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Jeremiah 31:7-9 | Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28 | Mark 10:46-52
The Gospel lesson is the story of “Blind Bartimaeus,” a famous story in the gospels. There are even songs that are about this episode. Although, the song by “The Bishops” get a couple of things wrong, like the place where the story takes place, and his age, etc. We’ll call it poetic license. But, there are also some new, and some interesting items in this story. For starters, in my 35 years of ordained ministry, I have never preached on this text. So, this is new to me. The lesson has never come up. I think that where the story lies in the Lectionary. It must usually be superseded by the lessons for Reformation Sunday and/or All Saints’ Day. So, it is kind of nice to have something new to work on.
Interestingly, I don’t think that his given name was Bartimeaus. Bartimeaus means, “Son of Timeaus.” It is just like St. Peter is sometimes called “Simon bar Jonah,” “Simon son of Jonah.” That was his name. So if you look at the way Bartimaeus’ name is given in the story, his name would be “Son of Timaeus Son of Timaeus,” a possible combination if you are describing his lineage, namely his father and grandfather’s line, but not his first name. True, most of my friends whom I grew up with, usually call me Rose. And I call them by their last names. Especially when we are in a group. We usually don’t use our first names unless there are only a few of us together. So, that could explain this. This does take place in a crowd of people. That may be how the crowd knew him. And there may well have been a crowd. This story takes place outside of Jericho, not in Galilee as the song gives it. And Jericho was a good sized town.
His name is interesting for something else. It is not a Jewish name. The “Bar” part is Jewish, Aramaic to be precise. “Timaeus” is a Greek name. It means “to honor.” Plato wrote an entire book entitled Timaeus. And Jericho is in Israel proper. There weren’t a lot of Greeks there. But, Bartimaeus knows his Jewish prophecies. So, he must have been a Jew. So, here’s my conjecture. I’ve got a funny feeling that Bartimaeus had a Jewish mother and a Greek father, or at least a Greek grandfather. And now lives in this area just northwest of Jerusalem, about 56 miles away. Also, interestingly, Jericho is one of the oldest habitated places in the world, if not the oldest. People have been living there since at least 9,000 BC.
Like I said earlier, Bartimaeus knows his Jewish prophecies. When he learns that Jesus is walking by, he cries out to him. He does not cry out “Jesus of Nazareth.” No. He cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Does he know that Jesus is descended of King David? Maybe. But, more importantly, he knows that the Messiah is descended of King David! That may be why Jesus hearkens to his cry. Mark says that Jesus “stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’” The address made Jesus stop in his tracks. “Someone here knows who, and what, I am!” Bartimaeus could have only known this by faith! He is not blind in faith! And Bartimaeus jumps up and comes running, which is a problem for a blind man. And Jesus asks him what he can do for Bartimaeus.
Here, it gets interesting again. Bartimaeus does not address Jesus this time as Son of David. Rather, he says, “my teacher,” “Rabbouni.” It is the same address that Mary of Magdalene addresses Jesus in the cemetery on Easter morning when she realizes who he is. And Bartimaeus requests, “let me see again.” Some people confuse this story with the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. It is not the same story. By his own words, Bartimaeus used to be able to see. He wants to see again. And, the last sentence in the lesson says, “immediately he regained his sight.” So, it is not the same story. But it is still an important healing story. It is all because even in his blindness, Bartimaeus could see something important. He knew through his faith that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus even tells him, “Go: your faith has made you well.” And Bartimaeus regains his sight and follows Jesus on the way.
Bartimaeus may have been a blind beggar, but spiritually he was rich and his vision was 20/20. Jesus had told Peter at his Confession that only God the Father could have revealed to him that Jesus was the Messiah. Only God could have revealed this to Bartimaeus. He is rich in God’s grace. His sight is restored. And from then, he follows the Christ.
This is an amazing healing story. But, it is a really more amazing faith story. Mark tells it in seven short verses. But, in those seven verses, Bartimaeus’ life is changed forever, and for the good. Just as Bartimaeus’ vision is regained, and he immediately began to follow Jesus on the way, we too should follow this example. We should strive to see where Christ is in our midst, even in the midst of our own blindness in this world. And in those times when we are restored, our sight is regained, we too should more closely follow Jesus on the way. He is the only way to true sight, to everlasting life and salvation. As Jesus says in John’s Gospel, he “is the way and the truth and the life.”