Picture the commotion and busyness of a commuter rail or train station during high traffic hours; perhaps the beginning of the day, lunchtime, or early evening. Now imagine what it might be like if you sat on the ground and closed your eyes as people continued about their business. What would it be like to hear all the noise around you and maybe even to have people bumping into you or falling over you as they went about their way?
Personally, I don’t think I would be able to keep my eyes closed. What if I had no choice though?
As I reflect on the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar in the Gospel according to Mark (chapter 10, verses 46-52), I find it interesting how Bartimaeus, a blind man and a beggar, who is probably not a sight for sore eyes, can recognize the truth and see more clearly than those who have their sight.
I wonder, even though I have my sight, are there people or things that I choose not to see or that I readily look past or dismiss as not being important? What would it be like if I looked more closely and gave them further consideration?
I imagine the crowd, or at least a good number of them, is used to seeing Bartimaeus begging at the roadside and has probably learned to look past him. Maybe the only reason they notice him today is because he is louder or more assertive than usual. They don’t see today as being any different in terms of Bartimaeus’ role. He’s the blind beggar to them, and he could never be, or do, anything else.
Jesus doesn’t look past Bartimaeus though. Jesus isn’t dismissive of him the way the crowd is. To Jesus, Bartimaeus is much more than his blindness. And to Bartimaeus, Jesus is much more than a teacher, or a miracle worker. He is his Savior. Bartimaeus knows it in his heart and soul even before his sight is restored.
So even though Bartimaeus cannot see where Jesus is and people around him are trying to shut him up, he is not distracted from the truth. Bartimaeus wants to see and he knows that Jesus can help him to see. He is persistent and holds on to his desire (to see Jesus, who is the Truth, the Life, the Light and the Way).
Jesus hears Bartimaeus and beckons him. Bartimaeus listens and responds. He still can’t see where Jesus is at this point, but his faith has enabled him to see…to know…to believe who Jesus is.
Next, Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus doesn’t make any assumptions about Bartimaeus, the way the crowd does. He allows Bartimaeus to be who he is and to express in his own words and in his own way, what it is that he desires of Jesus. There is freedom within the relationship, thru and thru. How wonderful!?!
This is something we see time and again throughout the Gospels. Jesus doesn’t force himself on others, but he does avail himself, and all He embodies (love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and more) to those who are downtrodden, to those who call out to Him, and to those who approach Him, bearing their heart and soul, with faith, and with an openness. Jesus meets them, and us, where we are, up close and personal. Without judgment, without reservation, and He gives us the freedom to be who we are. Wanting to be a source of hope and promise, strength and courage. Encouraging us and helping us to face and to get through, or at times to completely overcome, whatever the obstacle, whatever the hurdle, whatever the challenge we have.
How can we do the same for others? What gets in the way?