Job’s story comes to a conclusion in the first reading. God has spoken to him, reminding him how much there is in the world that Job knows nothing about, but God knows all about – and not only knows, but creates and sustains. Job realises that for all his wisdom and common sense, he knows nothing compared to God and has no need to doubt God’s wisdom or goodness, despite all his suffering. He is not told why it happened; enough to know that God knows why. What really made the difference was ‘seeing’ God, dealing directly with him.
Jesus once said that he was the Light of the World. By his light we all may ‘see’ – we are given insight into spiritual realities, and can understand more of what God is doing.
Mark tells this story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus because it illustrates how important it is for disciples of Jesus to be able to ‘see’. The previous story told of James and John getting it wrong, wanting the most important positions. This story shows how we all need a touch from Jesus, to enable us to ‘see’ properly and to follow him. True faith in Christ does not come by reason alone, despite being most reasonable.
Bartimaeus had a strong faith before Jesus spoke to him. The strength of a person’s faith is measured by the risks it is prepared to take. Bartimaeus risked a declaration that Jesus was the Son of David, the Messiah – a very dangerous claim with excitable crowds and nervous authorities around. He risked putting his hope in Jesus’ power and willingness to heal him. He risked the wrath of the crowd, indignant or worried at the disturbance he was causing. Yet with all that faith, he was not able to follow Jesus. He needed to see.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted – as if it wasn’t obvious! Jesus often will not act until we speak up and put our requests or commitments into words. When Bartimaeus did so, Jesus told him that his faith had saved him. (The word for ‘healed’ here is the same as the word for ‘saved’.) If Bartimaeus had not taken those risks, he would not have received any healing.
Mark brings out the parallel with discipleship by mentioning that Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road up towards Jerusalem – he had joined the crowd of disciples. What happened in his life afterwards we do not know; but the fact that Mark records his name implies he was known to the early church. However, the point Mark wants to make is plain: full healing, full salvation, must include following Jesus. Faith without Jesus may be admirable, but it does not save in the fullest sense.
For Bartimaeus, following Jesus was yet another risk – he did not know where Jesus would lead him. For a believer, risk taking is a constant necessity!
1) Why is faith a risky business today?
2) When, if ever, does Jesus want us to speak up?
3) Who in the story do you find it easiest to identify with? What does this show about where you are in the journey of faith?