Guest contributor: Ed Trego
“And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up, and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52)
This is the story of Jesus healing a blind man. But is that all that it is? Doesn’t it also speak to us of spiritual blindness and the need for healing? Physical blindness in Jesus’ day was nearly a sentence of death. Except for the generosity of family, friends, or even strangers who gave alms to the blind, there was no way for a blind person to survive. There was no “Americans with Disabilities Act” or agencies to provide shelter and food. There was only begging and hoping that someone, anyone, would provide enough to enable the person to survive. While it isn’t specifically addressed in the Bible, I’m sure there were many blind people who starved to death because someone didn’t give them enough to eat and they had no way to get it on their own. Or maybe they fell and broke a bone and died of shock. Or perhaps they wandered in front of a Roman chariot. Any number of reasons could have resulted in their death. But the point is that they were totally dependent on the help of others.
This blind man created enough of a stir that Jesus heard him and called him over. It’s interesting that the people told Bartimaeus that Jesus was calling him and to “take heart” as if he had something to fear from Jesus. After all Bartimaeus was blind, not deaf. He had probably heard Jesus call for him. He obviously had the courage to call for Jesus to help him. Like many others that Jesus healed, Bartimaeus was a determined fellow. In verse 48 we read how people were trying to shut him up and quiet him from calling for Jesus. Don’t bother Jesus, they seemed to say, he has more important things to do. You’d think the people would learn that their definition of important rarely seemed to be the same as Jesus’ definition. How many times in the gospels do we see the people around Jesus trying to shield him from the bother of people trying to come to him for help and healing? They couldn’t seem to understand that Jesus’ definition of important included people coming to him for healing. Whether it was children, the blind and sick, the lepers, the possessed, or anyone else who sought his help out of faith, Jesus welcomed them all. And thank God for our sake he did. If he had not had the time or desire to help the least among his people, what hope would we have for his help? If he would refuse to help a person blind through no fault of their own, why would he ever take the time to help us, who are sick through our own fault and sinfulness”
Looking deeper into this Gospel story I see many parallels to us as sinners. If we look at Bartimaeus’ blindness can’t we also see our blindness to the will of God? Isn’t our vision seriously impaired by the world in which we live? So let’s put ourselves in the place of Bartimaeus for a minute. Here we are, blind in spirit and faith. We too will die without the help of others. Not of starvation or of injury, but of sin. We may not need to rely on alms but we certainly need to rely on the gifts of God! Our eternal survival depends on it. No matter how successful we are in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of God our success is defined differently. Maybe the fact that the friends and followers of Jesus couldn’t seem to figure out his priorities is telling us that we also don’t understand God’s priorities very well. We, like the scribes and Pharisees sometimes want to be legalistic and quote the law, all the while ignoring the intent. We just don’t get it sometimes. Bartimaeus, on the other hand figured it out. He knew that what he needed was Jesus, regardless of what the people were saying. And he kept seeking Jesus until he found him. Once he found him, he didn’t ask for money or status, he just asked to be able to see.
Do we approach Jesus in the same way? Do we simply ask for the ability to see His will for us? Or do we ask for things that we consider important? Do we try to set the priorities of God and then wonder why our prayers aren’t answered? If we are asking for things that aren’t consistent with the will of God, we won’t receive what we ask for. Not because God isn’t answering our prayer, but because he is; and the answer is No! On many occasions Jesus taught that whatever we ask in prayer will be given to us. But too many people want to believe that is a blanket approval of any prayer they offer. Make me rich… make me famous… give me what I want. It doesn’t work that way. In Matthew 21:22 Jesus tells his disciples “And whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” Again, in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” Both of these examples indicate that we must be asking in faith and because we live in Christ and he lives in us. If our prayers aren’t offered in accordance with God’s will, we aren’t praying in the manner Jesus asks of us. Regardless of what we ask we should also pray that it be Gods’ will as well. If not, we aren’t praying in faith and we aren’t living in Christ and he isn’t living is us. We are simply asking for favors. Because our prayers are offered with the expectation that they be according to God’s will, we may not always recognize the answer to our prayers. When we ask for a healing, do we automatically look to a physical healing of the person in this world? Or do we recognize that the death of a pious person is also a healing? That person, though gone from us, is in the presence of their Lord and Savior. What greater healing can there be”
If we are truly calling to Jesus for healing, we too will hear his call to us and we will know we have nothing to fear from Him. It’s when we aren’t hearing his call that we need to worry about what we have to fear. That’s when we are subject to his judgment. And we need to remember that his judgment is righteous. There won’t be any wrongful conviction in His court. We will have only ourselves to blame. Again, we have to be sure that we are looking for God’s will in our life, not what we think God’s will is. Only when this life is over will we truly understand His will for us. Then we will realize that all of our prayers offered in true faith were answered, even though we may not have recognized it at the time.
The final line of the scripture from Mark above is of special significance. “And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” (Mark 10:52) Bartimaeus was not only healed physically, but apparently spiritually as well, for he followed Jesus on the way. We too must follow Jesus on the way. The way he chooses for us, not our expectation of what we may think is the way. Otherwise we too will be as lost and blind as Bartimaeus was before he found Jesus.