The Eye Test


Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Ps. 34:1-8, (19-22)
Mark 10:46-52


10:46 “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. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then 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.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” (Mark 10:46-52, NRSV)


Let us pray: Loving God, creator of heaven and earth in whom all things are possible, have mercy on us and heal us.  We pray that you would sustain us by the power of your word so that we may draw near to you and follow in your way as faithful disciples. Amen.


Today’s gospel reading takes place in Jericho, which is described as the oldest city in the world.  The location is important to the story.   In the first century the ancient city of Jericho was destroyed.  This new city of Jericho, built by Herod the Great, was built three miles from the ancient site.  Everyone, in Jesus day, would have known this history.  So, the location of this story is no small matter.  Jericho was one of the lushest cities of the biblical world because of its magnificent water supply.[1]  Jericho was literally an oasis in the desolate wasteland between Jerusalem and the Jordan River.  It is about 15 miles east of Jerusalem, just on the other side of the hills between Jerusalem and the Jordan River.  It was an important commercial center and trading post on the principal road that connected Jerusalem with the Jordan Valley and points east.  But its religious significance was even more important.  Jericho was the point at which the Israelites had entered the Promised Land.  Jericho symbolized God’s fulfillment of the divine promise to Israel that they would enter and possess a land flowing with milk and honey.  So, Jesus’ decision to travel through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem was full of significance.  When Jesus entered this reborn city it was significant because rebirth or a new start is an important undertone of this miracle story.[2]


This is the backdrop as Jesus and his disciples come to Jericho. When, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, who was sitting by the roadside began to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”


Let’s imagine Bartimaeus’ world for a moment.   First of all, imagine what it means to be blind.  Just close your eyes for a minute and think.  Now, keeping your eyes closed, what if I were to ask you to get up and walk around?  Some of you would be able to, because you know the church well.   But, if I were to ask you to get up and walk home, it would be much more difficult.


Now, imagine how difficult it would be in Jesus’ day: poor roads, no straight streets, lots of rocks, not to mention thieves and bandits along the way.  Now how much more difficult it was for Bartimaeus because he had once had sight but had lost it.  He had had something precious and had lost it.  I imagine that Bartimaeus had had to struggle with bitterness because of his enormous loss.


In Jesus’ day, the blind, were people that society had no use for.  So, it is redundant to refer to Bartimaeus as a “blind beggar.”  He was blind, so of course, he was a beggar.  He had no alternative.  There was no welfare, no social system of support for those who can’t fend for themselves.  The blind were among the most destitute of all people, since they had no way of earning an income.  Unless you had a family to take care of you, the only thing that was possible for a blind person to do to survive was to beg.  So, in this culture it was thought that society would be better off without the blind, as well without lepers, or orphans, or widows, or anyone else who was an economic drain.   They had no value. So Bartimaeus had no choice but to sit beside the road and beg for spare change and or help.

And then along comes Jesus.



Rather than passively accept his fate, Bartimaeus refuses to be ignored.  He shouts.  He makes a scene.  He shouts Jesus’ name.  The crowd tries to quite him. But Mark tells us that Bartimaeus “cried out even more loudly” and shouted Jesus’ name again.


He catches Jesus attention. Jesus calls to him to come over.  Bartimaeus, stands throws off his cloak and goes to Jesus.  Bartimaeus would not have had many possessions, perhaps he had a begging bowl and a staff, but I doubt he would have much else.  That is all a beggar might have had to his name and Bartimaeus throws it off to go to Jesus. Hold this image in tension with another story from the tenth chapter of Mark’s gospel.  This too is one person’s encounter with Jesus.  Remember the story of the rich man who came to Jesus.  When Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor.  The rich man “went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”  What a contrast with Bartimaeus who, with joyful abandon throws away his cloak, perhaps his most expensive possession!


So, who can blame Bartimaeus for leaving everything and going to Jesus?


He is free.  He can see.  He is overjoyed.  He responds with gratitude for what Jesus has done for him.


This what this story means to us today.  What is our response to all that God has done for us?  Now, we may not be cured of blindness or any other aliment but we are set free.  Friends, it is Good News!  It is the good news of what God has done in Christ for us and all the world.  We are free![3]


No matter what we may have done, no matter what may have been done to us.  None of these things define us.  We are free and the future is bright.   Now, I know that it is really, really hard to believe, in light of what is going on in our lives and in the world around us.  Yes, what is happening in our world such as war, the refugee crisis, hunger, homelessness, violence and drugs in our city, not to mention what affects us even more personally?  All of that seems so huge, so important, so all-encompassing, but ultimately it’s not.  Not to say that these things don’t matter.  They do.  Illness, disappointment, hurt, grief, and loss.  They matter and they affect us deeply.   But they do not define us.  Nothing we have done or has been done to us describes who we are completely.  Only one thing can do that: God, the creator, redeemer and sustainer of all, can do that.  And God has chosen to call us beloved children, holy and precious in God’s sight.  That’s what defines us.


And so we are free. Free to risk and serve and help and care and try and struggle and laugh and live.  We are free, to love, just as God loves us. We are free, free to give with the same sense of gratitude that Bartimaeus shows as he throws of his cloak and followed Jesus on the way.  So, friends let us respond to all of God’s blessings by giving back to God through the church with joy filled and grateful hearts.


Let us pray:

[1] The Reverend Cannon John L. Peterson, Washington National Cathedral, Sermon for Pentecost XXI, October 26, 2006.

[2] Source unknown. “Seeing Jesus Again for the Very First Time,” Text: Mark 10:46-52

[3] Reverend Dr. David Lose, Mark 10:46-52 Reformation Sunday/Pentecost 22 B: Freedom!


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