In Mark’s Gospel, which many of us are reading this year, a blind beggar called Bartimaeus who is sitting by the roadside outside Jericho, hears that Jesus is approaching and cries out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mark 10:46-52.)
I am struck by the way that at this point in the story, Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus approach but he didn’t see anything – not in the physical sense, – but he still recognises who Jesus is.
This is really a story about our inner vision, about the way that our eyes are often closed, and as disciples, we all of us need healing for that inner vision to grow clearer, because not just our eyes but our hearts are often closed.
Bartimaeus is willing to make himself a nuisance, shouting out to Jesus, and being hushed by the crowd. He’s willing to make himself vulnerable, jumping up and throwing down his cloak which would have been used as a sleeping bag and for collecting the coins. Jesus hears his cries, and asks him what he wants. When Jesus says to him, ‘Go, your faith had made you whole’, he doesn’t go, he begins following Jesus along the road, the road that is that leads from Jericho to Jerusalem, the road to the cross.
I am always moved by the way that Jesus interacts with people, – there is a tenderness in how he relates to each person. Something else about discipleship which is also apparent here, because there is another example, earlier on, in Mark 8: 22-26 when a blind man is brought to Jesus for healing. This first attempt is only partly successful – he sees but only indistinctly, – people look as though they were trees walking. So Jesus lays his hands on his eyes again, and only then does he see clearly.
The gospel is about ways of seeing, and our need of salvation. Jesus spends hours with his disciples, yet often, they don’t get it, but he doesn’t give up on them. Jesus often goes unrecognised because our eyes and hearts are closed to what we are being shown of God and of the ways of God’s Kingdom.
Yet whoever we are Jesus brings us healing and wholeness and when we fail we can start anew. And we can take courage because it is Jesus who is calling us, calling us to follow him on the way – and it is the way that leads to life.
Rev Justine Wyatt