Bartimaeus was blind. And loud. Bartimaeus was blind and loud. That’s all we know about him in Sunday’s lesson from Mark, and yet we can still learn plenty by seeing Jesus through the eyes of Blind Bartimaeus.
Bartimaeus was sitting where he always sat. Just outside the main gate in the city walls, he sat, waiting for passers-by to offer him some change or the crust off their bread. Today was a different day, however. The crowd coming out of the city was much larger than usual. The energy was palpable as word quickly spread that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing through town. This Jesus was a Rabbi like none other, an amazing faith healing, and, increasingly, the scourge of the religious powers-that-be. Quickly, Bartimaeus put the pieces together and he began to cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He yelled and screamed, ignoring the hushes of the crowd, until Jesus stopped and invited him to come forward. Bartimaeus jumped to his feet, threw off his cloak and found his way to Jesus.
The very next story in Mark’s Gospel is that of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. In that story there is a crowd of people yelling about the Kingdom of David and shouting “Hosanna” or “Save us.” As Jesus makes his was through the Eastern main gate, the people threw off their cloaks to welcome him into the city. It seems as though Bartimaeus, even in his state of blindness, could see who Jesus really was. Bartimaeus was the harbinger of the faith of Palm Sunday, foreshadowing the events that are about to happen, and Jesus affirms him by saying, “your faith has made you well.”
Bartimaus isn’t the first blind man that Jesus has healed in Mark’s Gospel. The last one, in chapter 8, took some time to see clearly. It seems that Bartimaeus could see, even though he was still blind. Often we approach Jesus in a state of blindness. We are unable to see our own sin, unable to see the hurting world around us, unable to see the many ways that God has poured out his love upon us. Too often, we are like the blind man whose eyes do not open right away, but if we were to see through the eye of Blind Bartimaeus, having faith even in that which is unseen, and often, downright unbelievable, perhaps our faith might heal not ourselves alone, but the whole world.