Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 March 26, 2023
“On the Jericho Road”
It’s getting very late in Jesus’ public ministry. This is the last narrative in Mark before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus is at Jericho, some fifteen miles from and thirty-two hundred feet below Jerusalem—about the grade of US 441 from Gatlinburg up to Newfound Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. In today’s text, a man named Bartimaeus meets Jesus—and, after the meeting, his life never again is the same. Let’s examine this more fully as we hear the Word of God read and proclaimed once again in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We meet Jesus leaving Jericho and heading uphill—with His face set toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). He goes there, fundamentally, to glorify His Father: by teaching for a few final days, by laying down His life an atonement for sin, and by rising from the dead. As Jesus leaves Jericho for Jerusalem, Bartimaeus (Aramaic [late dialect of Biblical Hebrew]: son of Timaeus) sits by the roadside as Jesus passes. He is both blind and begging: begging because he is unable to work for what he needs—and, therefore, he is a proper object of Godly charity. Moreover, he is shouting. It’s not too hard to hear Bartimaeus’ cry across the centuries and millennia: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Notice two things in Bartimaeus’ heart’s cry. First, he truly sees. This man, though blind, sees Jesus for Who He is—the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God, which was to come into the world. Second, he pleads for mercy (Greek eleao [eleaw]); he pleads for the kindness to one in serious need. Many in the crowd, upon hearing Bartimaeus’ cry, rebuke him. Maybe they think Jesus cannot be detained, or maybe they think low of Bartimaeus himself—that He is not worthy of the Savior’s time or ministry. Bartimaeus, in the face of this collective rebuke, remains undeterred. He shouts all the more for mercy from Jesus.
Now, for the first time in the narrative, Jesus speaks—and He speaks concerning Bartimaeus. He commands His company to call him—which they do, speaking words of cheer to him, “Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.” Bartimaeus takes this encouragement at face value. He jumps to his feet and comes to Jesus—likely with as much haste as when arising from his roadside seat. Then Jesus, having spoken concerning Bartimaeus, now speaks to him.
Jesus asks him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” In the question we both see infinite condescension, as God incarnate speaks to this least of all humanity, and feel infinite love, as Jesus ministers to this man. Bartimaeus replies to the point. He addresses Jesus, “Rabboni,” (Aramaic: literally my great one.) which is the same address which Mary Magdalene gave to the risen Christ (John 20:16). Then he asks to gain sight (Greek anablepo [anablepw]: ESV recover). Thus, Bartimaeus ends speaking.
Jesus speaks again, and this time He speaks decisively. He tells Bartimaeus to go his way—for present he will able to go his way. Then Jesus adds, “Your faith has made you well” (Greek sozo [swzw]). The Greek word can mean save (from spiritual danger), rescue (from environmental danger), or heal (from bodily illness and injury—and, likely, Jesus addresses all three senses to some extent, though the physical malady is the presenting one. Moreover, I am sure that Bartimaeus has faith that Jesus can make Him well, but I think Jesus honors a more fundamental faith—to wit, faith in Himself as the Messiah, the centuries-long-promised deliverer.
After Jesus’ final pronouncement, Bartimaeus is healed—and immediately at that. He, furthermore, goes his way—he follows Jesus on the road. He follows Jesus uphill toward Jerusalem, with all that entails. He follows Jesus with his steps, one after another—now that He can see. He also follows Jesus in his soul as His disciple—His student-follower.
We see today, once again, a sign of Jesus—a miracle to a purpose. The healing blesses Bartimaeus, to be sure, but it also displays once again Jesus’ power and His love. Bartimaeus’ confession also displays Who Jesus is at a profound level. What else can we learn from this narrative?
First, we learn that Jesus never is too occupied to hear from us. He is not wearied by our entreaties, and nothing that concerns us—yea, nothing at all—escapes His notice. He can handle all the petitions addressed to Him—even the millions at one instant—with power to spare. Therefore, let us come to Him with our petitions, among other things. Though others may be too busy to hear from us, He never is.
Second, we may plead for remedy of anything wrong with us. Let us not be discouraged by voice that would dissuade us from pleading. Bartimaeus yielded not under considerable discouragement; neither should we. Let us, though, when we plead, believe several things. Let us believe that the Lord is Who He says He is in His Word. Let us believe that He is able to fix anything broken within us. Let us, furthermore believe that He is willing to do this when He is willing. Let this, furthermore, encourage us when it pleases Him to delay or to deny our petition.1 Even in these, the Lord is at work in your life, for His own glory, for your own good somehow, and for the good of others, through you, in His Name. Finally, let us plead for remedy of any wrong in our lives with a view to follow Him more ably. This Bartimaeus, once seeing, did—following Jesus in joyous discipleship. Let us do no less.
May the Lord both repair every broken place in your life and call you ever deeper into the joy of walking with Him.
1After all, the Lord tacitly denied Paul’s thrice-repeated request to rid him of his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Yet even this denial resulted in evident blessing unto Paul.