“All my hope is naught save in your great mercy.” – St. Augustine
Mark 10:46-52: They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me’. And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said, ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his so cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
Christ the Lord Jesus is the “Son of David.” Under King David’s rule, the Twelve Tribes of Israel were politically, socially, and religiously united, took full possession of the Promised Land (definitively ousting rival peoples), and became an international political and economic powerhouse. Under King Solomon (David’s son and successor), Israel expanded its borders, its wealth, and its influence even more. When Solomon died, internal strife divided the Kingdom. Ten tribes split off from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which had their capital in Jerusalem, and formed the Northern Kingdom. Subsequently, through the prophets, God promised to send a Messiah (someone anointed to rule God’s people, as Kind David had been) to reunite the Twelve Tribes and reestablish the Davidic Kingdom in even greater glory than before. Bartimaeus recognized that Jesus was this Messiah, and so he addresses him loudly as “Son of David.” And Jesus responds with a miracle, as if to confirm the blind man’s intuition.
Christ is truly the Promised One; through him God’s covenant with Abraham – to bless all peoples through Abraham’s descendents – is fulfilled. He is God’s appointed King, indeed, the King of kings, who has enlightened the world with his teaching and example, and whom we all ought to follow as eagerly as the blind beggar who was healed. Jesus is the King who will come again in glory, and his Kingdom, unlike all other kingdoms, will have no end. May our hearts also cry out to him, gladly and confidently, “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.”
Christ the Teacher Christ teaches two obvious lessons through this incident:
- First, he shows us that persistent prayer will find its reward. Bartimaeus knew that the heart of Christ was open to all and full of compassion. He knew that his prayer would be heard, if only he persisted in offering it – and he was right.
- Behind this persistence is the second lesson, the lesson of faith. We can only know Christ truly by faith. Bartimaeus knew the heart of Christ so well because he believed in him. He knew him better than those who could see him by the natural light day, because he saw him by the supernatural light of faith. When we trust in God, we detect his presence, power, and love; when we trust in ourselves, he often seems far away. Without the light of faith, we are blind to the brilliance of God’s grace; with faith – which often requires us to go against the pressure of the crowds – our eyes are opened.
- Bartimaeus himself teaches us yet a third lesson. The Gospel points out that when Jesus called him, he threw aside his cloak, jumped up, and went to his Lord. The cloak was the most versatile item of Palestinian clothing at the time. It was protection against the rapid and frequent temperature changes, insulation against the harsh Judean winds, and at night it doubled as a blanket. The Fathers of the Church have seen in it a symbol of self-sufficiency, of those things in our lives that we depend on – things that can hold us back when we hear God calling. By leaving it behind, Bartimaeus teaches us that our only sufficiency should be Jesus Christ.
Christ the Friend Christ’s question to the blind man seems out of place. “What do you want me to do for you?” he queries. What else? Cure him of his blindness, of course! And yet, he lets Bartimaeus ask. He respects the man’s freedom and evokes an explicit act of faith. Bartimaeus must have been breathless with excitement and exertion. He must have been disoriented even more than usual after being led about quickly by the disciples who brought him to Jesus. He couldn’t see the warmth and gentleness and sincerity of Christ’s eyes, so the Lord chose to communicate those things with his voice. The question he asked and the way he asked it stripped away all nervousness, fear, and hesitation. Somehow, Bartimaeus knew immediately that Jesus cared, that Jesus wanted to listen, to help. The brief exchange draws these two hearts together: the beggar is freed from any possible inhibitions and given a chance to bare his deepest longings to the Lord. And the Lord welcomes them, takes them into his own soul, and grants them. It is a prototype of all prayer, which God wants to be eminently personal and sincere. He is our God, and yet he wants to be our ally, our friend, and our confidant. Will we let him?
Christ in My Life Thank you for making me a citizen of your Kingdom. I know and I believe that your Kingdom will never end. You are the Lord of all people and all time. Your Kingdom is growing, little by little, through your Church. Make it grow more, Lord. Make it grow in my heart; make it grow in the hearts of those around me; make me an instrument of its growth…
You have given me the precious gift of faith, Lord. Please grant me as well the gift to persevere until death in this faith. How mysterious it is, that some people believe in you and others refuse to believe! How can I help others believe? Have mercy on us all, Lord; we are small and weak and weighed down with selfishness. Jesus, I trust in you…
Teach me to pray, Lord. I want to stay close to you. Only you have the words of everlasting life. Only you have the wisdom and love that can fill my aching heart. Only you can teach me to be all that you created me to be. Master, let me see again, let all of us see you! You are calling me to come to you, every day, in prayer. Teach me, Lord, to do your will…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art for this post on Mark 10:46-52: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Healing of the Blind Man, Carl Bloch, 1871, PD-US author’s term of life plus 100 years or less, Restored Traditions, used with permission.