Mark 10: 46-52
Bartimaeus is a blind beggar, sitting on the outside of town, no one worth paying much attention to, just a normal part of his community. He is doing what beggars do- waiting for people to have pity on him. That is, until Jesus comes to his home town of Jericho. As Jesus leaves town Bartimaeus can hear people begin to mummer and the voices of the crowd declares that Jesus is coming by. This rock star, Jesus, miracle worker and healer. He doesn’t know where Jesus is. He can’t see him. So, he uses the only tool he has- his voice.“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This outcry is seen as a nuisance. They didn’t mind him being there- as long as he was minding his own business -easily ignored by the crowd.Each week as I drive into Atlanta there is a beggar on the corner at the Druid Hills Exit. He is always holding a sign asking for help or food. I and everyone else that use that exit know he is there. Some days we look away not wanting to feel guilty or obligated to help. Other days we may throw him a dollar or two or offer him a pack of crackers but then we go about our lives- off to church, work, school or home. The crowd knew Bartimaeus was there but once they passed- out of sight out of mind. While they were aware of his presence, like the man on the street corner, he was never really seen.
But now he starts in with the attention seeking behaviors- he cries out, demands to be seen, heard, understood, it’s irritating. Who does he think he is? We are forced to look; we are forced to see his desperation. He isn’t trying to be obnoxious, it is a cry for help but it’s disturbing and disruptive to the disciples, the crowd trying to get a glimpse of this Rock Star Jesus, and the good folk trying to get along with their daily lives.It’s making them uncomfortable, it makes us uncomfortable. The need is too great, the smell too pungent, the problem too big and we think we can’t really help him. So, they tell him to hush- we want him to be quiet. As long as he is quiet we can ignore him and pretend he isn’t there. We can keep Jesus all to ourselves.
But this time, he will not be ignored. He is persistent and cries out even louder “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” Jesus hears his plea of desperation even over the noise and objection of the crowd. Jesus is our Lord, our messiah. He is off to do a great and wonderful thing- he is on his way to the cross to die for our sins. There is no time to waste on this one beggar.But, Jesus disagrees. He stops- Jesus gives him permission to be seen, there is always time for one more child of God to be found and to be healed.
Bartimaeus jumps up at this opportunity and throws his cloak to the side. Jesus hasn’t done anything yet but still Bartimaeus is full of faith and trust in what is yet to be and what cannot be seen. This piece of fabric was not just his coat but his blanket, his cup (Eerdmans’s Dictionary). People would throw the loose change on the fabric so that it could be easily collected. As he throws off the cloak and jumps up- whatever money he had that day is lost. The man on the corner- tosses his cup- change rattles as it hits the pavement as he runs to greet the one person who gives him hope.Bartemaeus knows Jesus is more than just a healer, a miracle worker. He knows Jesus is his only chance to regain his sight, his life, his dignity. So, he doesn’t hesitate and doesn’t just ask for sight but instead asks to see.
Tradition tells us this request was not simply to regain his physical sight but a desire to understand and to know more fully (CBQ). Jesus has mercy on him, heals him. Not only is his sight restored but his life is restored. He is made whole. The man who was never really seen by his own people is now seen by Jesus and sees himself. He is no longer just a beggar he is now a Disciple of Jesus. When told to go he chooses the most difficult but rewarding path- to follow Jesus “on the way” to Jerusalem… and the cross.The crowd is following Rock Star Jesus – miracle worker and enigmatic teacher but this blind beggar has known Jesus all of two minutes but knows because of him, his life has been changed forever. He may even know him better than the crowd of followers and the twelve disciples. The Gospel of Mark likes to portray Jesus as a mystery and yet while the demons and those he heals know him, the disciples remain confused. They have spent three years with Jesus. They have observed the miracles and the signs. They have learned at the feet of the Master himself and yet, they still don’t quite understand what this blind man sees- the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David, Messiah!
Is this who we see, when we see Jesus? We, like the disciples often find it easy to hear the words of Jesus. We read our Bibles; we study diligently, wanting to understand more. We come to church and bible study and Sunday school to hear about this amazing man and the life he desires for us and we ask all kinds of questions about what he said and did but yet, we still don’t always understand. We are blind to who Jesus really is. We are asking the wrong questions. We ask for understanding when we need faith. We ask for sight but what we really need is to see.We all have things in our lives which are broken and in need of the healing words of Jesus. And yet, we tend to put more energy into hiding them, ignoring them and hushing them, than we do seeking help. When our brokenness can’t take it and desires to cry out in desperation… are we willing to be like Bartimaeus? Are we brave enough to ask for what we really need?
Jesus can and will show us the way, shine light in the world of darkness, heal us, make us whole and allow us to see but that seeing leads us away from what is comfortable and known.What we gain is so much more! We gain salvation, a life healed and made whole. A full life, filled with the love of Christ, no longer digging through the trash of this world looking for meaning, no longer begging for someone, anyone to give us love and attention, no longer dependent on the charity of others to give us value. When we realize that we are seen by Jesus; we realize that we are valued by the one who knows us inside and out, sees all those things we try to hide and loves us anyway. Then we know we too must cry out “Jesus, Son of David! Have Mercy on Me!”