Summary: This text reminds us that we must blindly trust Jesus, even in the face of opposition.
35) As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36) When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37) They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ 38) Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 39) Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 40) Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41) ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ 42) Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ 43) Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. (Luke 18: 35-43)
In this passage of scripture, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, by way of Jericho. While in the vicinity of Jericho, Christ encountered a blind man; Mark’s account of the episode identifies the man as Bartimaeus. This blind man was begging, however, when he met Jesus, he did not ask for spare change; rather, he asked for a changing experience. Bartimaeus did not ask for the financial resources needed to keep him sitting comfortably and securely in darkness. Instead he asked for a transformation that would enable him to walk in the light. There is no biblical record that Bartimaeus had previously seen Christ, but the biblical context does suggest that whatever he had already heard about Christ was enough to establish a trust relationship and hope for deliverance. For most people, ‘seeing is believing’ – eyesight facilitates insight. However for Bartimaeus, ‘believing was seeing’ - his insight facilitated his eyesight.
If we look at this text a little closer, we see three interesting details. The first detail of interest is that the crowd leaders prohibited Bartimaeus from calling out to Jesus. The text is silent concerning the reason for this prohibition. We can speculate that the those in front had their own requests to make. We can speculate that the crowd leaders saw Bartimaeus as an insignificant irritant and as an unwanted distraction. We can speculate that Bartimaeus’ actions caused his own blindness and had voided his right to be heard in the public square. We do not know why but we do know that a blind man’s cries for mercy were rejected by those with sight. Hence we have a scenario where people who are following Jesus are not followers of Jesus. Those persons who were be-graced with vision were physically close to Jesus but far from His heart.
The second detail of interest is that Bartimaeus says that he wants to see ‘again’. The concept of ‘again’ is like a savings bond, a bottle of fine wine or an IRS tax debt – it gains value as time goes by. The older one becomes, the more one’s mind becomes filled with ‘again’ prayers. The heart that once experienced love and subsequently had it shattered, yearns to find love again. The arms that used to carry heavy grocery bags and now need assistance wishes for strength again. The physical attributes that used to turn heads but now evokes laughter desire to be attractive again. The mind that used to be razor sharp but now needs sticky notes dreams of mental acuity again. The hands that used to change diapers, feed pets and wash dishes but now shake from a neurologic disorders would give everything to be in control again. The persons who did not take their studies seriously and now have low paying jobs crave that they could burn the midnight oil again. The person whose selfishness ruined a good friendship hungers that s/he could have that friend back again. That person who foolishly applied for the credit cards sent to many high school graduates longs for a clean credit report again. That person who used to be so faithful in Christian service but became distracted and ultimately replaced, aches to be of service again. We can identify with Bartimaeus cry – we don’t want more, we don’t want better, we don’t want different, we just want to restore what we used to have. What we no longer have means more now than when we had it.
The third detail of interest is that after Bartimaeus was healed, everyone praised God; we are led to believe that this also included the initial naysayers. Bartimaeus is now in the position of being able to associate voices with faces again. If he has any detractors, they are now hard to discern because everyone is on the praise team now.
So what does this text and these details mean for us? Several things: