Blind but not mute! Monday, 33rd week in ordinary time – Luke 18:35-43
Luke 18:35- 19:10 is a summary of Jesus’ ministry to the outcast. Luke now uses a story of Jesus’ mercy towards a blind beggar to conclude his travel narrative and to summarise Jesus’ ministry for societies unfortunates.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem (9:51) and he is approaching the town of Jericho. Jericho is about 15 miles from Jerusalem and was a popular resting place because it was an oasis. It was here that the pilgrims gathered to make the final leg of the journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Passover feast.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that a blind man was begging by the roadside. We know from Mark’s Gospel ( Mark 10:46-52) that his name is Bartimaeus. Ask any beggar and he will tell you that they know all about the ‘good spots’ to solicit charity and Bartimaeus knew that there would be a mass of people in Jericho that day preparing to make the final journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. That’s why he was sitting by the roadside with his hand out.
Clearly the popularity of Jesus precedes our Lord, for hearing the commotion Bartimaeus asks what’s happening only to be told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing that way. While he could not see he could certainly hear and Bartimaeus has heard of Jesus enough for him to make up his mind that Jesus was more than just the man from Nazareth but the Son of David.
Interestingly, Bartimaeus who was begging for alms chooses mercy over money. Like the ten lepers in Luke 17:11 he asks for mercy confessing Jesus by a Messianic title; Son of David. ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ was more than just a cry for help, it was a beautiful prayer that came from his heart. It was a profession of faith! Faith is the first step necessary to receiving mercy from God. Faith is not merely believing that God exists, faith is acting on that belief. Like blind Bartimaeus we must believe even when we can’t see.
We are told that the crowds sternly ordered him to be quiet a rather unusual request considering how excited and noisy there were. Perhaps they thought that a useless beggar like him has no right disturbing the Master. But the man ignores them and keeps crying out. (In this he reminds us of the persistent widow we read about the other day.)
Now Jesus stops, in fact scripture tell us he ‘stood still’. Jesus heard the desperation in Bartimaeus’ voice. “What do you want me to do” asks Jesus? While the answer may seem a little obvious it may not be so. What may seem like my need may not be what I want. Bartimaeus seems like he wants alms ( remember that the Gospel mentions he was begging) but what he really wanted was to be set free from his blindness and he knew in faith only Jesus could grant that to him.
If Bartimaeus had not kept calling out, Jesus might not have heard him and might have passed forever out of his life and he would have been blind the rest of his life! He broke all the cultural rules of etiquette, for he didn’t want Jesus to get away.
How is life going for you? Do you ever feel that you have lost something that once was precious to you? Bartimaeus lost his sight what have you lost? Jesus is looking for more Bartimaeus’ today—people who will exercise faith and cry out for mercy. Jesus wants to heal us spiritually from the inside out and giving us spiritual insight as he moves us out of darkness.