Year B 30th Sunday: Mark 10:46-52

10:46 They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus -- that is, the son of Timaeus -- a blind beggar,
was sitting at the side of the road.
10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out,
'Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.'
10:48 And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet,
but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me.'
10:49 Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.'
So they called the blind man over. 'Courage,' they said, 'get up; he is calling you.'
10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus.
10:51 Then Jesus spoke, 'What do you want me to do for you?'
The blind man said to him, 'Rabbuni, let me see again.'
10:52 Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has saved you.'
And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, enters Jericho, the last post before Jerusalem. The final stage of his way to Jerusalem. Just as this way started with the healing of a blind man (08:22-26), it ends with one. The blind men are the frame around Jesus' way to Jerusalem. The healing of the blind man is placed directly after the question of James and John to be allowed to sit down on Jesus' right and left in his glory. They had to learn that in Jesus' conception the first one is the last one. It is the one who wants to serve that comes first, not the one who wants to be served. His disciples cannot follow him into Jerusalem if they do not understand this. So they need another pair of eyes, eyes that can look as Jesus looks. This is exactly what Bartimaeus asks. In the Greek text of Mark, 'That I may look up...' The word 'looking up' had been used before by Mark to describe how Jesus blessed the loaves of the first multiplication of bread (06:41), and again when he healed the deafmute man (07:34). The translation of the liturgy gives 'Let me see again.' As such it could be a good translation, but I see no reason why Bartimaeus would suggest that he had been able to see in earlier times, and that he wanted to see 'again'. Therefore I prefer the translation 'And straightaway he looked up...' (exactly what he asked), instead of 'his sight returned'. No, he wants to receive Jesus-eyes, to see as Jesus sees, after which he can follow Jesus along the road into Jerusalem where Jesus will be welcomed as a king... and rejected as a king. He will need the opened eyes to recognize the king in the rejected Jesus.

The blind man throws off his cloak. In Exodus (22:25-26; cf. Deuteronomy 24:11-13) we read, 'If you take someone's cloak in pledge, you will return it to him at sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else will he sleep in? If he appeals to me, I shall listen. At least with me he will find compassion!' These words suggest that God himself will be the cover for the poor one, when he asks for his help. Isn't it what happens here with Bartimaeus, when he throws off his cloak and takes his refuge in Jesus?

Picture Meditation

We are looking at a stained glass window (ca 1900?) in the church of St John the Baptist, Dublin, Ireland. The artist divides the story between two windows. Both windows are connected by the walls and towers of a city in the background. Jericho? Or Jerusalem, rather?

The right part of the window is reserved for Jesus alone. In the left part we see the blind man on his knees, and behind him some attendants. What do I read in the attitude of these men?

Jesus is looking down upon the blind man with compassion. It is emphasized by placing the right hand on his heart.

The blind man is pictured on his knees, the hands in a posture for prayer, looking up to Jesus with empty eyes. He still has his cloak around his shoulders. But there is one detail by which we can see that Jesus is fulfilling his prayer: his bare feet. In art it is often a sign of going the way of the Lord.

Looking at the picture I ask myself if I ever prayed with such an intenseness. What was I praying for? Was my prayer heard?

And is there a 'blindness' of which I want to be cured?

For what situation do I desire to have the same eyes that Jesus has? To look at my life and at the world around me (the daily papers) with Jesus-eyes?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ

St Mark's Gospel Reflections