The selection from Mark 10:46-52 was probably a healing story narrated from the point of view of the blind man who was healed and then rewritten in Mark as a story of faith. Thus we may have here an instance of a personal testimony of faith that was incorporated into Mark’s gospel.
Bartimaeus means “Son of Timaeus”. He was a beggar whom people brought to his place beside the road leading to Jerusalem. He would sit there day by day on his cloak and receive the alms of people. One particular day he heard that Jesus the wonder worker from Galilee was passing by. So he cried out to him, asking for mercy. He called him “Son of David”, for wasn’t he the Messiah?
“Son of David, have mercy on me.” It was a cry of faith. Bartimaeus had his sight restored that day. His story is a story of faith: the story of a Jew who was converted to Christ because of healing received. While the mother-in-law of Peter served Jesus and his companions after being healed of a fever, Bartimaeus with his eyes restored became a disciple of Jesus at the very moment when Jesus was about to walk into Jerusalem and onto the Cross of Good Friday.
- That I May Have Eyes to See
- (Hebrews 5:1-6) High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek
- Jesus Heals the Blind Man, Bartimaeus
- Blind Spots (Mark 10:46-52)
- Not Easy To Follow
- A Study of Mark 10:46-52
Guide to the Reading
1. After making your sentence flow and outline of the story of Bartimaeus’s healing, ask yourself is this a healing miracle story? For the answer to this question, compare Bartimaeus’ story with the one in Mark 7:31-37 and in Mark 8:22-26. Remember that a healing miracle has the following elements (drawn from the story of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law):
(a) people draw Jesus’ attention to someone who needs healing
(b) Jesus’ gesture
(c) the effect of the gesture on the one being healed
(d) the reaction — either of the crowd or the one being healed
2. Below are some things in the text that need to be understood for a better understanding of the account:
2.1. Jericho. Jericho is one of the more famous cities mentioned in the Bible. It is mentioned in Joshua and connected to the Israelite “invasion” of the promised land. The Jericho of the New Testament is not found in the location of its more ancient predecessor. As happens normally in Palestine as attested by the archaeological history of its towns and places, destroyed cities are rebuilt elsewhere although retaining the original name. The NT Jericho was located towards the south of the original location and in the time of Jesus was a gateway to Jerusalem. Herod built a vacation palace there.
2.2. “Son of David”. A pre-marcan title for Jesus. Gnilka (Das evangelium nach Marcus) informs us that on the lips of Bartimaeus, the invocation was intended as a profession of faith. It is a Messianic title, associated to the covenant with David according to which his dynasty will last forever through a Son. The “original” Son of David — Solomon — was known for his wisdom, was authoritative in teaching and had power over demons. But he was not expected to heal the sick. This last fact makes the invocation of the title as something Christian, not Jewish. People try to stop the blind man from shouting the title. Perhaps it was due to the fear of creating a commotion that will be interpreted as a cry for rebellion? In the story of Mark, the people’s attempt to stop the blind man from calling upon Jesus is a challenge to his faith.
2.3. “The robe/cloak”. “He threw aside his cloak” (NAB). The cloak was for the Jew a piece of garment that served a lot of purpose: it was used as a blanket for sleeping outdoors, and it was worn as protection against the sun when travelling. for a blind man begging along the road, it would have served as the mantle on which he sat and where people would throw their alms. So here we have Bartimaeus sitting on his cloak with the days’ alms and when Jesus calls him, he throws aside the cloak as he springs up. Gnilka takes it as an indication of great excitement. Perhaps it may also be interpreted as a symbol of Bartimaeus leaving his former life as he approaches Jesus?
2.4. “And he followed Jesus”. The word for the sequela is used here “he walked behind Jesus”. Bartimaeus became a disciple after his healing. He walks behind Jesus as this one goes to his passion.
Comparing the Readings
The first reading from Jeremiah 31 is an oracle about the return of the exiles of the Northern tribes. The joy that characterizes this event is a joy that derives from the Lord’s saving act. Jeremiah anticipates this return on the occassion of the renewal of the covenant at the time of Josiah. The relationship with the Gospel comes from the mention of “the blind and the lame” who will be part of the throng of returnees. Their return will be characterized with the consolations that only the Lord can give. The responsorial psalm echoes the theme of the return but now applied to all of Israel.
The second reading from Hebrews is not related to the first and Gospel readings. But during this Year for Priests, it can serve as an alternative theme for the homily. The priesthood of Christ is the sacramentalized in the priesthood of the ordained. The character of the sacrament itself obliges the ordained to conform himself to Christ the Good Shepherd so as to effectively bring His presence to the Church, His flock.
Suggestions for the Lesson
The story of Bartimaeus is a story of faith. The elements that should make it a healing miracle — the gesture of Jesus, people presenting the sick — were taken out. The main lines of the story are: (a) the faith professed by Bartimaeus (b) the challenge to that faith which he overcomes (c) the pronouncement of Jesus, and (d) Bartimaeus following him on the way to this passion and death. In this sense, the illumination of Bartimaeus’ eyes can be symbolically interpreted as the illumination one receives in baptism. Bartimaeus already had faith in Jesus as the “Son of David” and it was a faith that was challenged but not overcome. In the end, he walks behind Jesus as a disciple.
The relationship of Bartimaeus’ story with that of the unnamed blind man in Mark 8:22-26 can be presented alongside this story. Both stories act as a frame around the Confession of Peter (Mark 8:27-38). Before Peter and the disciples can “see” Jesus for what He is, the Suffering Messiah, they must first have their eyes healed like the blind man of Bethsaida and Bartimaeus. Only with their eyes healed — such as done in the sacrament of ïllumination (baptism) — can they, like Bartimaeus, walk behind Jesus towards the cross.