In our Gospel for Mass today we have Jesus leaving Jericho on the final leg of his journey to Jerusalem. Jericho is about a three hours’ walk from Jerusalem, up and through a great rocky canyon. It’s the last village Jesus passes through on his way to Jerusalem. He meets a beggar, Bartimaeus, who is blind, and this encounter is the last recorded event before Jesus reaches the city for what we call Palm Sunday.
When Bartimaeus, sitting by the side of the road, hears that Jesus is approaching, he shouts out ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me’. What’s significant about this is not just his desire to be healed but that he, Bartimaeus, is the only person in St Mark’s Gospel to give Jesus this messianic title – ‘Son of David’ – denoting Jesus to be the Messiah. He may be physically blind but he can ‘see’ who Jesus really is, unlike fellow Jews who have rejected Jesus.
After first being ignored, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak to run after Jesus. It’s more than likely that being a blind beggar that cloak might have represented most of Bartimaeus’ possessions; and, anyway, blind people do not casually throw their possessions around in case they cannot find them again. Jesus stops and then asks Bartimaeus ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ Bartimaeus asks for his physical sight to be restored and Jesus duly heals him with the words: ‘your faith has saved you’. In St Mark’s Gospel this phrase – ‘your faith has saved you’ – occurs only twice. The first time was to the woman with a menstrual haemorrhage who braved the crowds to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak in the belief she’d be cured; and the other time is when Jesus says it here to Bartimaeus.
St Mark concludes the event with ‘And immediately his sight was returned and he followed him [Jesus] along the road.’ What starts out as a description of a blind man meeting Jesus and then being cured concludes with him becoming a disciple of Jesus. He ‘followed him along the road’ refers to Bartimaeus, as a result of this encounter, becoming a disciples and taking the road to Jerusalem with him – a rocky road, leading to the hill of Calvary and not to the throne of government in Jerusalem.
Bartimaeus saw in Jesus what others failed to see. How do I see Jesus – is he just another holy or good man or is there something more to him? Do I see and believe in him as Bartimaeus did?
If I see Jesus as Bartimaeus did, how is my life different from other good people I know who do not believe in him? What’s different about our lifestyles?
Bartimaeus man threw off his cloak to approach Jesus. What in my life do I need to throw off or cast aside to be that person Jesus is calling me to be? What’s getting in the way of ME becoming a better disciple?
Jesus puts the same question to you and me as he did to Bartimaeus: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Just what do you want Jesus to do for you? And what are you prepared to do for it?
Lastly, the road Bartimaeus took with Jesus from Jericho to Jerusalem was a rocky one. Jesus reached out a hand to help the bling beggar, Bartimaeus. Is there anyone I know at present whose road in life is rocky, difficult, painful or sad – could I reach out a hand to them as Jesus did to Bartimaeus?
Holy Name, Jesus
24 October 2021