A Blind Beggar Who Sees

by susan on November 9, 2015

blind beggar

During yesterday’s worship gathering, we explored Mark 10:46-52. Before the message, we watched part of this video of Ronald Davis sharing about the reality of his life on the streets.

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. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 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.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.51 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.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

-Mark 10:46-52, NRSV

Jesus was making his final trip to Jerusalem and despite all that he has said and done, his disciples are still not getting it.

Two of them have just argued about who will be first in the coming kingdom. They are still convinced that faith is a competition and that some will get better seats than others at the coming kingdom dinner party. Being as close to Jesus as they are, they are confirming that they’ll have the best seats in the house. After all, they have given up everything to follow him.

Despite Jesus repeatedly teaching that the first will be last, they still don’t get it.
They can only see things one way.

In comparison, Mark introduces us to a blind beggar. While passing through Jericho (a city in the Jordan Valley en route from Galilee to Jerusalem), a large crowd, the disciples and Jesus walk past him.

Beggars were a common sight on city streets. This one, though is given a name. He is Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. He is a human being. He has a story.

Even so, the crowd and the disciples want nothing to do with Bartimaeus. They even ask him sternly to shut up. They are on a mission. They are following Jesus.

Jesus, though, stops.
Jesus stands still.

Perhaps because he was stunned to hear what’s coming from Bartimaeus’ mouth:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Could it be?
Could it be that a blind beggar has more insight than his closest friends?
Could it be that this stranger on the street saw him more clearly than those who had been following him for miles?

That title, “Son of David” is new in the gospel of Mark and it is significant.

Jews believed that a Messiah was coming to save them. They knew their Messiah would be a descendant of King David. Most people, though, assumed the Messiah would be a warrior king just like David. He would come and gather an army to overthrow the Roman government.

Blind Bartimaeus may not be able to see Jesus, but he knows better:
Jesus is not that kind of king.

Jesus is the kind of king who heals blind beggars.

He is so sure of it that when he is told by the initially uncaring crowd to come, he jumps to his feet, a task I am sure must be challenging for a blind person. Not only that, but he leaves his one possession behind: a cloak which probably served as his warmth, his garment and the pillow on which he rests his head.

Jesus asks Bartimaeus a familiar question:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
It’s the same question that had just led to his disciples’ argument.

And, Bartimaeus shares his deepest hope for healing:
“My teacher, let me see again.”

Not only is he immediately healed, but his faith is commended and he joins the growing community of misfits who move toward Jerusalem – the place of power where Jesus will be mockingly crowned king as part before his suffering and death.

The one who recognized Jesus’ true identity,
the one whom Jesus commended ,
is the one the disciples saw as an inconvenient interruption not even worthy of their time & attention.
I imagine Bartimaeus was not the only one who had his eyes opened on this day.

Apparently, Jesus is not only the kind of king who heals blind beggars.
He is the kind of king who reshapes our vision,
who demands we change our minds & our hearts:
that we stop ignoring,
writing off,
making assumptions
and casting visions that are set in stone.

I met a new friend this week and in the course of an hour, we talked about everything from racism to church starting. He is not from Jacksonville and as he told me about the culture shock he experienced moving here from Baltimore, he shared a story.

He was taking his scooter to a repair shop, but he arrived before the owner. He knew the owner, had an appointment and decided to wait outside until he got there.

The shop’s next door neighbor did not approve.
He came over and began questioning my friend, telling him to get lost and accusing him of being up to no good. He even asked at one point, “didn’t I see two of you here a minute ago?”. My friend was stunned.

Because of his race, he had been profiled as a troublemaker – maybe even a thief or a vandal.

A few minutes later, the owner of the shop arrived and settled things down. He was offered to drive my friend to his work place while he worked on the scooter.  It was an awkward, long ride.

The owner was trying to empathize and all my friend could think was there is no way this older white good ole boy could possibly understand what that experience was like for me.

He was wrong.

He listened as the mechanic began sharing about how hard it was to watch his two adopted native American daughters have similar experiences when they moved to a new city.

He did understand.
My friend had his eyes opened.

If we are going to follow Jesus,
if we are going to live as citizens of God’s kingdom,
then we better get ready to have our eyes opened.

If we never change the way we see, then we are missing something.
If we never change the way we see, then we are not following Jesus.

Questions for reflection:

How are we stuck in old ways of seeing people & situations?
How or who might God be trying to help us see differently?

***

God, set us free
to see as you see,
to love as you love,
so that we can continue the work of Christ –
helping the blind to see and setting captives free.

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