A story is told in Mark 10:45-52 of a blind man who was healed just outside Jericho. Blind Bartimaeus was not the first person to have been healed from visual impairment, but like all other accounts that make it into the accounts of Jesus’ ministry, there’s something significant that we can learn from this character.
What was so special about Blind Bartimaeus? Nothing. Except his faith. He was an outcast, a beggar, a blind man but his faith has withstood the testimony of time.
The Story of Blind Bartimaeus
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The story of blind Bartimaeus is a testimony of one man’s determination to be healed. He refused to be silenced when others tried to shush him as he cried out to Jesus.
As Jesus walked through Jericho, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Knowing he would not be able to make it through the press of people that surrounded Jesus, blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus.
“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”Mark 10:47 NIV
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Even before Bartimaeus had personal contact with Jesus, he believed Him to be the Messiah. “Son of David” is the term Matthew used in his gospel to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Matthew 1:1). This title is a reference to the Messianic promise in Isaiah 9:6-7. The Messiah would be a descendant of David whose kingdom would last forever.
The Pharisees were questioning Jesus’ authority and had aligned Him with Beelzebub (Matthew 12:23-24). Yet here was blind Bartimaeus bellowing out the truth for anyone who would listen.
Though people tried to get him to be quiet, Bartimaeus was completely focused on Jesus. His cries got the attention of Christ who asked for him to be brought. When Bartimaeus realized that Jesus had stopped to talk to him, he threw off his cloak and went to Jesus.
He told Jesus his greatest desire: he wanted to see (Mark 10:51). Jesus spoke the word and blind Bartimaeus received his sight. His faith, Jesus said, had made him whole (Mark 10:52). Jesus didn’t have to touch Bartimaeus for him to receive his sight.
Why Did Bartimaeus Cast Off His Garment?
If we are to understand the meaning of Bartimaeus cloak-shrugging moment, we’ll need to look a bit at the culture of the times. In ancient times, the cloak was an important piece of clothing.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the cloak as , “an exterior tunic, wide and long, reaching to the ankles, but without sleeves”. The cloak served as an outer garment, as well as, a blanket at nights.
This is what the Bible says about cloaks:
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as security for a loan, you must return it before sunset. This coat may be the only blanket your neighbor has. How can a person sleep without it? If you do not return it and your neighbor cries out to me for help, then I will hear, for I am merciful (Exodus 22:26-27 NLT)
If your neighbor is poor and gives you his cloak as security for a loan, do not keep the cloak overnight. Return the cloak to its owner by sunset so he can stay warm through the night and bless you, and the LORD your God will count you as righteous. Deuteronomy 24:12-13 NLT
From these two passages, we get a glimpse of how important a role the cloak may have played in the lives of the Israelites. It was so crucial to their well-being that no one was able to deprive them of it even if it had been used to secure a loan.
The fact that it could have been used as the security for a loan also hints at the cloak’s value. Yet, after being healed, the Bible doesn’t mention Bartimaeus going to pick up his robe before he followed Jesus. Now we know that the Bible doesn’t give us all the details in a story, but let’s choose to believe that in this case, all the pertinent information was provided and Bartimaeus willingly walked away from his all-important cloak.
It is also believed that for blind Bartimaeus, the cloak was essential for him to collect alms. Just imagine it for a second, he’s sitting by the road, lots of people are coming and going. Some of them pass him by without paying him much attention, but some drop a coin or two. It’s likely that Bartimaeus may have spread his cloak over his lap to catch the coins that were tossed his way. Otherwise, he would have to spend a lot of time on his hands and knees feeling the ground to see if anyone had dropped a coin for him.
Bible scholars believe blind Bartimaeus may have spread his cloak in front of him as a kind of catch all for any coins that were tossed to him. If that were the case, then his cloak was a tool of his trade. Without his cloak, he would have difficulties collecting the alms that were given to him.
Some commentators believe that when blind Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, it was a show of faith. He believed Jesus would heal him and because he would no longer be blind, there would be no need to have that particular tool of the trade.
Another possible reason Bartimaeus may have flung off his cloak was because he wanted to be free of any impediment on his way to Jesus. Cloaks were long. And if this cloak was draped across his body as we surmise, it was an accident waiting to happen. Being blind, Bartimaeus would have found it difficult to navigate through the crowds while being hampered by his heavy cloak.
Lessons from the Story of Blind Bartimaeus
What does the story of blind Bartimaeus teach us? Let’s unpack a few of those lessons now.
1. Do not let anybody silence your voice or dampen your enthusiasm when you’re chasing after Jesus.
I have always loved how enthusiastically Bartimaeus called to Jesus. He heard that Christ was nearby and he knew he had one chance to be healed. Being blind, Bartimaeus wouldn’t have been able to walk nimbly through the crowd, looking for Jesus. He had one resource and that was his voice. But people tried to silence him.
Some Bible translations say people rebuked him. Rebuked. That’s a strong word. The Oxford Dictionary defines rebuke this way: (to) express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behaviour or actions. Ouch!
I can only imagine that along with the external voice, there was a little voice inside telling him to be quiet because Jesus had more important things to do. Thank God Bartimaeus didn’t allow anyone to silence his voice. When we are chasing hard after God, we shouldn’t let anyone silence us either.
2. Your relationship with Christ is personal.
God is a relational God. He wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him. This can’t happen if we don’t keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him and don’t let anyone or anything distract you.
When blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, He stopped. That’s a pretty big deal. The Savior of the world, awaited Messiah, teacher of the twelve tribes of Israelite stopped. Then he waited. He waited for someone to tell Bartimaeus that he had been called. He waited for the blind man to make his way to Him. He waited to hear blind Bartimaeus’ request. I don’t know about you but that makes me excited. Jesus stopped for a man that many people wouldn’t have given the time of day.
In a society where physical ailments were believed to have been a punishment for sin, blind Bartimaeus was on nobody’s Christmas list. Yet God Immanuel stopped and waited for the blind man to make his way to Him.
Like blind Bartimaeus, we need to focus on God and Him only. We have a race to run and we can only do that when we pay attention to the path set before us and not allow ourselves to get distracted by what other people say to or about us.
3. Obstacles will be put in your way, be ready to cast them aside.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Hebrew 12:1-2. We are encouraged to lay aside every obstacle or anything that will block us from God. Like blind Bartimaeus, we have to make a decision to pursue God even when things get in our way.
Blind Bartimaeus’ story should be our story. We should be so desperate for Jesus that we chase after Him despite what others say to us. We should want to be with God so much that we don’t allow any obstacles to be in our way.
Bartimaeus didn’t let anything–even a critical item for his physical survival–prevent him from getting to his Savior.
4. Don’t pay attention to the crowd.
I once heard a Pastor ask, “When has the majority ever been right?” It’s a lesson I’ve pondered often. In the story of Blind Bartimaeus we saw the people try to silence him when he cried out to Jesus. Had it been up to them, Jesus would have walked past the blind man and everything would have remained the same.
But when Jesus stopped to speak to Bartimaeus, these same people tried to encourage Bartimaeus.
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Mark 10:49 NLT
I’m sure some of them were the same people who had rebuked him earlier. The lesson we learn from Bartimaeus? We can’t listen to the crowd.
The crowd is changeable. They are responding to external stimuli which is prone to change. If we are going to follow our purpose, we have to base our decisions on a standard that doesn’t change.
God never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever more (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). He’s the One we should use as our measuring stick for what’s good. Our actions should be based on what He says rather than what the world dictates.
Reflections on the Story of Blind Bartimaeus
The lessons we uncovered from the healing of Bartimaeus are powerful ones. While we live out our lives on earth, we need to remember that this space is not out home.
We have to keep out eyes focused on God and keep doing the things that draw us closer to Him. It’s easy to make excuses for the things we know we should do but are not doing but there will be a time when God shows up in our space.
Will you ready to leave everything behind and follow Him? Or will you be hampered by all the stuff you’re holding on to in this life?
Are you willing to accept the Truth and allow it to set you free? Or will you remain spiritually blind because it’s familiar?
What lesson from blind Bartimaeus will you implement in your life today?
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