Scripture: Mark 10:46-52
“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” ~ Mark 10:47
As someone who has the gift of sight, I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose it. There is so much that we take for granted when we have our sight, so much that are passive about the way that we enjoy the world around us. Even without my glasses, which are very necessary for my sight – I can see colours and shapes and read in ways that I couldn’t if I were blind. While some activities and methods can simulate blindness nothing can truly give someone who has sight an experience – after all, we know that there is an end to our blindness, we know that once we take off the mask or stop the activity our sight will be returned to us unharmed, leaving the experience perhaps more sympathetic to our visually impaired friends, but not fully understanding the true impact on us.
While the world and our society are still largely shaped and designed for people with sight, people living with visual impairment and total blindness can still do both everyday and remarkable things. The skill and athleticism of Paralympic athletes with visual impairment for example far surpass many people who have their sight or the countless visually-impaired artists who dazzle the world with their creations. While society might not be built for them, people with visual impairment are valued members.
The same could not be said of anyone who was blind in Jesus’ day. Blindness or any disease was a one-way ticket to marginalization, shunning and a designation as unclean in the eyes of religious authority. This treatment stemmed from the fact that devout Israelites believed that disability and disease stemmed from sin – whether it was the sin of the individual or the generational sin didn’t matter they were outsiders, outcasts forced to live on the margins of society, often at the literal edge of town begging for a living.
For a blind man like Bartimaeus, life would have been about eking and scratching out a meagre existence, merely surviving – meeting a famous preacher like Jesus wouldn’t have been at the top of the list or something that they could envision as a possibility. It is clear from the actions of some people in the crowd that day that social conventions meant that he shouldn’t approach Jesus – he was sternly ordered to be quiet, ordered to shut up and accept his lot in life – as punishment for the presumed sin in his life.
But none of that stopped Bartimaeus, something within him spurred him to shout louder, to call out to Jesus for mercy, some spiritual insight or inner vision compelled him to seek out this man who maybe he had heard about from others while he begged.
And while the crowds tried to keep him away, Jesus called him nearer – Jesus could see his faith, Jesus could see something that the crowds couldn’t and that faith was enough, the desire to be healed, the desire to embrace Jesus, to cling to him – was enough. Jesus declared Bartimaeus to be healed and he was.
While Bartimaeus might have suffered from physical blindness, he wasn’t the one that was truly blind – he could see more clearly than anyone else, the disciples included, who Jesus truly was. Living on the margins, spat on by society Bartimaeus wasn’t encumbered by sin and brokenness that distracted others from their need for God; while others might have been ashamed Bartimaeus wasn’t and he could see the truth about Jesus.
While we might not be physically blind like Bartimaeus, each of us carries our spiritual blindness, our ways that we can’t understand or see our need for God. Whether it is distractions caused by our concern for worldly possessions, or power, or fear, or control, or pride or whatever else it may be each of us has ways that distract from Jesus, that distract us from turning to him.
One of the challenges of our world and society is that we are convinced that self-sufficiency and independence are the most important aspects of our life, it’s what we need to be, that success is only true success if we earn it ourselves. But this thinking drives us away from God because when we are convinced that our success is entirely based on our efforts and power, we convince ourselves that we don’t need God. If we think we don’t need God, then we can blind ourselves to the brokenness which keeps us from experiencing the abundant life that God intends for each of us.
When this happens we need to learn something from the least and the lost, the little ones like Bartimaeus who understand their need for God. Throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus has been teaching the disciples that the Kingdom of God is the inverse of the Kingdom of the world, where the least and lost are respected, loved and in a place of prominence – and here in his interaction with Bartimaeus we see the Kingdom lived out.
As the Kingdom of God breaks through into the world, we should run headlong into Jesus’ arms, we should cry out for his help and embrace his salvation even if it means a little embarrassment, even if those around us think we are crazy.
As we continue on the path of following Jesus, each of us should consider and reflect on what our particular blindness might be. What are the places in our lives, in our minds, our souls that are broken by sin and that hold us back from embracing Jesus and his message of salvation? How are blinded to the truth of who Jesus is and how we need him in our lives?
This week I encourage each of us to take the time to reflect, to consider these questions and to offer them up to God in prayer. As we come to grips with the ways that we are blind and embrace them, then perhaps we will like Bartimaeus leap with joy as rush into Jesus’ arms ready to receive healing and life.
In Jesus, we all will see – we will see the glory of God and the kingdom breaking through into the world, the Holy Spirit will give us the eyes to it, we need only have the desire to run to Jesus with no inhibitions, nothing holding us back. Acknowledge your blindness, Jesus will heal you.
Let us pray.