Notes on the Lectionary with Deacon Lincoln Anderson. Visit the series page at AnglicanCompass.com/NotesOnTheLectionary
And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:50–52, ESV)
The Blind Man on the Way
The Gospel for this week picks up as Jesus and his disciples are going to Jericho. Previously, the Twelve had heard Jesus’ teaching about what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God. As they leave Jericho they encounter a blind beggar who begins crying out for Jesus to have mercy on him. At first, many of the disciples rebuke him and tell him to be quiet, but he cries out louder. Hearing his outcry, Jesus calls the man to him.
Note how the crowd’s attitude changes once Jesus acknowledges the man. Earlier, we heard that they rebuked him, which surely shows how they viewed his place in society. He was hardly worthy of the Teacher’s attention. As soon as Jesus calls him up, their rebukes turn to encouragement: “Take heart. Get up, he is calling you.”
Once he stands before Jesus, Our Lord asks him what it is the man would have him do. Asking that he would recover his sight, he tells us that he once was able to see, but lost his vision somehow – through disease, injury, or perhaps simply old age. Jesus tells him that his faith has made him well, and tells him to go his own way.
The Purpose of Miracles
A few weeks ago, we heard about the deaf and mute man who Jesus healed. In that previous post, I put forward the idea that the miracles recorded in the Gospels serve a similar purpose as the parables. Parables are allegorical stories which are told to present a concept or a teaching. I believe that the miracles recorded by the Gospel writers serve to instruct the reader about what Jesus has done and is doing for those who believe in him.
Previously, I said that the deaf and mute man represents the disciples. They have had their ears opened and their tongues loosed because they have received instruction from Jesus. In this story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar is again a stand-in for the disciples both in the crowd and all who would later seek to follow Jesus.
Because of the concerns and cares of the world, our eyes are dim. We encounter the world with cataracts and clouds obscuring our vision. Where we should have faith and see the hand of God leading us through trials, anxiety and worry keep us from seeing the help we are offered. When we cry out to Jesus, he clears our sight so we can see what God is offering to us. You can think of sanctification as the ongoing process of clearing our sight so we can see the things of God more fully.
Your faith has made you well
Jesus heals Bartimaeus without any outward action. He tells him that he has regained his sight because he believed in the power of the son of David. This is how it is for us – by virtue of our faith in Jesus, he will make us ultimately well and remove all obstacles to our faith. Does this mean that we never have any doubts once we confess Christ and put him on in baptism? Of course not. What it means is that those doubts and trials and anything else that would run us aground apart from Christ are turned to instruction and help clarify our sight further because we believe that Christ can save us.
We all have spiritual blind spots. Seeking wealth, chasing after prestige, and battling with anxieties about the state of the world all keep us from fully seeing the truth and goodness of the Gospel. The lesson from this Gospel reading is that Jesus will remove this blindness from us if we have faith that he can and will and does desire to do so. Faith in Jesus won’t give us wealth or grant us power, nor will that faith magically fix the world’s problems. In fact, the last few weeks have shown us that wealth and power are opponents of the Gospel.
“Mercifully hear your people”
In this week’s Collect, we pray that God would “mercifully hear the supplications of your people; and in our time grant us [his] peace.” When we pray, we should have hearts like blind Bartimaeus, crying out to Jesus over the jeers and rebukes of our own doubting hearts. The one we pray to is merciful and does hear the outcry of his people. In asking for his peace, we seek to be made well before him. We seek to be freed from the cares and obstacles to faith and righteousness before God.
Go back and read last week’s Gospel lesson (Mk 10:35-45). What stands out to you about how the crowd treats Bartimaeus in light of that reading? Bartimaeus is an example of one of “the last” that Jesus says will be “first.” And yet the crowd following Jesus rebukes him and would have sent him away except that the Son of God heard the outcry of the blind man. At the end of the reading, Jesus tells him to “go his own way.” While you could read this as a dismissal, I prefer to think of it as Jesus telling him to “go in peace.” The reading concludes by saying that Bartimaeus followed him on the way. The blind man found his peace in the Way of Jesus.