Sometimes as we study the Bible we hear about these great men and women, and think “That’s great, but I know...I’m no Moses, or King David, or Paul.” While the men and women we will be looking at are mentioned only once that doesn’t negate what they did for the Kingdom of God. They stepped up when God called and proved that there is no such thing as a small task in the Kingdom of God.
The guy we are talking about today could have been one of those guys. As we will talk about in a minute, Bartimaeus is a little known, often overlooked character in the Bible, but he stepped up when Jesus called.
It is easy to overlook people like Bartimaeus. We overlook people all the time. We live in a time that is “connected” more than ever before, and yet people feel more and more alone...and disconnected. But Bartimaeus refused to be overlooked and it changed the course of His life.
Jesus is travelling with his disciples on the way to Jerusalem where He will be beaten and crucified, and this story is the final story before Jesus enters Jerusalem.
Mark as a writer does something very interesting. From Mark 8:22-10:52 Jesus is talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and what His Kingdom will look like. Mark only tells the story of two men receiving sight from their blindness, and those stories serves as bookends to this section on discipleship.
He opens this section in Mark 8:22 with a story of a blind man receiving his sight...but not completely at first. Jesus spits in some mud and rubs it on the man’s eyes, but when Jesus asks if he can see...the man only sees shadows and blurry figures walking around. So Jesus puts his on the man’s eyes, and his sight is restored.
Then we have this section where Jesus repeatedly explains and demonstrates what it means to be his disciple, but just like the blind man in Mark 8:22 Jesus’ disciples are blinded by their expectations of who Jesus is and what He is supposed to be. They only seem to be able to catch true discipleship in shadows...as though it is just blurry images wandering around in front of them.
And then we come to this story where a blind man is completely healed. While all those with Jesus miss it... Bartimaeus, a blind outsider, seems to understand what is going on, and follows Jesus straight into Jerusalem.
Let’s look at Mark 10:46-52,
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
If Jesus’ disciples don’t understand the full meaning of what it means to follow Him...if they don’t yet understand who Jesus is and what He is about to do...they will. And this passage teaches us some important things about following Jesus...even when it leads us straight into Jerusalem where we know He is going to be beaten and killed.
Bartimaeus serves as an example of true discipleship in the Gospel of Mark.
The first thing we see is in Bartimaeus is that...
1. We have to overcome our problem.
Mark 10:46 says that as Jesus entered Jericho, “...a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.”
Here is a man who has been blind his entire life. In that culture and time, begging was his only way to earn money because there was no affirmative action. There were no laws against discriminating against the handicapped. So he is sitting by the main road where hundreds of travellers would pass during this time of year on their way to Jerusalem for Passover begging for anything they could spare...so he could eat.
And we can see right away that Bartimaeus faces an uphill climb not just with his blindness. The name given here, Bartimaeus, is not a real name. Literally translated it means Son of Timaeus. No one takes the time to learn this man’s name...everyone simply called him the blind son of Timeaus. In their eyes he was nothing more than a blind beggar...not worthy for them to even learn his name.
Bartimaeus wanted what Jesus had so badly he was not going to stay in the box society had created for him. He was not going to be defined by his problem.
There are so many times, though, where we allow our problems to define us. So many people fail to live up to God’s call on their life because they won’t push past their handicap. They are content to let their “ailment” define them.
“I could never do that in public...”
“God could never use me like that...”
“I would never feel comfortable doing that...”
“I’m too shy...I’m too afraid...What would others think of me...”
Jesus healed many people throughout his ministry, but he always required one thing. He required them to take the first step. We have to be willing to step out. Jesus never forces us to accept what He is offering. He never forces us to take the first step. But he also never gives the blessings and rewards to those who are unwilling to step out in faith and receive them from His hands.
So just like Bartimaeus
2. We have to push through the resistance.
This blind man has no doubt heard of the miracles Jesus has been doing. Healing the sick and raising the dead, and even healing a blind man. People everywhere are talking about it.
So Bartimaeus calls at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He calls out over and over and over. Some people glare at him with that, “How annoying can you be look” that I get from Lori all the time. Others were bold enough to tell him to shut up. Jesus is an important man, and doesn’t want anything to do with the likes of you.
So Bartimaeus is faced with two pretty tough problems. He not only has to overcome his own problem which is really a struggle inside himself, but then he has to push past the resistance of the people around him.
There is this psychological phenomenon that takes place when a person steps out of the mold others have for them...they exert social, verbal, financial pressure on them to keep them in that mold.
Family members say, “So you think you are better than us because you got that college degree.” Friends will say, “So you got religion? You think you are better than us now?” This is why the family members of addicts need counseling...when the person is no longer an addict the family membes respond, often unknowingly, in ways that push the person back into addiction because the status quo has been disrupted...as dysfunctional as it was.
When you and I seek after God and pursue his plan for us...there will be resistance. There will be resistance in the physical world from friends, family, employers, and there will be resistance in the spiritual world.
There are two things I have seen over and over that serve as examples...
A. There is something about the adventure and challenge of planting a church that really gets the spiritual juices going for a guy. He may have been uninvolved and even resistant in his old church, but now he is challenged, and wants to be a part of what God is doing...but then He talks to his wife. While strengthening and challenging the spiritual growth of the man...this decision requires sacrifice from the wife. She would rather attend the church where she feels comfortable.
What she can unknowingly do is resist the work of God in her husband’s life, and rather than see what a spiritually alive husband and father would mean for the family she resists. So she either comes along, but makes his life miserable for “ruining the family” or he relents because of what is “best for the family” and sits back in the pew and goes into a spiritual coma.
B. The other things I see is how every time someone takes a step of faith...moves out toward what God wants to do with them with the local church...Satan brings temptation. But not temptation in the way you would think. We often think of temptation as Satan challenging us to do something bad or sinful, but Satan’s greatest tool of temptation is to present us with something good in place of something great.
A person steps up in leadership or feels God calling them to something deeper in their local church...and then there is that church or that ministry or this great opportunity in which everyone is growing closer to God...and just imagine what it would do for them if they were there. So rather than stick with the hard work of discipleship as God has laid out for them, they try to short cut it or they move on before God has a chance to really start working in them.
And the way we really reach our true discipleship potential is to push through the resistance and
3. Toss aside anything that hinders.
When Jesus stopped and called for Bartimaeus, he throws his cloak aside, jumps to his feet, and runs to Jesus. He throws that cloak aside because he doesn’t want anything tripping him up.
What an amazing response! I want to be able to respond to the work of God like that. Believing and trusting in the goodness of God so much that I jump to my feet and run when He calls.
But what usually happens is that we hold on to this or that “cloak” that really trips us up. The young man wanted to hold on to his wealth...the disciples wanted to hold on to their struggle for power...Nothing detours and destroys our discipleship more than holding on to stuff that hinders. We have stuff we want to hold on to, but it will only trip us up and keep us from reaching what we really need and want from Jesus.
Like I said last week...our stuff can keep us from God. Bartimaeus was smart enough to toss his aside. And not only does he toss it aside...he runs right up to Jesus and
4. Asks boldly for what he wants.
Mark 10:51 says, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
He wasn’t shy...he wasn’t holding back. He wanted to see. He didn’t just want to overcome his problems...he wanted healing...and Bartimaeus boldly asked Jesus for the freedom he needed.
We would do well to lean boldness. To be direct with God. There are sins and things we struggle with simply because we are not bold enough to ask Jesus for freedom. It can be like someone who continually pushes their tongue into the sore spot on their cheek. Or touches the place on their hand that is hurting. They don’t like the pain...but they kind of like the pain.
We must realize how destructive sin is, and seek to be free from it. Our ailments and blindness and sin keep us from pursuing God and being all that He wants for us...they keep us from taking our rightful spot in fulfilling the Kingdom of God.
I believe that God has a special role for each person to play in building His Kingdom. You have something you can do that will extend God’s Kingdom. You just have to ask. I just have to ask.
There have been times in my life where I have had no clue what God wanted from me or where he was leading...or what was holding me back. So my first act was to boldly ask where he was leading.
But when I did, I like Bartimaeus was able to
5. Follow Jesus
Once Bartimaeus is healed, Jesus says, “Go, your faith has healed you.” But rather than go...Bartimaeus follows. Bartimaeus uses his freedom to follow Jesus right into Jerusalem.
When you and I face the internal challenges of our problems...push through the resistance...toss aside anything that hinders...and then boldly ask God for healing...then, with the clarity of someone healed from blindness we are able to follow Jesus.
Our healings, blessings, wealth, talents are given not to use on ourselves. Jesus gives us these things so we can follow Him whole-heartedly.
The ultimate purpose of all God gives us is to expand the Kingdom of God. Imagine what our church would look like if each of us overcame our internal problems...pushed through the resistance...flung aside all that hindered us and boldly asked God to release us into service for His Kingdom.
What if we used our gifts and talents to serve...what if we gave of our wealth for others...what if we prayed for our community like we believed there was a hell...God places each of us here not just so we can grow spiritually, but so we can grow spiritually for the benefit of our world and His Kingdom.