?October 25, 2009
Proper 24
Mark 10:46-52

Healing Bartimaeus closes a chapter in the life of Jesus. The new chapter (Mark 11) begins in a new location, Bethphage; records a unique new experience, the triumphal entry; and opens the final week in the earthly life of Jesus. Clearly, the story of Bartimaeus concludes something very significant.
A search of the preceding context quickly reveals that the current section begins with another blind man. Mark 8:22-26 records a unique and strange healing. In contrast to the simple “go” in Bartimaeus’ case, this man is touched twice. It’s a complicated and enigmatic story.
Since Jesus cannot fail, we can only assume the two-stage healing was intentional. Jesus must have been trying to teach the disciples something. Reading the context makes the lesson clear. Immediately prior to this healing, Jesus asked hard questions. “Do you still not see…?” (8:17). “Do you have eyes but fail to see…? (8:18). “Do you still not understand…?” (8:21). After the healing, Jesus announced His impending suffering and death (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). Mark 9:32 clearly captures the quandary of the disciples, “But they did not understand…”
Three times Jesus announced His suffering, and three times the disciples missed the message. They were clearly blind to spiritual realities. That appears to be why Jesus touched the blind man twice-to communicate that He would not give up. After each discipleship failure, Jesus took the disciples further on the journey and continued to teach.
Bartimaeus is a story of hope and hopefulness. With the simple word, “go,” Jesus sent Bartimaeus on his way whole. There is hope. Sometimes we do “get it.” And even though Mark ends (Mark 16:8) with the disciples still undecided, by Acts 2, they get it. They see, and they help others see.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus a simple question, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer was simply profound, “I want to see.” And it’s what we want, too. We want to see. And we want others to see. We must not be impatient-not with ourselves and not with others. Jesus doesn’t lose patience.
He simply teaches and teaches and teaches-and hopes. And one day, we see.
For 26 years “Shorty” came to church. Hundreds of sermons pounded on his heart to no avail. Then, one cold February evening following yet another sermon, Shorty responded. He came to Jesus and identified with His death and resurrection that very night. He could see.
Really, Jesus’ question and Bartimaeus’ answer are not that different. Because what Jesus wanted was for Bartimaeus to want what Jesus wanted. And that’s what He wants for us. He wants us to want what He wants for us-that we might see. He wants us to receive from Him that which empowers us to understand.
We leave the Bartimaeus story confident that there is hope. If we are persistent and stay at it long enough, we will see. And, if we stay at it and just
keep telling the story, so will they.

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