He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
MK 10:46-52

It is Bartimaeus' cloak that first captures my attention -- or, to be more precise, the fact that the blind man cast it aside to approach Jesus. This cloak served as shelter (Bartimaeus may have slept on it), as prayer shawl (he most likely didn't own a traditonal tallit ) and as begging cloth (he possibly spread it across his legs to catch the coins from passersby); and, possibly, as "security blanket" though that, of course, is a modern concept! The cloak, then, was multi-functional and was Bartimaeus' means of survival. It protected him from bitter winds, identified him as a pauper and was probably one of his few possessions. Unlike the Rich Man whom we encountered in Mk 10:17-31, however, Bartimaeus was ready to abandon his "treasure" in order to meet Jesus.
Though the presence of large crowd made it unlikely that he would ever get back his cloak or even the coins that he may have wrapped in it, he left it behind! In contrast to the disciples who were preoccupied with their status in Jesus' kingdom (Mk 10: 35-45), he seemed to understand Jesus' Messianic role, calling him, "Son of David," a title indicating both his royal lineage and his mission. In fact, it is upon hearing this cry that Jesus stopped and told his followers to bring the blind man to him. Mark tells us that the man "sprang up," indicating an immediate response, the conviction that "now" was the moment he had been waiting for. And so it was. "What do you want me to do for you?" asked Jesus. "Master, I want to see!" (Mk 10:51).

I am also struck by Jesus' words to Bartimaeus: "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Again, in contrast to the Twelve, Bartimaeus stood out as a man of faith, refusing to be silent when he heard that Jesus was approaching. He knew what he wanted and believed that Jesus could heal him. Upon receiving his sight, "his way" was to follow Jesus. He not only received the gift of physical sight but also the gift of spiritual sight --something the Twelve lacked. This made it impossible for him to return to his former way of life-- after all that he had experienced, how could he possibly go back to the dust and grime of the road side or to dependency on others? His days of begging were over.

The healing of Bartimaeus is both a miracle story and a story of faith. It invites us to consider what "begging cloth" we must leave behind if we are to follow Jesus; it also prompts us to reflect on what is the "one thing" we need to ask for if we are to be made whole. James and John asked for positions of glory -- would we do the same? Or, like Bartimaeus, would we boldly ask to be healed from all that blocks our spiritual sight and limits our ability to follow The Way?

  1. Is there anything to which you cling that gets in the way of your spiritual progress?
  2. Are you aware of any "blind spots" in your life? What will it take for you to see more clearly?
  3. How can you move beyond "conventional faith" to follow Jesus more radically?