The setting for this periscope is the road to Jerusalem for pilgrims. It was customary for Rabbis to preach to their congregates along the way. People would gather along the road to listen to the preachers. A man who was blind heard the crowds and asked who was the source of the disturbance? He was told it was Jesus of Nazareth who was the source of the commotion.
The Gospel of Mark tells us his name was “Bartimaeus” that is “the Son of Timaeus. “ There is little we know of this man, except he was persistent in his wanting to see Jesus. Even after the disciples “rebuked him” “sternly ordered” him to be silent, he ignored their orders and cried out all the louder. His first shout was an ordinary loud cry . His subsequent cries were really screams resembling the agonizing cry of those who were deranged (4:41 and 9:39). Bartimaeus cries brought Jesus to a stop!
When Jesus called for Bartimaeus to come to him, Bartimaeus “flung off” his tunic and ran to Jesus’ side, even before he received his sight! The honorific title he gave Jesus was “Son of David!” The title “Son of David” is not a title Jesus claimed for himself. This title is used only twice in the synoptics once here in Luke’s Gospel and once in the Gospel of Mark. It was problematic for Jesus and his followers to use this title, because it had political overtones which made Jesus unpopular with the Jewish leadership as well as with the Roman authorities.
What made Bartimaeus so important is that he knew the importance of silence, and of faith. He demonstrates for us the power of pleas for God’s mercy, as well as, the assurance of God’s readiness to respond to us when we cry out for God’s mercy. What is sad about Bartimaeus’ blindness is that he was utterly helpless in his affliction.
There are times in our lives that we feel there is no freedom from our inner darkness. Bartimaeus teaches us that we are never totally helpless. God is the great Listener. God stops and answers our pleas and prayers.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.