“And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart. Get up; he is calling you." And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Rabbi, let me recover my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.” Mark 10: 46-52
With all of the fear and anxiety that is seemingly consuming the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it has me really thinking about the lack of faith that humanity (even many in the Christian church) currently has in God’s ability to protect and deliver us in every circumstance and I have been really challenged to look at my personal faith. For those of us that have accepted Jesus as Lord and have been given eternal life through Him, why are we so attached to this present world and afraid of trials and issues that we know are temporary and can do no eternal harm? Do we (and I am including myself here) REALLY trust God?
In my personal quiet time studies, I recently was reading the passage in Mark 10 verses 46-52 where he related the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, who pastor Gregg also spoke about in a recent sermon.
The story of Bartimaeus is a wonderful story that reflected the grace and awesomely divine power and mercy of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If we take real time to look at and contemplate the story, we get to see what real faith in Jesus looks like. In my past personal studies of this passage, I had looked at it as simply another wonderful healing story. But after Gregg’s message, I looked at it with an entirely different frame of mind when I came to it in my recent studies.
Why did he believe this would suddenly change?
In really thinking about the man Bartimaeus, the first question that I asked myself was, after being blind for so many years and probably crying out to God for his sight without a seeming response for all of those years, why did he suddenly believe that this would change? The answer comes in vs 47 which says “and when he heard it was Jesus”. Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was in town and he no doubt had heard all of the stories of the miracles that Jesus was performing all throughout Israel. So hearing about Jesus was the first building block of Bartimaeus’ faith.
This very much marries with the first part of 2 Cor 5:17 which says that “Faith comes by hearing”. I thought about how true this also was in a worldly sense. My wife Laurie and I recently were watching a TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” where the host travels all over the US to check out some relatively unknown dining establishments that have developed a good reputation. In this episode, he visited a restaurant called Jersey Girl Café and he raved about the food and so did the patrons he interviewed. When we found out the cafe was in Hamilton, we went the next day! We certainly had faith in what we heard (why do we have so little problem trusting the word of men?). But having faith that a restaurant will have great food is certainly different than having faith that we will be healed of life-long blindness. So we have to contemplate the entire verse of 2 Cor 5:17 which says “faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God”. If Bartimaeus relied strictly on the words of man then I doubt he would have truly believed that he could be healed, but instead he believed in the “Word (capital W) who became flesh and dwelt among us” as we read in John 1:14. He believed completely that Christ alone was able to make Him whole and he cried out to Him for mercy. We must understand that this was not a worldly faith, but it was faith offered as a gift to Bartimaeus by God. He wisely accepted the gift!
The 2nd thing that I contemplated was the challenge of maintaining faith when there are so many obstacles and difficulties that come our way. The story of Bartimaeus also speaks to this issue. In verse 48, it says that the crowd tried to silence his cries for mercy.
The crowd that tried to silence Bartimaeus immediately brought my mind a world system that is currently in Satan’s grasp and makes every attempt to discourage and distract believers. How many times have we been told by family, friends, doctors and various media sources that it is foolish to place our trust in anything but the science and “wisdom” of men, that we have no chance of recovering from that illness, or reconciling with that wife or husband, or overcoming that addiction. The world is relentless in getting us to trust in its faulty wisdom and too often our response to the world is to accept that faulty wisdom as truth and end up in despair.
As followers of Christ, instead of relenting to the world, we can take to heart Bartimaeus’ response to the crowd in verse 48 when, although the crowds opposition posed a major obstacle to him, he did not give up hope. Instead, he cried out to Jesus’ for help all the more. Like Bartimaeus we should never give in to the world – it has no care for us no salvation for us, but Jesus does! In several passages, Jesus speaks to God responding to those who are persistent – you should read Luke 11 and Luke 18 for parabolic examples of this. But one of my personally favorite verses about being persistent in our pursuit of Jesus is from Gal 6:9 which says “And let us not grow weary of doing good, in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Responding to the Invitation
So far we have seen that Bartimaeus heard the Word, believed the Word, pursued the Word relentlessly and then we see how Jesus responded to Bartimaeus persistence in verse 49 when he extended an invitation for him to come. I think that the greatest part of the story is Bartimaeus’ response to Jesus’ invite. In verse 50, we see that he threw off his cloak and ran to Jesus.
Gregg gave a great summation of why Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, he told us that it was a beggar’s cloak and this is how the world identified with Bartimaeus and Bartimaeus with the world. But immediately upon Jesus’ call, Bartimaeus threw away his worldly identity, he was born again! What struck me most about this is that Jesus had not yet healed him and Bartimaeus did not care, the call was enough for him to throw away the cloak. Bartimaeus was fully satisfied by the call alone, which in itself was an act of his great faith and trust in Jesus. I think that the physical healing was just a bonus for Bartimaeus and was done as much for the benefit of those witnessing the event (and those that would later hear of it) as it was for Bartimaeus.
So we can look at Bartimaeus as a great example for us. He heard about Jesus, he believed what he heard, he asked for mercy, he responded to Jesus’ call, he threw off his worldly identity and ran after Jesus. These were all acts of faith and they all preceded his physical healing, which may or may not have come. My personal challenge and one that I am extending to you is to consider the current measure of our own faith. Is it a limited worldly faith that is reliant on seeing or receiving something that personally benefits us – causing us to fear and doubt when trials come? Or is it the “blind” trusting faith gifted to us by God based on hearing His unerring Word and what Jesus has accomplished for us on the cross and through His resurrection? Are we satisfied simply with the fact that we have been called by Jesus, or do we insist on receiving more from Him in order to live in complete obedience to Him?
Have we accepted God’s Word in faith, repented and thrown away our worldly identity to follow Him? If not, I pray that today is the day that you would accept His gifts of faith and salvation.
In closing, Isa 42:16 says “I will bring the blind by a way they knew not”.
Charles Spurgeon provided the following commentary on this verse: “Now, we are by nature blind as to the way of salvation, and yet the Lord leads us into it and brings us to Himself, and then opens our eyes. As to the future, we are all of us blind and cannot see an hour before us; but the Lord Jesus will lead us even to our journey’s end. Blessed be His Name”!
Like Bartimaeus, let us stop listening to and trusting in the world and instead put all of our faith and trust in the only One who is completely faithful and trustworthy. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus.