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June 05th, 2020
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

A short recap of articles the past two weeks is that Romans chapter 8 lays a foundation for finding hope. Acts 16 holds the story of Paul and Silas, and illustrates three ways they found hope: because of roadblocks, God helped reroute them; he led them to new tactics for reaching unchanging goals; and he taught them how to embrace suffering, which led to worship and hope. The word hope indicates something in the future, and makes waiting bearable. Psalm 42:11 reads, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God.” 

Our setting today is the oasis town of Jericho, City of Palms, a site we visited last year on our 50th-anniversary trip. Located fifteen miles from Jerusalem, Jericho is mentioned more than fifty times in the Bible. Rahab the prostitute and her family found rescue after they helped the spies; Joshua won a battle there; Elisha the prophet lived in the city; and men from Jericho helped Nehemiah rebuild Jerusalem (Joshua 2 and 6; 2 Kings 2; Nehemiah 3). 

The story begins, “And as [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road” (Mark 10:46). His name could have two meanings in Hebrew: “bar” (son of) with the verb “tame” means to be unclean. It was often assumed that people with disabilities – or their parents – had done something wrong to cause the misfortune. However, if the noun “time” were used with “bar” the name would denote a son of honor. Interestingly, Mark gave his name and then redundantly remarked that the blind man’s father was Timaeus. 

The throng passing by seemed to be easily swayed. When Bartimaeus began calling out for Jesus, those in the crowd at first tried to hush him. But when Jesus called to the man, they urged him to hurry up and come to the Master. These may also have been some of the same people who waved palm branches and the next week cried out, “Crucify him!” Carried along in a multitude, we may lose track of our focus, and even who should be our central figure. 

Despite the clamor, Bartimaeus somehow found a way to concentrate all his attention on the One who could help him. The first of his three simple prayers he said twice, “‘Have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:47, 48). The scripture then says, “Throwing aside his cloak he jumped up and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50). For a beggar, a cloak may have been his only possession, yet he gave no thought to protecting it as he followed the Voice calling for him. When we’re willing to give up anything to find healing, we discover that Jesus loves us too much to leave us the way he found us. 

Bartimaeus’ second prayer was also to the point, “‘I want to regain my sight!’” (Mark 10:52). I’m not promoting a health-and-wealth gospel, but too often we limit our prayers. They may not be answered in the way we expect. But as Oswald Chambers wrote, if we follow the leadings of the Spirit, we enable God to answer our prayers. 

Bartimaeus addressed Jesus by two different names, “Son of David” and “Rabboni” or Master. At that point, only a few people including Peter (Matthew 16:18), and Lazarus’ sister Martha (John 11:27) had recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Yet this unlikely man cried out using terms which indicated he had insight about Jesus that many “seeing” people lacked. Through the gift of God’s grace, Bartimaeus’ prayer was answered and “…immediately he received his sight” (Mark 10:52). 

The third prayer wasn’t a spoken one, but often our longings can’t be verbalized. Jesus told Bartimaeus, “‘Go; your faith has made you well.’” Earlier in the chapter, Jesus had tried to explain to his disciples what the road to Jerusalem would entail. He would soon be condemned to death, mocked, and killed (Mark 10:33-34). Yet Bartimaeus, with spiritual insight, persistence and his newfound sight, seemed to have only one desire. He chose to follow Jesus on that road. 

During these times of Covid-19, there’s an accumulated stress from too many voices. New terms such as “Zoom Fatigue” have appeared, as folks deal with distraction, fear, disappointment, anxiety and even despair. Some questions for personal reflection: When have we cried out, “Lord, have mercy on me!”? In what ways do we need God to open our eyes? And how would following Jesus on his road help in our struggles? The key point of this story is that we’re all helpless. But Bartimaeus the former son of impurity saw Jesus through eyes of faith, and placed his hope in the death and resurrection that can save us all. 

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