What happens next when people ask Jesus for something?
The Gospel writer Mark gives us two very different stories. Last week’s Gospel lection included the request of James and John to be given seats at Jesus’ right and left in glory. Obviously those two disciples missed the whole point of Jesus’ explanation of his journey to Jerusalem. Then we get a story about a blind beggar at the Jericho gate who makes a very different request: “My teacher, let me see again.” I’ll come back to that, but first here’s the whole passage:
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. –Mark 10:46-52 NRSV
There’s at least a couple curiosities. First, unlike other accounts of miraculous healings, this man is named–Bartimaeus son of Timaeus. In Aramaic, “bar” means “son of”; oddly, then, we’re told he is “son of Timaeus son of Timaeus.” Maybe what’s important here is simply the fact that Jesus speaks in Aramaic. He doesn’t do that a lot in the Gospels, but when he does it’s to say something really important. Examples that come to mind are the “Talitha cum” (“little girl, get up”) he pronounces when healing a little girl, and “Eloi Eloi, lema sabachtani” when he is on the cross ( the Aramaic of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). In such moments Jesus exhibits the power of God to heal or, in the second example, speaks directly to God.
In the case of blind Bartimaeus, we don’t know much about him other than his name (and even that is a curiosity) and one other point that’s easy to miss: he hasn’t always been blind, because he asks to see again. Here is someone who knows what he’s missing and, even more importantly, knows that Jesus can give it back to him.
I think this story is about far more than just physical blindness. For one thing, it would appear that most of the candidates for public office in the USA right now have, for one reason or another, chosen to be blind to the poor in our midst. It all seems to be about the 1 percent or the 47 percent (we’re looking at you Mitt Romney–remember him?) or maybe the middle class or, well, just about anybody other than people who are hungry, homeless, abused, sick, and forgotten.
It’s not my intent here to get into a political screed. But what would happen to us all–individuals, communities, nation, and global village–if we sincerely ask “Lord, let me see…all the people I’ve been blind to for so long?” And then, the Lord allows us to see them all, followed by the comment that our faith has made us whole and from that moment on we “follow Jesus on the way”?