As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus) was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
The events of recent days in our nation leave us reeling; desperate, like Bartimaeus, for the mercy of God. While most of us may not suffer from physical blindness, spiritual blindness is yet rampant in our culture…and unfortunately, even within the Church. But like Bartimaeus, we too can have a life-transforming encounter with the living Christ that brings hope in the darkest of days. From his example, let us seek to apply these four principles:
The Boldness of Belief
Although he was told only that it was “Jesus of Nazareth” passing by, Bartimaeus had obviously already heard about Jesus, and had drawn his own conclusions. Rather than repeating the phrase he had been given by the crowd, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he cried out “Jesus, Son of David.” This was bold indeed, because in declaring both the royal and Messianic title for Jesus, he proclaimed his belief that Jesus was the Son of God. By implication then, he was also broadcasting his belief that only Jesus had the power to help him. And despite the intimidation of being rebuked by the unruly crowd, he continued to shout it all the louder!
Amy Carmichael, famed missionary to India, was another who boldly believed. Having clearly heard God speak to her heart in 1892 (“Go ye!”), she began seeking a path to the foreign mission field. She applied to the China Inland Mission society and was denied on the grounds of poor health. She sailed to Japan by faith and was accepted by a mission group there, only to be sent away after a year when her health broke. She then attempted to work in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), only to be called home to England because of a family crisis. Throughout these failed attempts she endured the clamor of many voices, all trying to convince her to give up and stay home. But like Bartimaeus, she ignored the crowds and continued to boldly believe in the power of Jesus, knowing that only He could help her fulfill her calling. Her persistence resulted in being sent at last to India by the Church of England. There she remained, birthing an amazingly effective ministry, until she was called to glory 55 years later. What is God asking you to boldly believe, even in the face of opposition?
The Humility of Hunger
Bartimaeus was bold, and he was hungry for a different life than the only one he had ever known. But he did not shout out his need for healing, nor anything that would claim worthiness to be healed (“I am the son of Timaeus; I have been blind for many years; I am suffering,” etc). He fully recognized his own unworthiness, and far from any claims based on his own merit, his humble cry of “have mercy on me!” is what caught the Savior’s ear. Augustine of Hippo, 5th century bishop and theologian, wrote, “The way to Christ is first through humility, second through humility, third through humility.” Do I humbly hunger for God Himself and the mercy of His grace? Or do I seek Him only for His gifts?
The Defining of Desire
The Merciful One did indeed hear and respond to the humble cries of the roadside beggar. He called the blind man to come to him; Mark tells us that Bartimaeus leapt up excitedly and cast his cloak aside to run to Jesus. It is almost as if the cloak was a representation of Bartimaeus’ old life that he threw off without a backward glance, in order to run towards the new life that awaited him. Colossians 3:9 says, “…you have taken off the old self with its practices, and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” And when he reached the One in Whose image he had been created, Jesus asked him a blunt, direct question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Wasn’t it immediately obvious what Bartimaeus needed? Certainly, Jesus knew what was in the heart of this man; yet He made no assumptions. He asked Bartimaeus to define his desire by putting it into words. What did he want? Money? Power? A job? No, the thing Bartimaeus most wanted was indeed what was the most obvious; nevertheless, he clearly and humbly declared it: “Rabbi, I want to see.” Words are important; therefore, let us speak out the words of our heart to the One who is Himself the Word made flesh. (John 1:14)
The Response to Restoration
In response to Bartimaeus’ request, Jesus immediately healed him and restored his sight. In Matthew’s account, the text specifically says that Jesus “touched his eyes” (Matt. 20:34). The word used for “eyes” is not only the term that commonly referred to that part of the body; it also had a deeper, poetic meaning that was used in the literature of the day, meaning “the eyes of the soul” or the “eyes of the mind.” Indeed, Bartimaeus received more than just his physical sight that day; his spiritual sight was also restored. The text says that without any hesitation (or even going back for his old cloak!), Bartimaeus followed Jesus and became part of the crowd of true disciples, glorifying God with all his heart (Luke 18:42).
Worship was the response to restoration.
Jesus asks the same question of us today, when we come to Him with bold yet humble hearts:
“What do you want Me to do for you?”
Think about it carefully.
The questions that truly matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words—“Come to Me.” Our Lord’s words are not, “Do this, or don’t do that,” but—“Come to Me.” If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires. I will actually cease from sin, and will find the song of the Lord beginning in my life.