As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:46-48
Perhaps you too have cried out at times with what might be called a “shot in the dark” prayer—those prayers we make to the walls and ceiling in the hope that there is a God out there who just might hear us. Bartimaeus, the beggar from Jericho, certainly exemplifies such faith and the blind hope (in his case literally) that reaches out for God’s help in spite of our doubts.
Bartimaeus is used to calling out in the dark for what he needs. He is a beggar after all, and blind to boot. Sitting by the roadside, with only the sound of footsteps to go on, he spends his day calling out to passersby, trying to draw attention to himself. So why should today be any different?
The blind man hears a crowd going by. “What’s happening,” he shouts to anyone within earshot. “It’s Jesus of Nazareth,” a woman replies as she walks past the beggar. Bartimaeus spends a lot of time listening to the conversations that surround his dark world. He’s heard of Jesus before. And he knows that this man apparently heals people. What’s there to lose?
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” he yells above the din of the crowd. He is just one of many voices in the confusion of people that surround Jesus, but Bartimaeus, more than anyone, knows how to make himself heard. He lets out another plaintive and well-rehearsed cry that cuts through the otherwise civil discourse of others. “Have mercy on me,” he shouts in the most poignant tone he can muster. Those closest to him certainly hear him, and their response is a familiar one to Bartimaeus. They want to quell this overly opportunist beggar. But, to everyone’s surprise, the first miracle happens. Jesus hears his cry.
The crowd hushes as the Lord suddenly stops and says, “Call him to me.” Anticipation rises. Something is about to happen here. Bartimaeus is not sure what is going on. And he is more surprised than anyone when, instead of trying to shut him up, he hears someone from the crowd actually calling him to come to the Master. “Cheer up,” the voice says, “On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Bartimaeus doesn’t waste a second. A beggar man knows just how fickle people’s generosity can be. He jumps to his feet and lets himself be led a short distance. Then he hears a voice that asks what seems like a most rhetorical question, “What do you want me to do for you?” No introduction is needed. He knows who this is, and he replies in the most simple terms, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus responds with an equally direct pronouncement, “Go, your faith has healed you.”
Bartimaeus has his reward. He, who only moments ago, from his dark and lonely world, had enough faith to at least try a blind shot in the dark, can now see. Everything has changed for him because of a little gumption on his part—the type of chutzpah that has sometimes worked for him in the past, but never as successfully as it has on this day.
Bartimaeus will live a very different life than would have been his lot had he too soon disqualified himself from the abundant possibilities that lay just beyond his capacity to see. His experience of God will also be very different than had he chosen to obey the voices suggesting to him that such a close relationship was somehow inappropriate for him. Instead, as Scripture tells us, when those doubts were raised in him, Bartimaeus, in blind faith, simply shouted all the louder.
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for May 15, 2014)
FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:
Do you remember a circumstance in your life when you offered a ‘shot in the dark’ prayer? How would you describe the quality of faith that countered your doubts at that time in order to help you pray?Are there times when, in asking God for something, you have felt more like an opportunist beggar than a child of God? How did you respond to the negative voices that tried to discourage your prayer?Is there a prayer in your life that you have perhaps been offering more tentatively than you should? What would it look like for you to instead “shout all the louder?”
FOR PRAYER: Explore boldness in your prayer. Try asking for something that you’ve never dared ask before. If, at some point, this starts feeling inappropriate, try shouting all the louder.