I love the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52. It really needs to be read in its context, and this is not always done. In the lead-up to this story, the disciples have lacked faith and understanding about the true purpose of Jesus’ Messiah-ship. They have been spiritually “blind”. Bartimaeus on the other hand is physically blind, but spiritually full of faith and “sees” exactly who Jesus is. The story also raises a number of unanswered questions. Have a look at the story again, alongside some questions and contextualising
They came to Jericho.
Jericho is the last town on Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem. About a week later he was crucified.
As he (Jesus) and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho,
Who is this large crowd? Are they following Jesus or just going to Jerusalem, perhaps for the Passover? At least some have heard or been healed and followed Jesus “on the way.”
Bartimaeus, Son of Timaeus, a blind beggar was sitting by the road side.
Bar-timaeus, literally is “son of Timaeus”. Timaeus also means “honoured”.
When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
A blind person has good hearing. Above the crowd he hears that it is Jesus of Nazareth who is passing by. So what! This implies Bartimaeus knew Jesus or knew who he was or had heard his teaching, especially given what he says later
he began to shout out with a loud voice 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!”
“Shout” to be heard above the milling crowd, but also in his desperate desire to be healed. In Mark, Bartimaeus is the first person to acknowledge Jesus is of David’s line. But from here on there are many references to this. No amount of discouragement will stop him, because he knows he can be healed
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.”
The discouragers become encouragers.
So throwing off his (beggar’s) cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
We don’t find “beggar’s” in any version. But culturally we know that beggars wore a special cloak that signified they were genuine. Why throw it off? He knows he won’t need it anymore.
Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Surely Jesus can see that he is blind. Is this a test of Bartimaeus’ faith? Maybe he doesn’t believe Jesus can heal him and he wants some “simpler” blessing.
The blind man said, “My teacher, I want to see again!”
Bartimaeus addressing Jesus as “My teacher”, again implies he knows something about Jesus. I am not convinced he is simply being polite to a rabbi. Note, also that Bartimaeus has had sight previously. Has he seen and heard Jesus when he had that sight?
Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has made you well.”
“Go!” Go, where? Home and see your family again? Go to the temple so the priests can confirm you are healed? Go and get a job, now that you can? You don’t have to beg anymore.
Immediately, he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Given his faith, it is not surprising that his healing is instant. But where does he “go”. He follows Jesus “on the way”. “On the way” with the crowds to Jerusalem, where they will see his last days. “On the way” was a phrase that the early church used for people who followed Jesus. So there is a two-pronged understanding of what that “on the way” means.