Updated: Feb 5
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 selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 25. It will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a priest on Sunday October 28, 2018. It is important because it tells of the healing of a blind beggar, who symbolizes all those who would follow Jesus as Apostles, due to their faith raised in the presence of Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to be upon them.
The setting in this reading is Jesus is returning to Bethany (in Judea) from across the Jordan River. The return takes him naturally through Jericho. When we read, “[Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho,” it should be realized that all of the regions surrounding Jerusalem had been filling up with Jewish and Israelite pilgrims, because of the soon approaching Passover festival. Jesus was returning to Bethany because he had received news that Lazarus (his brother-in-law) had become gravely ill.
The crowd that Jesus walked with, for the most part, was not followers of Jesus. Those in Jericho knew of him because Jesus had made himself known as a teacher in the region of Perea, especially in Bethany (beyond the Jordan).
It is also worthwhile to know that Matthew and Luke also wrote about this event that Mark tells. John did not write of it because he was too young to go on an extended trip across the Jordan. He stayed at home in Bethany, with his mother, aunt and uncle, waiting for Jesus to come back. Mother Mary (and her other sons) and the disciples (and their families) did not follow Jesus to Bethany (in Judea), as is seen in the fact that no one other than John would write about Jesus raising Lazarus (his brother-in-law) to life. Lazarus was raised after being dead four days and stinking of death. That event was quite special; so absence is the only reason the others did not write about that miracle. They did not witness it.
In this miracle that was witnessed by three of the Gospel writers, Mark names “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus,” and calls him “a blind beggar.” Matthew says there were “two blind [men],” naming no one. Luke [Mary’s account] writes of “a blind [man] certain,” in the singular number, with “certain (from “tis”) being an indication that a blind man was known, in some way.
The name stated by Mark is redundant (as an aside clarifying the name), such that “Bar-timaeus” means “son of Timaeus.” The name Timaeus is believed to be Greek, meaning “Highly Prized.” This would mean “Bartimaeus” was named by his father as a “Son of Honor.”
Some say that the name could be rooted in Hebrew, because of the redundancy factor yielding no meaning of merit. As such, the Hebrew verb “tame,” when seen as the root, would change the name to meaning Son of Uncleanness or Son of the Unclean One. Since Bartimaeus did not say he had been blind since birth, that history could mean a name with dual meanings, to fit the life he grew into. That view would allow for him being a highly valued baby when born, but due to some later factor (perhaps working in an unclean environment caused cataracts to grow?) he went blind.
If there were indeed two blind beggars in the same place on the side of the Jericho road (as Matthew’s account must be seen as true), then Bartimaeus might be a name generally given to blind beggars, by Peter or others in common, to identify blindness as a sin of unclean living. That was somewhat the opinion the Pharisees had when Jesus healed a blind man from birth (who also begged), putting mud on his eyes on a Sabbath, telling him to wash the mud off in the pool of “Sent.” (John 9) Even when the man was able to see (thus no longer a sinner), the Pharisees threw him out of the Temple for giving credit to Jesus for being able to see. As such, each of two blind beggars could have been referred to a Bartimaeus, which would then be a “certain” term commonly used.
Regardless of the name stated, Mark tells us that when the beggar “heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth,” this was due to a crowd passing being louder than normal, prompting those without eyesight to ask, “What’s going on?” While Matthew is similar to Mark in the generality of what the beggar(s) heard, Luke makes it clear that they asked and were told what Mark said they heard. Still, while being told that “Jesus of Nazareth” was passing by, when he was just one in a “large crowd,” that would only have meaning to those who had heard Jesus give public sermons.
Any healings that Jesus might have done along the Jericho road (where one can assume the blind beggar had been for some time), or in Jericho, were not written of by his disciples. Only through the rumor mill would Bartimaeus have known who Jesus of Nazareth was. It would be wrong to assume that the blind beggar(s) had traveled to Jericho to wait for Jesus, even though a traveler giving alms to the poor might have told him (them), “If a man named Jesus of Nazareth comes by here, then ask him to help. He is a healer.”
When the beggar(s) began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” and again, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” this was not a call that was based on what they were told by bystanders with good eyes. The shout was based on what they “heard” from the Holy Spirit moving through him (them). The shouts were akin to when Peter blurted out, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) In other words, God was signaling His Son by those shouts, identifying Jesus as a descendant of the holy Davidic line. That was what Jesus heard.
The Lineage of Jesus Christ
It is important to know that the Greek word hollered by the blind man (men) that is translated as “Son” is “huios,” which is not capitalized. The lower-case spelling means a more accurate translation would be “descendant,” although figuratively the word could state “likeness.” Still, the translation as “son of David” has to be seen as coming from one whose blindness made him be known as a “Son of Uncleanness,” from a man who wanted to be returned to a “Son Highly Prized.” God knew this blind man’s heart and God knew it was time to return eyesight to a man that spoke the words of God, without regard for those rebuking him to doing so.
When Bartimaeus (and another) are said to have twice shouted out, “Have mercy on me (us),” all Gospel writers used the Greek word “eleēson,” which means “to have pity,” or “to show mercy.” The same word can imply the receipt of or the finding of mercy, when directed at someone asking for it.
The root word, “eleéō,” means “to show mercy as God defines it, i.e. as it accords with His truth (covenant) which expresses “God’s covenant-loyalty-mercy” (i.e. acting only on His terms).” [HELPS Word-studies] Thus, Jesus heard his name called, along with recognition of his holy lineage, with a plea that both requested help and stated an inner presence of God’s Holy Spirit in one of the onlookers.
This means that Jesus was not hearing over the loudness of a large crowd the voices of those making selfish requests. One can imagine that a large crowd of pilgrims were walking along with Jesus and his disciples and family (all headed generally towards Jerusalem) generated a parade-like effect, where the people on the sides of the road had heard Jesus speak in the synagogue of Jericho before and recognized him. Like it is when parades are held, recognizable people (celebrities) are asked to ride in convertible cars or fancy floats, simply to wave to the crowd. All the foreign pilgrims walking along with Jesus were just like the high school marching bands, Cub Scout troops, and local public servants in their cars and trucks (with lights flashing), where the bystanders did not know those people. However, some of them recognized Jesus of Nazareth.
One would expect that when one of the known people was spotted, people would call out their names, as a friendly, “Hello!” No one would expect a parade to stop because a bystander recognized a celebrity and asked for an autograph. An obnoxious screamer in the crowd would be told to shut up.
This is how those near the blind beggar(s) rebuked his (their) cries, sternly ordering the man (men) to be quiet. Parade protocol does not allow for requests to be made of the paraders. Because of the din of the traffic was noisy, the people were annoyed at how loud the cries for attention were. The people got angry because the shouts were quite loud and (in their minds) unwarranted; but the common people of Jericho were not filled with the Holy Spirit.
We then read, “Jesus stood still,” where the actual Greek written begins with “Kai stas.” That is a capitalized adverb, joined with an verb, as a two-word statement that importantly states, “Namely stopped.” Before that segment of words identifies with “Jesus,” we need to grasp how the parade, the noise, the hubbub all kept moving along, but the one whose name had been called loudly then “stopped.”
The common conjunction “kai” usually means “and,” but when capitalized it becomes more than an important conjunction. The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon for “kai” states a third usage as such:
“3. It annexes epexegetically both words and sentences (καί epexegetical or ‘explicative’), so that it is equivalent to and indeed, namely.” This is: “A.); equivalent to and indeed, to make a climax, for and besides … our and this, and that, and that too, equivalent to especially,” [Thayer’s Greek Lexicon]
This flexibility of translation (and intent) being attached to what appears to be a new ‘sentence’ beginning with the word “And” is instead detailing the one called “son of David” and bridging to the one named “Jesus.” He was “especially called,” as “indeed” the one among the many, “besides” all the rest, thus “namely” Jesus was indicated. Based on the definition of “namely,” the “son of David” “specifically stopped,” as he was named “Jesus.”
The word “histémi,” from which “stas” is the past historic form, can actually translate as “Namely became a bystander.” It states the importance of “Jesus taking a stand,” rather than moving on by with the rest, ignoring the cries made from the bystanders.
It can be assumed that the large crowd on the same road as Jesus and his disciples (and families) did not come to a halt. They had not been spiritually called to “Stand still.” I imagine Jesus made his way to the side of the road, so those going to Jerusalem would not be blocked by him standing in their way [the parade must go on]. It would have been there that Jesus would instruct his disciples, “Call him here.” In reality, based on the Greek written, Jesus was not quoted. The text states that Jesus “commanded [the blind beggar] be brought to [Jesus].”
Neither Matthew nor Luke include the specifics that Peter recounted to Mark, such that he alone wrote, “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.”’ This means that Peter was one of the disciples sent to bring the blind beggar(s) to Jesus.
The capitalized Greek word “Tharsei” is written, which is translated as “Take heart.” The root word, “tharseó,” also means “good courage, good cheer, and emboldened.” The substitution of “heart” indicates the emotional plea made by the blind beggar(s) was heard and felt. The capitalization shows the importance given, which shows the strength of the blind beggar(s) cries. Bartimaeus moved Jesus by his heart touching the heart of Jesus, joining them emotionally.
This one-word statement of importance [again, realizing that every word of the Gospels is the Word of God, through an Apostle], is then followed by the command to “get up” or to “rise up.” It should be recalled [from past interpretations that use this word] that the word “egeiró” has more than the mundane meaning to getting up from a sitting position, as it means “wake up” and to “elevate.”
Wake up! It is time to be born again into a new day.
The symbolic aspect of waking makes it a command to rise from death, where sleeping has that double meaning too. Likewise, to become “raised,” in a spiritual sense, means to “rise above” the mundane to the heavenly, as were the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, Peter issued a second one-word statement relative to “Courage,” where heartfelt emotions had just elevated a lowly blind beggar (or two), saying, “be risen.”
Mark also is the only Gospel writer to indicate that the blind beggar(s) did anything other than be led to Jesus. Mark wrote (as translated in the reading), “So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” What was written, but untranslated as a word of unspoken value, is the capitalized word “Ho,” which is the article “The.” This is then followed by another unspoken word, “de,” which is routinely not a spoken word, seen in English as “a weak adversative particle, generally placed second in its clause.” [Strong’s Concordance]
One must see how those words were purposefully written by Mark, as directed by God, with the realization that they would not translate in Greek or English, as not having any spoken worth or value. Common people translate in common ways; but those led by God to understand holy Scripture see words that are key to understanding the cloak removal aspect.
Often “ho” is used to identify Jesus or God, such that it indicates “the[one]” who is God or the [one] who is Jesus. It is unnecessary to speak those words in reference to those who are important individuals; set apart by the factor of being “one” of a kind. Still, such words act to indicated “the” important singularity of “one.”
The word “de” is then more than a weak adversative particle, but a statement of conjunction that has joined with “The [one],” and that “having cast away.” As such, “de” makes sense appear from out of nowhere, as “on the other hand,” or “on top of this.” The word that was invisible “The [one] on the other hand having cast away the cloak of him,” says that the hand of God has become one with the blind beggar(s), removing his robe of insignificance.
We then read Mark having stated fully: “The [one] on the other hand having cast away the cloak of him , having risen up , he came to Jesus . ” Those series of word segments allows one to see both the mundane and the Spiritual.
As for the mundane, Jesus was traveling through Jericho before the commanded ritual of spring [Passover], so it might have been chilly in the shade of March [Roman calendar]. That would have required a sedentary beggar wear a cloak or outer robe for warmth. For a beggar (or two), one would expect this to be some rag for warmth, which was too unseemly for those with eyes, but good enough for a blind man (or two). When the blind beggar(s) was called to go to Jesus, his warmth came from within, causing him to toss aside his outer garment.
Even as that reality was witnessed, Peter told Mark that the blind beggar was Spiritually touched by Jesus welcoming him. It was then the hand of God that removed the cloak of invisibility the blind beggar (or two) had been forced to wear, as unclean and unwelcome. God raised him (them) to a higher spiritual state of being. In the truest sense of a “come to Jesus” experience, Bartimaeus went to Jesus.
When the parade has passed you by, the cloak of invisibility keeps the rejected from seeing those who ignore them.
Jesus was indeed quoted, once the blind beggar had been set before him, as he asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Here, one needs to remember how Jesus only spoke the truth of the Father. This means God asked, through Jesus, His Son, “Ask and you shall receive.” (Matthew 7:7) God had spoken those words through His Son when he spoke the truth during a sermon on the mount. Now, Jesus was making that promise become true to a blind beggar (or two).
Bartimaeus then said, “My teacher, let me see again.”
In both Matthew and Luke, the address of Jesus was written as “Lord,” (from the capitalized Greek “Kyrie”). Mark [as Peter] recalled the Aramaic word “Rabbouni” being used. That was the same address Mary Magdalene would use at the tomb of Jesus, when she recognized the ‘gardener’ she thought she was speaking to was the risen Jesus. (John 20:16) This has the same meaning as Kyrie, as both say “Master,” but it is a more personal address as “My teacher.”
One needs to see the blind beggar has not been a disciple of Jesus, so he has not been directly taught by his lessons of ministry. Because of the beggar’s affliction to his eyesight, he would not even be allowed into a synagogue to hear Jesus preach the meaning of the Torah. This means he had never been taught by Jesus, so the politeness of that address, as to why the beggar said “My teacher,” is what routinely is understood by Biblical readers. However, there is more to this address that needs to be caught.
First of all, we read of a Pharisee coming to Jesus and calling him “good Teacher,” where Mark wrote the capitalized Greek word “Didaskale,” meaning, “Teacher or Master.” (Mark 10:17) Jesus jumped all over that rich, young ruler about what gave him the idea he could call him “good.” The only reason the man could give, at that point, was, “Sorry. I was just being polite.” So being polite does not carry well here, where a blind beggar called Jesus “My teacher.”
It is then important to see the progression of events, based on the language written, for the second element of this address as “Rabboni.” We have been told to see the connection of the presence of God in the beggar’s heart [“Courage”]. His crying out “son of David” was divinely inspired, which caused Jesus to be “Namely stopped.” Peter told the beggar to be born anew [“awaken”], because God had removed the cloak that made a blind man be one his people had “cast away,” allowing him to be seen as worthy enough to be brought to Jesus. As such, Bartimaeus was reborn as Jesus by being in his presence, in the sense that both men then had the same higher thought. Instead of Bartimaeus’ own brain leading him, the beggar would forevermore depend on Jesus [who possessed the same Christ Mind] to be his Teacher within. Therefore, without having regained his sight, Bartimaeus had been taught Redemption and given Salvation by having become one with the Christ Spirit.
When he said, “let me see again,” or more precisely, “in order that I might regain my eyesight,” this is both a mundane request to see again, but it is also a Spiritual statement that prayed, “let the truth shine within me so I see the way.”
Just as there could have been others crying out for personal gains, with selfish intent, those pleas would have gone unheard by Jesus. God hears all the moans and groans of lament that are offered by the commoners of the world, but His ear is trained on those who pray to be part of His order of priests on earth. When the blind beggar(s) made this request, it was asking for a second chance, to prove a child of high values was named to serve the Lord with a vision for all to share.
Because that was asking Jesus for his permission to serve God, Jesus responded by saying, “Go.”
The capitalized Greek word “Hypage” made an important one-word statement that said, “Lead away under someone’s authority (mission, objective).” [HELPS Word-studies] That authority was God’s, as Bartimaus was sent into a mission of ministry. The root word is “hupagó,” which has a scope of meaning that is “depart, begone, or die,” where the important statement implies, “Be dead as a blind beggar and live as the eyes of God, so that others might see like you.”
Jesus then said to Bartimaeus, “your faith has made you well,” which he said to others that were healed in his presence. Again, the key word is “faith,” which is the translation of the Greek word “pistis.” The word also means, “belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, and faithfulness.” Its use implies that it “is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people.” [HELPS Word-studies] It is a derivative of the word “peithô,” meaning “be persuaded,” such that one has gone beyond simple belief (told to have faith) and become “persuaded” by personal experience to believe with trust and confidence.
As I once had a priest give an explanation of the difference between belief and faith, he said, “I once taught at the university and mentioned that I was a licensed pilot. At the beginning of each semester, I offered students to come and take a flight with me … and some would take me up on the offer. However, I would always remind them of that offer on a most worrisome weather day, when it was windy and stormy outside. I would tell them I was going to fly after class and ask for a show of hands who would like to go flying with me. No hands would ever raise. After a pause, I would look at them intently and say, ‘That is the difference between belief and faith. You believe I can fly. However, flying with me in stormy weather demands you have faith that I will not crash.”’
In the same way, Jesus told Bartimaeus, “You have proved your faith in God. In return, your eyes are no longer blinded.” Mark then wrote, “Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” Still, it must be realized that Bartimaeus did not simply walk on the Jericho road behind Jesus.
Having the faith to heal his own blindness meant having the faith of Jesus. Bartimaeus had picked up [“elevated”] his cross [“stake” for holding vines above the ground] and followed Jesus as one of his Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit from having been healed. He became one who was Christ reborn through the Teacher being within, after his uncleanliness had been cast away by the hand of God.
As the Gospel reading selection for the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one’s faith should be raised to the point of seeing the truth of Christ being born again – the message here is to be the one crying out for the Son of Man to have mercy on one. Each individual is expected to be like Bartimaeus, as a blind beggar, until one can see the light.
Christianity, that which is prevalent today and not that which began with people filled with the Holy Spirit, reborn as Jesus Christ long ago, has become like the crowd that marches like a parade with Jesus of Nazareth, including those who stand on the sidewalks of the path to Heaven as observers who shush those who might dare cry out for Salvation. While many pour their hearts out to Jesus, saying, “Save me from this sin or that sin,” coming in all forms of maladies and bad predicaments, few make Jesus stop in his tracks, from having heard the Holy Spirit of God crying out from one of faith.
We have plenty of belief still (although that is dwindling), but we have few people that have the faith of Jesus Christ within them. We have become, “the blind leading the blind.”
The cloak that all humanity wears is mortality. All human beings are born with the only preset expectation being to die. We feel cold chills from the thought of death, so we wrap ourselves snugly in the robes of denominational religion, scientific breakthroughs in medicine, and denial that there is anything beyond this material realm. It is in those baskets of knowledge that so many have put all their trust and confidence.
The tattered, hand-me-down, donated robes we put on are what identifies us as “bar timaeus,” as “sons of uncleanness,” which shows others our obvious sins: adultery; theft; greed; envy; pride, wrath, gluttony, and sloth (to name a few). We get angered at anyone crying out loudly, “son of David show mercy on me,” because no one wants a do-gooder making all the rest look bad!
Still, when our mortality day finally comes, we are judged by having failed to wear the holy robes of sainthood, as the brides of God, reborn as Jesus Christ. The moment of death, when judgment is made, is when human failures have to weakly admit to God for having chosen to be adopted as the sons of Satan – the unclean one (human gender irrelevant). There can be no excuses for having rejected sacrifice of self and accepted God’s love. The love of sin was too great to set aside.
America can be called the ‘land of gods’, where the lower-case “g” means every man and woman in this country thinks his or her path is the most important path in the entire history of paths, because so many take care of self, long before some other self gets a handout. Even the ones who regularly proclaim they go to church, give willingly to charities, and try their hardest to do the right things, without the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ within their soul and being, find that some sins (often kept secret) cannot be shaken. That keeps them beggars in the eyes of God; but begging becomes a common way of life; just not a way that leads to eternal life.
Bartimaeus is an example of standing out in the crowd. A true Christian has to be willing to serve God, no matter how angry that makes others. One has to be blind to Jesus walking by, because one needs to be in touch with God first. When one can find love for God, despite one’s abnormalities and shortcomings, then one will hear the hubbub of Jesus and begin begging God to show His mercy by letting Jesus Christ stop in one’s soul, to teach one what to do. Then one walks the walk of the path to Heaven, so someone just like that one – another blind man on the side of the road – will be told, “Jesus of Nazareth is walking by.”
The path to Heaven is a circuitous course. What goes around comes around.