I read this Bible passage this morning:
And [Jesus and His disciples] came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.”
Mark 10:46-52 (English Standard Version)
This morning I’m able to envision the scene so clearly. Jesus, a great crowd following him, is on His way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. He knows He is only days away from His crucifixion. He is surrounded by “a great crowd”. His disciples, some followers, some curious bystanders, some people who have simply fallen into the crowd while making their own way to Jerusalem.
Bartimaeus sits near the gates of Jerusalem, probably where he sits many days. In other parts of the New Testament we are told of beggars whose friends bring them to a certain spot each day. There they can make a tiny pittance off of compassionate passers-by. Bartimaeus hears the sound of a large crowd drawing closer. “Who is it? Who’s there?” he asks. This crowd must have been larger and noisier than average to make him wonder. Maybe he had to ask a few times before someone answered, “It’s Jesus!”
Bartimaeus must have had some idea of who Jesus was, he must have heard some stories of miracles and healing. Because as soon as he hears Jesus’ name, he starts yelling. He starts crying out to Jesus at the top of his lungs. Keep in mind that Bartimaeus was blind; he has no idea if Jesus is close to him or a hundred metres down the road in the middle of this crowd. Bartimaeus doesn’t know if Jesus can hear him at all. But he keeps crying out to Him. How often have I given a half-hearted cry to God and given up because I don’t hear anything immediately?
The people around Bartimaeus began to rebuke him, to try to silence him. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t shut up. All Bartimaeus cares about, all he wants in his life is for Jesus to hear him and he will not stop crying out until that happens.
And Jesus hears him. It’s a beautiful moment. In the middle of the noise and the crowd and the commotion, Jesus hears the voice of one blind beggar. Jesus stops and says, “I want to see that man.” Bartimaeus, yelling and maybe weeping at the side of the road, is told, “Get up; He is calling you.” Those may have been the most beautiful words Bartimaeus ever heard.
And his reaction is wonderful. Bartimaeus jumps to his feet, ready to go to Jesus. He doesn’t delay, he doesn’t hesitate, he heads straight to Jesus. And because of his faith, he is healed. In an instant, his whole life is changed. Not just physically but spiritually too. We can see that because Bartimaeus doesn’t simply head back home but instead follows Jesus right then and there.
It’s an amazing story and an inspiring one for me today. I want to be like Bartimaeus. I want to persist in calling out to Jesus. I want to jump to my feet and be ready when Jesus calls back.
“Christianity begins with a personal reaction to Jesus, a reaction of love, an instinctive feeling that here is the one person who can meet our need. Even if we are never able to think things out theologically, that instinctive response and cry of the human heart is enough.”