Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Mark 10:46-52, The Message or Mark 10:46-52, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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In the Gospel of Mark, today's reading is the culmination of Jesus' ministry before the events of Holy Week begin.
Perhaps I am reading too much into the story, but I believe Mark is asking us, the readers, to ponder 4 questions:
- Who have you seen in what you have heard so far?
(Are you still blind? Are you willing to see now?)
- Will you seize the opportunity when hope walks by?
- What do you need Jesus to free you to do/be?
- How will you respond when what has been holding you back is finally removed?
As someone who dislikes books with long pages of boring description, you gotta love a guy who begins a story: "They came to Jericho. As (they) were leaving Jericho ..." (Verse 46) Not even a word of the places they went, the sights they saw, the lattes they sipped.
The fact that Bartimaeus is blind automatically would mean that he is a beggar, and would be sitting by the roadside. In Jesus' time, any change from "normal" automatically put one outside of family support and participation in "normal" social-religious-economic activities.
Notice that Mark says Bartimaeus is told that it is "Jesus of Nazareth" - which identifies Jesus only by his low cast, peasant, hillbilly status by birth - but Bartimaeus SHOUTS out, "Jesus, Son of David" - identifying Jesus by his God-given status.
Asides. "Son of David" was a way of referring to the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed descendant of King David who would fulfill God's promise that a descendant of David would reign over Israel forever. At the time of Jesus, this would mean overthrowing the current King Herod and routing out the occupying Roman army.
Remember that in Mark, there are no stories of Jesus' birth. His status as God's Son is announced by voices from heaven at his baptism, Mark 1:11, and at the Transfiguration, Mark 9:7.
It is likely that the crowd are urging Bartimaeus to keep quiet because shouting in public that someone is the Son of David, the long-anticipated Messiah, would attract the attention of Roman sentries - with nothing but bad results.
Bartimaeus won't keep still, but Jesus does. So Bartimaeus leaps into action and comes to Jesus.
Notice that Jesus does not presume what Bartimaeus wants.
Jesus' question, "What do you want me to do for you," opens a conversation; creates a relationship. It is a simple question to ask, but is boundary-breaking behaviour. Instead of following the social norm of avoiding Bartimaeus, Jesus stops and calls Bartimaeus to come to him.
And notice that Jesus' question to Bartimaeus is exactly the same question he asked of James and John in last week's lesson (Mark 10:36).
But unlike the status-seeking James and John, Bartimaeus asks for what he most immediately needs: "Let me see again." The phrasing of Bartimaeus' request acknowledges that it is Jesus who has the authority - who can "let" Bartimaeus' sight be restored.
It is this faith, this trust, this bonding with Jesus, that is the basis for Bartimaeus' healing.
Jesus says, "Go." But Bartimaeus follows. Follows Jesus on the road - the way - to Jerusalem, and Holy Week.
Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, see link below, pages 193-194.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)
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. 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!" 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 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." 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 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." 52 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark 10:46-52 (The Message)
46 They spent some time in Jericho. As Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting alongside the road. 47 When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, "Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!" 48 Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, "Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!"
49 Jesus stopped in his tracks. "Call him over."
They called him. "It's your lucky day! Get up! He's calling you to come!" 50 Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus.
51 Jesus said, "What can I do for you?"
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
52 "On your way," said Jesus. "Your faith has saved and healed you."
In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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