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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
The contrasts between this blind beggar and the previous folks Jesus has been dealing with couldn’t be greater. Compared with the rich man, Bartimaeus is dirt poor, sitting “along the way” or, perhaps more vividly, “in the gutter.” Yet while the rich man could not give up his wealth to follow, Bartimaeus, when Jesus calls him, throws off his cloak (perhaps his only possession?) in order to join him on the way.
And then there are the disciples. Jesus asks both the disciples and Bartimaeus what they want from him. But while the disciples ask for status and power, Bartimaeus simply wants his basic needs met: “let me see again.” And, as a result, he immediately moves from sitting “by the way” to following Jesus “on the way.” He has gone, that is, from beggar to disciple.
What Jesus says to him is, in this context, important to note. We translate it “Your faith has made you well,” but the Greek word for “well” is also “whole” and, importantly, “saved.” So we might read it as “Your faith has saved you.” Earlier in the chapter the rich man asked how he could inherit eternal life. When Jesus told him to admit his dependence on God (by giving up wealth) and solidarity with others (by giving his wealth to the poor), he couldn’t do it. When the disciples themselves saw what they believed was an extreme requirement, they also despaired (“then who can be saved?”). Jesus answered them, “With humans it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
And now he shows him the truth of his words. For in every way imaginable it should be impossible that Bartimaeus can be saved. Both blindness and poverty are taken as signs, in the first century, of punishment for sin. That’s why those around him try to hush him up – it’s embarrassing to have such a sinner call out to a revered teacher. Yet he calls and Jesus answers. And simply by recognizing his need, trusting that Jesus can provide, and being willing to give up what he has in order to follow, Bartimaeus has been saved, restored, invited into the kingdom. A miracle.
His response? Follow Jesus.
Prayer: Dear God, let us perceive the impossible possibility that you love us, have saved and restored us, and now invite us to be a follower, and perceiving all this, let us join you on the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.