I’d like you to imagine something with me. If Jesus is standing in front of you right now and he asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?”
What would you say?
The story of Bartimaeus
Jesus asked this question of Bartimaeus; a beggar was who was blind. Let’s unpack this story, found in Mark Chapter 10, verses 46 to 52.
A large crowd followed Jesus on the way to Jericho. They anticipated a showdown with Rome; they thought Jesus had come to free them from their oppression under Roman rule.
It’s during this episode that we meet an “outsider”, Bartimaeus. Sitting “pathetically” by the roadside. The kind of guy you cast as an extra in the movie, to make it look realistic (showing that poverty and disability exist) but then quickly pan the camera away from him before making the audience too uncomfortable.
That’s exactly how the crowd felt about him. They didn’t give him a second. Back then, many thought disabilities were a consequence of sin, either your own sin or someone in your family.
Despite this, when Bartimaeus heard Jesus is in town, he shouted out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Son of David was a term related to the Messiah, so Bartimaeus confirmed his belief that Jesus was the promised one sent by God. The Son of David was to come and hear the cries of the oppressed, give sight to the blind and make people whole. Bartimaeus understood Jesus better than the crowd but instead they rebuked him and told him to be quiet.
Yet Bartimaeus won’t be silenced.
Yes, he knows that they thought God is for them, but not for him. In a culture where women were marginalised, children were considered a nuisance and people with disabilities were left in a corner to be forgotten, Bartimaeus didn’t let that define him.
Because he knew the Son of David, the Messiah, was for him.
He believed the God of the universe would stop and speak to him; to give him, a blind beggar, a moment of his time.
To look at him with mercy instead of the judgment he so often receives.
He was no longer happy to play the extra, he started to scream for centre stage. He knew Jesus saw him differently from the crowd so he persists and yells out again, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and got the crowd to call him over. Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and sprang up to meet Jesus.
And then Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus asked, “My teacher, let me see.” Jesus replied, “Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. An amazing story of miraculous healing and yet something was different…The healing of blind Bartimaeus is the only story in the gospels where we learn that after the person is healed, they immediately follow Jesus.
In the other stories, we saw the recipient’s initial excitement but then we didn’t really hear any more of their story. We don’t know if they were excited for a day and then just went on with their usual lives. Yet more than the healing, their response is what would ultimately heal them.
If I was Bartimaeus I can imagine the first thing I would want to do after having my eyesight restored…
…Would be to look in the mirror, what do I look like?!
Maybe then I’d want to go stand at the foot of the mountains and look up in awe.
Look at the sunlight reflect off the sea.
Look at the animals whose vocals I could only ever hear but now I would no longer have to imagine their beauty.
But…unlike what I would do, unlike the other healing stories, where the healed person goes off to enjoy their new-found benefit, Bartimaeus followed the person who gave him the benefit.
Not just of sight, but of eternal life.
Any moment of beauty that Bartimaeus could have gone and witnessed in this world, any moment of happiness that he could have sought – Bartimaeus knew was nothing in comparison to what Jesus could offer.
This wasn’t a story of “if you have enough faith, you’d be healed!”
When Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well,” he granted Bartimaeus more than just physical healing – it was spiritual healing too.
Before he acknowledged Jesus as the Saviour, Bartimaeus, like all of us, sat on the road to destruction. But then, he was made well. Before he sat on the road begging, only seeing darkness, but thereafter, he chose the road that Jesus walks, into the light.
This is more than a story of healing…
It’s a story of how we should respond to Jesus.
Now take a moment to reflect on your answer to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Did you also ask for some sort of healing, either for you or for someone you love?
Did you ask for the mending of a broken relationship?
Better job prospects?
To pass your exams?
A partner to love?
A good school for your kids?
To be happy?
Sometimes we pray to God hoping for miracles.
For healing. And God can and does grant healing and he wants us to ask. But the story of Bartimaeus is not just a story of a miracle. He’s a model of faith. Bartimaeus was persistent in his faith. When others tried to shut him up, he cried out even more. We don’t know how many years he had been blind. In those years, it would have been easy to feel like God didn’t care about him, but Bartimaeus doesn’t lose faith.
Bartimaeus knew Jesus cared…
Even when his situation might have made him feel like God didn’t.Even when others kept telling him Jesus wouldn’t care for him.
His persistent faith in a God who cares is perhaps the same hope we need when we go through suffering; a cancer diagnosis, a relationship breakdown, mental illness, an incurable disease.
Knowing that even though we’re experiencing suffering in this world – Jesus cares.
So now it’s your turn to check your heart.
If your request was granted by Jesus, would you get excited and then live life ignoring our creator or would you decide to truly follow him?
Melissa Ramoo is a physiotherapist, student minister at St Anne’s in Strathfield and is studying Bachelor of Theology at Morling College in Sydney. She is married to her husband Roshan and has a Boston Terrier named Hercules who is completely doted on.