Sunday, November 7, 2010
Character Identification In the Narrative of Jesus Healing Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52
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!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
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.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I wonder what picture you have in your minds eye as you read this passage. From where did you view the encounter between Bartimaeus and Jesus? What character in this narrative do you identify with the most?
There is Bartimaeus. He is a blind beggar; scholars tell us that because we know his name that the narrative has a feel of being an eyewitness account. Only mark records the name, perhaps this miracle had a great impact on Mark’s source Peter. And as Bartimaeus becomes a follower of Jesus he would have had a chance to get to know him.
Bartimaeus is the person in the story who is in need of Jesus help, maybe we can readily identify with that. Being a person who needs Jesus help, his healing and saving touch.
He’s a blind beggar but he is the person who has the greatest insight into Jesus. When he hears which Jesus it is coming down the road, Jesus of Nazareth, he addresses Jesus with a messianic title ‘Son of David’. Before this it has only been the unclean spirits that have recognised who Jesus is and Jesus had told them to be quite. The only other person, who has addressed Jesus as the messiah, is Peter in Mark 8: 29 “you are the messiah”. Bartimaeus’ title for Jesus ‘Son of David’ sets the context of what will happen next his triumphant entry in Jerusalem. AS Jesus gets closer and closer to the Cross it become more and more obvious that he is the messiah, culminating in the centurion at the crucifixion saying “Surely this is the Son of God”.
Can we identify with Bartimaeus insight as well as his need for Jesus? Are our spiritual eyes open?
Bartimaeus is the most helpless but he has the most faith. He is determined to come to Jesus; he is not put off by the crowd’s dismissal of him. They tell him to be quite but he will not be silenced. His faith makes him willing to tell Jesus what it is he wants. “I want to see”. It is his faith that heals him. All through Mark’s gospel there is a link between faith and healing. However if you don’t mind me using the pun it is not blind faith that is at work here. It is not simply the faith of Bartimaeus but rather that his faith is placed in the right place, it is placed in Jesus Christ, the Son of David that faith brings healing and wholeness.
Can we identify with Bartimaeus’ faith, a faith that brings him to Jesus with confidence in Christ’s ability to help? Do we have the same faith to bring our needs for physical healing, emotional wholeness, to have our spiritual eyes opened to Jesus?
Have you noticed how Bartimaeus changes from the beginning to the end of the narrative?
Bartimaeus moves from being a beggar a person in need on the side of road to being a disciple on the road. Jesus tells him not that his faith has made him well, but rather that his faith has saved him, has given him his sight but also moved him into a new relationship with Jesus. He has been born again and become a follower. The passage tells us that when he receives his sight he sets off on the road to follow Jesus. In verse 50 it tells us that he threw aside his cloak to come to Jesus. Beggars in the first century Middle East would have cast their cloak out before them to collect the alms of the pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem. Like buskers putting a hat out. Now like the nets that Jesus first disciples left behind when he called them to follow him, Bartimaeus leaves behind all he has, his safety blanket his means of income to encounter and follow Jesus.
We may relate to Bartimaeus as someone who needs Jesus but the witness and challenge of his faith to us is changing from someone who needs Jesus help to being someone who will be a disciple and leave all they have to follow Jesus.
Do we identify with the crowd in this narrative? I don’t know about you but it seems the natural place for us to stand when we read the narrative. The crowd of people round Jesus. His followers the twelve, the women who took care of needs of Jesus and his group, the pilgrims maybe unaware of who Jesus was heading to the city and the people of the town there to see this Jesus they had heard of. They were all in the crowd. There would also have been other beggars others in need sitting on the side of the road in Jericho, seeking help from the many people heading to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Did you notice the way the crowd behaved at first? Shhh be quite Bartimaeus don’t cause a fuss, don’t make a scene. They tried to get in between the blind beggar and Jesus as a barrier. Even the disciples in Mark’s gospel are good at getting between Jesus and those in need. . I have to wonder how we act like this crowd? How do we act as a barrier between people and Jesus?
Notice that when Jesus hears Bartimaeus and replies that the crowd change their tune and encourage Bartimaeus to come to Jesus. They get between Bartimaeus and Jesus but not to keep him from Jesus rather to encourage him to go to Jesus. “Come on” they say he’s heard you he’s calling for you get up and go to him”. You could imagine their willing helping hands guiding blind Bartimaeus to Jesus. They are keen to see what Jesus can do for the beggar.
As they hear Jesus voice as they hear Jesus compassion they echo it and want to see Bartimaeus come to Jesus. One of the biggest changes in the way the church sees itself in the twenty first century, has been to realise that God is about mission, caring for the people in the world around us and our calling is to care for these people and work to bring them to Jesus.
‘Missio Dei’ is a term that has come into prevalence recently. The crowd heard what Jesus wanted to do and his compassion for Bartimaeus and they changed to echo and facilitate what he wanted to do. God is at work in the world by his Holy Spirit today and our job is to connect with this ‘Missio dei’, this mission of God and add our voice our hands our prayers and actions to what God is already doing.
I wonder if we dare identify with Jesus. To be called to be an agent of God’s mercy, healing, wholeness and salvation. Maybe we wouldn’t think of that in case someone though we had a messiah complex.
This narrative is the last miracle story in Mark’s gospel. I can identify with Jesus, because I’m a very task orientated person and I don’t often hear the people who are need around me. Jesus was off passing through town on his way to Jerusalem. We have had the sense that Jesus had his eyes fixed on Jerusalem for a time now. In the passage we looked at last week in Mark 10:32 it says that Jesus was leading the way he was out in front. That’s me, that’s us maybe as we go about our daily tasks I can identify with that. But Jesus stops and steps aside when he hears the call of the blind beggar. The crowd surrounds him on his way and yet he identifies that one voice calling out to him for help. “Jesus son of David have mercy on me.” He stops and shows mercy on Bartimaeus, while Jesus miracles are always seen as signs and wonders they are also always acts of compassion and mercy.
I was at a seminar a few years ago and this passage was used as the morning devotions and the question that the person taking the seminar left us with was and Who is looking for the Jesus in you? Because you and I are the body of Christ in the world today, we are Christ’s hands and his feet. We are called to show his compassion. When we go about our everyday lives who is the voice that is calling to the Jesus in us to have mercy.