Luke 18:35-43 recounts the story of Jesus healing a blind man. When Matthew tells it, he says that there were actually two blind beggars calling for mercy. Mark, in his Gospel, tells us the beggar’s name was Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. Some of the details are different in each gospel, but the question that Jesus asks the blind man is the same in every one,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
That’s a perennially interesting question. It’s one that demands self knowledge, self-awareness, honesty. “What do YOU want me to do for you?” He didn’t ask Bartimaeus what he thought others would want for him, what his family or friends thought; it was a question directed specifically at him.
”What do you want me to do FOR YOU?” How incredibly caring and kind those words must have sounded. After having people shushing him, sternly telling him to be quiet, suddenly they were whisking him to an audience with Jesus and that was the greeting Bartimaeus received. No admonishment, no correction, no pursed-lip shaming and then a reluctantly given blessing. It was a simple question in direct response to Bartimaeus’ shouted requests for mercy.
And Bartimaeus’ response was clean. A classic “I” message that cut straight to his desire. “Lord, I want to regain my sight.” I could parse out this response, too, observing how he addressed Jesus — “Lord”. He had already acknowledged him as the “Son Of David” in his constant shouts for mercy. He was obviously convinced that this was not just Jesus of Nazareth that was passing by, a mere man and perhaps prophet from a little Galilean village. He believed that Jesus was more than that. Whether he made the clean jump to Messiah is unknown. What is known by his use of “Lord” and “Son of David” is that he knew that the God of Israel was at work through this man — and anything was possible when God sliced through eternity and erupted onto the scene!
“Regain your sight; your faith has made you well.” Pure grace. Pure gift. Pure love. Bartimaeus’ sight was restored. Can you imagine how sweet that must have been to actually see the face, to see the voice that had just healed him?
The recounting of Bartimaeus’ response is equally simple. He followed Jesus with his newly gained sight and glorified God.
I love what this little vignette shows me about my God. That is one reason Jesus came, isn’t it? To show us, in the flesh, what God is like? He hears us. He calls us to His presence. He is kind. He listens. He invites us into conversation. His questions are incisive, steering us away from defensive, protective posturing to honesty. He often meets our felt needs and more importantly, always meets our deepest need for belonging and purpose.
Bartimaeus was a beggar who happened to be on just the right road when Jesus was passing by. Today we don’t have to wait by a roadside; we have 24/7 access to God’s throne because of the Cross. Isn’t it logical, and oh-so-wonderful, to think that Jesus will treat us in the same way when we cry out for mercy?
- Gina Grinis