TEXT: Mark 10: 46-52
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
In the book of Mark, Jesus giving sight to Bartimaeus is the last miracle. Jeffery John in the book ‘Meaning in the Miracles’ says this miracle is the climax that contrasts spiritual blindness of the disciples with the physical blindness of Bartimaeus. Mark 10: 17- 31 is about the Rich Young Man and 10: 35-45 is about the request of James and John who wanted to sit at the right and left of Christ when he would come in His glory. The Rich man wanted the Kingdom of God as a bonus, or as an add on to the existing privileges and status that he has. Mark 10: 32-34 Jesus predicts his death and resurrection but James and John ignoring the aspect of suffering wanted high places when Jesus came in glory. Without the experience of Cross, they wanted to embrace resurrection and all the benefits attached to it. Previously in Mark 8: 32, Peter too refused to accept the way of the cross. In such a context a Blind man who was known as Son of Timaeus (Bar in Aramaic means Son) was on the wayside, dispossessed and without any identity. Mark 11:1-11 is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the climax of His Messiahship being recognized. But before that, the cry of Bartimaeus declares the messiahship of Jesus. Mark shows the irony that Disciples of sight did not see what a Blind man perceived. He was crying out in desperation “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Michael Marshal says that in Greek Kurios which means Lord and Eleeo- which means mercy was used and this cry of Bartimaeus was adopted in the liturgy by the Church which we now use, “Kurie-eleison”. After being rebuked by the crowd, we see Jesus heeding his cry and calls him. At that time Bartimaeus rises up and throws off his cloak which some scholars believe allude to baptism. His healing was a foretaste of resurrection and the giving up o cloak was “putting off” the old life for the new. Bartimaeus said he wanted to see and his faith heals him by the words of Jesus. In vs 52 Jesus tells him to “Go”, but having received sight, He follows Jesus on the road. He becomes the model disciple who is ready to journey with Jesus to the Cross.
This lent we need to look into our Spiritual blindness. In a very consumer world, Jesus has become a product that ensures we prosper. He has become a commodity that ensures good luck. We are in many ways like the rich young man. In our spiritual journey, being followers of Christ unfortunately is about succeeding in life and reaching places so that we may be counted among the high and mighty. We are not blind, but we refuse to see the path of the Cross that Jesus invited us to. There is no cure to the blindness where one refuses to see. Let us accept that we are Christians with our “conditions apply” policy and this has alienated us from the Way of the Cross without which there is no Resurrection. So when we join in our liturgy saying “Kurie-eleison Kurie-eleison Kurie-eleison”, let us have the same sense of desperation that Bartimaeus had. Let us recognize our blindness compounded with the strong desire to “See”. When we hear Jesus call let us own our Baptism by reliving it. Let us rise, “put off our cloak” of pretence and hypocrisy. Jesus will make us a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor: 5: 17). Once we are healed and ready to see, it is time to focus on the Cross. Let us resolve to follow Jesus.
Annama Mammen, an 18 year old woman accepted Christ and wanted to go for gospel work. But her parents opposed her zeal. So without telling them, she left home and reached Andhra Pradesh to work as a missionary. There she did not know the language, had no support and fell ill. She had tuberculosis. In such a moment of crisis she receives the letter of her mother in which she writes “Dear Annamma, please come home. We are all waiting for you. We can do gospel work here. Why you want to suffer there in an unknown land. We love you very much.” After reading the letter to her mother Annamma was in a fix. She did not know what to do. With all the suffering and pain, she was tempted to go back. She prayed and decided to work in the place that she was. In such a moment she wrote the classic malayalm song that is found in the Mar Thoma Kristeeya Kirtenam, song number 235 Lokamaam Gambheera Vaaridhiyil. She resolved that she is not going to compromise but will journey ahead looking at the cross, she will keep fighting for Jesus. She will forsake her life for her savior to the last breath of her life. Week after week we too sing this song “Yatra Cheyum Njaan Krooshe Noki.” Hope the next time we sing the song we remember the sacrifice of Annamma Mammen and sing the song and live according to the spirit with which she wrote. Are we ready to journey looking at the cross? Are we ready to follow Jesus like Bartimaeus did? May God lead us in His way.
Rev Merin Mathew
Mar Thoma Syrian Church