If you have never read The Message version of the Bible, I invite you to try reading this story from Mark 14 though a paraphrased, story-like lens:
They spent some time in Jericho. As Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting alongside the road. When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped in his tracks. “Call him over.”
They called him. “It’s your lucky day! Get up! He’s calling you to come!” Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus.
Jesus said, “What can I do for you?”
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“On your way,” said Jesus. “Your faith has saved and healed you.”
In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.
I believe that we live in a world that is filled with blindness. Sure, we may have the ability to use our eyes, but we are often blind to the hurts and needs and pains of our world. In my understanding of faith, Church is a community of people receive grace in our own blindness and then can extend God’s love to all of those like Blind Bartimaeus.
This story is in many ways a portrait of the failures and inadequacies of the disciples. They’ve seen the amazing things done by Jesus throughout the Gospel and still don’t get it. The disciples are contrasted with Bartimaeus who is literally blind, but sees Jesus as the Messiah.
The crowd, who like the disciples are still blinded by their visions of glory and power, try to silence him. I can imagine one of his disciples saying quietly, “Don’t bother with this guy, Jesus, he is a loser. In the language of 2018, I wonder if it would sound something like this, “Don’t encourage or enable him.”
It’s people just like Bartimeaus that Jesus keeps pushing the disciples to open their eyes to see. Because little has changed today. I often find myself more interested in my own spiritual health and in the name of boundaries it seems easier to shut out the cries of those who are hungry, sick, hurting, poor and broken.
Like so many other stories of healing in the Bible, this restoration of sight is about wholeness and about how following Jesus on the Way will transform us even now. This story from scripture is really about what true sight looks like. It’s about how when we see others with the love of God in our hearts, we can’t help but extend ourselves outside our comfort zones, our walls and our familiar places.
In the midst of the reconstruction of faith, my resurrection, a group of folks from my church began meeting together and sharing our very broken lives. We were dealing with grief and death and addiction and imprisonment and depression. We were co-dependent and inter-dependent and often non-dependent on God. We called ourselves The Walking Wounded. We were hardly walking, and many of us felt forgotten and alone in our wounds.
For some of us, that group was our only hope of seeing God. Many nights, we didn’t have words to speak or hope to hold onto. We were desperate for healing. We began praying a prayer together each week. We said these 8 words over and over and over until we believed that we were worthy and enough.
Our prayer was just this simple:
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
That’s it. That’s all we could pray. We said it out loud. Over and over and over again. Each week, it almost became a battle cry. That was our hope. And we believed that Jesus saw us when we prayed. Over countless pots of coffee and an endless supply of tissue, we read though the book Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning and we allowed our blind spots to become places of deep healing. And eventually, our sight was the gift we needed to trust that we didn’t have to be enough because Jesus already was.