(I was asked to give an inspirational message in our local church. Here’s what I shared.)
There’s a farmer who wanted to visit his college son in the city. His son told him that it is finals week so he will be studying all day for the exams. However the college boy told him that he can still come and sit with him in the library, so they can be together at least, as long as he does not bother him much and does not make any noises.
When the father arrived in the university library, his son asked him what book he wanted to read. The farmer asked for a Bible. So the son got him a Bible from the the bookshelf. Minutes later, the farmer was heard shouting, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
People shushed him. “Dad, keep it down, this is a library. What is all the commotion?” the son asked. The father said, “It said here in Micah 7:19, ‘God will again have compassion on us, and will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.'”
“That’s great news dad, but no more Bible for you.” Then the son gave him a National Geographic magazine to read instead. Then in just a couple of minutes, that father was shouting again, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
“Quiet down dad. What is it this time?” The father said, “According to this magazine, Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the ocean and it is 7 miles deep. And that’s where God is casting away my sins!”
Our story for this morning is also about someone who cannot be hushed. Let’s read our story in Mark 10:46-52:
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
It was another beautiful day in Jericho. The sun was shining. The palm trees were blowing in the breeze. The scent of salty sea filled the air. And the city was bustling with the noise of pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem for the Passover. It was a good day to be alive. Unless you were one of the beggars that lined the road that lead out of the city. Then this day was just like the other ordinary days.
Jericho is located in the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea, with Jordan River to the East and Jerusalem to the West. When Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, the first city that stood in their way was Jericho. We know that Jericho had great walls, impenetrable they thought, but they came tumbling down after Joshua and the Israelites marched around them in 7 days.
But Jericho was rebuilt. In fact during the day of Jesus, it was a thriving city. Because King Herod the Great, built his winter vacation palace there, and Jericho became Herod’s resort city.
Jericho is about 15 miles away to Jerusalem, about 5-6 hours walk. But the road from Jericho to Jerusalem is not easy. First, Jericho is in a valley, 780 feet below the sea level, making it the world’s lowest inhabited city, and traveling to Jerusalem would involve an uphill climb of 3,500 feet. Secondly, the road is dangerous, as there were robbers that may be hiding in the hills and rocks, just like in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd was leaving Jericho to travel to Jerusalem. It was about a week before the Passover. As recorded in the gospels, when Jesus left Jericho and arrived in Jerusalem, he was received there with a triumphant parade, which the world now celebrate as the Palm Sunday. But a week later, He was crucified.
So this was the last time Jesus will pass through Jericho. In fact, the healing of Bartimaeus was the last recorded healing miracle of Jesus, before he died on the cross.
Let us examine this blind beggar. It was only the gospel of Mark that tells us his name. His name is Bartimaeus. “Bar” in Aramaic means son. So his name mean Son of Timaeus. Like Barabbas, son of Abba, or Bartholomew, son of Tolmai. Or English family names today, like Peterson, meaning son of Peter, or Anderson, son of Andrew, or Jamison, son of James. Or in Sottish names, when you put Mac/Mc, it also means son, like McArthur, son of Arthur, McDonald, son of Donald, Mac and cheese, oh that’s different. But you get my point, right?
However, Timaeus is not a Hebrew name, it is Greek. And in Greek, Timaeus means “honorable” or “highly prized.” Perhaps Timaeus was a prominent figure in Jerusalem that’s why he was mentioned. But perhaps they become poor, so his son became a beggar. As you read Mark, he particularly explain Bartimaeus as “son of Timaeus,” which is kind of redundant if Mark is writing to a Jewish audience, as they already know that. It is kind of ironic though that his name means “son of honor” and yet he is a beggar. But in Hebrew, the word “tame” (similar sound to Timeaus) means to become unclean. So maybe Mark is making a play of words here. So instead of being “son of honor,” because of his condition, a beggar and blind, he has become a “son of uncleanliness” or “son of dishonor.”
We professed to be called Christians. We claimed to be son and daughters of God. Are we living up to our name? Does the world see Christ in us in the way we live?
During those times blind people have not much technical and financial support like today that they end up becoming beggars. They can only rely on the mercy of others. Moreover, people regard blindness as dishonorable. Blind, just like lepers are thought to be sinners and that God was punishing them. Remember the one instance that the disciples ask Jesus about a blind man and they were asking whose sin was it that caused his blindness, was it his own sins or was it his parents?
There are many causes of blindness during Bible times. One disease I mentioned during my last sermon was an STD (gonorrhea) that when a pregnant woman is infected with it and gave birth, the infant when it passes through the birth canal can get its eyes infected causing blindness. Syphilis, another illness we discussed before can also cause blindness. These diseases gives partial truth to why people think blindness was caused by a sin.
But there are many other infections that caused blindness during the ancient times, mostly because of their poor hygienic practices.
One of the infectious cause thought to be prevalent during the Bible times is trachoma. Today, it is still the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness of infectious origin. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, and trachoma is easily spread through direct personal contact, shared towels and cloths, and flies that have come in contact with the eyes or nose of an infected person. Trachoma, which spreads in areas that lack adequate access to water and sanitation, affects the poorest communities in the world, even today.
Leprosy, a disease considered unclean in the Bible, can also cause blindness.
I don’t know what caused the blindness of Bartimaeus, and we are not given the story behind what made him from a “son of honor” to a “son of dishonor.” What we know is that he became poor and an outcast. He was relegated at the side of the road to beg for crumbs and small coins so he could continue living his miserable life. He was left at the sidelines, while the world continue to pass him by.
Is your life like that of Bartimaeus? Perhaps you lost your job due to this difficult time of pandemic. Perhaps all your life plans are placed on hold due to this pandemic or for whatever reason it may be. Perhaps your life is on a standby or you are on a perpetual pause. Are you relegated to the side of the road watching as the world pass you by? Do you need a miracle to get your life back? So did Bartimaeus.
But that day in Jericho is different. The town is abuzz and Bartimaeus heard the commotion. Crowds are gathering to make a parade. Did you hear? Did you hear? Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming! The news spreads out even to the beggars at the city gates, including Bartimaeus. The atmosphere is charged with excitement. Perhaps there will be a few more coins today, Bartimaeus thought. Perhaps this Jesus will toss a little gold and silver for someone less fortunate like him.
But wait. Bartimaeus sits and ponders on the news. Jesus? Jesus. Where has he heard that name before? That’s it! He had heard it in the excited conversations of travelers from Galilee. Is this the man who people say can heal the sick? Make the lame to walk? The dumb to talk? The blind to see? Can he really make a blindman like him, see? A small spark of hope flashes in his mind. Oh to see. To see the face of a loved one. To see a sunset. To see a flower. Could it be? Faith begins to grow in him.
The parade has reached the city gates. The crowd noisily pushes forward to catch a glimpse of this man Jesus. They came closer and closer to where Bartimaeus was sitting, advancing at a fever pitch of enthusiasm. Then above the tumultuous clamor – a voice cries out. “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!” People turn to look and see the silly old beggar on his knees shouting.
The title “Son of David” is a term used for the awaited Messiah of the Jews. The crowd might be calling Jesus as Jesus of Nazareth, but Bartimaeus addressed him as the Son of David. He has accepted that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Bartimaeus may be blind, but he has a deep insight.
“Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!” “Shut-up old man!” The crowd tried to hushed him. “Jesus has no time for a blind beggar like you!”
I want you to note that the people that try to silence Bartimaeus, are the same people pressing to get close to Jesus. The opposition did not come from Roman soldiers, nor from Gentiles. But from people who are also trying to follow Christ. Friends, in our aim to be close to Jesus, sometimes discouragement could be coming from people that are professing to be followers of Jesus.
Yet Bartimaeus will not silenced. Now is his one and only chance, for Jesus may not pass this way again. He shouted louder. “Jesus, Son of David! Please! Have mercy on me!”
Have you ever cried out to the Lord? Have you ever wanted something so bad that you would risk ridicule and rebuke? Have you been so desperate that not even the world itself could stop you from calling out? If you haven’t, then you may not be ready to receive, for only those who will persevere in the face of obstacles can make their voices be heard above the uproar of this world.
Now what happens next is one of the most powerful events in all of Scripture. Jesus stops. Hours away from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Days away from the Upper Room and the Last Supper. A week away from the shameful and painful death on the cross. Jesus stops. In the midst of a hurricane of human voices – one voice catches His attention. Above the cheering – he hears one solitary man crying. And the parade comes to a screeching halt. Jesus said “Call him.”
Think about it for a moment with me. Jesus stopped. Facing what will be the most traumatic days of his life, which is Calvary – days in which the fate of the entire world would hang in the balance – yet Jesus is willing to let time stand still so he can attend to the needs of one man.
Do you know that He still lets the world wait today when we call upon him? The Son of God is willing to stop to hear you when you pray. He hears your cry for mercy. Amid the hustle and bustle of life, He is willing to put other things on hold – for you. Can you hear the voices of angels saying: “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you”?
In that moment, Bartimaeus makes a tremendous leap of faith. Casting off the cloak which is the only world he has known for so many years, and he came to Jesus.
Why is throwing his coat aside significant? Maybe you would say he threw his coat aside so he would not trip on it or that it will not hinder him. But there is more to this.
During those times, beggars have a special kind of cloak, maybe like an official beggar’s cloak or coat. It identifies them as beggars. Maybe it was like a license or permit that they can beg. Perhaps this is the cloak that they will lay on their feet, and people passing by would toss coins or money into this beggar’s cloak.
But when Jesus called him, Bartimaeus threw aside his beggar’s coat. Even before Jesus healed him, he already decided that he will not need his beggar’s coat anymore. He left his cloak of livelihood. He burned his bridges. No more turning back to his old ways of living. He would not be begging anymore. Because he knew Jesus would change his life.
My friends, are we still clinging to our beggar’s coat? Are we satisfied with our poor condition? Are we satisfied with being blind and living in the dark. Jesus is passing by and He is calling upon us. He is offering us a better life.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked Bartimaeus. Perhaps Bartimaeus was asked that question before. And maybe in the past he answered to have some food, or perhaps some coins, or perhaps a warmer coat. But not today. He is face to face with the promised Messiah and he wished for the most important thing. “Rabbi, I want to see.”
Barely have the words left his lips when light pours into his darkened eyes. Bartimaeus squints and his eyes open to a world full of colors. And the first thing he saw was the smiling face of Jesus. “Go…your faith has healed you.” said Jesus. And he followed Jesus along the road.
In our lives today, what do you want Jesus to do for you? May our answer be – Lord, I want to see. I want to see You. I want to see Your will happen in my life. I want to see Your ways. I want to see Your face.
I would like to end with a story of a blind woman. She was born in the 1800’s in New York, and within a couple of months after birth, she became ill. Unfortunately, the family doctor was away, and another man—pretending to be a certified doctor—treated her by prescribing hot mustard concoction to be applied to her eyes. Her illness eventually relented, but the treatment left her blind for life.
The girl despite her blindness grew up in wisdom and was found to have a talent in writing poetry. When she was 15 years old she was sent to the recently founded New York Institute for the Blind, which would be her home for 23 years: 12 years as a student, and 11 years as a teacher.
This lady had been so busy learning, teaching, and nursing that she had forgotten something very important: she realized that she did not have a true love for God in her heart. She began to attend numerous churches of varying denominations in her quest to find the Lord.
Then one night she had an interesting dream. She had become acquainted with a man named Camp who had been attending some of the same meeting she did. She dreamed one night that this man Camp, was on his deathbed, and he asked her quite pointedly, in the dream, if she would meet him in heaven. She hesitated in her response, yet eventually said yes. When she woke up the next morning, she realized that she was unsure of her salvation.
A few years later, while attending a meeting, she responded to an altar call. The song playing as she went forward included the line “Here Lord, I give myself away! ‘Tis all I can do.” It is from a hymn written by Isaac Watts entitled “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” Interestingly, the chorus of that hymn goes like this:
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the Light
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by Faith, I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day.
What a fitting hymn for a blind person who saw the light and responded to the call.
That blind woman who finally gave her heart to Jesus, was Fanny Crosby. She became the most prolific hymn writer of all time. Among the hymns she wrote that we love singing today includes, “Blessed Assurance,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, and “To God Be the Glory” among others.
One of the hymns Fanny Crosby wrote, is “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour.” If you look at the words of the hymn, she seemed to placed herself in the story of Bartimaeus who was begging at the roadside and who was blind like her:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior
Hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling
Do not pass me by.
Hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling
Do not pass me by.
If this is also your prayer for today, please join us as we sing our closing hymn: Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.
(*images from the web)