Read Mark 10:46-52
As Jesus and his disciples, along with a large crowd, leave Jericho on their way to Jerusalem, there was a blind man, Bartimaeus, sitting by the roadside begging for money. Hearing a noisy crowd approaching he asked what was happening. Being told that it was Jesus of Nazarene, he cries out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Many in the crowd rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Unfortunately, Bartimaeus has two strikes against him — he is blind, and he is begging. During Jesus’ time and culture, that was a perfect prescription for being overlooked by society. It’s difficult for me to imagine the pain of scorn and rejection, of being considered a worthless person in society that Bartimaeus daily suffered because of his blindness.
However, this blind man sees something that no one has yet seen or declared. For the first time, Jesus of Nazareth is publicly called the “Son of David.” In doing so, Bartimaeus makes a declaration of faith, conviction, and confidence that this Jesus can completely heal him, physically, socially, and spiritually.
In this miracle story, it is only the sightless man who sees Jesus clearly. Only blind Bartimaeus correctly identifies Jesus as the long-awaited “Son of David” – the promised Messiah for the world.
For me, it is so reassuring to note that Jesus heard Bartimaeus’ urgent plea, stopped, and called Bartimaeus to come to him. Bartimaeus makes a quick response, “throwing his coat aside” (used to catch coins), “jumped to his feet” (abandons his sitting position as a beggar), “and came to Jesus” (on his own, without help). And with amazing love and compassion, Jesus responds to the ready faith of Bartimaeus with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus is a beggar, so he could’ve asked for a bag of gold. He’s got no status in the community, so he could’ve asked for the respect of others. He’s unemployed, so he could’ve asked for a job. He’s made mistakes in life, so he could’ve asked for forgiveness.
I understand Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” as being open-ended, non-directive – a blank check, just waiting to be filled in. I really wonder how I would have responded, if I were blind Bartimaeus. How would you have responded
Bartimaeus says, “Teacher, I want to see!” It’s a simple, straightforward request, but one that is much harder to fulfill than a plea for a job or a bag of gold, or even a place of honor in the community.
Bartimaeus makes his request, trusting Jesus to be both infinitely powerful and endlessly merciful, willing and able to fulfill his request for healing.
“Go, your faith has healed you” says Jesus. And immediately Bartimaeus could see and follows Jesus down the road toward Jerusalem. Bartimaeus is spontaneously enthusiastic, and I believe, in all likelihood, he is one of the cheering crowd who surrounded Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, shouting “”Hosanna! …Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.”
Just before this encounter, in verses 35-45, James and John had asked Jesus to do for them whatever they asked. The difference between Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus’s request and the disciples’ request is the difference between faith and ambition. Faith, as we see in Bartimaeus, asks for needs, whereas Ambition, as we see in James and John, begs for wants.
“What do you want me to do for you?” What would be your response? What are the deepest needs that you haven’t asked Jesus or anyone else to help you with? Does the deep darkness of fear, rejection, or loneliness – or the blindness of guilt or unbelief keep you from experiencing the healing of forgiveness, joy, and peace that Jesus offers? How might you take a leap of faith and against all negative voices, ask for healing of mind, body, and spirit, confidently believing that Jesus will give you all that you need and more?
Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Faith is the catalyst for asking, and asking is the key to healing! We may not receive precisely what we want, but we can be assured that Jesus is ready to supply our need.
This story, like many others from Scripture, reveals Jesus as the compassionate, all-loving, almighty healer. Like Bartimaeus, let us together embrace Jesus as our powerful Messiah King, and follow him with courage and confidence, knowing that he is a most trustworthy Savior.