”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!”
Mark 10:46-47 (NRSV)
At some level, it is easy to feel sorry for blind, brother Bartimaeus. On this journey called life, it seems that he was dealt a bad hand.
At some level, it is easy for us to pity this poor beggar sitting by the side of the road. But, let us not get too comfortable too soon.
It only takes a slight change in the economy. It only takes a slight shake-up in management to send us huddling up with Bartimaeus on the side of the road.
At some point in our lives, we all will spend some time on the side of the road, blind and begging.
Maybe we won’t have a bucket and a sign that reads, “Will work for food.” Maybe we won’t be out their slinging dime bags of weed and crack cocaine or trying to run a hustle on somebody; but life can drive preachers, politicians and stay-home moms to the mean streets of life, where we pull up a chair next to a blind beggar named Bartimaeus.
Seeing then, that we are all susceptible to being side-lined by life, let us tarry awhile with Bartimaeus; that we might learn from this, our blind and begging brother in Jericho, as recorded by Mark.
Mark records for all of eternity that Jesus, and his disciples, was on a journey, pressing their way to Jerusalem; but they came to a place called Jericho.
Perhaps in hindsight, it was only natural for Jesus, and his followers, to go through Jericho. Jericho was deep down in the Jordan valley. Jericho, at 840 feet below sea level, is the lowest city on the face of the earth.
On his way up to Jerusalem, Jesus went down to Jericho. And, it was there, way down low in the valley, it was there that Jesus and his disciples were passing through. They didn’t have any plans, or any reason, to stay-over in Jericho. Jericho was just another spot on the map they had to go through to get to where they were going.
But, sitting on the side of the road, as the savior and the in-crowd were passing by was a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. He was just sitting by the side of the road. He wasn’t standing. He wasn’t walking. He was just sitting there as the crowd passed him by.
There he sat, by the roadside of life. He had been there so long; he had a “reserved seat,” on the side of the road. There he sat, day after day, blind, poor, begging and going nowhere.
Mark doesn’t tell us just how it is that Bartimaeus found himself a blind beggar. Maybe he became blind because of his own foolish living and bad choices.
Maybe he fell victim to a government that talked about compassionate conservatism, all the while cutting aid to the least, the last and the lame and sending the young and able off to war. Maybe he just fell prey to disease and sickness that hits so randomly in life.
We just don’t know how it is, or why it is that Bartimaeus was sidelined and reduced to sightless living and begging. All that we know, and all that really matters is the fact that Bartimaeus was blind. He was a beggar daily sitting by the roadside.
Day-after-day, many of us are sitting with Bartimaeus by the roadside. Maybe we deserve this messed up life and maybe we don’t; but it is what it is. Maybe we’ve given ourselves over to alcohol, drugs, and crazy living. Maybe we deserve this hell we call life.
On the other hand, it just might be that while minding our own business, trying to live right and do right, we got blind-sided by life and we lost our way.
Just how we’ve come to sit by the side of the road, is really beside the point. The fact is, here we are, blind, unable to see any way out or up. Here we sit, begging life for another shot at getting it right. Here we sit, as life and the laughing, happy crowd pass us by.
Here, in our own Jericho, down deep in the valley, we sit with Bartimaeus. But, sooner or later, we, like Bartimaeus, come to see that Jesus has a habit, a track record of coming down in the valley.
Therefore, for you and me, for all of the Bartimaeus of the world, all is not lost, even when we lose our sight, lose our minds and lose our way. All is not lost!
Bartimaeus didn’t have the ability to see, but he took full advantage of what he had, and that was the ability to hear. He heard that Jesus was passing by, and he had heard that this Jesus was full of mercy and power.
He heard that Jesus cast a legion of demons out of a tormented boy. He heard that Jesus fed five thousand hungry souls with five loaves of bread and two little fish. He heard that Jesus made the lame leap and the deaf here. So, when he heard that this same Jesus was passing through his dark valley, he saw his chance to be blessed, to be healed and to have a new lease on life.
Bartimaeus began to shout out loud, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” But, a proper reading of the original language of Mark reveals that Bartimaeus didn’t stop with just one little shout.
No, he began to shout and kept on shouting, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by. I’m calling, savior, savior, why don’t you hear my humble cry.”
Bartimaeus had come too close now, to keep silent. But, as so often is the case, there was that crowd. There were those around Bartimaeus who wished he would just shut his mouth and accept the facts of his messed up and miserable life.
Bartimaeus, they said, hush, your mouth and stop all of that unnecessary hollering and shouting. Oh, you’ve got to watch that crowd. They’ll gather around Jesus, but never really come to know Jesus.
There was a crowd around Jesus. Some might even call them the in-crowd. They were somebody. They were the upwardly mobile set. They were the movers and the shakers. They were big ballers and shot callers.
They were with the king of kings on his way up to Jerusalem and this Bartimaeus man is messing up their good thing. This blind beggar is messing up their nice little get-together with the master; because he just kept on shouting and hollering.
Bartimaeus, hush all of that noise. We don’t act like that around here. Bartimaeus, we are too educated to get emotional and we’re too sophisticated to shout, too proper to praise God and too stuffy to sing his praises. So, Bartimaeus, you’ve got to stop calling out to Jesus like that.
The crowd kept telling Bartimaeus to hold it down, but the more they told him to hush, the more he hollered. The more they told him to be quiet, the louder he kept getting.
The crowd just didn’t know what this brother had been through. They didn’t know the level of his pain. They didn’t know what it was like to be down so long and so low. They didn’t know how bad he had been broken; but, Bartimaeus didn’t let their ignorance and their stony-heart keep him from an encounter with Christ.
When we find ourselves sitting by the roadside and we can’t seem to get ahead, don’t let the crowd, don’t let your pride, don’t let your past, don’t let your own low self-esteem, don’t let anything stand between you and the Savior.
Don’t worry about what others may think, say or do. You need the mercy of the master. Don’t worry about your image or your imaginary standing in society, you need the Savior. Call on the name of Jesus.
Call on him who is willing and able to see you through. Call on him who said that he would never leave you nor forsake you. Call on the name of Jesus. Call him up and tell him what you want and what you need.
I know that folk may laugh and giggle and doubt and tell you to be quiet and act like you got some sense. You can just expect it.
They did this to Bartimaeus and they will do it to you and to me. But, just be like Bartimaeus. The more they tried to keep him quiet he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, called on the name of Jesus, the son of the living God; and, when he did, Jesus stood still. Jesus was on a mission, but for one little lost soul, he stood still. For one blind, broken beggar, sitting by the roadside, Jesus stood still.
”Call him here,” was the command of Christ. The crowd that once told Bartimaeus to be silent had a new word when Jesus spoke. “Bartimaeus, cheer up. Bartimaeus, look up. Bartimaeus, get up, your savior has summonsed you.”
Bartimaeus, it’s time to stand up now. The time for sitting is over. The master is calling.
Hearing that the Lord called him, Bartimaeus threw of his begging coat. He won’t be needing it anymore, for his begging days are over. He threw off his old cloak.
When in the presence of the Lord, we come, we can throw off those things that we thought we couldn’t live without. When the Lord lends an ear to our earnest plea, it’s time to throw off the cloak, throw off the old mindset, throw off the old attitude, throw off who and what we used to be.
Jesus called Bartimaeus, and Bartimaeus threw aside that old cloak, from his old life. Jesus called, and Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, “sprang up and came to Jesus.”
Here was a chance for Bartimaeus to ask for anything and everything. He could have asked for a seat in paradise. He could have asked for riches and land untold. Here was his chance to ask the Creator of everything, for anything.
Bartimaeus had but one request. “My teacher let me see again.” Very few English translations of this text catches the heart of this verse.
Bartimaeus didn’t just ask Jesus to allow him to see. No, his heart’s desire and sincere prayer was that he might see once more and again, as he did in days gone by. At some point, or another, Bartimaeus could see before. There was a time when he wasn’t a poor, blind beggar sitting by the roadside.
But, something happened; somehow, at sometime or another, something happened to brother Bartimaeus. He lost his ability to see.
How he lost his sight, we don’t know. And, it really isn’t important at all. Too often we get caught up on why folk are in the jam they are in, instead of just showing some mercy and kindness.
Somehow, some way, some day, Bartimaeus lost his sight and how or why, really doesn’t make any difference. He couldn’t see and all he could really do was to sit by the roadside, as life passed him by.
But, the storm was passing over now. Jesus was passing by. The storm is passing over now. Darkness is giving way to daybreak. The storm is passing over now, after all these years.
Jesus has come and is asking him what it is that he really wants out of life, from the Lord of life. ”My teacher, rabbi, teacher, I want to see again. Rabbi, I know that I know that I know that you have the power to restore my sight and revive my spirit.”
In a word, Bartimaeus had faith in the mercy of Jesus. He had faith in the power of Jesus. He had faith in the love of Jesus. He believed in Jesus. He trusted Jesus.
In spite of the pain of his past, in spite of the problems in his present reality, Bartimaeus believed that Jesus was able to undo all that had went wrong in his life. In spite of the very worst that life could bring, Bartimaeus still had faith in Jesus. And his faith opened up his life to the healing power, the renewing power and the life giving, sight restoring power of Jesus.
In response to the faith of our brother Bartimaeus, Jesus opened his eyes to see; but not to just see the same old things in the same old way that he used to see. He had new sight and new insight.
Where he once saw misery, he began to see mercy at work. Where he once only saw problems, he began to see some positive possibilities for progress. Where he once only saw burdens, he began to see some showers of blessings.
Bartimaeus regained his sight, and received new insight. Now, able to see like never before, Bartimaeus saw that Jesus was the way to life eternal and life abundant.
From that day, from the very moment his faith made a connection with Christ, he couldn’t sit by the roadside another moment. He began to follow Jesus, but not just into Jerusalem. He began to follow Jesus in his heart, with his mind, body and soul.
With a made up mind and opened up eyes, Bartimaeus kept on shouting. Bartimaeus, refuses to be silent, he is singing, he is shouting, all along life’s journey, “I, I, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going all the way.”
I have decided to follow Jesus “no turning back, no turning back. Though no one joins me, if I’ve got to go by myself, tho’ no one joins me, still I will, I must, I shall, still I will follow no turning back, no turning back!”
Rev. Clarence W. Davis is the pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A frequent contributor to BlackandChristian.com, Davis earned a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree from Harvard Divinity School and is currently a student in the joint Ph.D. program at the University of Denver and Illiff School of Theology.
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Used by permission, BlackandChristian.com, 2006