It’s one of the more special blessings of the human body.
To smell a delicious sauce is nice. To hear a good song is good. To taste a sumptuous meal is satisfying. To feel the summer breeze on a hot day touching us, or the fireplace heat on a cold winter day is inviting.
But there’s something extra special about vision. Seeing the world through our eyes. And it’s hard not to understand why Bartimaeus wanted it so badly. He could taste a good meal after purchasing one from the money he collected while begging. He could hear the many rebukes – even from our Lord’s own disciples probably- when he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” He could smell the anger and the rottenness of their words tossed at him like sharp javelins. He could touch the tension from the gathering crowd that followed Jesus out of Jericho, where the walls came tumbling down, and something else was about to tumble down too, called blindness.
Bartimaeus had all the senses keenly, missing only one. What’s the big deal? Four out of five is a pretty good percentage. Having eighty percent is much better than what Helen Keller had by a longshot.
So, Bartimaeus was not necessarily looking for the 100% that most of us take for granted. He was begging for a certain twenty percent. The premier twenty percent, many of us would say. The premier twenty percent in relation to the senses of the human body that God created for certain good uses, being the gift of sight. Everyone there except for one blind beggar saw Jesus standing before them. They gained in the process a sneak preview of the Beatific Vision we all hope to arrive at in the repose and glory of heaven. The disciples were far enough along in their friendship with Christ to the point that looking at him face to face everyday became second nature to them. Bartimaeus begged to see him for the first time.
Imagine if Bartimaeus had written a book titled The First Time I Looked At The Face Of God? I’d purchase a couple hundred copies from Amazon and offer one to each of you, and have our Confirmation Class read it. Why? Because that’s how special that truth is going to be one day, a reality that cannot be exaggerated. The gift of vision cannot be overstated.
But this week’s Gospel is more than just about a blind man miraculously receiving his sight. With all the pushing and shoving we see today in the political arena, between supporters of this party against supporters of that party. Between all the pushing and shoving, sending bombs in the mail, shooting up synagogues, the verbal attacks in public places where people makes the biggest fools of themselves and care not, thinking they can embarrass someone who’s’ trying to enjoy a quiet meal with family or spouse. With all the pushing and shoving we see in schools with bullying, in work places where people get undercut, affecting families, altering lives, it’s quite obvious our society, culture, and world is in desperate need of each of us firmly living out, not our political notions, but our faith in Christ.
The attempted shouting down of Bartimaeus is a low point for the crowds who follow Jesus, including his disciples, second only to the scene where they holler at the top of their lungs, “Crucify him, crucify him.” If the disciples of Jesus are not verbally participating in the rebuking of a blind beggar at the side of the road who has no potential to hurt anyone, someone who’s seeking the Lord, then their apparent silence toward the harsh rebuke is complicity. They lack the courage to stand up for a guy who is down and out. Aside of “Crucify him,” this is a low point in their following Christ. They will thankfully improve as the years roll by, as we hopefully do also.
Bartimaeus wants to see. There is no pushing and shoving found in his request, but rather the humble admission he wants that top 20 percent of the human senses. So, in this real life story, Mark gives us this uplifting image of what Jesus does best for all of us; he intercedes on behalf of Bartimaeus. He doesn’t push us and shove us, like the Devil does, embarrassing us in public. Jesus isn’t a fool. His love is unconditional. His is the one voice that speaks to the blind man with respect and compassion; “Jesus is calling you.”
Without the Lord’s intercession, Bartimaeus stays on the street corner for the rest of his dying days, begging and looking unclean. No one else had the love and courage to go over to the son of Timaeus and bring him to the Lord. That’s called neglect 101. They were all overpowered by the angry, unsettling mood of the crowd. Not one had the fortitude to be different for Christ. But HIS voice reigns supreme; “Jesus is calling you. Get up and go to him, and receive your 20 percent.”
To follow Christ is to be a person who desires peace, who brings peace, who extends peace. Rebuking may be part of our Christian faith, but only by way of drawing someone closer to Jesus, not pushing them away.
The 20 percent that Bartimaeus so badly wanted, even though he had the rest of his senses, would lead him to seeing the face of God. And to think that the entire crowd tried to prevent him from such joy! We are people of peace who lead others to Christ by word and example. He is the Mediator between God and men, but now that he’s ascended, he would like our steadfast cooperation. The opportunities are many to imitate, not the angry crowd, but the Peacemaker of our souls.