Read Mark 10:46-52
Bartimaeus is blind… left to beg on the streets of Jericho and he has a vision for his life that goes beyond this kind of existence. It is a vision for… well… vision. He wants to see, and he wants to see more than anything else. Who knows how long he has been there, but by the reaction that he gets when he starts to speak up, it seems like he has been there long enough to be an annoyance to all the residents and the passers by. Maybe this isn’t even the first time he has shouted out to someone who he thought might could help him.
Imagine yourself as Bartimaeus for a moment. Imagine the many times when you had cried out for help, only to be silenced or ignored. Bartimaeus doesn’t have much, but it seems that at this point he is willing to risk everything… including any shred of dignity he might have had left in order to fulfill his deepest dream… to see. Even if it means failing… AGAIN! So, “he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And even though the people around him (maybe even the disciples) tried to shut him up, Bartimaeus persisted, putting it all on the line shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Despite the best efforts of everyone around, Jesus heard the shouts of Bartimaeus and stopped. Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.”
I can imagine Bartimaeus who was probably expecting to be rejected once again thinking, “Wait… what just happened? He wants to talk to me?! He want’s me to come over there where he is and he wants to talk with me? Are you sure?” And then, in a moment of great faithfulness, Bartimaeus, “threw off his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus.” I don’t want us to miss this… in a moment of great faithfulness, Bartimaeus, “threw off his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus.” In just a moment, Bartimaeus is going to be made well… he’s finally going to be able to see… and Jesus proclaims that this is so because of his faith. So I don’t want us to miss it. Typically someone like Bartimaeus… a beggar on the street… has little to nothing to his name. For Bartimaeus, his cloak was more than just clothes. It wasn’t one of many outfits he had to wear, it was his one and only outer garment. At night it served as his blanket and pillow and mattress all rolled up into one. It was the only thing between him and the hard dusty streets at night and the only thing that protected him from the hot sun of the middle-eastern days. This cloak, in many ways, represented life to Bartimaeus. But when Jesus said come, he threw off his cloak… in essence leaving his life behind… risking it all to follow Jesus, before he even knew what would happen. And his faith made him well… Immediately he regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way. Bartimaeus’ vision… what he longed for, and was willing to risk it all for, was what Jesus longed for as well. As we’ve said countless times before, our father wants his children well.
It’s interesting to compare and contrast this story with the kind of stories we’ve been reading from Mark’s gospel over the last few weeks. 2 weeks ago was the story of the rich young ruler. Jesus made the same invitation to him… to come and follow. The young man, however, chose to hold on to his possessions and he went home disheartened and disappointed. Bartimaeus, didn’t have much, but he left it all to follow Jesus… and his eyes were opened, literally to a whole new world… one which he had dreamed about, but now he could see! Last week we read the story of how James and John wanted Jesus to put them in a place of honor in his kingdom. Bartimaeus just wanted to see. Interestingly, I’ve said Bartimaeus’ name 16 times already in this sermon… now 17. Typically in a story like this the author leaves out details like the name of a beggar. In fact, Mark (who isn’t exactly known for going into things in great detail) is the only gospel writer to mention his name in telling this story. You’d expect it from Luke for sure and maybe Matthew, but not Mark. But Mark, follows the story about James and John wanting a place of honor next to Jesus with this story of an otherwise anonymous beggar named Bartimaeus. In first century Palestine, the prefix “Bar” in a name was kind of like their version of Jr. In other words, Bar-Timaeus was like saying Timaeus Jr. Literally it meant, Son of Timaeus. What makes this interesting, in light of the gospel story we read last week is that the name Timaeus literally means “Honor”. James and John wanted to pacify their ego and sit in a place of honor next to Jesus… and then Jesus invites an otherwise anonymous beggar with a name that literally means, “Son of Honor” to join with James and John in following Jesus on the way.
There’s a lot that we can learn from this man’s faith. How would we respond if Jesus was to ask us the same question he asked Bartimaeus? “What do you want me to do for you?” Because he’s asking. What are your hopes and dreams and passions and visions. Are they things that are in line with God’s Kingdom vision, or are they simply a kind of wish list for a comfortable life according to this world’s standards? “What do you want me to do for you?” Are we willing to risk it it all to follow in faith? Let’s be like Bartimaeus and join with Jesus on the way!