BARTIMAEUS CURED – (Mark 10:46-52) October 28, 2012 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
BARTIMAEUS CURED (Mark 10:46-52)
October 28, 2012
Reverend Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
The prophet Jeremiah resists the Lord. Jeremiah squirms and wiggles to avoid hearing the Lord who wants this young man as a prophet. Jeremiah first claims his youth as an excuse.
“Ah, Lord, I know not how to speak; I am too young. “ But the Lord answered me,
Say not, “I am too young.” /To whomever I send you, you shall go; / whatever I command you, you shall speak. /Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. / Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying,
“See, I place my words in your mouth!” (Jeremiah 1:6-10).
We also have Jonah as an unwilling prophet. The Lord tells Jonah that he should journey to Nineveh and there preach against the wickedness of the inhabitants. But Jonah does not want that. So Jonah flees to Tarshish, going away from Nineveh, seeking to escape the Lord. Yet a storm arose, and the sailors toss Jonah into the sea. The whale swallows Jonah and spits him out on the dry shore; thus Jonah must preach to the Ninevites. (Jonah 1 &2). We have a good chuckle at Jonah who thus seeks to avoid the commands of the Lord.
In realizing these Old Testament figures, we see this blind man who contrasts sharply, for Bartimaeus repeatedly calls to Christ, and then Bartimaeus hears Jesus calling the caller. Jeremiah and Jonah resist their vocation; Bartimaeus, however, seeks to come to the Lord. Even in the New Testament, Paul of Tarsus at first terrorizes the disciples of the crucified and the risen Lord. But when Paul feels Christ’s fierce punch, finds himself sprawled in the dust, his horse cantering away and his eyes blinded, Paul knows that the Lord has greater plans, and Paul finally attends to the Lord’s voice.
Bartimaeus sat at the roadside begging. What else might a blind man do, unless he begged for a coin from passersby? How might he earn a living, unless he rattled a cup and suggested pity in his tone of voice? Folk would easily walk past him, maybe suggesting some ugly epithet, maybe casting some ugly remark for him. This blind beggar certainly could not raise physical fear; perhaps he would stir disdain for his blindness. Polite society had no use for beggars, and they had no job for the sightless.
We might be reminded of the poster that appeared on billboards during World War II. That poster showed a tall, slim man dressed in our Flag’s attire and pointing at everyone. It sternly read, “Uncle Sam wants you!” But no one wants Bartimaeus.
Today’s candidates for the presidential election call for volunteers. The candidates call for volunteers to aid their election efforts. The candidates subtly suggest that when each wins the volunteers will have a place in their regime. But these candidates are not calling blind beggars.
Bartimaeus calls from the roadside.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out.
“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked [Bartimaeus], telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
You and I do not know what motivates Bartimaeus to keep calling. Maybe a streak of perversity itches this blind man; perhaps he means to assert himself against those telling him to “hush, be quiet, keep your place; don’t be bothering the Master.” Maybe Bartimaeus figured that Jesus might send a large coin to this beggar; maybe Bartimaeus thinks that he can gather attention by his shouting. None the less, he persists, for nothing would stop him from coming face to face with Jesus. Bartimaeus longs to confront this miracle worker, this one person who could resolve his darkness. Desperation drives Bartimaeus.
Then Jesus stops and says, “Call him.”
Those simple words halt the whole crowd. Suddenly, Jericho attends. A moment ago those who endeavored to silence the beggar now hear Jesus wishing to speak with the caller.
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
The call of Jesus awakens energy in the beggar. Unlike Jeremiah, unlike Jonah and Paul, Bartimaeus leaps up and throws off the cloak over his shoulders; though sightless, he runs toward the crowd’s buzz, stumbling perhaps, but running, and the proffered hands he pushes away.
Jesus says to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus knows what he wants, and he knows what this miracle worker can do, for he has heard others speak during the previous three years of the wonders that have come from Jesus. In a hospital emergency ward, a patient could wobble into the waiting room, but this person knows that he wants the terrible pain in his ear to end. Bartimaeus knows what he wants.
“Master, I want to see.”
That plea tugs at our hearts. We hear anguish and longing in such a prayerful plea. And Jesus speaks to him. “Your faith saves you.” And Bartimaeus is immediately sightful.
In this year that emphasizes faith, Bartimaeus offers us an example. His faith in Jesus Christ restores his vision. He has heard the Lord nearby, and Bartimaeus does not cease calling Jesus, until Jesus calls Bartimaeus. That call rings also in the ear of each of us. We hear that seldom used Biblical book, Song of Songs. It is a love song, especially fit for a wedding. Yet we hear the Lord calling us to come closer. In that Song of Songs we, like Bartimaeus, hear our Lord stopping and saying, “Call him to me.” Amen!