Monday, 3 April 2017

An Unlikely Paragon of Faith

Blind Bartimaeus – BCP Great Brickhill – 2 April 2017 LENT 5

Gospel Mark 10:46—52

Blind Bartimaeus receives his sight
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’

49 Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’

So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’

52 ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.


Paragon of Faith in Mark—every disadvantage in life—far from cursing God for his lot, he believed life could turn around for him.

Jesus was leaving Jericho—Bartimaeus begging in gutter. People crowded around Jesus—Bartimaeus troubled everyone with his shouting—did not ask for money but appealed to Jesus to have mercy on his lot in life—blind man who seemed to have reached lowest ebb.

The crowd rebuked him—Bartimaeus shouted even louder—Jesus stopped—did not go to him but called Bartimaeus forward. Bartimaeus threw aside his coat and leaped to his feet—this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Mark in last verse makes it clear Faith is what impels Bartimaeus—his is an active faith—story told to illustrate this active faith—Gospel gives us examples to learn from.

How does active faith reveal itself in Bartimaeus?

1. He grasps who Jesus is

2. He persists despite hindrances

3. He expects transformation

4. He asks for the right thing

1. Grasps who Jesus is
Bartimaeus is not well placed to learn about Jesus—calls him Son of David—we do not know what is the significance of this title he uses—clearly he associates Jesus with royal dimension in Hebrew scriptures and recognises him as God’s agent—Mark 12 makes the link in a public debate with teachers of the Law:

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?

When Jesus enters Jerusalem—arrives as king, goes on trial as king, and dies as king—Bartimaeus’s understanding and perception is impressive. He also recognises Jesus has power to show mercy and to heal

51 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’
52 ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’

2. Persists in Faith
Faith does not come easily to people in Mark’s gospel—crowd think Jesus is more interested in glory and popularity than listening to the needs of a blind beggar—thus they deserve more attention than Bartimaeus—probably think Bartimaeus a sinner who has deserved his place at the bottom of social privilege—think there are many more important people who should be heard by Jesus, or spoken to by him.

The crowd sought to limit the scope of Jesus’s compassion—they have made their judgement as to his worth—Bartimaeus responds by shouting all the louder, like the woman importuning the Unjust Judge—Jesus responds by calling Bartimaeus and asking what he wants.

3. Expects transformation
Jesus could have walked to Bartimaeus, stooped down, and decided in advance what was best for him—instead Jesus called him forward—he was centre stage—asked what he desired—the crowd far from excluding him shared in Jesus’s ministry to him.

How did Bartimaeus expect transformation? He tossed aside his coat rather than hanging onto his few possessions—he knew what he wanted and boldly asked—as in other healings, Jesus addressed not only his sight (physical) but also his wholeness (spiritual and mental). Bartimaeus expected to regain his sight—tossed aside his coat, as if saying he did not need to sit on it begging any more.

4. Asks for right thing
51 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’

52 ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight...

I want to see implies more than medical vision—to ‘see’ includes understanding, wholeness and deliverance—Bartimaeus has confidence all this will through the Messiah be his—does not ask for anything less.

We can compare the disciples with Bartimaeus—they have difficulty with belief and are full of doubts—there are few declarations of faith—this passage wants to leave us with the impression that those disciples who doubt are more blind than Bartimaeus was.

Following on the Way
Bartimaeus follows Jesus on his way—not just a disciple now—has moved from lying in the gutter on the edge of the road to walking boldly in the middle. What Jesus did was not limited to healing—his faith not only led to wholeness but also to salvation.

Bartimaeus was not just following Jesus but the road led immediately to Jerusalem and confrontation—there was a cost to pay and Bartimaeus was prepared to pay it.

There is always a cost to discipleship—Bartimaeus followed on The Way after the joy of his healing—Jesus offered no promises for the future, except salvation—for Bartimaeus the Way led to the cross—we don’t know what price Bartimaeus paid to follow Christ, but this was certainly a risky and dangerous way he chose.

His was not blind faith—but he was prepared to follow Jesus without knowing where the road would lead—Bartimaeus the Paragon of Faith—how much can we learn from him?


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