Mark records another of his “Triple Traditions”; this known as ‘The Healing of Bartimaeus’. Again, faith and healing are one. (Mark 10:46-52). “And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.” And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way”.
Mark’s variation from Matthew where Matthew records the encounter was with two blind men (Matt 20:29-34), neither of which are named. Mark identifies a lone man as Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, son of Timaeus. Mark’s account alone in the triple include Jesus sending followers to call Bartimaeus and they say to him, “take heart; rise, he is calling you. And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus.” It is also significant to note that for Matthew this is not a ‘faith encounter’—where the healing of the blind men was out of pity. A final note of redaction— Mark alone records Jesus saying to Bartimaeus, “go your way…”
I have resisted the temptation to place handles on the word of faith as it has continued to come weekly for the appointed task in writing this column. As Dr. Thurman would say when we offered commentary, “you put the handle on it!” But here, ‘blind beggar gives me a handle that I must wrestle with in giving incarnation to this word. For some strange reason, blind beggar’ is imaging, right now for me, ‘my people’. I’m daring to put this handle on this word.
I see our blindness in not seeing, (fighting— Ali: “you can’t hit what you can’t see?”) the massive forms of oppression and poverty; this systematic down trodding of the ‘backs upon which this country was built’. Sure, individuals have gained freedom in all of it’s capitalistic definitions, but where is ‘community’ in all of this? Left with a hope of ‘lottery’ or perhaps ‘an extreme make-over’ or perhaps ‘the Big Give-away’— are these not all forms of begging? Michelle Obama was under heavy criticism, but I think that she has something when she suggests a ‘come out of corporate America’ and a ‘return to community service/building work’.
Don’t be fooled by the attempts (as always) to destroy the character of any of our leaders who, as ‘the messenger’ —comes to open our eyes. They talked about how much money she made in her community service position, but, as we come to ‘see’ this ‘new fact’— ‘you must be a millionaire to campaign, let alone be elected president of the United States!’. How else could we hear from her!
What most traditional versions translate as ‘cloak’, Bartimaeus threw off— his ‘himation/mantle’ and ‘sprung up’. Whether it was his identifying Jesus as the ‘Son of David’ or his readiness to receive healing, I can’t say, but, Jesus saw his faith!
I recall as a child in my earliest school days that fights occurred on the school’s playground. There was no use of weapons, only the taking off of your coat, ‘springing up’ to assume the boxing position with both fists up— “come on!”
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