Jericho is at a crossroads - it is a crossroads in Jesus journey that will lead him up to Jerusalem. It is a last meeting place before the half-day’s journey to Jerusalem on foot.
Beggars, like Bartimaeus, always go to where there is a heightened human interaction, and especially, we feel, at places of worship, to play on perhaps, our religious sensibilities, to play the guilt trip and guilt - tripping us in to giving if we do not want to appear hypocritical.
There is a unique – a once in a lifetime – opportunity too for Bartimaeus - and so he is at a crossroads in his life. Jesus is passing by, it is now or never.
Bartimaeus’ heightened sense of hearing makes him keenly aware – it is in hearing that ultimately he uses his other faculties – his sense of speech in crying out to Jesus in prayer, then - oblivious to the crowd, listening for Jesus’ response, then, jumping up - using his arms to throw aside the cloak, using his legs to walk to Jesus. While he is blind, he sees Jesus with the eyes of faith – ‘Son of David’.
He shouts: above the crowd, to be heard, he is persistent, and because he pleads for pity, he is the model of prayer for us, to persevere above discouragement and peer pressure to be people who pray ‘without ceasing’.
The crowd also change their attitude once they hear Jesus’ invitation extended to Bartimaeus – and become a congregation, a community – encouraging him – and then he too becomes a follower – one of them, and joins them as a fellow disciple on the journey.
The words of Jesus: What do you want me to do for you? How do they apply to you and me today?
Where are we blind – through pride – or too proud to change? What have we overlooked? Why do we refuse to change for the better? Why is it so hard for us to get rid of long ingrained bad habits? Why are we so quick to see the faults in others and so slow – with our ‘blind spots’ to see the work we have to do in order to become the best version of ourselves?
We have seen a number of personal encounters in Mark in the last few Sundays - with the rich young man, and with the disciples James and John looking to sit on the right and left of Jesus in His kingdom. Whereas they were blind in a spiritual sense either through avarice or ambition, Bartimaeus’ blindness is on the physical plane.
What do you want me to do for you?
Bartimaeus throws off his cloak.
What does this cloak symbolise? Comfort, security, all his worldly possessions, a hindrance? Whatever it may be – some things likewise prevent me from total surrender to God’s will for me.
Let me see again. So this was man who lost his sight and wants it restored. Why does Jesus ask the question when it is so obvious what the man needs? The man must verbalise his needs – as must we in prayer.
Let me see again.
May we see again with renewed minds and hearts and persistent prayer asking the Lord what needs to be done, what changes must be made in our lives. May we enter his kingdom whole and entire, lacking nothing.
‘Immediately’ his sight returns. In Mark there is a sense of urgency as the word ‘immediately’ is used 40 times. Let us change now. Let us be unimpeded followers.