Mark 10:46-52

Eyes Wide Open to Follow the Way

The following story of the definitive cure of a second blind man rounded off the section of the narrative that began with the two-stage healing of the first blind man at Bethsaida (8:22-26). The events listed had happened largely outside Galilee, away from the specific scene of Jesus’ mission. They had centred mainly on the disciples, and their intent had been to highlight at a deeper level the implications of Jesus’ message of human dignity. Mark had used them as opportunities to reflect on issues of life within the Christian community - where ideally members would be intent on exploring and living out in a committed way the vision of Jesus and his call to mutual respect and love.

Jesus had wished to help the disciples to see the personal cost and implications of mutual respect and love. His own life and death perfectly exemplified his message. In a sinful world, love would mean suffering: the suffering of inner growth with its consequent “death to self”, and the external opposition of those with vested interests in the oppression and exploitation of others.

The relevant points had been made. The disciples should have been in the position now to see clearly. As the unfolding narrative would make abundantly clear, such was evidently not the case.

Mark 10:46-52 – Jesus Gives Sight to the Blind Man (2) - Bartimaeus

46 They came to Jericho.  
As Jesus and the disciples and a big enough crowd were leaving,
the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar,
was sitting beside the way.

Very few people had been named in the narrative. Bartimaeus was an exception. Perhaps he was someone known in the Markan community. Perhaps it was the meaning of his name that was significant. Timaeus is derived from the Greek word meaning respect or fear. The blind man himself seemed to have been short of both respect and fear, though his name may have related more pertinently to the fearful anxiety of the disciples as they approached Jerusalem and the end of their journey. In some ways, he embodied some of the preferred attitudes of disciples.

Jericho was on the favorite pilgrim route from Galilee to Jerusalem. With so many passing pilgrims it would have been a good spot for a beggar to situate himself. 

Mark noted that he was sitting by the roadside – literally “beside the way”. He was close to but not yet on the “way” of discipleship.

47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to shout out,
saying, “Son of David! Jesus! have mercy on me!”
48 Many of them told him sharply to keep quiet,
which only made him cry out more insistently,
“Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

He addressed Jesus as Son of David, that is, as Davidic Messiah. He was after all blind, so was mistaken, though he was in good company - with Peter, and probably with James and John (with their eyes on key positions in the Kingdom of Jesus). 

He was certainly not fearful, nor perhaps even duly respectful. He had no time for the niceties of the honour code. But he was insistent, and clearly in touch with his need. Unlike the rich man, he asked for mercy, not for how to inherit. Jesus could work with those conscious of their need. The contrast with the rich man could hardly have been greater. Bartimaeus was powerless, landless, sitting in the dust, but he was not far from being a disciple

The word used to indicate the response of the crowd – told him sharply - was the same word used of Peter’s earlier remonstrance with Jesus (and Jesus’ rebuke of Peter [8:32-33]). The crowd, like Peter, had misread the scene.

49 Jesus stood still and said,
“Call him over.”  
They called the blind man, and said to him,
“Take heart, get up, he is calling for you.”
50 He threw away his cloak,
sprang to his feet
and went towards Jesus.

The crowd now called on the blind man, “the son of fear”, to have courage, to take heart and to cast away his fear. In further contrast to the rich man who could not separate himself from what he possessed (and to the disciples who could not let go on the one hand of their ambitions for greatness, power and prestige, and on the other, of their fear and foreboding), Bartimaeus “took heart” and cast off all he had in his haste to answer the call of Jesus - He threw away his cloak, sprang to his feet...

51 In answer to his cry, Jesus said to him,
“What would you like me to do for you?”  
The blind man said,
“My master, I want to see again.”
52 Jesus said to him,
“Go off now,
your faith has saved you.”  
And straight way he saw again,
and he followed him on the way.

Bartimaeus lacked the theological insight to penetrate to the mystery of Jesus: he called him My master. But Jesus saw his wonderful openness to the possible, to Jesus’ vision of universal human dignity and to the in-breaking of the power of God’s Kingdom. Jesus named his faith, and declared that it was such faith that made him well, that saved him. His impaired vision was restored: he was able to see again; he regained full sight.

The rich man had walked away sorrowful. The poor man followed Jesus. Significantly, he followed him on the way, the way of discipleship, which, in its turn, would lead ominously towards Jerusalem and eventual apparent tragedy. 

Next >> Mark 11:1-11