I picture myself being in the crowd, following Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, listening to him teach along the way. I might have been one of the many who found the shouting by Bartimaeus to be bothersome and irritating. I might have been one of those who sternly told him to be quiet. I would have been eager to hear what Jesus was saying, excited to go to Jerusalem with Jesus. I would not want anyone to interrupt me and my plans for the day, and I might have been a little protective of Jesus and his plans for the day. Why let this guy steal the attention or delay our arrival in the Holy City? I might not have been interested, amused, or patient.
As usual, Jesus shows me the better way. He heard the man shout “Have mercy on me!” He took the beggar seriously. He didn’t shun him or turn away from him. He heard Bartimaeus when he cried out and he stopped. Bartimaeus was attended to, granted what he asked Jesus to do for him. Not only did he receive his sight, but immediately he began to follow Jesus on the way. I learn that those who truly follow Jesus, rejoicing, are the poor, those who have suffered spiritual blindness, those who need help and support. Their poverty and suffering cause them to insist and shout... and to distract me. My plans for my day are interrupted, but my plans become unimportant in comparison to their need. Jesus is ready to stop and help, but am I?
The plea “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” can take many forms. Sometimes it is unspoken, just shouting at me through their eyes, through their misery and suffering, through their desperation, through their otherwise unexplained behaviour. Oh, that I could heal them like Jesus healed Bartimaeus. You know them. Don’t you wish you could heal them, too? But healing is the ministry of Jesus. My ministry, our ministry, is to connect the sufferer to Jesus, to make the introduction... or at the very least, to not impede their encounter with Jesus.
The blind beggar asks Jesus for sight, and he is healed immediately. There is a difference between physical sight and spiritual sight. Spiritual sight is the ability to see the greater picture, to see events through God’s eyes. Although Bartimaeus lacked physical sight, he did have the spiritual gift of “sight” that James and John did not have when they asked for special status in the Kingdom. That is why Jesus could say to Bartimaeus: “Your faith has saved you.” Jesus equated spiritual sight with faith.
Bartimaeus could see with his spirit, that Jesus could heal his physical blindness. The ability to see beyond the present is wisdom; and to see beyond the possible is faith, a grace from God. The Spirit of God empowers us with spiritual intuition and insight. We cannot arrive at faith by ourselves, yet God never forces faith upon us. Faith requires a truly human action; it requires that we make a choice. God offers us his gift, and we are free to choose it or reject it. When we choose faith, we actually choose cooperation and become partners with the Divine in our salvation and the salvation of the world. While faith goes beyond understanding, it does not conflict with human reason. In fact, human reason can lead to faith. If reason and faith appear to be in conflict with each other, reason requires patience. Human knowledge is never complete.
Human understanding takes time and will deepen faith. We know that we believe, but we long to know why. Knowledge and reason cannot tell us why we believe. Faith and understanding work hand in hand to bring us closer to our Creator. But faith needs to push the envelope of knowledge. Knowledge tells us what is possible. Faith tells us what is impossible. It
is our vision of the impossible that brings us to God. Are we as bold and persistent as Bartimaeus? Do we have his kind of faith?