Our gospel story is set in Jericho, some fifteen miles from Jerusalem. Bartimaeus cannot see yet despite not being able to see physically he has the insight to know who Jesus really is. ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Bartimaeus’ cry echoes down the centuries. He has faith in Jesus. He knows who Jesus is and Jesus heals him in front of the crowds.
The writer of St Mark’s gospel tells two stories about Jesus restoring sight. In the first, the blind man is told to tell no one (Mark 8:22-26). Yet in this story, Jesus is no longer hiding from the public gaze, rather stepping into the full glare of publicity. This is the final healing miracle in Mark’s Gospel and through it Jesus challenges his disciples and the crowds to recognise who he is. His true identity becomes clearer as he approaches Jerusalem. As Morna Hoooker writes: ‘Mark’s story is a final challenge to his readers to join Bartimaeus in following Jesus on the road of discipleship, even though that road leads to Jerusalem and all that happens there.’
Bartimaeus took a risk when he asked Jesus for healing. He took a risk, but he took a step of faith too. He opened himself to transformation – to a change in his life that was not only physical but spiritual as well. In setting out on the way of discipleship, Bartimaeus had no idea where the journey would end.
What was true for Bartimaeus is true for us too. The journey of faith is never straightforward. There are highs and lows, twists, turns and challenges on the way. Sometimes our faith feels strong; at other times faith can feel strangely absent. When faced with difficulties, personal and collective, we are invited to open ourselves to God’s transforming love in and through Christ Jesus. We pray with Bartimaeus: ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector