Jesus, in this passage, is only a few days away from Calvary, where He would die for the sins of the world. He already had spelled this out for His disciples (a few verses before in Mark 10:43-44). Now they’re heading through Jericho, where He performed a miracle for a man who was blind. This is the last time the phrase, “Go thy way” is found in the Gospel by Mark.
One of the most severe problems people had during biblical times was blindness. There were few safety nets or assistance programs. So, if one became blind, about all he or she could do was beg and depend on the assistance of others. Several blind people are mentioned in Scripture, especially Bartimaeus, who is featured in this text.
“And they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ And many charged him that he should hold his peace, but he cried the more a great deal, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. They called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good comfort. Rise. He called you. He, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ The blind man said to Him, ‘Lord, that I might receive my sight.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.’ Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way” (Mark 10:46-52).
In the immediate context, Jesus had just finished His conversation with the rich young ruler, one of the few men in the Bible mentioned as running to a person. Sadly, the ruler came running, perhaps expecting a blessing, but left sorrowful. He didn’t really own his possessions; rather, they had control of him (see Mark 10:17-22). In Mark 10:32, we read how Jesus went before the disciples and explained what was going to happen, yet they didn't understand what Jesus was saying. According to Luke 18:34, they didn’t grasp what He was telling them.
We need to keep something in mind about Jericho. This was a very old city, dating at least to the time of Joshua and probably long before his time. The city was also the first to fall to the Israelites when they finally entered Canaan, and it was the first to be totally destroyed. It was also one of the few cities to be cursed if it were to be rebuilt. All this is found in Joshua 5, but it was rebuilt (see 1 Kings 16:34) and still was standing in Jesus’ time.
Jesus was there in Jericho, but He was leaving. According to Luke 19, Jesus already had healed one blind man as He was coming into the city. He had met Zacchaeus, a hated man because he was chief of the tax collectors, though a man Jesus loved. In fact, Jesus commented that “…salvation [came] to this house today” (Luke 19:9) because Zacchaeus had become a son of Abraham.
His ministry finished in Jericho, Jesus headed out of the city toward Jerusalem, and blind Bartimaeus was sitting along the roadside, begging. Remember there was little if any assistance available for anyone with a handicap or physical challenge. Something that puzzles me, though, is this: Where was Bartimaeus’ family? Who led him to the city? Who handled the money or goods he might have received? What future did he really have?
That wasn’t the end of the story.
He somehow heard Jesus of Nazareth was passing by his location. I imagine this was big news in those days! The fame of Jesus probably had spread from Dan to Beersheba, at least from Capernaum to Jerusalem; and Jericho, a town which had suffered God’s curse, was the site where the Son of God made a stop on His journey.
Although Jesus was passing by, leaving Jericho for the last time before Calvary, would He make a stop? Would He take notice of one particular blind man?
Bartimaeus didn’t waste any time in trying to find out. He began to cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” and he didn’t stop. One cry wasn’t enough for Bartimaeus. He wanted to see! He wanted to be delivered from his blindness! He knew Jesus could do it. You know, I’ve often wondered how word got around from place to place, regarding the various miracles, healings and so on that Jesus did. At any rate, news of Jesus and news of His mighty deeds somehow reached Bartimaeus, and he was going to make his request known.
Oddly enough, although Jesus was passing by, many in the crowd (see v. 48) were telling him to be quiet! This, too, is something I’ve wondered about for a long time. Didn’t the members of the crowd want the blind man healed? Didn’t they understand Jesus could heal those who had various problems, including blindness? Or were they so busy following they weren’t looking for others who needed the help only Jesus could provide? Sad to say, a lot of church members are just like the crowd leaving Jericho. They see the problems (how could they not?), but they are not looking for solutions. How different our world would be if we pointed people to Jesus, instead of pointing them away from Him.
Still, that didn’t stop Bartimaeus. He didn’t listen to the crowd, who was telling him to shut up! He continued, kept on calling for Jesus! Mark said he called “a great deal.” Without sight, Bartimaeus had no way of knowing what was going to happen, but he wasn’t going to go away quietly. This was his chance—perhaps his only chance—to receive sight, and he wasn’t going to shut up and sit down. He kept crying out!
In verse 49, we have a fascinating encounter between Bartimaeus and Jesus. This is one of the few times in Scripture when Jesus deliberately stopped what He was doing (His journey, in this case) to listen to what someone had to say. True, there were other times listed in the gospels, but not very often would someone call Jesus by the name Son of David. Here, Bartimaeus did that very thing, and Jesus stood still.
Not only did Jesus stand still, but He gave a command. He commanded someone in the crowd to bring Bartimaeus to Him. Verse 49 states, “that he should be called,” meaning summoned, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. In other words, Jesus gave someone, or a few people, the privilege of bringing a man to Him who might never have found the way by himself. Even better, the people told him to be of good cheer and rise up because Jesus was calling him! I wonder how far away Jesus was and how He could have heard the heart cry from Bartimaeus. He surely did, though, and He would answer Bartimaeus’ prayer.
Once they—Jesus and Bartimaeus—were in close proximity, Jesus asked Bartimaeus a question. Bartimaeus already had tossed his garment aside, perhaps not wanting to be hindered in any way on his journey to Jesus. I wonder what Bartimaeus was thinking when Jesus asked him, “What can I do for you?”
What would you think if you heard Jesus ask you that question?
Bartimaeus didn’t hesitate a moment! He specifically asked, “Lord, that I might receive my sight!” He was not satisfied with being blind. He wanted to see, to have his vision restored. Who could fault anyone for such a request? Notice, too, he didn’t have a laundry list of things he wished for and didn’t pray for anything else. No, he had a severe problem, and he was asking Jesus to provide a solution.
Jesus did it!
All He did was say, “Go thy way, your faith has made you whole!” Compare this with other times when Jesus healed blind people. Once, He actually spat on the eyes of a blind man, who replied, “I see men like trees, walking” (Mark 8:24). Then He laid His hands on the eyes of that man, who then could see. Another time, in John 9, Jesus spat on the ground and made mud pies and applied some of it to the eyes of a man born blind. No doubt there were other times when Jesus healed people, using various means. Here, though, is a miracle, in that Jesus touched nothing. He simply spoke the words, and it was done!
Better yet, Bartimaeus didn’t run away from Jesus. After all, he wasn’t told to show himself to the priest or anything else. He made a conscious decision: Although Jesus told him, “Go thy way,” Bartimaeus did one of the most touching things in the Bible. He received his sight, and as Mark tells us, he followed Jesus in the way! O that we might do the same.
Perhaps a word about another blind saint might be in order. Fanny Crosby wrote hundreds of hymns, though she was blinded when she was only a few weeks old. She wrote this poem when she was 8 years old:
Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be!
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't!
So weep or sigh because I'm blind, I cannot—nor I won't.
Bartimaeus could surely have said the same thing—the first face he saw was Jesus’.
So in conclusion, we have seen Bartimaeus sitting by the way, meeting Jesus in the way, and receiving the command, “Go thy way.” He chose to make his way, God’s way; I hope we, too, will do the same. God’s way is always the best way.