October 24, 2021


Reflection on the 22nd Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV), October 24, 2021

“Take heart; get up, he’s calling you!”

By: The Rev. Erahvilla Maga-Cabillas
U.P. Parish of the Holy Cross, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Mark 10:46-52 NRSV

The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus

46 They came to Jericho. As He and His disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, He is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Bartimaeus’ Unwavering Faith

It is very common in the Gospel of Mark that people from the margins became instruments in proclaiming Jesus’s identity.  Bartimaeus is one model of a very strong faith which made him healed and enjoyed liberation from his ailment. Then he followed Jesus.

Inborn blindness is a condition that isolates one from the world of the living, and those who can see what sight can offer. But being a beggar further worsens one’s condition.  Blindness and reliance in every day begging for a living is never fun. Clearly Bartimaeus desired to be able to see. His present condition marginalized him even more. Who took notice of him? People around him were unkind and disallowed him even to call Jesus who passed by. But his desire to be free from his ailment led him to his strong faith in Jesus who was already well known and had become so popular because of his healing prowess. 

In the final verse, Jesus’s announcement: “Go, your faith has made you well,” was an affirmation for Bartimaeus that Jesus restored him into a full person, a human being made whole. It was both spiritual and physical liberation that impelled Bartimaeus to immediately follow Jesus. His unwavering faith in Jesus made him a new convert.

The rest of the story shows us what kind of faith Bartimaeus had. His faith was not about reciting nor repeating the correct confession or subscribing to certain creeds, doctrines, or dogmas. It was his relentless conviction that Jesus could and would rescue him from his need. We see this faith in what Bartimaeus did: He grasped who Jesus was. No one else so far in Mark has been able to perceive so much about Jesus from so little data or information to be so certain as to who Jesus was! 

The title Bartimaeus used, “Son of David,” appears only in this narrative of the Markan Gospel, therefore we cannot say too much about exactly what it expresses about Jesus. Elsewhere in Mark 12:35-37, Jesus adds nuance to His connection to David (or His differentiation from David) and indicates His superiority over Israel’s greatest king. For Bartimaeus, the title obviously indicates that Jesus is God’s designated agent, and it introduces the notion of Jesus as a royal figure, an image that becomes very important when Jesus enters Jerusalem (11:1-10); goes on trial (15:1-15); and dies (15:16-32) as a king.

Bartimaeus, despite his blindness and all its connotations of spiritual ignorance (compare to Mark 4:12; 8:18), sees the royal dimensions of Jesus’s identity. As the story progresses, we discover that Bartimaeus also discerns that Jesus is especially able to show mercy and heal. Bartimaeus had persisted, despite hindrances. Faith does not come easily to people in Mark; it must overcome obstacles to obtain what it seeks (refer Mark 2:4; 5:27, 35-36; 7:27; 9:18b). 

Others in the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, demanding him to be silent. This attitude of the people around Bartimaeus reminds us that blind beggars dwell near the bottom rung of social privilege in ancient and even in modern-day society. He belonged to the margins of the society: those who were unheard of nor even consulted; those who were not even regarded as part of the crowd; and those considered trash in a society of the haves, privileged, and powerful.

Bartimaeus’ Throwing His Cloak

Here is some twist to the story by the writer of Mark’s Gospel, in verse 50: “So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus,” after he was told to come near Jesus because He was calling him. When Bartimaeus cast off his cloak, he confidently prefigured that he would no longer sit on his garment and be dependent upon handouts from passersby.  At the same time, the cloak in his time was a kind of protection from the weather or sort of shelter like a blanket in the evening for sleeping outside or along the road. (We have similar scenarios around us in our environment.) The cloak could mean a form of security on one hand. For a poor beggar to have a cloak was kind of a treasure.  In the story, Bartimaeus threw his cloak away because he was leaving this site where he was stationed begging as a blind man. No more coming back!

The writer reminds us of what Jesus said when He commissioned the disciples to go empty- handed in missionary traveling.   It is reflective that when one is called, he/she has to leave everything behind even loved ones and family. Life changes.  Bartimaeus’ throwing off his cloak as he sprang up to Jesus to be healed and be liberated from his present condition in order to be restored as a whole person like the rest was reflective of those who received Jesus’s blessings and abundance.  This reminds us to be humble and empty-handed in following Jesus.

Bartimaeus of the Present 

The story of Bartimaeus read from the perspective of the writer of the Markan Gospel is very relevant today. It gives an awareness that many among us are still part of the crowd in the story: the onlookers; the passers-by; those who silenced Bartimaeus to speak; those who blocked Jesus; and those who said “never mind him” to Jesus; those who marveled at what Jesus did; and those who immediately believed in Jesus. 

Maybe we can identify who we are among them. Many among us Christians, with our ignorance and limited grasp of what Jesus was or who Jesus is become unaware or inclined to place our thoughts, our understanding “in a box” based only on our own interpretation of the biblical narrative, church teaching, as influenced by individual beliefs and refusal to widen our understanding on the wholeness of our faith in the Triune God.  Sadly, today, there are among us Christians who are still even blinded even if we have sight. Bartimaeus knew better, and so he yelled “even more loudly” until his words penetrated Jesus’s ears. And through his faith, Bartimaeus was healed, restored, liberated and responded; immediately following Jesus on the way.  

As a woman, mother and church worker, I want to be like Bartimaeus: persistent, courageous, fearless, and with steadfast faith in God. And YES, all of us must identify with Bartimaeus as we continue to discern our faith-journey in our pursuit of genuine peace, justice, equality, harmony and unity.  

Let us not forget to be persistent and to have courage to stand up because God is calling us, you and me! If like Bartimaeus we need to yell, then we shall do so that those who are deaf can hear us and those who have no sight can see us because we are called to serve God and those from the margins. God bless us to keep our strength. Be steadfast in our faith on the Triune God. Amen. 



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