The story of Bartimaeus in the Gospel of Mark is the final story we hear of Jesus being on his way before he enters into Jerusalem, setting off the chain of events that leads him to the cross. He encounters Bartimaeus on the road.
Bartimaeus is a character who exists outside the city walls and outside of the social strata because of his blindness, yet his story and more importantly his attitude is one that we should take note of. Bartimaeus, upon hearing that Jesus is passing by, is insistent that he be noticed and calls out to Jesus. He calls Jesus by name and uses the term ‘Son of David’. Bartimaeus was clear about who he believed Jesus to be and so when requested that he come forward, he was more than eager, springing up to meet Jesus.
Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants him to do. This is the same question that he asked James and John in our Gospel episode last week. Their request was for Jesus to grant them eternal glory with him. Here Bartimaeus had called from the side of the road for Jesus to simply have mercy on him. When asked directly, Bartimaeus asks to be able to see again. For us it seems obvious that this is his request. But it could also be seen as quite the challenge. Having been used to a life of begging, if healed, Bartimaeus’ life would be changed forever. Nevertheless, Bartimeaus asks to be healed.
Jesus’ response of “Go; your faith has made you well” signifies to us that Bartimaeus is indeed healed. Despite not being able to see before this encounter, his eyes were already opened to who Jesus was, more so than even the disciples. Bartimaeus casts off his only possession, his cloak, and follows Jesus. In the very next passage we find Jesus entering Jerusalem and starting the chain of events that will end up at the cross. Bartimaeus truly exemplifies the disciple who sees where the way ahead leads and yet still follows and believes Jesus.
Reflecting on this short encounter it is my hope that we might all be able to seek a bit of Bartimaeus’ attitude in our own lives. To be able to identify and proclaim who Jesus is. To confidently answer when Jesus asks “what do you want me to do?” without seeking glory, to have faith in him that we might be saved and after having him change our lives, to be able to follow him wholly.
Rev’d Hannah Lane