“What do you want me to do for you?” If Jesus were to come through the doors of this sanctuary this morning, walk up the center isle then suddenly pause, then turn to you and ask that question….how would you respond?
Think about that question for just a moment. “What do you want me to do for you?”
As you ponder the question, you need to also ask yourself, “Is what I want Jesus to do something that will please Him? Is what I ask for a legitimate request, a true need or is it all about my selfish wants?” Finally, you should also consider… “Do I believe Jesus can do what I ask?”
Bartimaeus had no hesitation. For Bartimaeus, the answer was obvious. The scriptures tell us Bartimaeus had been blind from birth.
As Jesus passed by, Bartimaeus called out for mercy. The crowd rebuked him — tried to put him back in his place on the socioeconomic sidelines (v. 48). Why did they do that? Perhaps they assumed this sorry specimen of a man would bother the busy Jesus, or perhaps they felt their own needs were far more important than those of a useless beggar. It could even be that they were embarrassed by the unwanted, uninvited interruption.
But Bartimaeus’ faith told him that this was his only chance at sight, so he yelled out even louder.
Let’s take a moment here to set the scene as Mark tells us this story. Jesus is at the height of His popularity with His disciples… which probably number more at this point than the original twelve… We read there is a large crowd or great throng following Him. He has been teaching His disciples all along the journey and now we should begin to realize a sense of urgency in all that Jesus does. We have seen throughout the previous passages however, that even Jesus closest followers still have not fully comprehended who He is and what it means to answer His call to discipleship.
In fact, just a few verses earlier in this chapter we discover James and John approaching Jesus and asking Him to do whatever they ask of Him. Jesus’ response … “What do you want me to do for you?” James and John request is to sit to the right and left of Jesus in His glory… they are still concerned about themselves. Yet, they all accompany Jesus who is headed for Jerusalem, though He is the only one who sees His true destiny.
Leaving Jericho on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus passes a man reduced by disability to begging. His name is Bartimaeus, which means “son of Timaeus,” and for some reason, Mark takes the time and effort to inform us that Bartimaeus was the son of Timaeus. Why Mark underscores this name? Most persons healed in Gospel miracle accounts are never named. No one knows for sure. Perhaps the name and reference to Bartimaeus parentage are meant to contrast with his shout ”Son of David,” which was a title for the Messiah widely known with national and political tones…
As so often happens with scripture, it is important too for us to understand another very important, often overlooked point here. Mark tells us Bartimaeus “was sitting by the roadside…” At the end of today’s passage, we read Bartimaeus followed Jesus along the “road.” The Greek word for “roadside, road and ‘way’” are the same word…
When we begin to understand this, we begin to see this is more than a story about a miracle. In fact, the miracle itself is of lesser importance here.
So, Bartimaeus calls out”Son of David, have mercy on me!” None-the-less, despite his flattering rhetoric, the people rebuke Bartimaeus. Their action shows the strong disapproval of the crowd, for the verb rebuke is used in Mark for what Jesus did to demons, what Peter did to Jesus, and what Jesus did to Peter. Yet, disregarding the crowds rebuff of Bartimaeus, Jesus stops and tells the people to call Bartimaeus. “Take heart, arise, He calls you” they say… probably with envy.
These same people who most likely agree with Bartimaeus’ assessment of Jesus nevertheless attempted to stifle him… a blind beggar regarded as a worthless sort; yet… Jesus, Jesus who regularly has commanded exorcised demons, enthusiastic disciples, and the exonerated disabled to silence hears the cry and calls the man forward in spite of his garbles perception.(NRSV)
When the Rabbi asks what he wants from him, Bartimaeus simply says, “My teacher, let me see again” (v. 52). He knows enough about Jesus to call him teacher and has enough personal belief to say “my.” The new title, “teacher” and the request itself show Bartimaeus’ willingness to learn from Jesus, perhaps even his willingness to learn to see. Again and again Jesus sought to teach the disciples about His saving Passion, death, and resurrection; but again and again they demonstrated that they had not learned His lesson, that they could not see. Jesus says Bartimaeus’ faith “healed him.” Some translations say “saved” and healed him… that is, made him truly whole, as God intended him to be.
For us to experience all that Jesus has for us, it is imperative we first realize we lack something… Bartimaeus not only knew he lacked sight, but he just as surely recognized he could do nothing to correct the situation himself and more significantly, that Jesus alone had the power to heal him. This miracle, any miracle of transformation can occur only after we have admitted our own limitations and acknowledged that Jesus alone can meet the need. In our spiritual blindness, we are tempted to falsely assume we can work things out for ourselves if we will only exercise initiative and creativity.
In order to open the door for a miracle in our lives, we must also seek Jesus and ignore public opinion. When Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, the crowd told him to be quiet. In our lives as well, they will often discourage us from getting to know God and taking Jesus seriously. But God is in the business of performing miracles in spite of public cynicism or outcry.
Bartimaeus could have given up when the crowd rebuked him, and he would have remained blind. But he was persistent, focusing on Christ, not listening to or being influenced by the opinion of the crowd.
Looking back, we see that Bartimaeus’ is quite a contrast to the disciples. “Immediately” as the first disciples answered Jesus’ call, Bartimaeus saw clearly and followed [Jesus] along the road… the “way.”
How often do we find ourselves sitting alongside the road… sitting by the “way” but fail to see, to acknowledge the truth of Jesus Christ… the way … the truth and the life everlasting.
Once blind, sitting by the way, Bartimaeus called to Jesus perhaps not fully understanding who Jesus truly was or His mission…; but as Jesus called him, and he left his all behind to be healed and to learn from Jesus, Bartimaeus moved into the path of discipleship as he followed Jesus in the way, Jesus’ way, forward toward the cross. What will be your response?