46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher,* let me see again.’ 52Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
How often we read, in all the gospels, about Jesus coming and going through Jericho! The town of Jericho today is in the valley, near the Dead Sea, and is one of the lowest cities in the world. It is under Palestinian control; one passes a border going in and out. On my last journey our guide did not go into Jericho with us, for she had sons in the Israeli army and felt it unsafe for her to do so. The “tell Jericho” can be seen in the distance, a “hill” that was the ancient city, dating to 10,000 years ago. Probably, however, even by Jesus’ day, the habitation had moved to the valley.
On this day, Jesus was leaving Jericho, and a blind beggar was sitting by the road. He was called Bartimaeus, which is the Hebrew for “Son of Timaeus”. This man was called only by his father’s name. But Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus – sitting there beside the road, he heard lots of things.
But Bartimaeus had done more than simply heard about Jesus; he had come to believe that this wandering rabbi was the Messiah. We know that because when he calls out, he uses language from the scriptures that indicate as much, he calls Jesus “Son of David.” The Messiah was to be a descendent, a son, of David. He calls out to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Now this is embarrassing to the people around – they wanted their city to make a good impression on the rabbi, and here is this ragged, dirty, blind beggar ruining everything! They try to make him shut up! But Bartimaeus knows he may never get another chance to see Jesus, literally. And he shouts all the louder! And Jesus hears him, and tells them to bring him to him. Those around him now tell Bartimaeus to take heart for Jesus has asked for him. And he jumps up, throws off his cloak and went to Jesus. We should all come to Jesus as eagerly as poor, blind Bartimaeus! He has called out to Jesus for mercy, now Jesus asks him, “What do you want?” Bartimaeus is not shy, or reticent, nor is he confused about what he wants – he simply says to Jesus, “My teacher, let me see again.” And Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Bartimaeus believed enough to make a scene! He believed enough to come eagerly to Jesus! He believed enough to tell Jesus simply and precisely what he wanted. And Jesus honored his faith by healing him of his blindness. And the blind man could see. And he followed Jesus! Unlike the rich man, who turned away in sorrow, no longer blind Bartimaeus followed!
Note: Mark has made a point – the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the sick are healed, and demons are cast out. Bartimaeus calls Jesus Son of David; Jesus calls himself Son of Man. These are all references to the coming of the Messiah. Now the story will change. What does the Messiah do when he comes to Jerusalem?