From time to time I try something different. This was one of those times.
Year B, 23 Pentecost Mark 10:46-52
My name is Bartimaeus. I am the son of Timaeus. I hear many things, some things I probably shouldn’t hear, but many things I should. Lately I have been listening even more closely. There has been a lot of talk about a man named Jesus. It’s not all good. Some people say he is a rabble rouser, that he is going to try to overthrow the Roman government or even or try to take power from the Pharisees and scribes. That is what the loud and important people say. I cannot see them, but I can tell they are important by their voices, the way they talk to me and other people. These are the same people who only give me money on certain days, and when other people are around to see them. The important people don’t like him, but I don’t like the important people very much either.
It’s the other people….the people who give to me not out of obligation, but compassion, those are the ones I listen to. There is one woman who will sit with me and pray sometimes. She told me about Jesus. She said that he talks about love and that he cares for people like me, the people no one else seems to see. They say I am blind, but sometimes I wonder, if maybe it’s the seeing people who are more blind than I. My friend said that Jesus even performs miracles. She has never seen it, but she has heard the stories. There was one time when he fed thousands with just a few loaves of bread and fish. She whispered to me…as though saying it out loud would give me too much hope, that he healed a blind man. I told her there were all kinds of people who claimed to perform miracles, but even I had to agree that this Jesus man sounded different.
After hearing stories from my kind friend, I started asking anyone who I encountered— about this man. There were different stories, but there were a few things that tied the stories together. He was kind to the people who needed kindness and tough on those who thought they didn’t need him or were better than others. He helped the people no one else would help, even the sinners.
It had been awhile since I prayed, but I began to pray to God that I could meet Jesus, at least once before I died. One day my prayer was answered. I was sitting in my regular place along the road, and the woman with the soft voice and gentle manner knelt beside me. “He’s coming,” she said. “They say he is headed to Jerusalem and that there will be trouble there.” I did not have to ask who. I knew. I could hear a crowd approaching. I could smell their sweat as they came closer to me. I could taste the dust that their feet kicked up. I had one chance. What could I possibly say to get his attention? Surely, he had people trying to get his attention all the time. What could I, a blind beggar–say to him?
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” I am not sure where that came from. It just came. I needed help. It wasn’t just my eyes. I was wounded physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was desperate for something to believe in. Even if he could not cure me, I knew he could help me. I needed mercy. The people around me started telling me to be quiet. But I couldn’t. When I am quiet, people ignore me. I even felt the hand of my kind friend touch my sleeve, as if she was trying to warn me. Their words and warnings meant nothing to me. I had been waiting for this man. It seemed like I had been waiting for him my whole life. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” I yelled until my throat was raw.
Suddenly, the crowd around me grew quiet. I could feel the travelers stop in front of me. Then I heard him (Jesus) tell the crowd to call me. The voices that had tried to silence me now were encouraging me, and telling me I had nothing to fear. I did not need their encouragement. Once I heard his voice, I leapt to my feet and threw off my heavy cloak, which was my protection from the world. For a moment I worried what would happen if I could not find my cloak again. It was the only one I had. But it did not matter. He was here and he had called me.
He asked me….me…what I wanted him to do for me. No one had ever asked me that before. No one cared what I wanted. I said, “My teacher, let me see again.” It’s not just that I wanted to see…I wanted to see him. I thought, if I could see this man –If I could see him, even for a moment, I would be whole. Then Jesus told me the last thing I ever expected, “Go; your faith has made you well.” My faith. He was able to see something in me that I could not see, my faith, the faith I thought I had lost—that was what let me see again.
Suddenly the darkness that had been my sole companion was swept away and there was his face. His eyes. Compassion, love, mercy, salvation. I could see it all in his eyes. I knew then that he was more than a miracle worker. He was more than a teacher or a rabble rouser. He was holy and I promised myself that I would never lose sight of him again. He did not say another word. He turned and continued on the road to Jerusalem, the place he would die. He walked and I followed. I would follow him wherever he went.