The story of Bartimaeus is easily one of my favorites. It is part healing, part witnessing, and for the gospel writer, the last thing Jesus does before coming to Jerusalem.
As a writer, this is prime real estate. While everyone is looking “above the fold” and for the big headline at the top of the page, this story is actually on the fold. It is the chance for the writer to reveal one last thought before Jerusalem steals all the focus.
He Sprang Up (Day 34 of A Simple Lent) | Saturday
Jesus has been predicting his death and making a big show of how hard it is to follow him. And here comes the true convert. One who is not afraid. He’s excited. He can’t wait.
The urgency of the story is bubbling up. The blind beggar shouts, and throws off his coat, springs up, and comes to Jesus.
In contrast, Jesus is still and the followers sternly order.
The blind man, named Bartimaeus doesn’t just want to see: he isn’t selfishly asking the healer to give him what he does not have. He doesn’t throw himself upon Jesus or put in a formal written request. He shouts and calls, begging for mercy, because he wants to follow him.
He calls him teacher
My teacher, let me see again.
And when he is healed, Jesus tells him to go, but he doesn’t go away or go home, he comes with him.
Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
The way, of course, is to Jerusalem.
Bartimaeus and The Way
I love the subtle image of this story taking place at Jericho. Not only is this the site of that great victory of Joshua’s, but it is most famous for its walls coming down. An image we can liken to a victory over blindness; to the song which brings the walls over his eyes to crumble. The barrier to discipleship is removed and now Bartimaeus can see–he can truly follow for now he can see where they are going. He can keep sight of the Teacher, the Master, the Messiah.
We know where Jesus is going in a very literal sense. For in the next few verses, they’ll be entering Jerusalem. I don’t suppose Bartimaeus knows that. But it isn’t likely to matter to him. I don’t think this is “the way” that concerns him.
The first Christians referred to themselves as followers of Jesus. There was no word “Christian” yet. They saw themselves, even the converts after his death as “followers of Jesus” or Jesus Followers. They also spoke of their faith as The Way.
For them, as for us, this idea of Bartimaeus jumping up and coming to Jesus, and in the end, following him on “the way” was heard with that double meaning. The literal and the suggestive. That Bartimaeus would go the way Jesus was going and would learn in the way of Jesus.
This time of year I remind us that Bartimaeus’ example suggests how important it is to keep the double meaning in mind as we continue. That The Way of Jesus is not merely being a Christian, but it is a life journey, a path, a particularity of living that will lead to Jerusalem and to the crucifixion. It will lead us into the darkness and confusion of death and toward an empty tomb.
That following Jesus means carrying a cross like Jesus does, maybe even the very cross of Christ upon us. That we might be cured of our own blindness. That we might see the way.
May we have the same enthusiasm: stripping ourselves of impediments: springing to our feet, coming to meet Jesus like this one moment is our best chance. Perhaps our only chance. To see him, really see him. And with grace and hope, follow.
Daily Office Readings
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This week’s homework is to find how to best embody our core values.
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