Knowing What You Want (Bartimaeus)

This is part of a series: I’m taking a moment in the lives of people in the Bible to see how it might be relevant to our lives, today. That moment may be just part of their story, or it may be all we’re told about them. Either way, you should read it directly from the source. This week’s story comes from Mark 10:46-52:

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

A beggar on the side of the road. That would have been his sole identity. Cursed by God to all who saw him, completely reliant on the pity of strangers. Nothing to anyone. He had never met Jesus, only heard rumors of an itinerant preacher who was healing and performing other miracles in the cities nearby. But Bartimaeus, blind though he was, he recognized something about Jesus few of those thronging around him had grasped, and addresses him by the Messianic title, “Son of David.”

I wonder if he felt that this was the most critical moment in his life. He hears that Jesus is nearby, and he calls to him, despite the great crowd, ignoring the rebukes of men stronger than him who he cannot see. He calls louder. “Have mercy on me!” Jesus hears and he calls to him.

Bartimaeus, throwing away his cloak (which we can assume was all he had), comes.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks. Which is the same thing he asked James and John when they wanted to sit on either side of him in glory. Jesus said they didn’t know what they were asking for, but Bartimaeus knows, and with all his heart he responds, “I want to see!”

I believe the day will come for each of us when we’ll stand face to face with Jesus and he’ll ask us what we want. Will we know? Will we shrink back? Will we falter?

Michael Buesking’s oil-on-canvas, “Healing of the Blind Man.”
Michael Buesking’s oil-on-canvas, “Healing of the Blind Man.”

C.S. Lewis’s narrator in Till We Have Faces has this quandary when she is given, at long last, a chance to bring her petition before the gods.

When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

Maybe Bartimaeus, in the emptiness of his life, had let the crumbling coal at the center of his soul harden into diamond. He knew who he was. And when asked, he speaks the fundamental need of his life.

And then he opens his eyes, and blinks against the bright afternoon sunshine, and sees the Light of the World standing before him. After all, that is what it means to see. That is what our eyes were made for.

But maybe you do know. Maybe that word has already been dug out of you. I’m sure many men called out to Jesus in his lifetime. We don’t hear the stories about the ones who stopped calling before they got their answer.

Do you ask? Do you call out to him till he hears you?

Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.

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