By Ed Little
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 10:46-52
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
We don’t even know his name. “Bartimaeus” means “son of Timaeus,” but Mark doesn’t bother to identify him further. Instead, Mark rushes into the story, piling detail upon detail, eager to tell the tale of need and transformation.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The blind man senses, though we don’t know how, that this wandering rabbi is his only hope. The crowd surrounding Jesus finds the man’s pleas irritating, unseemly, and undignified, and try to silence him; but the blind man shouts all the more. And rightly so: Jesus consistently teaches us to be persistent, even relentless, in prayer. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) makes the point in a powerful way, as does the story of the friend in need: “Ask . . . search . . . knock” (Luke 11:5-9). The blind man, begging for mercy and healing, intuitively embraces Jesus’ teaching on prayer and courageously cries for help. We do well to follow his example. Indeed, at a time of pandemic and national trauma, the blind man’s prayer is especially apt: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This is also a story of transformation. “Go, your faith has made you well.” With those words, the blind man’s sight is restored and he “followed [Jesus] on the way.” The healing leads to discipleship. We don’t know the rest of the story, of course. Did the blind man follow Jesus to Jerusalem? Was he part of the apostolic core that built the Church after Jesus’ death and resurrection? We’ll never know. What’s certain is that Jesus transformed his life, and just as surely transforms ours. Jesus restores us to wholeness — sometimes of body, sometimes of spirit, sometimes a wondrous blend of the two — and invites us, like the blind man, to follow him on the way.
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).
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The Diocese of Northwest Ankole (Church of the Province of Uganda)
The Diocese of Dallas