are hard to ignore, they grate on our nerves with the constant whining, crying and pestering. They just wear a person down. They create so much fuss that people often give in and give them what they want just to get some peace and quiet. It’s not always negative and manipulative to be the squeaky wheel. Sometimes it’s necessary to speak out against injustice. Perhaps you’ve been the squeaky wheel. Or maybe someone has been a squeaky wheel on your behalf. Someone has given a voice to the voiceless and stood up against injustice, demanding that someone’s rights are respected and not overlooked. In our Bible story today, there’s a bit of a squeaky wheel in action. But the man had pure motives and he was genuine in his cry for justice. Let’s see how Jesus handles this squeaky wheel.
The story is set just outside the big, important, glitzy city of Jericho. Perhaps when you hear of Jericho you remember the triumphant victory that Joshua won there when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. This was an important place and Jesus had spent some time there, but now, Jesus was on the move. He had places to go, lessons to teach and in Mark’s gospel we read this story just before his triumphal entry to Jerusalem that signaled the last week of Jesus’s life. Now, as Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of chattering, curious people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timeaeus, was sitting alongside the road. Many people are talked about in the Bible without their names being recorded. So usually when the name is given, there’s a reason. Bartimaeus, the name means “son of honour”, but it is given to this man left in a sorry state, blind, begging in the dust on the side of the road outside the city gates. He was a blind man, an object of charity, in misery, unable to gain a livelihood through physical labour. Bartimaeus, let’s call him Bart for short, was not living a life of honour, according to his name, but he was living a life of shame.
When Bart, the blind beggar, heard the crowd and commotion coming down the road, he wondered what in the world was going on. Someone told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. Bart’s wellbeing depended on his ability to draw attention to himself. If he was going to make any money today, he would have to be loud. Not wanting to miss his opportunity Bart became a squeaky wheel and he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Son of David was a popular way to describe Jesus as the Jewish Messiah would be a descendant of King David. So by calling him “Son of David”, he was really naming Jesus as the Messiah. The crowd tried to ignore Bart. They thought he was an outsider, disqualified by his blindness and people would have thought he was blind to spiritual things too and not worthy of Jesus’s time. But this blind beggar saw who Jesus really was. He identifies Jesus as royalty. He grasped what others couldn’t see.
Many tried to hush up the squeaky wheel, but he yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” The crowd tried to silence him, the persistent, irritating voice piercing through their joyful chatter. They did not know that the cry of wretchedness was far sweeter to Jesus than their shallow hallelujahs. Despite the hushing and the reprimands, Bart was unrelenting. He wouldn’t give up. He knew that Jesus could rescue him. He was convinced that Jesus would meet his need. He was certain of both the power and the will of Jesus to bring healing and wholeness. “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” It was an urgent cry, revealing a deep, personal, need. It revealed his need for a saviour and he recognized in Jesus, the saviour he needed.
Jesus stopped in his tracks. The Messiah paused, his quick ear noticed the difference between the unreal shouts of the excited crowd, and the sincerity in the cry of the beggar. The outsider, the rejected one, the afflicted one. The one on the bottom of the social ladder – the squeaky wheel.
He tells the onlookers in the crowded street to “Call him over.” Those who at first tried to discourage Bart and hush him up, were the ones called to assist in the ministry of Jesus. I’m sure Jesus could have walked over, but instead Christ stood still and waited, pressing his followers into service for him. Those people, who moments before had said “Shh, don’t disturb the Master”, now chanted “It’s your lucky day! Get up! He’s calling you to come!” In an instant, Bart threw off his long outer coat, in a sense, he threw off his heaviness, the burden, anything that would hinder his coming to Christ. He expected a change. A transformation was coming. No longer would he need to sit on his tattered coat alongside that road. Throwing off his garment, the remnants of his old life, he was on his feet at once, and walked forward, reaching out to Jesus. Ready for transformation. Ready for change. Expecting it.
Jesus said “What do you want me to do for you?” Like handing over the key to the treasure room, Christ asks Bartimaeus “What is your greatest need?” “What do you want me to do for you?” This question sets up a contrast, because the Bible records that only hours earlier, Jesus had asked this exact question to two of his own disciples, but they answered that they wanted power and honour and the best seats in the kingdom. Jesus had rebuked James and John swiftly for their selfishness and lack of understanding about his kingdom. So we can almost picture Jesus glancing over his shoulder at them as he speaks this same question to Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Were they listening? Would they understand?
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” He wanted his eyes opened likely so that he could work for his living and gain his independence, no longer a burden on others. A simple request voiced with confidence that Jesus can deliver. He asks for no special privileges, no elite treatment. He asked for the right thing at the right time, he didn’t ask for power or honour, he asked for the wholeness that only Christ can bring. Bart knew himself. He was honest with himself. He knew his greatest need. He wanted to see.
The next bit in the story is curious, it’s not quite as we might expect. Jesus doesn’t touch the man. He doesn’t give Bart instructions on washing or using mud or spit or praying or any other method of how to bring about a healing. “On your way,” Jesus simply says, “Your faith has saved and healed you.” Not your squeaky wheel boldness, but your faith. It was Bart’s spiritual eyesight, his recognition that Jesus was the Messiah that brought about his healing. It was his own recognition of his greatest need. It was faith that made it possible for Christ’s power to save and make him whole.
In that very instant Bartimaeus recovered his sight and began to follow Jesus on the road. He didn’t run back to his home, he didn’t leave to tell his friends or his family. After a life of dependence on others to lead him around, when Bart was healed, he became independent and needed no one to support him. Yet in his new found freedom, he immediately used his gift of sight to follow Christ. In his gratitude and spiritual eyesight, he saw a beauty in Christ that he wanted to follow. He joined right in with the disciples, he had a space and a place in the kingdom of God.
It’s fascinating in this story how squeaky wheel Bart, the beggar, moves from the sidelines, from the margin, from the fringe, along the side of the road and after his sight is restored, he joins the disciples and the crowd on the road. He moves from the periphery of the scene, right to the heart of the story. Bartimaeus was healed through faith; not by saying the right words or memorizing the right Bible verses. He was saved and healed by faith that Christ alone could mercifully meet his need and bring his wholeness. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. Imagine if Jesus was standing outside the Booth Centre, walking down Main Street and he stopped and beckoned you to come over. Imagine him asking you the question “What do you want me to do for you?” How would you respond?
Bart knew what he needed, and some of you probably know exactly what you need and some of you may not. But Christ is calling us all, whether you are a squeaky wheel or not! Listen to the crowd saying to the beggar, “Rise! Be of good cheer; He calls for you!” Jesus is here. He is standing still, waiting and inviting us to approach him. Like Bartimaeus, son of honour, living a life of shame, we need to throw away our hindrances, our crutches, the things that we’ve clung to, the sinful habits and attitudes that weigh heavy on us. We may need to give up the self-sufficiency and the “I can do it on my own” motto that we have cloaked ourselves in. Then we may freely go to him. We can make our way to His feet, and fall down before Him, knowing our deepest need, and trusting Christ to supply it. He is mighty to save! Bart said “Rabbi, I want to see!” Perhaps you need to say “Jesus, I want to see your truth. I want to know your love. I need to know your forgiveness. I need healing in my life and my relationships. I want freedom from my addictions.” We can move from darkness to light. With new spiritual eyesight, we can look upon our Saviour, and we can follow Him on the road. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and he’s worth following. If you are ready to respond to Jesus’s question “What do you want me to do for you?” be sure to have a talk with Pastor Randy, the officers or a member of the cadet team during our fellowship time after the meeting. I invite you to join me in prayer.
Cadet Renée McFadden is with the Joyful Intercessors session (2015-2017).