I Want Things From Jesus


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Sunday’s Gospel is about an ancient blind man named Bartimaeus, a blind beggar with only the clothes on his body he can call his own. A man cured of his blindness by the Word of Jesus, is by its own right, is a story that can stand alone as a message for us to hear.  It is indeed a story about healing and faith; it is story about our reliance on God; it speaks to the condition of the poor, and of course it speaks to the infinite mercy and goodness of God to his people.

For the past few weeks St. Mark has led us through human and divine encounters using the medium of questions– questions posed to our Lord, and the surprising answers that followed.  The story of Bartimaeus this week is no exception.  I would like however, to frame the narrative of Bartimaeus together with the other disciples who previously questioned our Lord, those individuals following our Lord, looking for the joys of the Kingdom. 

If you recall, we have seen the upright, the mainstream “disciples” of Jesus pondering the riches that could await them in eternal life.  There was of course, the young man who could not let go of his possessions when told by Jesus that this is the path to eternal life: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor. . . At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”  Then there was the sons of Zebedee eager to claim positions of power at Jesus’ right hand, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at the left. . . . To sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give, but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  Now we are introduced to a blind beggar who recognizes Jesus for who he is, the Son of David, not the make- a- wisher guarantor.

Now, let’s take a moment and look at these three accounts.  The rich young man, James and John ask Jesus questions that refer to their entitlement.  The rich young man wants to claim his prize of eternal life by doing one more thing, to clinch his spot in heaven. Then there is James and John, who have the audacity to ask the top spots in the Kingdom, not just a spot, but the top spot! Of course, the other disciples became indignant with the request.

Now comes Bartimaeus, a blind man, son of Timaeus, a beggar by state.  What is Bartimaeus’ request?  Well, there isn’t any at the start, it is rather a plea: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  No entitlement question here, just a simple heartfelt request of pity and then only prompted by Jesus, does he ask for the restoration of his sight.

Herein lies our real challenge. We are a people who find it difficult to relate to Bartimaeus.  First, most of us are not blind, nor are we homeless.  But more than that, we have fostered and continue to give life to the notion that we are somehow cheated in life, and that things are due us. 

Sounds like the young rich man and Zebedee’s sons, doesn’t it? 

This false sense of entitlement permeates too much of our lives, and it is indeed very harmful.  The oldest in family feels cheated because other siblings have substantially cut into his pie.  The middle children feel cheated because they are neither the first nor the last, they are the “forgotten middle.”  Then the youngest always gets the hand-me-downs, and never is first at anything.  Cheated we are, and it’s time to claim what is rightfully ours, we exclaim.

I supposed that if this dynamic of entitlement was a condition of growing up, then perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad.  But like a bad penny, it follows us into adulthood.  Unresolved issues between adult siblings most often have to do with this mal-perceived sense of justice.  We seem to never get tired of expending energy to get what we think is rightfully ours.  You see, it is only “justice” we proclaim, as we scratch and claw for what we think is due to us. 

Lest we forget: What about the entitlement of workers who have put in their dues?  By God, others will do just as we have, no step-stepping or leap-frogging’ here.  And then, just to be complete, our courts are stuffed with legal actions purporting that those who bring suits are merely protecting their rights entitled to them by law, so goes the contention.  How do we get through each day being so cheated? How do we take another breath without collecting and possessing what is mine?

It is no coincidence that Bartimaeus happened to be blind and poor.  For he, is truly our example of discipleship.  Unlike the rich man, he willing gets rid of his possessions, maybe his only one, his cloak.  Unlike James and John, this man without the faculties of physical sight has seen more of the Kingdom of God than those who appeared to be closest to him.  His initial request, simple and profound was that God had mercy on him.  It was only until later did he ask for his sight and only after Jesus prompted him.  No pretense and no entitlement– just faith, simple and pure.

I think we are going to be surprised, for I am sure that Bartimaeus, a blind man, son of Timaeus had indeed inherited eternal life, for he knew how to discard possessions a lesson that was so hard for the rich man to see.  I also think, that if Bartimaeus isn’t on Christ’s right or left, he is pretty darn close.

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