Sunday Message
Mark 10: 46-52

Sight and Insight

As with all the stories about Jesus healing a person, there is a deeper meaning to the episode of Bartimaeus at Jericho.

The mention of this oasis city tells us that Jesus is approaching his final destination, Jerusalem. Bartimaeus may well have lost his physical power of seeing, but he has insight into Jesus: other people refer to “Jesus of Nazareth”, but the beggar recognises him as “Son of David” and calls out “have mercy on me” (not “pity”, as our version renders it); this verb is only used of God, so he understands Jesus to be the bringer of God’s mercy. When Jesus tells them to call Bartimaeus, the others tell him, “Arise; he is calling you.” Mark uses the verb which has overtones of the resurrection (rather than simply “Get up”), which finds an echo in Jesus’ final remark to him that “your faith has saved you”. He receives more than the restoration of his ability to see physically: he now becomes a disciple of Jesus, following him “along the road”, the way to Jerusalem, which for Mark represents the place where Jesus is finally rejected and put to death.

Thus the Bartimaeus story presents a lesson in discipleship: a personal encounter with Jesus leads to a radical decision to follow Jesus along the way which leads to the cross, a theme which runs through the whole of Mark’s Gospel narrative

SAY

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

(Mark 10:48)

Previous Sunday Messages

REFLECT

We find the use of sight as a metaphor for faith in several places in the four Gospel versions. In this case, it is the recovery of sight which is at the centre of the meeting between Jesus and Bartimaeus. People who have had an operation to remove cataracts from their eyes often say what a difference it has made, not just to their sight but to their whole lives. Even a change of prescription to a person’s spectacles can have a dramatic effect. Perhaps the latter might be something that a greater number of us can relate to: we might have put off going to the optician for some reason or another and so we get used to our vision becoming weaker without realising it. When eventually we do go and it is apparent that new lenses will make all the difference, we wonder why we did not go for a test long before.

Imagine for a moment that Bartimaeus did not pay attention to what was happening around him: he would have missed the opportunity to encounter Jesus and not just to recover his sight, but the chance to be saved would have passed him by. He would have remained a beggar all his life, but instead became a committed follower. These stories are meant to encourage us to look at ourselves, to see how we have allowed our vision about who we really want to be, to become dimmed. We may not need to have an operation to remove cataracts from our eyes, but we can all benefit from cleaning our spectacles.

learn

  • Jericho is an oasis in the Judean desert, 15 miles north-east of Jerusalem.
  • The city was a popular winter resort for wealthy citizens of Jerusalem, which was cold and windy at that time of the year.
  • Bar is the Aramaic word for “son”: the Hebrew equivalent is ben

do

If you wear spectacles, when you clean them, think of the story of Bartimaeus and your own spiritual way of looking at life. If you don’t wear glasses, study a window and think about your spiritual sight in the same way.

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