Healing of a Blind Man, Brian Jekel.
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:51-52.
First a remark about Jericho, whose walls, you may remember, “came a’tumblin down” when Joshua led the Hebrews into the Promised Land shortly after the death of Moses. Well, many archeologists will say that Jericho is the oldest human settlement on earth, at least 11,000 years old, the date of the earliest settlement as shown by excavations. I visited it in the summer. The site is just to the north of the modern city, and is called Tell Es-Sultan. There isn’t much to see, and it is a rather impoverished, rundown area within the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction:
I mention all this because Jericho appears several times in the New Testament, especially in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho. And downhill it indeed is. Jericho lies 846 feet below sea level! So, because of its age, you could call Jericho the City of Mankind, just as you could call Jerusalem the City of God, which many times in the Bible it is indeed so described. So which direction are you going? To God or to frail humanity? It is harder to walk to Jerusalem, which is about 2,550 feel above sea level. But that is what Jesus was about to do in today’s gospel: Mark 11 describes Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. But as he is leaving for that city, today’s incident happens.
Bartimaeus, a name which means son of Timeaus in the original Aramaic (just as Jesus’ real Aramaic name was Y’shua bar Yosef, Jesus son of Joseph) was a blind beggar presumably at one of the gates of the city. He heard that a famous holy man was just about to leave town, and so he called out to Jesus “Son of David”. That is significant, because that was one of the titles of the long-awaited Messiah. Though blind, Bartimaeus saw that Jesus was the long-promised savior of Israel, and called him such. And when asked by Jesus what he wanted, he humbly replied “Master, I want to see”. And so he did. Now most recipients of Jesus’ healing ministry are not named, but this man is. Scholars therefore presume that he became a permanent follower of Jesus from that time on, as suggested in the gospel itself. His simple, clear faith in Jesus likely resulted in him becoming a disciple in the last days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, and promptly followed Jesus on the route up to Jerusalem. Today’s first reading has a traveling theme to echo this: I will gather them from the ends of the world with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. If you add the messianic prophecy of Isaiah to this, we might be able to glimpse what Bartimaeus saw: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6). All of these things Jesus had achieved in his ministry, the clear signs that he was, indeed, God’s Messiah come to earth.
Today’s readings, then, remind us to be quite straightforward with the Lord, as Bartimeaus was. We should ask directly of the Lord that which would make us better people. Sometimes it seems we get told not to do that, that we should simply praise the Lord and give thanks for blessings received. Indeed we should do that, but there is no prohibition on asking for what we need. Didn’t Jesus himself say, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you”? (Matthew 7:7). Now it may not come in the way we want it because the Lord works in strange ways, his ways, not ours. But we should be confident that our prayers have been heard. But rather than sit back and wait for God to do something, surely there is merit in anticipating divine help, and as we sort things out for ourselves, through which we become aware of God’s presence and strength as we do it, if it is the godly way of course. That would show that as God’s children we use God’s gifts, our talents and skills, in the correct way, with divine guidance and help. People even in the most desperate situations will still believe in God’s presence and help in their lives, despite all evidence to the contrary. Remember, above all, that even as Jesus hung on the cross itself, with no evidence of God’s presence anywhere, he still believed and trusted….. So, then, should we.
In the Hands of God, joe-ks.com