Imagine if Jesus came to you and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” What would you answer? How would you respond? Would you have to pause and think about it? Would you need to get back to him?
Or would you immediately know? Would your response come easily? Would the answer be the very thing you’ve been praying about for weeks – months – years – or even decades? In the story found in Mark 10:46-52, we meet a blind man named Bartimaeus who knew exactly how to answer Jesus. And that “chance” encounter between himself and Jesus forever changed Bartimaeus’ life.
In Jesus’ day, blindness, like many other physical ailments, was often thought to result from sin. At one point, Jesus’ disciples even asked Jesus the cause of another blind man’s condition, wondering whose sin had caused the blindness. We aren’t told anything about Bartimaeus’ blindness, and frankly, it matters little.
Bartimaeus situated himself outside the city gates of Jericho, took up his daily post and began to beg. Begging was probably his only option for supporting himself and his family. Jericho was a large city, so the amount of foot traffic that walked by him would probably made his begging successful. When he took up his post that day, Bartimaeus could have hardly imagined how his life was about to change.
Word about Jesus – his teaching and his miracles – had quickly spread among the people of Israel. A simple, peasant man from Nazareth. A growing number of disciples. Stories of healings, feeding thousands, and challenging parables. Some people even claimed that Jesus was the Son of David – the long-awaited davidic King!
Bartimaeus had heard the stories, and late at night after long days of begging, he often imagined encountering this Healer. Bartimaeus believed the stories. He hoped that one day their paths might cross. And so when the crowds passed by that fateful day and he heard rumors that Jesus was there, his pulse quickened, he sat taller on his begging mat, and he cried out with great hope, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
As a beggar, Bartimaeus had gotten used to being shunned and shushed. But with Jesus in the vicinity – the Healer, the Miracle Maker, the Anointed One – Bartimaeus had no intention of being quiet, even when rebuked. And then the unimaginable happened – Bartimaeus was called to come to Jesus, and there was nothing to do but jump up, and leave everything behind. He abandoned his cloak – his only protection from the weather, the place where he kept the coins he had been given, possibly his only belonging – and came to stand before the Son of David, seeking mercy.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. And immediately Bartimaeus knew. It was the prayer he had uttered his entire life. I want to see!
Bartimaeus didn’t fear. He never stopped to question whether this man really was the Healer he had heard about. He never doubted whether Jesus could actually give him his sight. He simply responded with his deep, heart-felt wish. I want to see!
And he did. Mark tells us that immediately Bartimaeus received his sight.
If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you may recognize the name of the city Bartimaeus sat outside – Jericho. In the early days when God’s people captured the Promised Land, the walls of Jericho came crumbling down after the Israelites marched around the massive structure for 7 days, following God’s instructions. In this New Testament story we see other walls come crumbling down. Walls of unbelief. Walls of sin. Walls of Jesus’ true identity. Walls of the crowds’ insistence that the marginalized remain quiet. Walls of blindness.
For it was the blind man who really saw Jesus’ true identity. The blind man who had committed to living life to the fullest, as best he could, without giving up hope that tomorrow would be better. The blind man who had remained persistent, even in the face of criticism and intimidation. The blind man who jumped up and came when he was called – without hesitation, without questioning, without even knowing exactly what he was being called to, or by whom. The blind man who had nothing knew the one thing he wanted. The blind man could see far better than those who had sight.
And yet when Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you,” the blind man stayed. He stayed with Jesus. He stayed with the One who changed his life. He stayed.
And so I wonder – would we do the same? Would we have a ready answer when Jesus asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Would we jump up and leave everything behind when called? Would we respond in full faith that Jesus could answer that one prayer? And when he gives us that one thing, would we go, or stay?
By Rev. Kristen Marble at kristenmarble.com