Bartimaeus lived in the night. As a blind man, the darkness was constant and unrelenting and had simply become normal life. Daily he would spread his garment across his legs and sit in the dust by the side of a busy road. His other senses would have been heightened- listening to people mutter, complain, laugh. Sometimes dust would get kicked in his face, other times, a coin or two was tossed his way. On this morning, life swirled around him and his excitement grew as he picked up the undertones of frenzy in the air. Children running, mothers ‘shushing’ crying babies as they moved with the crowd, rumors of miracles, healings, unearthly power used for the deliverance of commoners! Bartimaeus had nothing to lose; he cried out loudly over and over until Jesus summoned him! Time stood still as Bartimaeus was guided through the crowd and Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The disciples had been with Jesus for three years now. They were used to the large crowds that flocked around them… and ur, Jesus. It’s like they hadn’t even heard Jesus’ talk about death and were beginning to imagine what it would look like when Jesus overthrew the Roman empire. James and John pulled Jesus aside before the frenzy got too rushed and tell him to grant their request and so Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” The request, audacious in nature even for the disciples, is to sit at either side of his throne, places of ultimate political power, glory and honor!
Two Pivotal Questions
Being a follower of Jesus requires us to wrestle with two questions, non-negotiables for joining the journey. The first question is “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8) Bartimaeus and the disciples have correctly identified who Jesus is: the Messiah, the Son of David, the only one in all of history and creation who can bring redemption, forgiveness and purpose to our lives! But the next question, “What do you want me to do for you?” is even more revealing.
In Mark 10:46- 52, Bartimaeus is a beggar, a ‘shameful’ person, but named as honorable. Jesus’ question poses both a test and invitation, he could ask for alms, but in a bold request, he asked to see! Evans states, “Bartimaeus has been transformed from a helpless man who was going nowhere to a restored man who sets out on the road of discipleship.” The greatest gift that the beggar gives us, is that he knew his condition and dared asked Jesus for more. When our desire is to see Jesus and follow him – God always gives us more.
Less we miss it, the nature of discipleship is contrary to the definition of our surrounding culture. Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mk 10:43,44) The disciples, though physically seeing were spiritually blind. A marginalized, physically blind man on the outskirts of society, was filled with spiritual insight and his faith moved him forward. The irony of blindness and sight, darkness and light, being lost on a worldly highway or being found in a kingdom pathway is not lost on us today.
To get on the road one must be able to correctly answer Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” But thereafter, one must be ready to answer, “What do you want me to do for you?” The first will determine if and who we follow, but the second will reveal what we are truly after.