Summary: When Bartimaeus received his sight from Jesus, he wanted nothing more than to see Christ, love Christ, and follow Christ.
What Do You Want?
October 29, 2006
If you could have anything on earth, what would it be? What do you want most of all. What is your dream? What would make you incredibly happy? Do you know what I want? When I retire, I want a green metal-flake “Champion Elite” Bass boat with a Cannon Speed-N-Temp Monitor, Tournament 480 Max fishfinder, fully automatic live well, 36 gallon fuel tank, 24 square foot casting deck, 82 lb. thrust trolling motor, trim switch on the steering wheel, Sea Star Hydraulic steering, and a 200 horse outboard motor.
Perhaps there is more to life than a bass boat. In fact, we can take a lesson in the important things in life and living from an old, blind beggar in the gospel of Mark.
It was at the very tail end of his ministry when Jesus and the disciples were in Capernaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Knowing that the time was coming for him to be delivered up and handed over to the authorities in Jerusalem, they headed south to Judea; to the eastern shore of the Jordan River.
Once there, he had a discussion with some Pharisees over the issue of divorce; he gathered some children to him to illustrate the attitude necessary to be welcomed into heaven; he instructed a wealthy young man that the key for heaven for him was to give all that he owned to the poor.
Then they set out from Jerusalem, climbing the steep mountainous road from the river to the capital. On the way, they passed through Jericho, a city which had an ancient history even then. As they left town, they passed by a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus. He heard the commotion that always seemed to follow Jesus. My guess is that someone told him who was coming, so when Jesus walked by him, he called out, “Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
One of the things that Toni and I like to do in the summer is get away for a couple of days to Chicago. We find a hotel close to Michigan Avenue. It is fun to walk up and down the Miracle Mile and window shop. I honestly can’t believe that I just said that. But we have a good time. We don’t buy stuff because it’s too expensive. We don’t even eat there. Once we stopped in to the restaurant at the Drake Hotel. After I paid eight bucks for a bowl of tomato soup, we decided that we would look for other places to eat. Usually we head on over to Perillos down on Ontario Street. It’s cattycorner from the Hard Rock Café and is the home of the world famous Chicago hotdog. Or we find a smaller restaurant over on Rush Street or State Street.
One interesting thing that always happens is this. We will be walking along, looking in all the store windows. We’ll stop in at Neiman Marcus or Lord and Taylor. I’ll wonder why anyone would pay eighty-five bucks for a shirt. Then I’ll be taken out of my daydreaming by a homeless beggar on the street. We don’t like to be confronted by beggars, mostly I guess because we don’t like to be reminded that there are people like that among us. It is hard to keep our minds focused on the glitz and glamour of Michigan Avenue when a haggard, smelly homeless person asks you for a dollar. I don’t like to be shaken in my affluence. I don’t like to be reminded that - despite what I tell my Staff-Parish Committee - I am rich indeed.
The Michigan Avenue homeless (they move down to Lower Wacker Drive in the winter) are an intrusion into my comfortable, self-centered, fairly arrogant lifestyle. I think that is what Bartimaeus represented to the Disciples that day in Jericho. He was an intrusion. They were doing important stuff, and there he was by the side of the road, shouting and demanding attention.
The crowd with Jesus acts as though Bartimaeus is indeed an intrusion. When he shouts for Jesus, they hush him up. The louder he shouts, the louder they try to keep him quiet. Perhaps they were feeling that, if beggars have to be seen, as least they don’t have to be heard.
But blind Bartimaeus won’t be deterred. He causes a ruckus until he is noticed. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He doesn’t care about what other people think. He knows that the Son of God is passing by and he will not be content until he meets him, face to face. That sort of determination and intention puts many of us to shame, doesn’t it?
“Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is a backward looking title that evokes memories of King David and the promises of a Messiah who would come to sit once again on his throne. In fact, the very next recorded incident in the gospel is of the triumphant ride into Jerusalem, when the crowd sings their hosannas at the coming of the King, the Son of David. This blind beggar of Jericho gets a jump on all of the other proclaimers of his Messiahship.