The gospel of Mark tells the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man healed by Jesus (Mark 10:46-52). The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell a similar story of Jesus healing the blind and the stories have several characteristics in common: the location outside of Jericho, the blind calling out to Jesus and being hushed by the crowd, Jesus being addressed as the “Son of David,” and the healed then following Jesus.
But Mark’s story is somehow just a little bit more personal. I think it’s because it’s the only time, in any healing story, that the person is actually named. There are certainly lots of scholars who have good theories about that, even about the significance of the name. But for me, even just knowing his name gives us more of a connection.
That’s also, I think, why we’re so quick to identify ourselves with Bartimaeus in the story. We, too, are blind in many ways and our sight is restored by faith in Jesus. Faith heals.
Or maybe we’re in the crowd, hustling by that blind beggar on the corner, wishing he would be quiet because we want Jesus’ undivided attention. After all, he’s just another street person and we’re so much more deserving of Jesus’ time.
That’s not quite so comfortable is it? But how often do we find ourselves, without thinking, in too much of a hurry or involved in our own stuff, passing by someone or something that needs us? Sometimes we do notice, but we just don’t have the time or the inclination to get involved, even when they call out to us in some way. I know that I’ve often found myself regretting, later, that I didn’t stop to talk with someone when I should have, just because, in the moment, I was in too much of a hurry.
Thank goodness there’s Jesus to show us the way.
Which brings me to who I want to be in this story. I want to be Jesus.
Imagine how different this story would be if Jesus, responding to the man calling out to him, had said “yeah, sorry, I just don’t have time for you. I have to preach in the next town and I’m late.” Or “would you stop bothering me, I have more important things to do. Someone else can help you.” Or even “you know, there’s government assistance available to you. Get off the street and stop bothering people.”
Well, you can’t really imagine it, can you? Because that wouldn’t be Jesus.
Jesus makes time. Jesus cares. Jesus helps. Jesus brings healing and comfort. Jesus loves everyone, especially those pushed to the margins of society. Most importantly, Jesus doesn’t ever see things as “someone else’s problem.”
The poor, the sick, the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless, the lonely – the list may seem endless at times. The are so many hurts in the world, so many people in need of healing. Even the world itself needs healing. But as far as Jesus is concerned, one thing any of those things will never be is “someone else’s problem.”
We are called to be like Jesus. Not just for the care of others, but for the care of ourselves as well. Jesus knows, as we must, that our own sense of wholeness and healing is connected to how we bring healing and wholeness to others.
Maybe the whole world at once is too much. But we can start with that person on the corner. We can be Jesus, too.