Bartimaeus might be a blind beggar, but he is a model of prayer.
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Zacchaeus famously climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. The woman suffering from a flow of blood desired only to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak, so she struggled through the crowd just to be near him. And today, Bartimaeus calls out, trying to attract the Lord, to get his attention.
So how are we called to be like Bartimaeus?
- Cry out to Jesus
Bartimaeus is a model of prayer. Sitting by the roadside, he cries out to the Lord. A blind beggar, Bartimaeus presumably occupied the same section of road day after day, faithfully crying out for assistance from passersby.
We’re told that the miracle happened in Jericho, which according to the Old Testament is an ancient city that was destroyed by Joshua. Some interpreters think that Bartimaeus may have established himself on a section of road linking the new city and the old city, a section of road that would have been well travelled.
- Toss aside the cloak
When the Lord responds, after our intentions are persistently made known, how do we react? Do we continue our routines or do we run to meet Christ ready to embark on his work? The Gospel testifies that Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.”
Filled with joy, at the prospect of encountering the Lord, he throws off his outer cloak, a garment which may have impeded him. He then springs up to run to Christ. The cloak may have gotten in the way. This beggar, a man of presumably few possessions in this world, tosses perhaps one of his most important belongings aside, so that he would not be encumbered as he makes his way to Christ.
- Name what our hearts desire
In their interaction, Jesus asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Why would Jesus pose such a question? Venerable Bede asks, “Could He who was able to restore sight be ignorant of what the blind man wanted?” Could Jesus really not have known what the man wanted?
Bede goes on to suggest that
His reason then for asking is that prayer may be made to Him; He puts the question, to stir up the blind man’s heart to pray.
In our prayer, Christ already knows what we desire. In fact, the Lord knows our hearts better than we do! Christ alone knows the depths of human suffering, of human longing, of human desire. And only the Lord helps us to makes sense of the shape of life and of what we need.
Our God is a tender and loving God. He knows what we need, but desires, like a physician, that we manifest our ailments and our complaints to him. In part, I think it is so that we might have a genuine relationship with him, that our love for him may grow and we might be made aware and attentive of his goodness.
C.S. Lewis writes,
The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed… But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good? The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.
But I also believe that God wants us to name our desires to him, that we might be trained in his ways. To receive something (or not) from the Lord is to be directed, trained in God’s ways, in the ways of His kingdom.
- The following of Christ
In the end, Bartimaeus stays with Christ. This line, perhaps more than any other, is the most important part of the story. Bartimeaus runs to Christ, is healed, and then embarks with Christ as a disciple. The Gospel tells us, “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.”
This is the point of Bartimaeus’ healing: to call him to life with Christ. Any gift God gives (or withholds) is offered (or refused) in view of the way of life of Jesus.
Call out the name of the Lord. Run to him. Bare to him your heart’s desire. Then stay with him, following him on the way.