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January 14, 2018
Dear Ones,
In today’s Gospel we heard the story about a blind man named Bartimaeus who was healed by our Lord Jesus on the road leading into the ancient city of Jericho. We know his name is Bartimaeus because St Mark tells us so in his Gospel.
In the account of this miracle, we are astonished at the faith and the determination shown by Bartimaeus to draw the attention of Jesus to himself and to his situation. When Jesus came that way, crowds were thronging, people were talking, equipment was clanging and clacking, as they followed Jesus down the dusty road. Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road, this main road through the town. He had been asking alms from passersby so that he could somehow, feed, clothe, and shelter himself. There were no social programs in those days. There were no government agencies. Bartimaeus “always depended on the kindness of strangers.” He would call out “Alms for the Blind! Alms for the Blind!” Most people just passed him by. Some muttered insults under their breath. Some derided him quite openly. But this day was different. This time, he had to make a special effort, he had to call out with all the power he had, in order for Jesus to hear him. He had heard about Jesus. He knew that people were saying that He might be the promised Messiah. And Bartimaeus knew the prophecies. He knew what the Lord had said through Isaiah the Prophet concerning the Messiah: “I the Lord God have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will strengthen thee: and I have given thee for the covenant of a people, for a light of the Gentiles: to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners and them that sit in darkness, out of bonds and the prison-house” (Isaiah 42: 6-7). Bartimaeus had heard that Jesus had been doing exactly that. So now, in fullness of faith, the blind man cries out with all his might, (NOT “alms for the blind!” but what?) “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Some selfish people in the crowd, not wanting Jesus to be distracted away from them and their needs, tell Bartimaeus to “be quiet! Shut up! The Master cannot be bothered with the likes of you!” But marvel at the faith, marvel at the determination of the blind man to make his connection with Christ. He shouts even louder: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus knew that some people doubted that Jesus was the Messiah. Bartimaeus knew that the authorities rejected the idea altogether. Yet he was un-deterred. He knew in his heart and in his soul that this was, indeed, the waited-for Christ. So when Jesus stopped and came over to Bartimaeus, He asked him: “What do you want Me to do for you?” And what did Bartimaeus say in reply? By the way, the translators get it wrong. The blind man only says three words: “Lord, to see!” (Κύριε,  ἵνα  ἀναβλέψω!) And what does Bartimaeus want to see? He wants to see the One to whom he is speaking – he wants to see Jesus. “And that has made all the difference” – to borrow from Robert Frost.
Every day, brothers and sisters, we have opportunities – opportunities to connect with Christ, opportunities to be near Christ, opportunities to be healed by Christ. Yes, the world is passing by in front of us too, with all its noise, and its dust, its flashing allurements, and all its busy-ness. In order for us to cut through all of that, we have to be in possession of a firm faith and a steady resolve to get with Christ, to petition Christ by our prayers, to be heard above the din of this world which tells us to “Shut up! Be quiet! Your faith is stupid! You are nothing! You are worthless!” No, the opposite is true. God commands us seek Him out, to look for Him always! Isaiah the Prophet exhorts us to “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near!”(Isaiah 55:6).  And in Jeremiah 29:13 the Lord says: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Blind Bartimaeus did just that. He called out to the Lord with his whole heart. He had no one to help him. He had no one else to rely on. His fervency of faith in God was all he required.
You know there is an interesting story in the Bible, in the Book of Judges chapter four. In it, the Prophetess Deborah says to Barak the son of Abinoam,   “Behold, the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded you, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.’” Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take...” What happened? God, through Deborah, told Barak to take his troops and fight the enemy. He was told he would win the battle, and capture the enemy commander, Sisera. How did Barak respond to the Word of God? He said to Deborah, “I’ll only do it if you go with me.” And what was the result? Barak was deprived of the honour of triumphing over Sisera. The enemy commander evaded capture and was eventually killed by Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite.
So what is the point here? The point is that Barak had the opportunity to believe God, to trust God, and act on that trust. Instead, he asked for help, he set conditions. In other words, he failed and was deprived of his glory. Bartimaeus the blind man, likewise had an opportunity to believe God, to trust in God, and to act on that trust, which he did, fervently, lustily, vociferously, without anybody else’s help, and he was rewarded richly.
Dear ones, the story of Blind Bartimaeus' healing is a powerful example to us of how it is pleasing to God for our faith to see its opportunity, grasp it, and refuse to let it go until we receive what it is that God has desired us to have.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus, (but He also asks each one of us,) "What do you want me to do for you?" So, what DO we want? Do we want to SEE Jesus? Do we want to be touched and healed by Him? Physically? Spiritually? Then we must stir up our faith, and pray for the courage to exercise it always, all the days of our lives.  Amen.