April 6, 2020

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: Lectionary Lesson Blahs

openmicMark 10:46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road.47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
51“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

Sunday’s lectionary lesson for the Gospel is a little “blah” as a preaching text. I’ve heard healing and miracle stories allegorized, turned into prosperity Gospel texts and used for every kind of questionable lesson on faith. I think we can do better.

I have some individual ideas, but none of them are really revving my preaching motor this week. So you take a swing of the bat.

What can we do with Mark 10:46-52 as a text for preaching the Gospel? Ideas. Illustrations. Applications. Themes. I’m open for suggestions.

Comments

  1. Contrast it with the immediately preceding section in which James and John come forward to Jesus boldly asking to be seated with Him. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” and then has to give them a lesson in humility. That section leads right into the passage you mention. In contrast, Bartimaeus just cries out for Christ to have mercy and is invited to approach him. Jesus asks him the same question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus’ answer as well as his earlier crying out show the kind of humility and faith Jesus was looking for. “Open my eyes that I may see…”

    It’s a nice take on this passage and although I don’t want to post a name, it’s not my original thought.

    • Nice comparison with J and J “We want you to do for us whatever we want,” and then they ask for positions of power.

      • Christiane says

        From C.S. Lewis:

        “Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
        “I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.
        “Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
        “I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
        The Magician’s Nephew – Chapter 12

  2. I think the theme could be “New Creation. ” That this miracle was not simply about Jesus proving his identity as the son of God by performing a miracle, but its a sign of the “All ready but not yet” new creation breaking in. Sort of like fruit being brought back from the promise land by the spies to the wandering israelites. (a la c.s. lewis/N.t. Wright)

    • Yes. Yes. Yes. Jesus’ healing of the blind man isn’t simply a naked display of power, but a restoration of the created order that demonstrates who is the real Lord of creation. This miracle is in behalf of a blind man (I’d explain how terrible being blind would be in this culture…no Americans w/ Disability act…forced to sit & beg which is so humiliating for a man…probably no arranged marriage for him…not contributing to taking care of his parents….his blindness had implications for worship in the Levitical system). This is an appetizer of the New Heavens/ New Earth.

      The scriptures say in more than 1 place that we are blind. We forget how debilitating our estate is.

  3. I guess I just can’t resist the urge to teach the story allegorically. That would be the easiest way to preach the gospel from this particualr text.

    This man, literally blind, comes to Jesus and has his sight restored. We were all once (or are still) spiritually blind. Who can be saved? With man this is impossible, with God all things are possible (Mark 10:17). This man pushed through the opposition to reach Jesus, and after receiving sight, went on to follow Jesus. I see teaching faith, sharing the Gospel, and encouraging discipleship all from this passage.

    The irony is that you will look good in your new robe preaching your blah sermon.

  4. Just a quick observation off the top of my head. The first thing I would notice is that this is the LAST story Mark tells from the ministry of Jesus before he enters Jerusalem for Holy Week. And I would ask, “Why would this encounter be significant enough for Mark to record it as the last act of Jesus’ ministry?”

  5. Isn’t “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” the prayer of every sinner?

    • I was going to say…the meaning of this for me personally is the cry of someone who has no other choice but to ask for unmerited help, recognizing that only one person can give this. Rock bottom humility that offers nothing and asks for everything.

  6. A blind beggar caused the Son of God to stop.

    The compassion of Jesus for the outcasts.

    Bartimaeus is never told by Jesus to follow Him, but that is what he does, unlike the rich young ruler earlier in the chapter who is told by Jesus to follow Him but doesn’t.

    Just some thoughts.

  7. Were the people who told him to “cheer up” the same people who initially told him to “be quiet”?

    The different seasons of dealing with people in and around the church, and relating to Jesus in those seasons, perhaps.

  8. Patrick Lynch says

    “And they came to Jericho… and when they were LEAVING JERICHO…”

    Give ’em the Sean Hannity sermon: What happened in Jericho that THEY don’t want us to know about???

  9. The first thought is to use the passage to speak against “shiny happy” spirituality: Jesus didn’t come for the moral, healthy, wealthy, respectable, and sacramonious – the self-satisfied, self-made, self-assured, self-righteous. The blind man had nothing but the hope of God’s mercy. The crowd was probably smug about a visit from Jesus. The blind man sought mercy; the crowd sought entitlement and reinforcement – actually standing in judgement and scepticism over Jesus. We often go to Jesus for His stamp of approval on our way of life, viewing scripture as a self-help guide to get more of what we want. The last thing we want is change. When Jesus doesn’t give us what we want, then somethiing must be wrong with Jesus or this whole faith stuff in general.

    It also would fit well with communion…broken and shed for you.

  10. Michael, here are some notes from Bede that can be found in the
    Catena Aurea for Mark 10:46-52

    If you cannot use them, please delete them.

    BEDE; Matthew says, that there were two blind men sitting by the wayside, who cried to the Lord, and received their sight; but Luke relates that one blind man was enlightened by Him, with a like order of circumstances, as He was going into Jericho; where no one, at least no wise human, will suppose that the Evangelists wrote things contrary to one another, but that one wrote more fully, what another has left out. We must therefore understand that one of them was the more important, which appears from this circumstance, that Mark has related the name and the name of his father.

    BEDE; Could He who was able to restore sight be ignorant of what the blind man wanted? His reason then for asking is that prayer may be made to Him; He puts the question, to stir up the blind man’s heart to pray.

    BEDE; For the blind man looks down upon every gift except light, because, whatever a blind man may possess, without light he cannot see what he possesses.

    BEDE; In a mystical sense, however, Jericho, which means the moon, points out the waning of our fleeting race. The Lord restored sight to the blind man, when drawing near to Jericho, because coming in the flesh, and drawing near to His Passion, He brought many to the faith; for it was not in the first years of His Incarnation, but in the few years before He suffered, that He showed the mystery of the Word to the world.

    BEDE; Now in that on approaching Jericho, the restored sight to one man, and on quitting it to two, He intimated, that before His Passion He preached only to one nation, the Jews, but after His resurrection and ascension, through His Apostles He opened the mysteries both of His Divinity and His Humanity to Jews and Gentiles. Mark indeed, in writing that one receives his sight, refers to the saving of the Gentiles, that the figure might agree with the salvation of those, whom He instructed in the faith; but Matthew, who write His Gospel to the faithful among the Jews, because it was all so to reach the knowledge of the Gentiles, fitly says that two receive their sight, that He might teach us that the grace of faith belonged to each people.
    o Therefore, as the Lord was departing with His disciples and a great multitude from Jericho, the blind man was sitting, begging by the wayside; that is, when the Lord ascended into heaven, and many of the faithful followed Him, yes when all the elect from the beginning of the world entered together with Him the gate of heaven, presently the Gentile people began to have hope of its own illumination; for it now sits begging by the wayside, because it has not entered upon and reached the path of truth. “

  11. This story is yet another that tells us about who Jesus is; what authority he has, and what he uses it to do. Invite people to trust this Jesus. Announce what Jesus did and compare him to everyone else we could trust. Announce Jesus (cause that’s what this text does). Announce him as the Son of David, the rightful king of Israel and thereby the world, and as the one who heals the blind.

  12. Well I think this story clearly shows that God listens. He hears our cries and moaning, so much so that our voice stops him in his tracks, literally. As verse 49 says, “When Jesus heard him, he stopped…”

    As for “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Remember what David himself said in Psalm 51. “You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

  13. I dont think you can preach a gospel message on this passage and ignore what it means that this beggar recognized Jesus as the “Son of David.”

    He is the Promised One that is to forgive the sins of the world.

  14. I dont think you can preach a gospel message on this passage and ignore what it means that this beggar recognized Jesus as the “Son of David.”

    He is the Promised One that is to forgive the sins of the world.

  15. Importunity. Like the parable of the Unjust Judge, where the widow keeps pestering him and he agrees to hear her case.

    The lowly, the beggars, the outcasts – ask and you shall receive. No ‘unforgiveable’ sins; keep asking and asking in a spirit of humility, despite al lthe voices telling you to shut up, sit down, stop bothering the important person on his important business, and you will be heard.

    And a contrast between the blind beggar and the rich young man: as soon as Bartimaeus was healed, “he followed Jesus down the road.”

    Once again, those who have nothing can easier follow than those who have much. This applies to us – to be poor in spirit, to be so destitute of all, to be so free of attachments to our goods that Jesus is our only treasure.

    And this lameness is why I’m not a preacher 🙂

  16. What strikes me most about this passage is the blind man’s persistence in spite of the discouragement of others — and Jesus’ favorable response to this man’s persistence. This also brings to mind that parable Jesus told in chapter 11 of Luke about the man who goes over to his friend’s house in the middle of the night to borrow some bread to feed an unexpected visitor — and how this parable serves as the prelude to Jesus’ famous (though often misused) ask/recieve, seek/find, knock/open statement. Of course, the point is that God responds to those that seek after Him with persistence, and not so much to those who seek Him half-heartedly. There’s also a lot of stuff in the writings of Paul about the importance of persistence in following Christ.

  17. What is Mark’s purpose here? This is the 2d healing of a blind man in Mark. The first, in Mark 8, comes at the center of Mark’s gospel. Mark can roughly be divided into two section: the gospel of power and the gospel of the cross. The first 7+ chapters contain many miracles, but the miracles do not lead to faith. By themselves, they only lead to confusion. Only the demons that Jesus’ cast out recognize who he truly is. The second half of Mark’s gospel is the message of the cross. Dividing th two sections, we find the two-stage healing of the blind man, Peter’s confession and Jesus’ announcement of his death, Peter’s rebuke and Jesus’ call to take up the cross and follow. The two-stage healing of the blind man in Mark 8 points backward and forward. The healing that gives only partial sight points back to the first part of Mark’s gospel. Jesus’ acts of power by themselves don’t give the whole picture. The second-stage of the healing that enables the formerly-blind man to see clearly points forward to the second half of Mark’s gospel, to a vision of discipleship that includes Jesus’ suffering and death. Mark uses the healing of the blind man in Mark 8 to say, “if you really want to see what Jesus is all about, you have to look that cross. He’s not just a miracle worker.”

    The commenter above who noted that the healing of Bartimaeus comes just before Jesus enters Jerusalem is spot on. Here, Mark returns to the healing motif to reinforce how he has used it earlier. Jesus gives him the ability to see, so he follows Jesus on the road to the cross. That’s what those who can see who Jesus is do.

    (I’m sure I’m not saying it the way he said it my course on Mark with Charles Talbert – then of Wake Forest, now of Baylor – but this is the basic outline that he saw in Mark).

  18. aaron arledge says

    A blind man could see who Jesus was better than the well sighted.

  19. aaron writes, “A blind man could see who Jesus was better than the well sighted..”

    I like that, aaron.

    I also like that Houl above pointed out the passage which says, “When Jesus heard him, he stopped…” I pray that Jesus stops in his tracks, so to speak, to listen and respond to all of us with our needs, hopes, prayers. I know he does, but sometimes I get impatient. I need to remember that God answers prayers that are within his will. I guess the best prayer for me is, “Jesus, help me to love.” An answer to that prayer pretty much covers everything I need.

  20. what i saw was a blind man, that before he could see, threw down his coat, he only thing he owned, and went to Jesus, his only hope.

  21. Here’s my take on it:

    Don’t get between God and people. How often do we try to silence others, to take control when something they do makes us feel uncomfortable? Who have I lately told to “be quiet”??

    Don’t assume. I mean, the guy’s blind, isn’t it obvious what he wants from Jesus? Well no, not necessarily. Jesus actually ASKS him (and asks HIM not someone else). Barbara Crafton’s Daily Emo (also focused on this text) included the following:

    “People are always patting me, a friend told me once. She has had executive positions in several nonprofits and served in several leadership positions in her large parish. She walks with crutches and often uses a wheelchair. Once a priest stroked my cheek while giving me communion! That priest allowed herself to become fascinated with her own compassion, a dangerous thing if ever there was one. She saw the chair and the crutches but missed the person”. Jesus saw the whole person, not just the attribute of blindness or of poverty.

    Lastly, respect people’s competencies, honour what they can do for themselves. Jesus calls Bartimaeus to come to him, on his own – not the easiest thing for a blind person to do. Bartimaeus can’t wait, he seizes the moment and goes for it. And then he keeps going, right down the road.

    So, that’s my response, enjoying hearing from others too!

  22. L. Winthrop says

    What if he had said, “My rabbi! I want world peace!”

  23. Several threads from earlier in the gospel appear here.

    1) The disciples don’t get what Jesus has been saying and teaching. Just a few verses earlier J and J are still trying to score the big appointments in the kingdom. That might be weighing on Jesus’ mind.

    2) He was still in the territory controlled by Herod. He had people around him who were trying to get him to say or do something that would get him in trouble with the authorities. The divorce pericope was an example of this. Jesus was able to word his response such that he did not officially offend, but he did get God’s perspective put out for people to understand.

    3) He was, in the midst of this mental tiredness, facing an 18 mile trek, climbing 3,500 feet to Jerusalem where he did not know exactly what faced him.

    4) Then there was blind Bartimaeus calling out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is the first instance of “Son of David” in Mark. Probably has some messianic overtones, so back to the political intrigue motif. Thus some in the crowd trying to shush him.

    5) When Bartimaeus was presented to Jesus, Jesus used the same words he used when he talked with J and J: “What do you want me to do for you?” Instead of J and J’s request, Bartimaeus did not want even a few coins, but instead wanted sight and to be made whole.

    6) Bartimaeus asked in faith. He left his cloak behind. He would have needed the cloak to catch the coins as people tossed them, and it was his protection against cold and rain. But he knew he would no longer need it to be able to catch the few coins, he would be healed/saved by Jesus.

    There’s more, but preach on.

    David Baird

  24. Saint Gregory the Great — When we are earnestly steadfast in prayer, we hold Jesus, who is passing by. Behold, we read that He now stands who before was passing by. For while we yet suffer the thronging images of the senses in our prayer, we are as it were hearing Jesus passing by. When, however, we are firmly steadfast in prayer, Jesus stands, that He may bring back the light. . . . Does this mean that He who has power to give sight to the blind does not know what the man craves? No. But He wishes to be asked for that which He foreknows we shall pray, and He will grant. . . . Behold, the blind man prays, not for money, but for light. He reckons nothing worth the asking compared with this light. Let us seek from the Lord, not deceiving riches, not earthly gifts, not fleeting honors, but light. . . . If we have been enlightened after our blindness, seeing now that light by our understanding, Jesus whom we see in our soul, we follow . . . . Let us see whither He is going, and let us find our way by following His footsteps.

    • Christiane says

      Thank you for sharing this, Father.
      I particularly love the way St. Gregory says “Jesus, whom we see in our soul, we follow”.
      Very meaningful words.

  25. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
    But now my eye sees You;
    Therefore I retract,
    And I repent in dust and ashes.”

    Job 42:5-6 NASB

  26. Graham N. Smith says

    There’s a lot to this short scene. In addition to the wonderful observations above, let me offer these. When I’ve talked about Bartimaeus, these things have struck me.
    1) When we go after Jesus wholeheartedly, there are going to be those who want us to sit there, be quiet and respectable, and give Him lip service at best, but please let’s not upset the status quo. It’s nice and peaceul here in our church; why would you need anything more?
    2) In the face of all that “Shut up, Bart!” that he was hearing, Bartimaeus persisted, and just cried out louder to Jesus to change him and change his life. Bartimaeus was blind, which means that he was a beggar and essentially unable to do anything but beg for the kindness of others to keep body and soul together.
    3) When Jesus called him, he “threw off his cloak” when he responded. Going after Jesus when He bids us to come to Him often means that we have to let go of things and people we think we’ve depended on (and perhaps held us back). That requires a lot of trust.
    4) Bartimaeus may not have been entirely clear in His mind on all the details of who Jesus was, but he knew that Jesus had something that he wanted and desperately needed and he didn’t hesitate to ask.
    5) When Jesus gave Bartimaeus his sight, He set him free, because now he would be able to lead a productive life. Nevertheless, Bartimaeus didn’t use that freedom to go off on his own to “do his thing.” He followed Jesus on down the road.

    My thoughts. I find myself often like Bartimaeus, sitting there in my blindness by the roadside, desperately needing Jesus to help me see so that I, too, can follow Him down the road.

  27. Wow, there are some great thoughts here… could you post the lectionary scriptures every Saturday so we could have similar discussions? Reading all these has been a real blessing to me. I have to find some more Bede to read.

  28. Paul Sanders says

    So, in college ministry (Campus Outreach), we did talks/sermons weekly, and our campus director at the time did an amazing job with this text. She explained what it meant to be blind in that context in that day and age, the spiritual loneliness, the confusion, the anger, resentment. She equated that to the life of a college student, the first time being away from home, the realization of how broken the world is.

    Then, not skipping a beat, she read a modern poet who summarized the same thing “You own it, you better never let it go
    You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
    This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

    Yeah, this preppy white girl was reading eminem, and she just boldly challenged these people to take hold of Jesus, that he was walking by right now, the God we longed to have Mercy on Us was right in front of us. God used it powerfully. I know its probably not what you have in mind for the sermon, but just thought I would share.

    Paul

  29. In our church, we will celebrate Reformation Day on Sunday, since next Sunday is All Saints. Surely this is a wonderful story to highlight the simple Gospel recovered by the Reformation.

  30. Paul, I really like that. And I really like the idea of doing this weekly!

    I will also tie this into the liturgy for the children. “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”. And probably sing it from the different settings, and explain why we keep on singing it, every Sunday and every day. It is our continuing song.

  31. I do like the contrasts mentioned above, between the blind man who sees through the eyes of faith and the seeing crowd who in their silence appear spiritually blind. I also like the connection to Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem. Was the crowd silent out of fear of the Jewish leaders? Is there a comparison between this blind man and the bald proclamation of faith by the blind man in John 9? There, too, the crowd shrinks in fear of the Jewish leaders. That could be tied into Reformation Sunday, with a monk boldly nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg door. May we be equally bold against the pragmatic forces which seek to silence the message of the gospel today.

  32. Spurgeon had a great sermon on this passage. He seemed to emphasize the earnestness of the blind man’s faith, versus the crowd who were irritated with his interruption of the show. Quite a prophetic utterance against the worship circus crowd of today, who seem to be only interested in being amused.

    I keep circling back to the imagery of sight as well as perception. The earlier healing of a blind man in chapter 8 has the unusual image of men looking like trees walking around. Trees are bent and rustled by the wind but they don’t perceive it. The crowd was amused by Jesus but did not comprehend what his appearing meant. The blind man did, at it opened a window into the deepest longings of his soul.

  33. WIth the story of Jesus’ healing of the blind man at Bethsaida in chapter 8, this story books a whole section on discipleship, on following Jesus to the destination pointed to throughout Mark’s Gospel: the Cross.

  34. I think Matt hit it on the head. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” sums the gospel and our faith in one compact phrase. Every mouth should utter that phrase several times daily at the start of prayer.

    God bless…

  35. Two thoughts come to mind when I think of Jesus’ healing the blind. The obvious: We all are blind until Jesus opens our eyes. We don’t really even see just how messed up we really are inside until the healing begins.

    And though the sovreignty of God’s grace might tempt one to not pray because God’s mind is made up before we even start praying, the ‘humanity’ of Jesus’ priestly ministry to us makes prayer our desire, and essential for our own sake, giving the Jesus the opportunity to grow us, heal us, with the gospel. The fact that there is no contradiction between His sovreignty and His ministry is one of those cool things about God, beyond my understanding, but healing and comforting in itself just to think about it.

  36. Haven’t read through all the comments here, so forgive me if I’m repeating anyone.

    The crowd merely follows Jesus; Bartimaeus anticipates and apprehends Jesus. The crowd is interested in propriety (be quiet); Bartimaeus is interested in the person of Jesus. The crowd accommodates Jesus; Bartimeaus pursues Jesus to the point of inconveniencing him. The crowd goes along; Bartimeaus has faith.

    The challenge for us is twofold. When we seek Jesus, do we do so earnestly and without a thought for what the crowd thinks? And when we seek to be like Jesus, do we have his vision to see through the crowd and recognize those who have a passionate faith, even if they’re a little weird and obnoxious.

  37. Thank you everybody, this has been wonderful to read. Another vote here, for making this a regular feature. Not that there’s a shortage of RCL resources all over the Net but this community is very unique and our voices blend in wonderful ways.

  38. Simple. Teach all of Mark 10. This story, more then anything else, is about the character of Christ and his love for each and every one of us, despite the desire of society as a whole to keep us down. Thank you for the brief commentary and have a great Sunday.

  39. Michael Barber, a catholic theology teacher, has a site with weekly commentary about the readings from the lectionary. His presentations are usually good.
    http://www.thesacredpage.com/2009/10/healing-of-bartimaeus-video-and-post.html

  40. I used to think my calling was to be a pastor. It isn’t. It never was. My calling is to be a son (Eph 1). I am being rescued from the former and learning to live in the latter…slowly.

    I still have a long way to go. Recently while praying with some close friends, my friend Kirk had a sense that God wanted to ask me a question. I said, “Uh, okay…”. Kirk said, “Jesus wants to know what you would like Him to give you? Not to your church, or to your family, or to your friends…what would you like Jesus to give to you?”

    I could not think of a single thing. I was stunned. I was also a bit embarassed.
    At least when asked by Jesus, Bartimeus had an answer. We have not because we ask not.

    • K Lo,

      I was asking myself the same question, and really couldn’t think of anything either. Other, than to be a handmaiden in His Court.

      It isn’t a bad thing to be content whereever you are. Paul said that somewhere I believe.

  41. Count me in as another vote for making this a regular feature here. There’s a lot of good collective wisdom in the crowd here that could be put to good use in furthering the Kingdom.

  42. Why would I tell Jesus that I want to see? I already see fairly well, thank you very much. And the way to get ahead in this world is, after all, to see — to demonstrate how much you have learned, how brilliantly you can think, how clever you are, what significant things you can accomplish, how high you can climb. Hey, you know just won’t find success in this world if you dwell on your weaknesses. Not that I don’t have a few more things to learn, everybody does. Let’s just say I don’t feel desperate about it.

    [Queue up change in tone to — introspection.]

    “I want to see!” For whose sake did Jesus require that response? He did not have to ask.

    Now, if Jesus in the flesh were to ask me, “What do you need?” what ought I to say?

    Suddenly this is serious. The truth is, I must admit, “Everything that matters.” Well, at least that seems right, to start.

    So then, what matters? Storing up treasures in heaven. Yes, I know that, full well.

    But most of the time that’s rarely where my mind is at, honestly. And now that I think about it — a little more carefully now, a little more at the level of the heart, say — I know I and those around me are all the poorer for a mindset, a temperament, a disposition that comes from my being focused on the wrong things — the wrong thing — the wrong person — me.

    And that’s not right. Yes, I suppose one could say it’s a type of blindness.

    “My rabbi, I want to see!”

    [End introspection. Begin commentary.]

    Some time ago I came across an ancient prayer that said simply, “Lord, illumine our darkness.” That’s an old world, beggarly approach to God, thought I. And I thought about it a long time. And now I think that one of the purist and best prayers we can pray is, “Lord, change me.” That is, “Change me to be, heart and soul, what I ought to be.” How can God not honor such a prayer?

  43. It’s a little late now, but I found today that Bartimaeus in the Aramaic meant “son/person of defilement”. The son of defilement calling out to the Son of God for mercy, and the Son of God heard his cry.

  44. I know it’s a liitle late but Bishop John Rucyahana of AMiA (Rwanda) preached at our church on Sunday from this text. He pointed out the dignity with which Jesus treated Bartimaeus. He also exhorted us to the same courage which Bartimaeus exercised in calling upon Christ at whatever cost ourselves. This gives opportunity to Christ to do His work among and with us.

    Peace.

  45. Over here in the Catholic Church (Saint Patrick’s Anglican, in Lexington), Pete Matthews set forth that Jesus is inviting us forward, and the great cloud of witnesses (from the NT lection) is urging us on. He went on for awhile on how Jesus deals with us when we respond to his call.

  46. Brother Bartimaeus says

    Sorry to be so late to the party (everyone needs a vacation).  Obviously I have an affinity to this story so I thought I’d still weigh in, even if I’m talking to the wind.  Besides the wonderful observations above (love the J&J comparison) , here are a few more topics for sermon exploration.

    1) While only mentioned briefly, Jericho is an important indicator in this gospel.  As a few have mentioned above, this story marks a turning point in direction for Jesus.  Jericho was also a turning point for the Jews, marking a transition from the Exodus and wandering in the desert to the creation of Israel.  It also marks Jesus’ return to the beginning of his ministry, as he was likely baptised by John in the Jordan outside of Jericho.

    2) This is a real stretch, but I’m struck by Joshua’s curse upon those who might want to rebuild Jericho: “It will cost him his firstborn son to lay the foundation. It will cost him his youngest son to set up the city doors”.  It rings important considering Mark’s centrality of the cross, but as Jesus is both the foundation and the door, I’m not sure how to square that.

    3) Timaeus was a famous dialog of Plato which postulates the creation of the universe, man and the soul.  It was probably known (or maybe well known) by the early Christian church, as Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Jesus, is believed to have Timaean influences in his commentaries on Jewish scriptures (those commentaries were a favorite of the early church, which is why they still exist).  This plays into the comments above about the Bartimaeus miracle being a sign of new creation. 

    It seems hard to believe that Mark isn’t making a connection between Timaeus and the gospel when you consider that within Timaeus, Plato says that the eyes are the first organs formed by “the gods” (although Plato is considered monotheistic).  He further indicates that without the eyes, nothing could be said about the world around us.  By giving Bartimaeus sight, Mark may be saying that Jesus is really the God described in Timaeus (or could be critiquing Timaeus).  Also in the Timaeus, sight is descibed as light interacting with eye until it reached the soul, which then becomes perception.  Perhaps Mark is saying that we only truly perceive (or understand) Jesus when he interacts with the soul.  The disciples don’t understand until they see Him again after the resurrection.

    On a side note, I like the wordplay between the son of Timaeus calling out to the Son of David.  This could be an affirmation of Greek gentiles place as followers of Christ in the early church or at least a call to those that followed Plato.

    4) The problem with Bartimaeus being a new creation story, however, is that there already is a story of Jesus giving sight to a blind man in Mark.  Why repeat that affliction?  I guess they could book end the Jesus’ teachings on the Jewish side of Palistine. 

    5) One really important indicator that Mark is getting a something important in this story is that the only two people healed by Jesus AND MENTIONED BY NAME are Legion and Bartimaeus.  Considering the Timaeus connection and the odd name of Legion, I suspect that Mark is indicating that these names are really allegorical.  They could simply indicate Romans and Greeks, but probably something deeper.  Legion could be war or occupation or government, but I’m not so sure on Bartimaeus.  Maybe equality or hypocrisy, due to the crowd’s reaction to him.