The healing of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) stands out amongst other healing stories in the gospels. The event is unique in that the name of the beggar is known, but also in the fact that Jesus praises Bartimaeus for his faith. This indicates that there was something about how Bartimaeus interacted with Jesus that is instructive for us.
Bartimaeus illustrates how we may approach Jesus, particularly in the times wherein we look for our own healing. If we are to emulate Bartimaeus’ faith, there are seven steps to keep in mind.
1. Recognize That Jesus Is Near
Not a lot is known about Bartimaeus beyond his blindness. He would sit by the city gate of Jericho and beg. As someone with a physical infirmity, this was the only source of livelihood open to him.
He was cut off from all worship at the Temple; he was exercised from the city; he was deemed accursed by God. Yet his life becomes transformed when he recognizes the nearness of Jesus. Jesus comes close, and Bartimaeus responds.
There may be times where we feel cut off from God’s presence. We may feel unloved or cast away. Yet like Bartimaeus, Jesus walks beside us. Jesus does not distance himself from our hurt or need.
This passage presents the glorious truth that no matter what we feel, or what we may struggle with, Jesus is near.
2. Cry Out in Faith
Bartimaeus recognizes the nearness of Jesus and calls out to him. He begins to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me” (v. 47). His words are intriguing.
Although the crowds tell Bartimaeus that “Jesus of Nazareth” walks by, Bartimaeus refers to Jesus as the “Son of David.” “Jesus of Nazareth” is a human designation referring to the physical life of Jesus.
“Son of David,” on the other hand, is a messianic title. Bartimaeus believes Jesus to be the long-awaited descendant of David, the one to sit on David’s throne for eternity.
Bartimaeus didn’t have all the answers. Yet he was faithful enough to believe that Jesus had the capacity, and the willingness, to transform his life. Because of that faith, Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. What would it look like for you to do the same?
3. Push Through the Obstacles
Bartimaeus’ cries are initially met with rebuke. The crowds around him communicate that he is being a bother, that Jesus has more important things to do than respond to some insignificant beggar.
Bartimaeus, however, is undeterred. Although rebuked and hushed, Bartimaeus cries on. In fact, Scripture says that “he shouted all the more” (v. 48). In the presence of obstacles, Bartimaeus cries more loudly.
It can be easy to come up with reasons why we shouldn’t cry out in faith. Many of these reasons even appear faithful enough. We might say things like “there are people worse off than myself,” or “Jesus has more important things to worry about.”
Such statements deny the fundamental truth that you are important to Jesus. Jesus longs to be with you and to interact with your life.
Thus, whatever voice tells you that you should not cry out to Jesus, push through it. Push past it. In fact, like Bartimaeus, silence the objections by crying out more loudly.
4. Accept the Invitation
Jesus issues an invitation for Bartimaeus to come forward. Jesus stops in his tracks and says, “Call him.” In response, the people call to Bartimaeus and tell him the encouraging word, “Take heart, get on your feet, he is calling you” (v. 49).
There is a beautiful repetition in the way this is told. Jesus calls the people, asking them to call Bartimaeus, to tell him that Jesus is calling him. It is as if this biblical passage hits us over the head with the truth that Jesus calls out to us.
When we listen to spiritual obstacles, we feel distanced from Jesus’ invitation to come near. These obstacles are a lie. In love and grace, Jesus calls us to himself. There is no one for whom Christ’s invitation does not apply.
Bartimaeus accepts the call; he listens to the invitation and not obstacles. He throws off his cloak, jumps to his feet, and approaches Jesus. Where might Jesus be inviting you to approach him more deeply in your life?
5. Voice Your Need
Jesus lovingly calls Bartimaeus as he is and invites him to declare his deepest need. On one hand, we might think this is pretty obvious: Bartimaeus wants his sight! But in inviting Bartimaeus to voice his need, Jesus is encouraging an intimate relationship.
Intimacy with Jesus occurs in the place of humility and honesty. Bartimaeus does not shy away from this intimacy, rather he enters into it. He responds, “Rabbouni, I want to recover my sight” (v. 51).
Not only does he voice his deepest longing, Bartimaeus refers to Jesus as Rabbouni — “my teacher.” Bartimaeus reaches out to Jesus as the only one who can provide satisfaction and healing.
Jesus invites us to voice what is on our hearts and minds. Nothing needs to be withheld. Whatever mercy or transformation that we feel deeply in our souls, we are invited and encouraged to voice these things. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asks. How might you respond?
6. Receive the Work of Jesus
The climax of this event is when Bartimaeus is healed. The power of Jesus comes flooding in and his life is transformed. It is important to remember that Bartimaeus is not healed because he said the right words or approached Jesus the right way.
Rather, this mercy is given because Jesus is merciful; Christ’s grace is met because he is graceful. The healing of Bartimaeus illustrates the faithful love of Jesus and the fact that Jesus delights to display his power in our lives.
We never uncover the power of Jesus because we say the right words. We do not earn our healing. We experience the power of Jesus because this is who Jesus is. The truth of Scripture is that the grace, love, and power of Jesus are continually at work. What is more, we are always invited into it.
When we come to Jesus, and voice our need, we can receive this grace because there is no reason for it to be withheld. Jesus is gracious. He is loving. More than anything, he is faithful.
7. Walk with Jesus
The healing of Bartimaeus ends with a description that he “followed Jesus along the way” (v. 52). At the time, Mark wrote this gospel the Christian community was known as “followers of the way.”
Thus, this simple phrase does not describe a stroll in the same direction as Jesus. The gospel describes how Bartimaeus made a deliberate choice to align his life with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is to be the result of all our interactions with Jesus. Whether we meet Jesus in times of suffering or hardship or find a miraculous display of healing, we are called to walk with him. We are to attach our life to his own. This is the call of faith and the call of discipleship.
The healing of Bartimaeus can help us assess our spiritual lives. Ask yourself, which step do you see yourself on presently? Or, better yet, what step might you be struggling with?
Do you need help recognizing the nearness of Jesus, or are the voices of obstacles a bit too loud? What might it look like for you to embrace the step you are on, or to move to the next one?
We can ask such questions, not because the life of faith is like an ordered plan, but because each of these steps is a way to draw closer to Jesus.
Ultimately, this is what the healing of Bartimaeus is all about. It is a story about the power of Jesus being experienced in a person’s life. This can be your story as well.
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Reverend Kyle Norman is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of the Christian community, and the role of Spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His personal blog can be found here.