Meditation on Mark 10:46-52
Pastor Karen Crawford
Oct. 24, 2021
Link to live-streamed service, with adult and children’s messages:
We gathered for a service of Communion on Thursday afternoon at Windsorwood Place in Coshocton. We were in Velma Hoffman’s living room—Margie Baird, Jan Kobel, Janet Ashman, Velma, and me. The room was warm and inviting. After confirming that Velma doesn’t pay for utilities, we turned on every light in the room to help us all to see the prayer of confession on small slips of paper. And help Janet read our passage of Scripture—the one from the gospel of Mark that we read today.
I studied my friends’ faces as Janet read the story of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus—sitting beside the road. Begging as he always did. For he was blind. Then he hears Jesus of Nazareth is coming. He begins shouting to Jesus, asking for mercy! “Son of David” he cries two times—his cries revealing that he recognizes who Jesus really is—the anointed one, come to heal and save the world from its sins.
When Janet finishes her reading, we talk about the scripture—Velma, Margie, Janet, Jan, and me. It occurs to me that these four widows understand exactly what happened in Christ’s time—and what it all must mean for us as we seek to live eyes wide open to spiritual truths with the power to transform hearts and minds today.
They are strong, godly women. All of them caregivers since their marriages and the birth of their children. All of them still seeking Christ in faith, wanting new and abundant life, even in this season of simplicity and, at times, separation from those they love the most.
Margie has been there only 2 weeks. She enjoys coming out to be with the folks for meals and activities, though the meals seem kind of repetitive, she says. The food isn’t seasoned, so it doesn’t taste like meals at home. And they serve a lot of beans, she adds, and the others laugh in agreement. “Well, I guess they’re good for us,” she says with a smile. “High in protein.”
More than the home cooking that they miss, their greatest loss, 99-year-old Velma says, is their independence. When people ask what she misses the most in her new life at Windsorwood, she says, “My wheels. I miss my wheels!” Giving up her car means that whenever she wants to go somewhere—a quick trip to the store to pick up one thing or to go to church on Sunday morning, she has to rely on someone else to take her. She doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone.
The story of Bartimaeus speaks to this wonderful group of thoughtful, smart, sensitive women, who often feel, much like the blind man in Jesus’ time, on the margins of society. We talk about what Bartimaeus’ life must have been like before meeting Jesus–dependent on others for everything. Begging his only choice for survival.
And the crowd of people—many of whom are sighted, with homes, jobs, and full stomachs—sternly orders him to be quiet! Not only is he blind and silenced, he might as well be invisible—an outcast from the crowd.
But when he meets Jesus, and asks for mercy, in an instant, with a word, a blind man’s world goes from scarcity to abundance, darkness to light.
Velma marvels at how it must feel to suddenly be able to see after being blind, perhaps for a long time. “What would he see?” I ask. Faces and people, Velma says, where he had only heard voices. He would see sky, birds, and trees.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks, after calling for Bartimaeus to come near when he hears Bartimaeus calling to him for mercy.
“My teacher,” the blind man answers. “Let me see again.”
This is the second and final time Jesus will heal a blind man in the gospel of Mark. The first time, in chapter 8, when Jesus and the disciples come to Bethsaida, some people bring a blind man to him and beg Jesus to touch him. He takes the blind man by the hand and leads him out of the village; and when he puts saliva on his eyes and lays his hands on him, he asks him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looks up and says, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” So, Jesus lays his hands on his eyes again—and the man’s sight is restored. Notice these details—we never know the man’s name, he doesn’t ask for help or healing for himself, and it’s Jesus’ touch and saliva that heal him, not completely at first, but after a second try.
What’s different about the story of Bartimaeus? Well, we know his name, for one. Most people Jesus heals are never named. They are the poor, the blind, the sick, the lame and demon-possessed. Bartimaeus is a Greek word that means “son of Timaeus,” which seems oddly repetitive when we read the phrase, “Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus” in verse 46.
William Placher, prof. of philosophy and religion at Wabash College in Indiana,
says the repetition is to call attention to the name of the person seeking healing. “Timaeus” could mean “one who was purchased or bought.” Jesus has just foretold his death and resurrection, saying just before the beginning of today’s passage, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Now, Placher points out, “we encounter a son of one who was purchased or bought who needs help.”
The word call is key to this passage; this is the first time Jesus has called anyone since he called his 12 disciples and Levi early in the gospel. This is a call story! Not just a healing story! What does Bartimaeus do in response? I almost missed the significance of this detail. He throws off his cloak when he comes to him! This cloak, probably his only one and his protection from weather and harm, could easily be lost in the crowd and never recovered.He gives up his one precious possession, leaving behind almost all his material goods—with the exception of the few remaining clothes on his back.
What a contrast this is to the rich man who approaches Jesus earlier in chapter 10 and asks what he has to do to inherit eternal life. He lacks one thing, Jesus says. He needs to sell all that he owns and give the money to the poor, then come and follow him. That man doesn’t immediately follow Jesus in that call story. He goes away grieving—”because he has many possessions.”
With Bartimaeus throwing off his only cloak and coming to Jesus for the healing only Christ can give, what does the Lord say is the cause of his healing? Faith. Bartimaeus’ faith has made him well. That word translated well could mean physical or spiritual health. So one could say that Bartimaeus’ faith has also saved him.
This passage, indeed this whole section beginning at chapter 8 with the healing of the first blind man, isn’t really about physical blindness. It’s about spiritual blindness—something that plagues the disciples from the getgo. They never seem to understand what Jesus is trying to say. Even Peter, the first to say that Jesus is the Messiah, rebukes him when Jesus explains that he will be tortured, die and rise again.
James and John have just come to him with a request beginning in 10:35, revealing their spiritual blindness. “What is it you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks. They want him to say that, in his glory, they will sit at his right hand and his left. “You do not know what you are asking,” he answers.
Now, when Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” the blind man simply wants to be able to see again—and believes that Jesus is the one, who, in his mercy, can do this for him, when no one else can.
“Here, just before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, is someone who gets everything right,” Placher says. “He recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, gives up everything, asks only for his sight, and follows Jesus on the way. Who is this perfect disciple? A blind beggar, sitting by the roadside, yelling his head off.”
Today’s passage stirs us to see ourselves in the story of Bartimaeus.
Are we the disciples who were called and responded—but are suffering from spiritual blindness? Are we focused on the things of this world, getting stuck in worry, rather than trusting in the things of God? Are we the ones choosing to live in scarcity and fear, not quite understanding the miracle of our salvation and the new and abundant life in Christ available right now?
Are we like the crowd, not seeing or wanting to see or be bothered by the blind beggar by the side of the road, crying out to Jesus?
Are we like Bartimaeus, willing to let go of even our prized possession, as Bartimaeus dropped his one cloak in the crowd when he heard that Jesus was calling for him? Are we ready to follow him, though it may mean sacrifice, it always means sacrifice, truly giving all of ourselves to His loving purposes?
Brothers and sisters, Christ is with us now. And he wants each of us to have the healing our Savior and Messiah offers to all. He wants us to live eyes wide open to spiritual truths with the power to transform hearts and minds today.
The one who came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many is asking us the same question he asked his first disciples and his perfect disciple—Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Let us pray.
Holy One, thank you for opening our eyes to the truth of your Word. Let it dwell richly in our hearts and transform us, more and more. Help us to never overlook people living in poverty, on the margins of society, like blind Bartimaeus, just trying to survive from day to day. Help us to see, befriend, and meet the needs of others as you lead us. Bless all our widows and widowers of our community who continue in simplicity of lives to minister to others with their wise and loving ways. May they never feel alone or lonely. Fill them and us with your joy. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.