“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
Blindness was an incredible limitation in the ancient world; Bartimaeus would have been unable to learn a trade or seek employment, and was reduced to begging on the side of the road, likely without family or close friends, marginalized, on the edge of society. It’s no wonder he cried out so passionately for Jesus to show him mercy and heal him! And even his pleas were hushed up by the crowd, who, perceiving him as less valuable than a seeing person, thought his cries for mercy irritating, embarrassing, or simply not important enough to bother Jesus with. (Do we still do that today? Yes, of course, for a plethora of reasons – we shunt away the pleas of the poor, the oppressed, those who tax our resources or drain us emotionally, telling them to stop bothering us with their cries for mercy. We could stand to be a lot more like Jesus and less like the crowd…)
What really stood out to me in this passage, though, was Bartimaeus’s choice following his miraculous healing. Surely he had been holding onto cherished, impossible dreams through all his years of exclusion and inability – surely there were things he had been longing to do and to see his whole life, as he did the best he could in his poverty and loneliness! But with the whole world of opportunity opened up before him by the gift of sight, with the open invitation of Jesus to go his own way and follow his own dreams, what did Bartimaeus do? He followed Jesus on his way.
Right in the midst of the great crowd who had been silencing his pleas for mercy only minutes earlier.
Jesus was greater to him than all the hopes and dreams he’d held of a restored and normal life. Jesus was greater to him than all the condescension and bigotry of the people following him. So he decided that his way would be Jesus’s way, and he went with him on the road.