By The Revd Robert Jordan M.A.
Bible Reading: Mark 10:46-52
I came back various times to today's reading, and I have reflected a great deal on what is said here. I find it particularly helpful, and have been both challenged and inspired by Bartimaeus....particularly when we see that it comes straight after the request of James and John for a place of privilege in the Kingdom.
Let's get into the story. Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32) and close to Jericho this blind man sitting on the side of the road, begging, calls out when he is told it is Jesus who is passing. And this is so interesting, he is an outsider in more ways than one Socially an outcast as he is a beggar; religiously he is limited, because in Leviticus 21:18-19 it says no-one who is blind or lame... or has an eye defect can come near to offer food to God. He is on the margins in every sense, and yet he comes to the centre. Interesting as well that those who seem to be on the "inside" are the ones who order him to be quiet - i.e. not to bother Jesus. And Bartimaeus just keeps going, calling even louder, and calling Jesus in a very particular way: "Son of David" Bartimaeus calls from the margin in away those on the "inside" don't seem to recognize the calling.
When he is called by Jesus, Bartimaeus becomes the ideal disciple as he throws away his cape, the cape most probably he sat on while begging, into which the passers-by would throw in their coins, so the cape is much more than a cape. And it is then that Jesus asks him "What can I do for you?" (the same question he addresses to James and John in the previous section). He simply asks for wholeness - different from the previous passage of James and John who asked for power. In the first case the request is not granted while in this case the request is granted, based on his faith "Your faith has made you well". But when did we hear of Bartimaeus' faith?
I am convinced that Jesus sees this when Bartimaeus refuses to be quiet, when he keeps going shouting even louder, and by the name he used in the calling. He know he is blind and seeks change, and if we compare this to James and John I feel they don't realize they can't see God's will and so things are frustrating for them. Bartimaeus, who is the marginalized, the outsider, through the grace of God in Jesus, becomes the insider, and he is the one who follows. The insiders don't seem to have understood that too well, it takes the outsider to show us. These are the last words of the passage: "He followed Jesus on the way" -on the way to Jerusalem. Does he become a disciple?
This is why I feel challenged, this is what I learnt - or at least was reminded of - Keep going, don't give up. Mark is telling his community that what was important wasn't ethnicity, or social standing, or any of those things...it was just to keep going, calling out... This is a lesson of Jesus' way of doing things, even today. And this is an inspiring lesson to learn - please don't give up. If we are told to shut up, don't: keep going. Jesus will respond. And for this I give thanks to God, though I still have to remind myself that there have been times I have given up, this reading challenges me not to give up calling out, as it challenges you as well! Amen.