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Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
This is the Gospel reading to be read aloud by a priest on the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 25], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will follow one of two pairs of Old Testament and Psalm reading, either Track 1 or Track 2. Depending on the path predetermined for an individual church, the Track 1 route will offer a reading from Job 42, where Job told Yahweh, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Psalm 34 then sings, “I will bless Yahweh at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.” Track 2 will offer a reading from Jeremiah 31, where Yahweh said, “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.” Psalm 126 then sings, “Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.” One of those two sets will precede a reading from Hebrews, where Paul wrote, “Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.”
I wrote about this reading selection when it last came up in the lectionary cycle (2018) and I posted my observations on my website at that time. I have made that article available for viewing by clicking on this link. Since I wrote that, as I wrote the book entitled The Star of Bethlehem: The Timing of the Life of Jesus my research for that book had me learn more about the man born blind, whom Jesus healed on a Sabbath. That man’s name was Sidonius. I have written a post for another blog, which has links to background sites, which can be viewed by clicking on this link. Because of those findings, I have come to see this short reading from Mark in a greater light, one that makes it become firmly set among the other readings it is read with. For that reason, I will now add new insight to this reading.
In Luke 18:35-43 and Matthew 20:29-34 are other accounts of this healing of a blind beggar. Both give slightly different accounts of this event. Neither of the other accounts mention a name for a blind beggar. Matthew says there were “two blind” (from “dyo typhloi”), which implies there were “two” beggars who were “blind.” This makes it important to realize that Mark’s Gospel name the blind beggar.
When we read in Mark’s Gospel, “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus,” the name Bartimaeus means “Son of Timaeus.” Timaeus means “Highly Prized,” and it is related in meaning to the name Timothy. Timothy was not a known disciple of Jesus; but the name became prominent as a convert and partner in ministry with Paul. Still, the naming here by Mark (who wrote the account of Simon Peter) becomes a statement that Peter came to know Bartimaeus closely. This makes this become relative of the information I found out about Sidonius, as simply being healed by Jesus was not a one-time windfall in one’s life, but the beginning of a remaining life-long commitment to service to Yahweh, as true Christians.
The last words of this reading are the indication of this, as Mark wrote, “followed him on the way.” The Greek of that segment of words is: “ēkolouthei autō en tē hodō,” which can be literally translated to state, “he began accompanying same among this journey.” When the word “autō” is realized to be more than the simple pronoun “him,” being able to translate as “self” or “the same,” that translation adds to this “following,” saying Bartimaeus was not the only one to do this after being healed by Jesus. All three Gospel writers agree that Bartimaeus followed Jesus out of Jericho; and, this should be seen as “the same” as the man born blind, who also followed Jesus after healing.
Sidonius was the man born blind. He is also known as Sidonius of Aix. Aix is a coastal commune in France (then Gaul). It is now called Aix-en-Provence, which is a region of southeastern France. It is roughly seventy miles to the east of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It should be realized that southern France is not close to Judea or Jerusalem; but the history of Sidonius of Aix is known to be that of the man born blind, who Jesus healed. Sidonius of Aix was one of the early saints of Christianity.
In my research, I found that Sidonius had become a willing servant in the house of Mary Magdalene, Martha and Lazarus. The word “Bethany” means “House of cohabitation,” from “beth-'ona.” [Ref.: Abarim Publications] As a servant willingly assisting in the maintenance of that household, when Lazarus became ill and the two women needed to send a message to Jesus, Sidonius would have been the one to send. From Bethany to the place where Jesus was known to be spending the winter, beyond the Jordan, the path would have gone through Jericho, going and coming.
For a man born blind to then be healed miraculously by Jesus see a blind beggar in Jericho (or more than one), it would have been his ‘Christian’ mission to stop and talk with Bartimaeus, telling him his story of cure. Like Peter and John of Zebedee came upon the lame man outside the Temple in Jerusalem, when Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise,” one would expect Sidonius also had no money to give. Instead, he gave more than money by telling Bartimaeus to expect Jesus of Nazareth to come by soon. He would have told him, “He healed me. He can heal you too.”
The story told by Mark is simple. Three Gospel writers tell the same basic thing; but none of them explain how Bartimaeus knew anything about Jesus of Nazareth, being able to call him the son of David. It leaves the impression that Bartimaeus was divinely inspired to know Jesus was there, when the aspect Matthew presents of “two” could mean that Bartimaeus had someone (who probably was not blind, but a relative who also suffered the stigma of being related to one who was blind) with him as his ‘lookout.’ Two sets of ears are greater than one set, when listening for murmurs by a crowd who would have recognized Jesus of Nazareth and mentioned his name when Jesus and his entourage began to walk through town.
It should be realized that Jericho was not a Jewish stronghold. It was a town where many travelers, of all kinds, crossed the Jordan and rested, before beginning the ascent along the Jericho road, towards Jerusalem. There are no other stories of Jesus healing anyone in Jericho. That says Jesus would not have been a household name in such a melting pot place. This makes it possible that the second person with Bartimaeus was asking question about who was there, when an entourage passed through. Here, it is important to realize that Jesus was not going to Bethany in a rush to save Lazarus; he was going to be close to Jerusalem because the Passover was nearing. Therefore, the road through Jericho would have been routinely filled with pilgrims on their way there, for that purpose.
To know this story and backstory then helps one see how this relatively short and simple reading is a perfect match for the other readings today. First, Job has to be seen as symbolic of Bartimaeus, in the sense that Job’s prayers had been answered, so he was again able to talk to Yahweh, expressing his relief to finally have a bad period of suffering behind him. Bartimaeus had his conversation with Yahweh when he threw off his coat, sprang up and went to Jesus. Having regained his sight meant he communicated with Yahweh by following Jesus, another of the healed becoming willing servants of Yahweh.
In the story of Jeremiah we find Yahweh speaking to His prophet, telling him to rejoice that Yahweh would be saving the people of Jacob, who were the remnant of Israel. In that, Jacob was the name of the sinner born of Isaac, whose name means “Supplanter” or “He who holds his brother’s heel,” which means he took what he wanted, in a selfish state of existence. The people of Jacob were those whose Northern Kingdom was destroyed and its people scattered to the ends of the earth. Israel, however, was the name given to Jacob after his soul married Yahweh, meaning “He Retains Yahweh” as one of Yahweh’s elohim” (one “el”). The “remnant of Israel” was saying Yahweh would save them, “among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here” (with “here” being with Yahweh).
Jesus told a Gentile women, “I have come only for the lost sheep of Israel,” which means Jesus is the hand of Yahweh prophesied to come by Jeremiah. It says Bartimaeus was named “Highly Prized” or “Son of Honor” because he was a “remnant of Israel.” Like Job, Bartimaeus had been blinded unjustly, but it was his faith that knew he had not sinned. This means Bartimaeus was a soul married to Yahweh that had become blinded as a test. Yahweh sent Sidonius to forewarn him that the Son of Yahweh – a “son of David” – was coming soon and he had the powers of salvation. Only a man whose soul was married to Yahweh would then have the faith to hear that prophecy and believe it to be true. Thus, when Jesus came and heard the cries for salvation, Jesus knew he had found “one of the lost sheep of Israel,” who his Father had promised to save.
This makes Bartimaeus one who rejoiced like David, who sang, “I sought Yahweh, and he answered me and delivered me out of all my terror.” That song of praise matches both Job’s story and that of Bartimaeus. It also makes him sing like David: “Restore our fortunes, Yahweh, like the watercourses of the Negev. Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.” The song of rejoicing by David foretold not only the promise of Yahweh through Jeremiah, but also the joy that filled the heart of Bartimaeus, who then followed Jesus as a servant of the Father.
Finally, the joy of Bartimaeus being saved is like Paul writing, “Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” This says Bartimaeus was a beggar by circumstances, as before he had been a man of means, with great faith. Perhaps he had been a rabbi or teacher that promoted adherence to the Law, living his life devoutly … until some accident befell him. Most likely, it was an unjust attack, like that of Satan against Job; but Bartimaeus prayed to Yahweh for forgiveness, as did Job. Jesus then became the intercessor that came to Bartimaeus, not as one who saves, but as an angel of Yahweh, sent to deliver the message, “You faith has made you well.”
Seeing this story in this light, Bartimaeus must be seen as how all readers of Scripture are. They are blind to the truth the words hold. Only those who have faith will know the truth will be exposed to them, as long as they continue to ask Yahweh to forgive them for not being able to see His truth. The intercessor is then the coming of Jesus, after one’s soul has married Yahweh’s Spirit, so one’s cleansed soul can become the place where the soul of Jesus resurrects. Jesus comes into one’s being as the high priest to guide one’s new life with crystal clear vision of Yahweh’s truth. One bows down to this most holy presence, becoming the keeper of the temple, who does as the high priest commands. In this way one lives up to the name: Highly Prized or Son of Honor.
As the Gospel reading to be read aloud on the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for Yahweh should already be well underway, the lesson here is to have the faith of Bartimaeus and be willing to submit one’s soul to Yahweh and be reborn as His Son (a Christ), where “two” becomes symbolic of one’s soul being joined with the soul of Jesus. The sight of a saint is not from one’s own brain, but from the Mind of Christ, which allows one to see in ways that often found themselves blind, when the truth was right before the eyes. One needs to commit to Yahweh and see the truth, so the truth can go to those lost sheep of Israel seeking to be saved. One must be reborn as Jesus, so one becomes the intercessor for others to find the hope of their prayers answered.