Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Just about everybody loves a parade, at least as the old song declared. But our gospel story today is about a man who stopped one. Of course, I’m using “parade” in a loose analogy, because I do not mean to bring to mind the modern extravaganzas we get to observe on big days like Thanksgiving. Still, we have to bear in mind that “whenever a distinguished Rabbi or teacher was on such a journey as Jesus was, it was the custom that he was surrounded by a crowd of people, disciples and learners, who listened to him as he discoursed while he walked. That was one of the commonest ways of teaching. In those bygone days.”
In addition, Jesus and company were walking on the main road from Jericho to Jerusalem, the kind of road our parades use to process. Jericho was only about fifteen miles from Jerusalem, which was Jesus’ chosen destination. It will be the site of His Passion and Resurrection.
So now this son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, perhaps blind from birth and trapped in that dread darkness, hears the crowd noise coming closer. Suddenly he shouts out “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.” Interesting that Bartimaeus was the first human being in Mark’s gospel to call Jesus “Son of David.” Up until now, only the demons called Him that.
I believe it is the faith of Bartimaeus that the Holy Spirit wants us to note. He had heard the stories of other healings Jesus had worked. Bartimaeus wanted desperately to be another one.
When someone in the crowd hollers out “Courage! Get up! He is calling you!,” I’m sure it did take courage for Bartimaeus to stand up. Wouldn’t we feel the “jitters” if a celebrity noticed us? So, they come face to face. They dialogue. Jesus cures. But notice that Our Lord takes no credit for the miracle. Instead He tells the healed man: “Go! Your faith has cured you.” Your faith.
Bartimaeus had to understood that. He suddenly saw something beyond what his healed eyes revealed, He saw with the eyes of his faith that Jesus was somebody worth following. And that’s exactly what he did. Mark wrote that he “followed Him upon the road.” Our earliest ancestors called their new Christian faith “The Way.”
Honestly, sometimes we can go blind in our spiritual lives, even if the doctor says we have 20/20 eyesight. Praise God that we have that combination of faith and the gospel to correct our vision so that we can get back on the right road. And remember as you do so what an unknown observer said: “The road to heaven is never overcrowded.” Even so, you will not ever walk alone.
Reading I: Jeremiah 31: 7-9
The prophet speaks of a new, second Exodus, this time from Assyria. The remnant, the small number of people who escaped the disaster of 721, and who had departed their homeland in tears, will be coming home in newfound joy.
Reading II: Hebrews 5: 1-6
After a description of ordinary high priests, the author cites Jesus as the one glowing exception. His glory, bestowed by His Father, would make Him the one whose sacrifice would redeem the world.
The Gospel: Mark 10: 46-52
The healing of Bartimaeus is a story of both healing and calling, the one following upon the other. The newly-healed man was willing to follow Jesus “on the way” to Jerusalem and death. He contrasts sharply with the blindness and misunderstanding of Jesus’ extant disciples. He was already a man of great faith.