Mark 10:46-52 - Bartimaeus Recieves His Sight
He had been awoken this morning, much like any other morning, by the squeaking of cart wheels and the thickness of dust filling his lungs. As he sat up coughing, his ears rang with the sounds of donkeys braying and merchants greeting each other in the early morning. He pulled his cloak over himself, feeling the chill of the morning through the hole in the shoulder of the garment. Maybe today I can collect enough to have that repaired, he thought to himself. The sun began to rise, which he was informed of by the heat gradually making its way down his body. His world was still in darkness though, and had been that way for as long as he could remember.
The voices and commotion slowly increased on the road throughout the morning, and he stayed in his spot for a time, knowing that it yielded the most return for his pleading at this time of day. He held out the old chipped dish he had found two nights ago behind a home nearby, and began calling out for money. He had been at it for quite a while and his stomach began to ache, but soon a firm round object fell into his lap. “Thank you, thank you!” he called out. “You’re welcome!” called a fading voice to his left. As the crisp fruit filled his mouth with sweet juice, he thanked God for his breakfast. Once he had finished his meal he relocated himself, since this road was mostly used early in the morning by the locals, but the one through the center of town brought many travelers through it as the day progressed.
The day grew hot and his dish remained fairly empty, promising him a meager dinner at most and no hope for the repair of his cloak. He sat down next to a local merchant’s tent, scooting in just close enough to benefit from its shade. In moments like this, especially lately, he let his mind wander, but only so far, because he knew if he let it go completely he would begin to despair of his situation. It was easy for him to start growing depressed about having to feel his way through life, knowing that it would be nothing to God to heal him and change everything. He would think about how he would see all of the people who passed him every day, ready to sell them dishes and utensils that he had formed himself, having spent so many years training to work primarily with his hands. All it would take would be an opportunity, a chance to train as a worker of clay, but one that had been rejected every time he garnered the courage to pursue it. But he didn’t let himself think like that anymore, and hadn’t attempted anything so silly in a long time.
Shouting voices and footsteps running down the road to his right startled him out of his thoughts. He stood up, listening intently but not making out words, and decided to walk towards the source of the commotion. But as he turned to go he was knocked down by a group of young people with the same idea who had sprinted past him to discover what was going on. Rubbing his back where he hit the table on his way down, the man sat up on the ground and realized that the mass of people had grown so large that it was crowded in front of the spot that he sat, and he began to hear a word repeated throughout the hoard of people.
The word was a name, a name who had been the reason his mind had wandered more lately, and who had caused him to think of what a life full of light would be like. Rumors had traveled along this very road, more and more in recent days, about a man who was traveling throughout the region, upsetting the rulers of the synagogues and speaking in ways about God that hadn’t been heard ever before. But these things were not of most interest to the man, who always asked about the same thing when travelers were telling their stories: “Did you see him heal anyone?” With so many affirmative answers it was hard for the man to push away his hope, and began asking God to bring this man of God through his town. Today this man, Jesus, was there.
Before he knew what he was doing, the man was screaming. Screaming like he had wanted to all his life. Screaming as one who had never had a chance to scream before. Screaming all of the hope and all of the anger he had inside him into the world. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He kept at it with all of the strength he could muster, unable to stand because the crowd had now engulfed him. People began rebuking him: “Be quiet!” “Stop embarrassing yourself!” “The teacher has no time for you!” But with every discouragement he screamed louder and louder and louder, until they began saying something else to him.
Several people were yelling at him, trying to make themselves heard over his hoarse cries. “Cheer up!” they cried. “On your feet!” said a voice, “He’s calling you!” But the man did not hear their words as he screamed out for the one he longed to meet. The man felt himself pulled to his feet and began struggling, determined he wouldn’t let a minor embarrassment keep him from doing everything he could to meet this man Jesus. But they kept crying “He’s calling you,” and as the words sank in he stopped. Immediately he threw his worn cloak aside and ran, tears streaming down his face and hands pushing him in the right direction. And before he knew it, he stumbled into a clearing with his hands feeling nothing in front of him. There were no more voices crying out to him, no more hands guiding the way.
He wanted to say something, but his lips would not move and the silence sat heavily on his shoulders. He knew the man stood before him, the man he had been praying to God for an opportunity to meet. The man who, if the rumors were true, could finally bring him into the world everyone around him knew. If only he could find his voice and tell him all the things he had been dreaming of, hoping for. He didn’t know how long he had been standing there when he heard footsteps coming near him. And Jesus spoke.
“What do you want me to do for you?” That was it. The man was almost offended, because wasn’t it obvious, with his hands outstretched and groping nothingness, staring in the wrong direction, unable to make eye contact with someone standing feet away from him? But he couldn’t be angry, because the voice was not what he had been expecting from a powerful and authoritative man of God. It was gentle, and certainly strong, but filled with a compassion that made the man’s heart break, because he knew Jesus truly saw him. And it might have been the first time he had ever felt seen in his whole life.
“R-R-Rabbi,” came a dry, ragged whisper from his lips, “I want to see.” Tears fell silently down his dusty face.
“Go,” said Jesus. The man’s heart dropped to his feet and his mind raced. How could this be, after all of my suffering and all of my prayers and embarrassment and shame and sorrow and rejection and hopelessness and darkness? How?!!! But before he could voice any of his fears, Jesus spoke again. “Your faith has healed you.”
Immediately he was blinded by white light, brighter than he imagined a light could ever possibly be. He closed and rubbed his eyes, but it wouldn’t go away, and he squeezed his eyelids together until more tears streaked down his face. Rubbing his eyes, he opened them. The light was gone, and instead there was a face before him, a face that looked gentle, certainly strong, but filled with compassion that made the man’s heart break, because he knew this face truly saw him.
The man immediately wrapped his arms around Jesus, crying and thanking him over and over and over again. He let go and spun around, taking in every face that surrounded him and now smiled and cheered and gasped and wept. He saw the buildings he had been feeling his way past all of his life, and the tents and the merchants therein. He would have wished he could see and know every face who had ever been kind to him to thank them, but in this moment he wanted to thank and hug everyone, even those who had looked down upon him before. But he couldn’t do any of that, he just wept and laughed there in that spot until he thought to look to Jesus again.
But Jesus had moved out of the circle, and the man could see the crowd moving along the road after him. The man immediately ran after them, intent on following Jesus wherever he would go, telling everyone he possibly could of the wonderful miracle given to him. He would look everyone he met in the eye and tell them “Jesus gave me sight! I once was blind but now I see!”
And as he followed after the crowd the man began screaming again. This time the people around him did not rebuke him or tell him to be quiet, and some even joined in. The man screamed and screamed until his voice was gone, and even then he continued to scream, determined to cry out this way for the rest of his life. “Jesus, Son of David, thank you!”