Bartimaeus “followed him on the way.”
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Saturday, March 27th: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Jeremiah 33:10-16; and Mark 10:32-34, 46-52. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
What a powerful Gospel passage we read today. You can feel the psychological anguish of everyone involved. The pronouns are not well defined in the passage, but it appears that the “they” the passage opens with refers to the disciples. So if I may, “[The disciples] were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of [the disciples]; [the disciples] were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.”
Jesus is walking by Himself deep in thought, and one can only imagine, terrified. The thought of crucifixion had to be a fearful prospect even for Jesus. The disciples sense Jesus’ distress and His need to be left to Himself. They give Jesus room; they follow behind.
The disciples themselves are unsure of what to expect. Jesus has been trying to tell them about what lay ahead in Jerusalem. They heard His words, but they could not make sense of them. Their own expectations deafened them to Jesus’ words. They were amazed at what was taking place.
There were still others a bit further back. These may have been casual followers of Jesus, maybe other Galileans who had been somewhat familiar with all the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and miracles. This group is afraid. Something is wrong, but they have no idea of what.
With all of this psychological drama taking place, pulling us into the thoughts of Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd, we are startled by Bartimaeus. Everyone in his or her own way is lost in his or her own thoughts. Then blind Bartimaeus shatters this cocoon, shouting, “‘‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” The crowd instinctively rebukes this intrusion and orders him silent.
I think it would have been understandable for Jesus to have not responded, to maybe not even have heard the plea as He was lost in the thoughts of His own troubles, but Jesus is Jesus. He calls the blind man over. Even when lost in the thoughts of His own desperate situation, Jesus makes time for blind Bartimaeus. Jesus is contemplating giving everything He has, even to the point of His own life, and yet Jesus still has the compassion to pause and heal Bartimaeus.
The healing is granted and Jesus tells Bartimaeus “Go.” Just like so many others who had been healed by Jesus and simply went on their way, Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “Go.” Here, though, something remarkable happens that maybe brought a bit of healing to Jesus the healer. Bartimaeus stayed. Bartimaeus followed Jesus “on the way.”
This may only refer to the road leading to Jerusalem or “the way” may be a reference to the earliest iteration of Christianity (cf. Acts. 9:2; 18:25, 26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). We often do not know who the people are who Jesus heals, but here we know his name, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, and that he is from Jericho. This is an actual person familiar to the community of the Marcan church. Bartimaeus shared this firsthand account with the original people of this Gospel. He had remained faithful to Jesus. He became a part of “the way.” Bartimaeus saw Jesus’ psychological suffering and then most likely His physical suffering, and Bartimaeus knew that with all of this, Jesus still stopped to help him. And Bartimaeus “followed him on the way.”
We are about to enter Holy Week. We are about to walk with Jesus those last momentous and terrifying steps of His life’s journey. We follow because of who He is. We follow a Saviour willing to suffer and die for us as a whole, and one who with all of this ahead of Him, still stops for a blind beggar. I judge it a privilege to follow Jesus and remain with Him "on the way."
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If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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