Reading: Mark 10:46-52
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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
The journey is all but over. Jerusalem is now within touching distance. But we stop as Jesus and his disciples did. There is one more thing before we enter the city and all that will follow on from there. Ingrid and I visited Jericho when we visited the Holy Land as we journeyed South to North, Jerusalem to Tiberius. The account of the giving of sight also appears in Matthew and Luke. Matthew tells us there were two blind men sitting by the roadside but we are given no names. Luke tells us it happened as Jesus approached Jericho, there was one blind man and he was begging but still there is no name and then he tells us that well-known story of Zaccheus climbing up the tree to see Jesus passing by, an account that none of the other gospels has. Mark by contrast tells us they were leaving and the man’s name was Bartimaeus who was sitting begging. I said during the first sermon in this journey that some critics question, what appears on the surface, to be different or conflicting gospel accounts. You may remember I said that 90% of the Gospel according to Mark appears somewhere in the other three gospels. Mark becomes the source material, the others have the same gospel but their message is to different audiences. Different people communicate in different ways. Different people receive information in different ways. For some minimal is ample yet for others every minute detail is required. Add in to that mix how we ourselves witness events then retell the story with quite different detail from one another either included or omitted. Was it a red saloon or estate car? Was the man wearing a brown hat or black hat or no hat at all in fact was it not a woman rather that a man. Some detail is important, some is surplus. The important thing in this giving of sight is that the main event is consistent across the board. Bartimaeus or unnamed men know who Jesus is ‘Jesus son of David’ they all declare and mercy is what is asked of Jesus. In all three accounts Jesus accepts that messianic title ‘Son of David.’ We are introduced to this in the book of the prophet Jeremiah
Chapter twenty-three, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” God had Promised David, long before this, that a descendant of his would always rule Israel. The ones who followed David fell well short of the position they held. Jeremiah says that a good king will come and replace them all. This king will be the messiah. Later this title will be part of the dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees. Bartimaeus, being a Jew could make his appeal in such a way that a gentile could not. Calling on Jesus in such a way was in itself an expression of faith. This blind man begs for pity at the mercy of Jesus he claims nothing other than healing which would be associated with messianic blessings that would be brought by David’s son. Jesus asks him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The crowd may well have expected a beggar to ask for money. Jesus make sure they know that this is not the plea from Batimaeus. Immediately the man received his sight. This is vitally important, particularly in Mark’s account, as we have seen before on several occasions, those who witness a glimpse of who Jesus truly is he tells them go and tell no one. He does it with the disciples and remember he did it with the other account of healing a blind man in chapter eight a few weeks ago. All three gospels take us from Jericho onto the entry into Jerusalem. Mark uses this particular story as a bridge to Jerusalem and the final part of the journey. The blind man who sees Jesus for who he truly is and is given his sight whilst those who have their sight, do not recognise the Son of David, remain blind. From next Sunday and through Holy Week we will witness this being played out over and over again. Jesus will travel from Jericho to Jerusalem but his intention is very different from what those around him are expecting. The centuries old home of the prophet and the priest, the centre of religious life for the people of God. Jesus is about to take issue in the name of God with the corruption and travesty of faith and morality for which the religious leaders must be held to account. Ordinary people were being kept from the kingdom and denied the light of the gospel.