Saturday, 27 October 2012

The healing of Bartimaeus

Sunday GospelMark 10:46-52 

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Mark's plainness often works as an invitation to simply see the message as it is - to read the Red Letters as some versions of the Bible portray the words of Jesus -  to read and follow; to read and do; to read and believe.

The focus seems always to be on Jesus; the witness of a witness to his life. Mark rarely names or even describes people in great detail - so it's worth paying attention when he does.

Mark, not only names, but explains the name Bartimaeus as the 'son of Timaeus'. Is this a person now known to the listeners? Someone to raise an eyebrow and say 'a-ha' about?

Others have linked the naming of this blind man in particular to Plato's dialogue where Timaeus describes the creation of the world as being in the hands of a single god, a Father and Craftsman. This vision is based on an understanding of science, mathematical proportions and elemental relationships that existed at the time. Timaeus references the unity of a circle and even the balance of  trinity in his dialogue.

A suggestion of someone who has tried to make sense of the unimaginable.

What had happened to faith? It set me wondering.

Jericho had more than it's fair share of priests and religious; hence the irony of the Good Samaritan. Despite it's falling battlements and sparse landscape now, Jericho means 'place of the palms' and was a summer retreat and not only for Jews. The trade routes brought many faiths; many cultures; many societies together - 'trade' was not just about goods.

Unlike the healing of the man born blind. Bartimaeus asks for his sight to be restored. What has he done to earn God's wrath?

I wonder if this 'son' had once been a true son of Abraham; a priest; a scribe? Crying out into the darkness of a silence that seemed to have lasted forever, and, finding no answer, looked elsewhere? Studying the minutae of scripture; the whispers of prophecy; following the line of David across generations and finding -hopelessness.

To a wise man; an academic; a scribe, the Timaeus discourse would have made so much sense; dovetailing into the days of creation; the world in balance; the interaction of this and that. Logical,  mathematical - complete and of itself; no waiting required; no one to appease.

And a numbing of the pain; no need to kneel in hope; to raise arms in prayers; no need to watch blood sacrifices drain into the silent earth. The cloak of human authority and certainty held tightly around him against a world of empty promises; his eyes closed against the scarlet sunrises chasing shadows across the desert; closed to clouds of swallows dancing against deep blue skies; against angelic smiles in brown eyed, golden children until his eyes closed for the last time and he lay fallen by the wayside, petrified by denial,  whilst others made their pilgrimages and pleasure trips. 


A uncharted star... a wise child in the temple...something 'good' out of Nazareth...a line of David long forgotten...Isaiah's words spoken with tales of healing, forgiveness, unrolling in a path of destiny to this moment.

Could it be? Did he have the courage? To shout out his litany - Jesus, Nazarene, Son of David, Messiah, Rabbuni, beloved teacher, Master - and to hear the question 'What do you want me to do for you?'

'Let me see again.'

Both Plato and Jesus use human sight as a metaphor for something else.

For Plato- it was to see the world as it is.

For Jesus - to see beyond the world to the Kingdom.

'Give me back my faith.'

And Jesus does. Jesus dives into his soul and brings back the mystery, the hope and the promise. Then he fulfills the promise with himself. 

Some scholars place Bartimaeus with the apostles, he gives away all he has, the cloak that has been home and certainty and, for a beggar, survival, is cast aside and he follows - he takes the road into Jerusalem. 

Maybe, in a few weeks time, he is one of those who will witness; one that lives to tell the tale; one of whom the Followers of the Way would have said 'A-ha'.

In Jesus' name



Philomena Ewing said...

Interesting that you wonder if he might have been a priest.I am also struck by the phrase about faith having no one to appease and how you explore the human authority v Jesus relationship. Nice !!

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Phil. Amazing what comes out of a few lines of scripture. :)

Lynda said...

This is such a beautiful and deep reflection. For me the most amazing phrase is: "Jesus dives into his soul". This is so graphic and I can picture our Lord diving into our souls although it is meant metaphorically.

Word in the Hand said...

I think Jesus can work it however he chooses Lynda :) Thank you for your visit, as always +x

claire said...

Bartimaeus has always been very special to me. Maybe because he makes himself a nuisance to the entourage of Jesus; that he does not stop to ask and beg and make noise when he is told to keep silent. And because, as you mentioned, he leaves his stick, his cloak, whatever he owns, after Jesus heals him.
Bartimaeus has the aggressiveness and persistence of beggars I have known.
Most of all, maybe, Bartimaeus shows me to keep asking, begging Jesus -- as long, of course, as I follow Jesus in the end as Bartimaeus did.
Thank you for this, Word :-)

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Claire
There is something that always makes me wonder about the story behind the person - Bartimaeus has many skills I could do with :)