August 5, 2015
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Not only was he poor but he was blind which landed Bartimaeus in the ill-fated category of the poorest of the poor. Helpless and hopeless, he had become something of a piece of discarded furniture on the side of the road people didn’t even notice anymore. He was just another beggar on the side of the road. You know what I’m talking about—the guy at the busy intersection holding the “Will work for food” sign who really just wants your spare change.
And here’s the first BIG problem. It’s not his blindness, but ours that gets in the way of the working of the Holy Spirit. No one in the crowd that day had anything remotely close to “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” As Bartimaeus cried out the people told him to shut up. Not only did they not want to see him, they didn’t want to hear him either.
Whether Jesus saw him or heard him first we know not, nor does it matter. He wants us to see and hear Bartimaeus now. He wants us to understand the ways the Holy Spirit searches to and fro for the blind Bartimaeus types. What do I mean by that? Bartimaeus was not looking for the next handout. He wanted liberation from his situation. Maybe he was tired of victimhood. Maybe he had come to the place where he was sick of living alms gift to alms gift. He knew he could not solve his own problem yet he also knew he had to cry out for something more than help for his symptoms. He knew he needed a fundamental change.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
It’s got me thinking. . . what if I asked this question to the next beggar I encountered, “What do you want me to do for you?” And what if he said, “I need $10.” That strikes me as an invitation to perpetuate his problem. It’s the easiest thing for him to ask for and frankly, the easiest thing I could give him. But I think it’s probably not the kind of thing Jesus is going for.
Now, what if he said, “I need to get something to eat.” In my opinion, this isn’t the kind of faith Jesus is looking for either. Still, I could go get him some food and it would be a faithful act of service.
But what if he said, “I need help getting a job.” This is where it gets harder. This is the kind of faith Jesus looks for among those in need—people who are looking for real change, who have thought through what they most need and because they know they are stuck without help, they are bold enough to ask for it. Do you see what happens now? His faith hit the ball into my court and now it becomes about my faith.
For a disciple of Jesus Christ, this is where the proverbial road meets the rubber. Honestly, it’s so much easier for me to wait for the light to turn green and move on and just tell myself the story about this guy that I have always told myself—that he’s where he is as a consequence of his choices and it’s not my problem and the price of helping him is just too high and besides, I give my money to the church who is supposed to help solve these situations.
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”
I want us to note that faith is not some kind of magic or some sort of internal substance that we either have enough of or not in order for God to work. Faith heals precisely because it requires something more of us than asking for a temporary fix to a systemic problem. Faith brings people to a place beyond the symptoms to the source of a problem. It requires of them the act of moving toward a possibility that was hitherto un-seeable to them. It changes things in a permanent way. Despite Bartimaeus’ physical blindness (or maybe because of it), his faith enabled him to see something even physical sight could not see– the possibilities of the mercy of God.
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
See what happened? Bartimaeus went from sitting “beside the road” to “following Jesus along the road.” That’s the big deal.
A final note: Faith also heals the healer. Nothing makes a person more well than helping another person to get well in the name of Jesus. We must get beyond the thin solutions that only serve to make us feel better that we did something. Those kind of solutions only further serve the problem. We must press into the deeper need of the other. This is not easy. It gets messy. This is the big deal. It means taking on the mind and mentality of Jesus who teaches us that we come “not to be served but to serve.”
I think the real problem is not the blindness of Bartimaeus but our own blindness. Maybe the best thing we can do today would be to say to Jesus, “Lord, I want to see.”
How does this challenge your discipleship? Where is your faith rising up to meet the rising faith of someone else in need today? What holds you back?
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J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.