Every month for the last two years, I have met a dear older brother for lunch, and together we pour over some deep theological work and wrestle with the Biblical applications. In a recent study we had been looking at mercy and landed in Mark 10:46-52, the narrative of Bartimaeus.
In this familiar narrative we see a blind man receiving his sight through the miraculous healing of Christ. But as I re-read the narrative, something struck me: What did Bartimaeus really ask for? As the narrative unfolds, we see Bartimaeus begin by placing himself in a state of humility before Christ by acknowledging his royal position and making a simple but profound request: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This was not the traditional “Give me money!” speech, or even a “Lord, heal me!” that one would expect from a blind man. It was “Son of David, have mercy (give me something I do not deserve but something only you can give).” This was a step of self-awareness leading to humility.
Into the story come the rabble who tell him to be quiet. Does he listen? No, he repeats his request with increasing volume: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” This deeper step into submission and humility stops Jesus in his tracks, and he instructs those around him to bring Bartimaeus closer. When he hears this, Bartimaeus throws away his cloak, jumps to his feet, and comes to Jesus.
We need to pause here: his cloak was his coat, his bedroll, his livelihood. His cloak was the tool he used to gather coins tossed to the poor, pitiful, blind man. But he threw it away in his pursuit of Jesus, with little hope of getting it back but great hope of getting something better: the mercy he asked for. He was in a truly helpless state, he acknowledged it, and then he stepped toward the One who could help.
Finally face to face with Jesus, the Lord asks one of his famous, seemingly ridiculous, rhetoric questions: “What do you want me to do for you?” One would think the answer is obvious when face to face with a blind man, so why does Jesus ask? I think Jesus asked because he wanted to see if Bartimaeus was really ready to change. We sometimes get so comfortable in our mess that we lose sight of our real situation and condition and settle for less than could be, even when presented with a way out. We then wonder why we stay stuck in the condition we are in: lost, struggling, and exhausted. Jesus asked the question because he was digging to the root of the issue: perspective.
And to this question Bartimaeus replies, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” He wanted to regain what he had apparently lost, a much needed, much improved vision. And once this was regained, Bartimaeus did what came naturally to a man with his new view. He followed Jesus.
Now, you may be wondering why this protracted explanation and where this is heading. Here is what hit me. What if we tried to live like Bartimaeus? What if we start each day with a simple prayer of, “Lord, have mercy on me,” putting ourselves in a place of humble need before God? Then we wait in silence, in the quiet of our hearts, until we hear Christ asking the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Then we ask Him to show us our blindness, areas where we need to regain a proper perspective. This could be anything where you have lost sight of the truth of a situation and are running on your own strength, trying to feel your way in the dark. Once you have let Christ reveal these places to you, ask Him to help you “recover” your sight in those areas of life, bringing light into the darkness and peeling away the scales. And then, with a cleared vision, in humble faith, step out and follow Him in the direction He is leading.
I imagine this was a little scary for Bartimaeus, and it will be for us as well, but think of the implications: a new vision that brings clarity leading to direction leading to peace. Not a bad place to be in light of the world today. But is starts with a simple prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me.”
If this is something we can help with, please let us know. We are all walking together as we keep seeking the Giver of Sight.
Kelley Johnson, NCD Pastoral Care