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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then 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.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
From the Gospel of Mark, chapter ten, 46-52
Often what stands out about people in Bible stories is not their virtue but their very strong wants. Makes me wonder—do our desires propel us in ways that God can use?
Bartimaeus wanted to see. In fact, the scripture reveals that he wanted to see again suggesting that at some time previously he had been able to see and had lost his vision. He wanted sight badly -so badly that it made him bold. It almost makes your stomach hurt, picturing the intensity of this scene: A teacher at the center of a throng of people on their way out of town and a vulnerable, blind beggar on the curb, hearing the commotion, figuring out who it is and shouting out with desperation: “Jesus, have mercy on me.” A better translation from the Greek doesn’t really work in English but it would be more active— something like “Jesus ‘mercify’ me” or “Jesus do something.”
And then the silencing began. People (could have been disciples, could be the crowd, could be both) told this beggar to keep it to himself. And after a couple of rounds of this Jesus does something interesting—he stands still. I imagine as Jesus stopped walking those around stopped walking too. And in the stillness a quiet space opens up and into that quiet Jesus speaks– over, under, through, and around the crowd to the man whose voice he hears but who he cannot yet see. And Jesus invites him closer. Then right there in a dusty side street of Jericho we are told that this cry of need is transformed to a glimpse of God’s healing activity as Bartimaeus is brought out of darkness and into light. And promptly gets up and follows Jesus.
We often talk about discipleship as a journey. I think it also can be described as a dance. We name our desire, we take responsibility for what we most want and let loose with a loud cry to be heard–trusting God, or the Great Beyond, to take it from there. And I believe the Holy Spirit consistently hears us, calls us closer, and helps us step from darkness into light. Not once in a lifetime but again, and again, and again. This is the dance of faith.
Join us this week for a conversation about our blindness, wants, and the healing balm offered on the Jesus Way.
Peace to you all this rainy day,