Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"And he followed him along the road."



They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus - that is, the son of Timaeus - a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and cry out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me." And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man over, "Courage," they said, "get up, he is calling you ." So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "Rabbuni, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has saved you." And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Back in the middle of June 2014, we set out here to walk gradually and reflectively through St. Mark's Gospel one pericope (peri-ko-pea) at a time. A pericope is a gospel passage that can stand on its own. 

Now here, at the end of chapter ten, we consider this well-known and much-loved account of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. It marks a turning point, as it is the last of many miracles before the story turns to the teaching of Jesus and the events which lead to his betrayal, trial and suffering. In other words, as Mark shifts gears he gives us this last miracle account to review and summarize all the previous wonders. Good teachers do that, don't they?

More than any of the other Gospels, it's Mark who shares the accounts of Jesus' wonder-working ministry. Have you ever listened to Handel's Messiah, where the hopeful words of the Prophet Isaiah (35:4-6) are set to music?

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unstopped,
then the lame will leap like a deer
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy...

We meet Bartimaeus which translates Son of the Unclean. Going all the way back to chapter one: these sick folks are ritually unclean, which translates, You can't participate in our religious-communal life. Perhaps the real wonder of Jesus' healing, beyond the physical cure, is the restoration to the community effected by the healing.

Remember the rich young man (10:17-22), who couldn't follow Jesus because he owned so much stuff? Now we see Bartimaeus contrasted as he throws off the last thing he owns, his old, dirty cloak. Unlike the rich young man, Bartimaeus goes down the road with Jesus.

How beautiful is this - when Bartimaeus cries out, it's an act of believing and a desire to be with Jesus. Back in chapter 5, when the unclean spirit cries out, it's to get away from Jesus.

And that same calling out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me," is a cry of faith. In fact, we can say that Bartimaeus already sees, and more clearly than the religious leaders who are blind to what Jesus is doing, getting all fussed that Jesus eats with sinners (2:15-17). A few verses later they will accuse Jesus of being aligned with the devil. Talk about not seeing!

Jesus must have been quite happy to hear Bartimaeus cry out in faith. Notice this, that the blind man isn't calling out in the temple, but at the side of the dusty road. Instead of complaining about all the relatives and the others who don't go to church, let's be happy wherever confidence in God (faith) is found. 

I have to laugh a little when the apostles tell blind Bartimaeus to have courage. He already has courage; he doesn't need their advice. They're the ones who were lacking in courage. Remember when they were terrified (6:50) at seeing Jesus walking on the water that windy night.

And when the apostles tell the blind man to get up - we're hearing again the command of Jesus to the dead child back in 5:41, "Little girl, I tell you to get up." Really "rise up!"

Then Jesus offers this marvelous compliment, "Go, your faith has saved you," just as he said to the woman who (5:34) had been slowly bleeding to death, "My daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint." How courteous. I wish back in my 1970's  homiletics class that the priest would have told us: Tell the people often from the pulpit that their faith is God-pleasing.

So what's Mark's purpose in sharing this Bartimaeus story? Again and again, the miracles of Jesus tell us that he wants us to be inwardly free so we can walk down the life-road beside him. I want to understand this better than the wrangling apostles in the previous gospel scene unable to get get past who is going to be nearest Jesus when he gets his earthly crown and throne. Jesus didn't care about any of that. 

Oh Jesus,
heal the blindness:
our stalled partisan politics,
our sleep-stealing anxieties,
the hot hatreds and prejudices,
our willful ignorance, 
the machinations,
the role-playing and the masks,
the superficial religion and
our unhealthy relationships.
I'm crying out.
I'm on my feet.
I'm throwing off the ragged cloak,
                                                                                                                                                                    

4 comments:

  1. When first opening this post, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was quickly drawn in by the Gospel passage and your explanation. I think we need these lessons more than we know. Amen.

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  2. When we find the marginalized that everyone assumes got themselves into their bad situation, let’s see them as human beings. We must not forget that that God wants us to look for his love in them. Then perhaps God might display his works of mercy through us as well. Jesus never cast blame and we shouldn't either. I hope that my faith is enough to save me.

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  3. I pray that my faith is God pleasing. I question my thoughts and actions all the time. I often wonder, if I died today, would I be with God in heaven? Am I a good enough person? How does one know? I know I am not always as good as I should be and it is worrisome. I sometimes envy the people who just don't care.

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  4. Jesus doesn't want us anxious and fretting all the time whether our thoughts and actions are pleasing. No mother is displeased with her child because the little one is messy, sticky, smelly, not teething or walking "on time". Mother's are just happy and at peace in the child's presence nearby. I think it's rather like that with God. Some people will want it to be much tougher than that: "Oh, with all my dirty words and deeds, I drive the nails deeper into Jesus' hands." I gave that up a long time ago. Do the best you can and trust that in Jesus Christ, God has shown himself to be kind beyond our imaginings. When a Christian's face is twisted up with fears and self-doubts, something is wrong. C.S. Lewis said, "There is no such thing as a sad Christian."

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