Readings – Job 42: 1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34: 1-8, 19-22; Hebrews 7: 23-28; Mark 10: 46-52
Jesus was on the road again, the road to Jerusalem, which passed through Jericho. He was on his way to celebrate the Passover, as all male Jews were required to do if they were within 15 miles of Jerusalem. It would be Jesus’ last Passover.
As rabbis walked, especially on the road to Jerusalem, it was common practice for their disciples to walk along with them, with the rabbi teaching. So Bartimaeus listened as the rabbi and his disciples approached. Jesus’ reputation proceeded him. Bartimaeus called out using the Messianic title, “Son of David, have mercy on me”. This was the same title that the crowds lining the streets of Jerusalem were to soon call out as they cut down palm branches as he entered Jerusalem. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21: 9b) Perhaps Bartimaeus, like many of the day, saw Jesus as the one who would return Israel to power and glory like his ancestor King David. Yet Bartimaeus also perceived in this Jesus of Nazareth the gift of healing so he added, “Son of David, have mercy on me”. Bartimaeus cried out for a blessing, acknowledging his imperfections.
While those around Jesus heard Bartimaeus calling out as a bother, an interruption to his teaching, Jesus invited Bartimaeus to come forward. Jesus recognized that in this man’s shout-out, he shouted like many, “Son of David”, but he also included his plea for mercy. Upon hearing Jesus respond, at the invitation Bartimaeus threw off his most valued possession, his cloak. The cloak protected him from the cold winds at night, from the rain, and from the blistering sun. It served as his protector from the elements. Just contrast Bartimaeus’ response to the parable of the wedding feast. Remember, the feast was prepared for the previously invited guests. When all was ready the king invited the guests to come. Among the invited guests was one who said he had just purchased a new property and had to go and inspect it. Another said he had just purchased five yokes of oxen and needed to be with them. A third said he had recently married. They all had reasons not to accept the invitation. In contrast, Bartimaeus sprang up, threw off his cloak, and went immediately to Jesus.
Knowing Bartimaeus’ faith, Jesus asked what he might do for him. Note that Jesus did not assume what Bartimaeus wished; Jesus asked him to name it. Bartimaeus responded, “My rabbi, my teacher, let me see again”. Jesus replied, “Go; your faith has made you well”. Interesting, that first word, “Go”. Bartimaeus was free to go, freed to do whatever he wanted.
We know very little of Bartimaeus’ faith and we never hear of him again. Yet, there is a clue to what followed. Free to go and do as he pleased; the text reads that Bartimaeus “followed him on the way”. Though he was not among the named disciples, Bartimaeus followed Jesus, probably into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. In the early Church the phrase “on the way” signified his early Church connections. God’s mercy, plus his faith, plus the return of his sight launched Bartimaeus on the pathway into the community of faith just beginning to form.
Each Sunday we journey to “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast”.
Each Sunday we call upon God’s mercy for we, too, are not perfect. We privately confess our shortcomings, what we have done and what we have left undone. I was raised in the Reformed tradition. We were taught to come to worship 10 to 15 minutes early to sit in quiet to review our week, things are done and things left undone Then early in the worship service we would recite together the general confession, acknowledge our imperfect faith, and call upon God’s mercy, just like Bartimaeus.
Each Sunday we begin again on our walk with Jesus, listening to his voice speaking deep in our hearts.
Each Sunday we are forgiven, we are feed, and then we are freed to go, just like Bartimaeus.
Each Sunday we are re-oriented to walk with Jesus. In this place, among these people, we can be real, we can be honest with ourselves, we can be authentic, and we can be recharged to walk with Jesus along our road of life. Perhaps we can even throw off our valued cloaks to journey more fully in faith, imperfect though our faith maybe, just like Bartimaeus.
And each Sunday we receive the mercy of God, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.