RCL Year B Proper 25
Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Saint Mark 10:46-52
As I was contemplating this Gospel, the thought raced across my mind—doesn’t every sandy movie, whether Gunga Dihn with Sam Jaffe or Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, have a blind beggar off to the side, nameless, shunted, and begging? All three of those adjectives are negated or overturned in the Gospel: Bartimaeus has a name; Jesus calls him into a relationship; and Bartimaeus seems to give up begging.
This is one of the Gospel stories which can be quite easy to imagine: the crowds, Bartimaeus shouting out as others try to silence him and then jumping up when Jesus calls to him, and finally, the moment when his sight returns.
The range of emotions around the healing is easy to guess: amazement, joy, bewilderment, irritation, perhaps, when Bartimaeus insisted on drawing attention to himself. From the movies and the way the crowd behaves in today’s Gospel, it seems that blind beggars are better pushed aside, away from normal people.
But doesn’t Bartimaeus have something to teach us about sight and what sight can do? In his blindness doesn’t he see something worthwhile? Bartimaeus may have been blind but he “saw” in Jesus someone who could heal him. He “saw” the possibility and grasped his opportunity. Even though those around him did not see as he did and tried to quieten him, Bartimaeus trusted to his “vision” and continued to call out to the one he “saw” and whom he knew could restore his sight.
The question this poses is: “What did he see?” What did this blind man see in Jesus that so many of those around him did not? And what is the implication of that for us?
The people for whom this Gospel was written would have faced similar questions: why can we see things in Jesus that others cannot? Why don’t other people see what is so obvious?
Some, of course, choose not to see; others cannot see. Why that should be may be due to upbringing or fear of seeing things differently. Another reason for not seeing is that it might require change. Bartimaeus left begging behind and chose to follow Jesus.
If we allow Jesus to open our eyes fully, what change might that require of us?