Interesting trivia facts picked up from RC Sproul:
Came to Jericho – Not the Jericho where the walls came tumbling, tumbling down….. This NT Jericho is 17-18 miles north of Jerusalem – and 3,500 feet in altitude below Jerusalem. Archeologists have come to realize that Jericho along with Damascus, are the two longest inhabited cities on the face of the earth. Jericho, even today, is an oasis in the desert – so much so that travelers would think they were seeing things when they saw it in the distance. And this event takes place by the oasis that is NT Jericho. So Jesus and the disciples come in to town and Bartimaeus – Son of Timaeus (Think about why this is redundant – Simon bar Jonah – Simon son of Jonah). Timaeus, Jr. Jewish people would not know why Mark was telling us this redundancy. For you as gentiles, it’s a valid explanation – it is a reminder that Mark is writing to a non-Jewish audience. Bartimaeus is also the only person in the synoptic gospels who receives a miraculous healing who is named by name. Bartimaeus found himself a great spot and he would have been a regular fixture here as Jericho, being an oasis in the desert, would have been a place everyone would have made a pass through.
Sproul also points out that this is a strange insertion as you read through what Mark has been doing – Jesus has been teaching the disciples about humility and the kingdom of God, talking about his impending death and resurrection, and here, on the precipice of Jesus’ “triumphal entry” that we celebrate as “Palm Sunday” and only days from the cross, Jesus hears a man crying in the distance and says, “Bring him to me”. While the crowds are yelling, “Shut up you beggar”, Jesus is going to bless Blind Bartimaeus and bless the disciples with another lesson about the kingdom of God. Bartimaeus stands in bold contrast to the disciples who were squabbling amongst themselves about achieving the highest place. Bartimaeus is not just humbling himself this day, but has humbled himself every day.
The NIBC says “The cry of blind Bartimaeus rings to the center of the world’s distress. To generations sitting in despair, the first step to salvation, and to survival for those who are hopeless and downcast with nowhere left to turn is, “Jesus….have mercy on me.” He can heal a blind society, He can heal a disintegrating civilization.” This is a good word for me today. I too often talk about America as the hope of the world and as I see our country destroying itself and worried for the next generation about China taking the lead… well, let me just say I could really get off in the weeds here and I do not want to. This is a good word for me that no matter what happens to our country or to the world, my hope must be in Christ alone.
So back to those sitting in despair and hopelessness, the answer as we learn from this “Son of Timaeus” is to bring our troubles to Jesus. The world will say, “There is no use to cry to Jesus”. Bartimaeus reminds us there is nowhere else to turn.
I was trying to think if there was a story from the Bible where someone was crying out to Jesus and Jesus did not answer. All I could think of is that there were times when the masses gathered and Jesus did not heal every person there, but I cannot think of an instance when an individual, from the heart, was calling out to Jesus that Jesus neglected to hear their cry. Bartimaeus is also a reminder that anyone who cries out to Jesus will find a Savior who stops and gives the whole of His attention, his heart and his mind to that person, just as He did to Bartimaeus… Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “You matter to me”. And He says the same to anyone who will cry out to Him.
We discussed the strange placement of this healing, and we take note that, also according to the NIBC, it is the last healing Mark relays to us. But is it? We will come back to that question.
As the story unfolds, Bartimaeus, this lowest of the low in the Jewish society, one who is not even allowed in the temple, this blind beggar, likely in tattered rags, this fixture most would consider a nuisance… I am thinking of people on the streets of Cumberland who litter the brick road downtown district. He cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”. And Jesus with his focus toward Jerusalem, stops. And he calls on Bartimaeus. Think about this. Bartimaeus has been calling out to Jesus, and Jesus is now calling out to Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus cast aside his garments and came to Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Let us cast aside every weight and sin that ensnares us and look to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.” Bartimaeus does this and Jesus says, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I remind you that last week I told you I wanted to wade into these waters, but I refrained. For it was only last week that we saw the same question – Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked James and John and they said, oh that we may sit at your right and your left when you come into your kingdom. Bartimaeus has a more humble request… that I may receive my sight. RC Sproul says, “Oh, that I may escape this darkness”. And Bartimaeus is not asking just anyone for this miracle and he knows it. File this one under “SO MUCH WE MISS IN TRANSLATION” – You see, Bartimaeus addresses Jesus as “Rabboni”. Do you see the difference? Most would call Him rabbi – teacher. But Bartimaeus, like Mary Magdalene in the garden and think about this… Here a week BEFORE Mary in the Garden, Bartimaeus says, “Rabboni”, which in the original language means, “My Lord and My Master”. To address Jesus as Rabboni is in itself a confession of faith. Bartimaeus is saying in effect, “My Lord and My Master, at your Word I know I can receive my sight and that is my humble request.”
Jesus says, go your way, your faith has made you well. Have you heard Jesus say this over and over? Your faith has made you well. I had an epiphany this week as I was studying this… You may think I am admitting an awkward thought obvious to everyone else and as a preacher I should have known this, and I admit it is obvious. But it just occurred to me this week that when Jesus tells people their faith has made them well, it is their faith in Him. I never thought about it that way. I always thought of it as “if we have enough faith we will be made well, and I have heard way too many pastors, especially TV personalities, imply if you are not made well, it is your faith, more specifically your faith failing to believe that you will be made well. It is faith in Jesus that makes us well.
And for my closing I want to tie this together with a question I said we would circle back to. Do you remember it? Is the healing of once Blind Bartimaeus the last healing in Mark? The NIBC says it is, I say it ain’t. I want to close today with the thought that the last healing relayed in Mark is mine. And I hope yours.
Mark, like the other Gospel writers, tells us the story of Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead. When He did that, when I call Him Rabboni, even if I did not know the word Rabboni, when I call Him Lord and Master, when I put my faith in Him, even the faith the size of a mustard seed, I am made well. I am healed. I escape my own wretched darkness. And I do not want to be like the disciples asking for something grandiose – honor and status in the kingdom. I just want to be saved. “Jesus, have mercy on me”. And Jesus says what is it you want me to do for you? And I said, “I believe you died on the cross for me and rose from the dead to overcome death for me, a sinner. Forgive me of my sins and save me.” And then He said to me, “Your faith has made you well.” And I am here today to tell you that He will pass nobody by who asks him for the same. He has the same reply to each one who calls out to Him – your faith has made you well.
He says to you, as He said to me and as He said to Bartimaeus – Go your way, your faith has made you well. And you know it is true and you know you are truly made well when your way becomes His way.
“Immediately He received His sight and followed Jesus in the way.”
If you haven’t already, will you this day, be made well through your own faith in Jesus? And will you follow Him? Be of Good Cheer. He is calling you.