The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mark 10:46-52
In the final verse, Jesus names faith as what impels Bartimaeus. The rest of the story shows us what that faith is.
Bartimaeus’s faith is not about reciting the correct confession or subscribing to certain dogmas. It is his unrelenting conviction that Jesus can and will rescue him from his need. We see this faith in what Bartimaeus does:
He grasps who Jesus is. No one else so far in Mark has been able to perceive so much about Jesus from so little data. The title Bartimaeus uses, Son of David, appears only here in Mark, therefore we cannot say too much about exactly what it expresses about Jesus. Elsewhere (12:35-37) Jesus adds nuance to his connection to David (or his differentiation from David) and implies his superiority over Israel’s greatest king. Bartimaeus, despite his blindness and all its connotations of spiritual ignorance, sees the royal dimensions of Jesus’ identity. As the story progresses, we discover that Bartimaeus also discerns that Jesus is specially able to show mercy and heal.
He expects a transformation. Presumably Jesus could have walked to Bartimaeus to talk with him. Instead, he tells the onlookers to summon Bartimaeus to him. Now those who sought to inhibit the beggar must assist in Jesus’ ministry to him. Then Mark adds one more delicious detail: Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak. Obviously he expects to regain his sight, for a blind beggar would ordinarily do well to keep his possessions close at hand. He obviously expects a change in his status. His health problem (blindness) and his economic problem (begging) are a single piece of fabric.
He asks for the right thing. When Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?,” his reply is a simple request voiced with the confidence that Jesus can deliver. “That I would see again,” declares resolutely that Jesus can bring the wholeness and deliverance that people seek. In this confidence and simplicity, what Bartimaeus says is fully consistent with the expressions of faith others have made in Mark. Also, when we consider that Jesus’ question repeats what he asked James and John in last week’s Gospel lection (10:36), we note that Bartimaeus seeks no special privileges. This reiterates that Jesus has not come to bestow power and honor but to open eyes to the new spiritual, social, and material realities made possible when God reigns. When it comes to understanding what Jesus has come to do, the disciples James and John are more “blind” than Bartimaeus.