Bartimaeus would not be denied. He heard the clamoring crowds and could feel the excitement. He heard that Jesus was near and also knew that this was his chance, maybe his last and only. He cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Many told him to shut up 1, but he once more begged, “Son of David, have pity on me.” The blind beggar’s cry pierced through the noisy crowd and reached Jesus’s ears. He stopped, probably surprised that the beggar used a royal title to name him, “son of David”, a king who was responsible to bring justice to the poor, and healing if possible. Jesus asked what he wants. Bartimaeus responded, “I want to see.” And Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you”. And the once blind beggar receives his sight. No laying on of hands, no spittle on the eyelids, nothing like that, just his faith. Instead of going his way, Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way 2.
Mark uses Bartimaeus as a foil to the 12 and the other would-be followers of Jesus, including us. Ever since he began his fateful journey to Jerusalem, Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for what was to come. But they refused to see, to understand. Peter tried to dissuade him after the 1st prediction. Rather than being the rock, he was like quicksand. After the 2nd, they were arguing about which of them was the greatest, the most important of the group, seeking a role of leadership, not service. Between that prediction and the 3rd, there was the episode of the rich man who couldn’t leave behind the comforts which his riches provided. The last prediction led James and John to answer Jesus’s question, “what do you wish me to do for you”, to ask for personal privilege, rank, prestige, and honor.
Bartimaeus was the opposite. Rather seeking riches which would mean no more begging, his answer to Jesus’ query “What do you want me to do for you” was “I want to see”, though he was seeing with eyes of faith and understanding much more than those blessed with physical sight. Contrary to the rich man who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave the comfort of his riches, Bartimaeus left behind his beggar’s cloak which provided him shelter and warmth. Rather than going his own way, he followed Jesus “on the way” without waiting for an invitation and with no concern where it may lead.
Who do you and I resemble most in our own faith journey “on the way”?
1 Mark uses nicer language, but that it was he meant.
2 “the way” was what primitive Christianity was known as.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B18