By Thabo Makgoba
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 18:31-43
31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
Humble. Peaceful. Dignified. Childlike. Firm. Probing. Challenging. To these attributes of Jesus revealed in the gospel readings so far this week, we add today Jesus the compassionate healer, he whose purpose is to restore people back to life and unity with God.
Through his healing ministry, he brought light to a dark world, cured many ailments and gave sight to the blind. In today’s passage, a blind beggar (named Bartimaeus in Mark’s account) breaks with custom, which is not to yell out to a rabbi, and from the side of the road calls to Jesus to get his attention. Ignoring the attempts of the crowd to hush him, he keeps on calling out.
Key to the story is the beggar’s acknowledgement of Jesus as the Son of David, the Messiah who has come to bring salvation. Jesus responds to the faith of a common beggar, and the crowd joins him in praising God for revealing his power in Jesus.
Mark’s Gospel adds another touch: that Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak, which some commentators suggest would have contained all his possessions, and followed Jesus. The contrast with the rich ruler in yesterday’s reading is clear.
The Jesuit theologian, Father Roc O’Connor, suggests that in this story blindness is a metaphor for what he calls “the all-too-human unwillingness to recognize whatever wounds, hurts, and diseases keep us from recognizing God, ourselves, and others.” The faithful and fervent appeals of the beggar set us an example to follow in persisting, even in the face of opposition and rebuke, in seeking Christ’s favor and blessing. And Christ will respond, especially to those whom society frowns upon. He has more tenderness and compassion for the distressed than any of his followers.
The Most Rev. Dr. Thabo Makgoba is Archbishop of the Diocese of Capetown, South Africa; metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Southern Africa; and chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans
The Diocese of Ibadan South (Church of Nigeria)