Summary: This is a story that is familiar to those of us who grew up in Sunday School. The story of “Blind Bartimaeus” is what my Primary teacher called it. It’s the story of a man who was reduced to begging because he was blind. Unlike our day, in the first ce
Chuck Warnock, senior pastor
Chatham Baptist Church
Mark 10:46-52, NIV
10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
10:49 Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you."
10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
10:51 Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again."
10:52 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
This is a story that is familiar to those of us who grew up in Sunday School. The story of “Blind Bartimaeus” is what my Primary teacher called it. It’s the story of a man who was reduced to begging because he was blind. Unlike our day, in the first century blindness meant you could no longer go about your trade. A blind shepherd could not look for sheep; a blind shopkeeper could not manage his wares; a blind carpenter was a danger to himself and those around him; a blind farmer could not plant, nurture his crop or see when it was ready for harvest. No guide dogs for the blind, no books on tape, no institutions for those who are visually-impaired. Blindness was a sentence of destitution and hopelessness.
Plus, this man had undoubtedly been able to see at one time. So, we only have to speculate that disease or accident left him blinded. He once had seen the sun rise over the Judean hills. He once had looked at the face of his wife, the love of his life. He once had watched his children playing outside the family’s home. All he had now were memories – memories of colors that were fading, images that seemed to dissolve from his mind with the passing of time.
Whatever the cause of his blindness or its duration, he still had some fire in his heart. And, in order to support himself and his family, he would cry out,
“A penny for a blind man.”
“Help a blindman for once I could see just like you.”
“I know you can see me – help me or this fate might be yours also.’
He wasn’t shy. He still tried to keep up with the local gossip, even though people walked around him, and acted as though he were invisible himself. But, he overheard their conversations. “It’s amazing,” he thought, “I’m blind but people talk around me as though I were deaf, too!” So, he kept up with the local gossip, news, and rumors just by sitting in the same spot everyday and listening as people passed by.
One day there seemed to be an unusual amount of commotion. Bartimaeus heard the plop of feet as the slapped the dusty ground around him. He heard shouts of “He’ll be coming by here soon,” from those rushing by. One person said the name, “Jesus” – a common name, but he had heard about a Jesus from Nazareth, a teacher. But not just a teacher. A man who had miraculous powers. He heard that this Jesus had made a deaf man hear, and a lame man walk, and had fed thousands of people. But, he also heard that this Jesus had made a bunch of people mad – primarily the religious leaders. But, “who cares about them,” Bartimaeus thought, “they pass me by saying their prayers loudly and never drop so much as a penny in my cup.” And he thought, “Anybody who can stand up to the Pharisees is all right by me!”
But, apparently Jesus was coming and Bartimaeus now sensed that he was close. He heard people call out, “Jesus, over here.” “Jesus, where are you going?” “Jesus, feed my family like you fed that other crowd.” Laughter and shouts rang out and Bartimaeus could tell the crowd was getting near, so he shouted out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” And he yelled it out again, “Jesus, help me!”
Then, something happened. The shouting stopped and the crowd got quiet. Bartimaeus heard a voice – a kind, strong voice say, “Come here.”
Instantly people in the crowd were grabbing at Bartimaeus. “It’s your lucky day,” one man said, “Jesus wants to see you.” Someone grabbed his arm, but he couldn’t get up because somebody was standing on his cloak. Bartimaeus quickly shrugged off his cloak and jumped to his feet.